Café con Leche vs Cortadito

If you have been looking into the different types of Cuban coffee, you might be a little confused. Besides some of the drinks sounding similar, they also look similar. The Café con Leche and the Cortadito could be two of the more difficult ones to differentiate between. Although you may think that these are the same drink, there are a few important differences.

Café con Leche vs Cortadito

Café con Leche – What is it?

A Cafe con Leche is Cuban coffee with milk. However, the details are what differentiates it from other Cuban coffees. It is usually made with one shot of espresso and warm steamed milk. You can even add a pinch of salt if you want to alter the taste slightly.

When you order a Cafe con Leche, for example at Starbucks, you might be asked if you want it clarito or oscurito (light or dark). This just references what kind of coffee-to-milk ratio you want. If you want more milk and less coffee, ask for the coffee lighter. If you want more coffee and less milk, ask for it darker. 

What is Cortadito Coffee?

A Cortadito is almost identical to a Cortado, which is one fluid ounce of steamed milk with two shots of espresso, so a one-to-one ratio of milk to coffee. The Cortadito is also a one-to-one ratio of milk to coffee, but it uses pre-sweetened espresso and Cuban coffee. An aspect that sweetens the Cortadito is espuma, which is just sugar and a little bit of espresso whipped together, making a light brown topping.

What are the Differences Between Café Con Leche and Cortadito?

In simple terms, the Cortadito (also known as a Café Cubano) is almost just a shorter version of the Cafe con Leche, since a Cortadito is usually around 2 ounces. They both obviously are made with Cuban coffee, and most authentically are brewed in a Moka pot. In addition, they are both strong coffee and milk.

The thing that most differentiates them is the coffee-to-milk ratio. A Cafe con Leche will always have more milk than a Cortadito, even if it is ordered with light milk. This is because a large amount of milk in a Café con Leche is basically its defining feature. The other difference is that a Cafe con Leche is traditionally made using cow’s milk, while a Cortadito usually uses regular or evaporated milk.

Homemade Cafe con Leche

How to Make Them

To make both the Cafe con Leche and the Cortadito, you should try your best to use a Moka pot and Cuban coffee grounds (overview of the best Cuban coffee brands). First, put water and coffee grounds into the respective parts of the Moka pot and leave it to brew on the stovetop.

If you are making a Cafe con Leche, then while the coffee is brewing, you should start to heat the milk. This is one of the most important parts of the Cafe con Leche, so make sure that it does not end up boiling. And if you want to make this as authentic as possible, then make sure to use cow’s milk.

Once the coffee is brewed and the milk is hot, pour them both into a cup. Make sure that there is more milk than coffee, but you can change the exact ratio to your liking.

If you are making a Cortadito or Café Cubano, add around four tablespoons of sugar into a separate cup. When about one ounce of the espresso is brewed, mix that with the sugar until it forms a froth, the espuma. Once the rest of the espresso is done brewing, pour that in with the espuma. Try to make sure that the espresso only takes up around half of the cup. Next, pour some steamed milk into the cup, and keep a one-to-one ratio between the milk and espresso.


Final Thoughts on Cortadito vs Café con Leche

So, which one should you pick between those two Cuban espresso drinks? Which is the better cup of coffee?

There’s simply no straight answer. The Café con Leche has more milk while the Cortadito comes with a ratio of coffee to milk that’s closer to 1:1. If you prepare a Cortadito but don’t add any milk to the sweetened espresso, you get a Colada Coffee which is also quite a delicious drink!

Cuban coffees do taste quite different from American coffee. For many people, the Cuban Version is tasting a lot better so no matter whether you’re looking at a Cortadito or a Cafe con Leche, you won’t be disappointed in either of these. Who knows, one of these Cuban Cafes might become your favorite coffee to drink!

Cortadito vs Café con Leche
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