Growing up with an Italian grandmother (who’s family came from Naples when she was a little girl) led me to take certain aspects of Italian culture very seriously. One of those is espresso! Thankfully, espresso is beloved by many cultures around the globe, and there are so many different ways to enjoy espresso. This iced cortado recipe is a cool take on a classic Spanish coffee beverage made with espresso and steamed milk.
This recipe was inspired by my iced Americano coffee recipe, which is another updated twist on a coffeehouse classic. It’s similar to an iced latte so if you are a cold coffee lover, you’ll love this coffee drink! While I do take espresso very seriously, it’s also important to be able to experiment and have some fun. Here is some proof of having fun with coffee with this iced strawberry latte recipe and this double shot iced shaken espresso! If you’re a diehard coffee purist…avert your eyes! We are going to be shaking things up with this cortado! 😛Jump to Recipe
- 💕 why you'll love this iced cortado recipe
- ☕️ what is a cortado?
- 🛒 ingredients
- ☕️ cortado vs. latte & cortado vs. flat white
- 🍳 instructions
- ☕️ does espresso go bad?
- 🍽️ serving tips
- ℹ️ troubleshooting tips
- ⚖️ Scaling Tips
- 🔆 top tip
- ♻️ substitutions
- 🎛️ variations
- 🧰 equipment needed
- storage tips
- 💬 q+a
- 🥣 recipe
- 🧯food safety & other information
💕 why you'll love this iced cortado recipe
☕️ bold & flavorful. Espresso is a small but mighty coffee beverage that packs a punch. This iced cortado is a well-balanced drink that features the bold flavor of espresso.
🧊 cool take on a classic. Cortados are traditionally served hot, like most espresso-based beverages. While a warming hot beverage can be nice to indulge in, I prefer my coffee over ice. Making your own iced cortados at home means no side-eye from the local coffee crew at the neighborhood café.
⏱️ quick & easy. This classic coffee recipe can be made in a matter of minutes, and it comes together in a few simple steps. The longest part of this recipe is making the espresso!
☕️ what is a cortado?
A cortado is a coffee drink with Spanish origins that has equal parts milk and espresso. The Spanish word “cortado” means “to cut,” as in cutting the espresso with steamed milk.
The idea behind the cortado was to make the espresso flavor less acidic or bitter by adding the milk. Similar to how an Americano cuts the espresso with water, a cortado cuts it with the milk of your choice. It’s supposed to be a small drink meant for a little pick-me-up!
Coffee purists will tell you that traditionally, cortados are only served hot. But as someone who lives in an area where it’s cold at 74ºF, I like my coffee over ice. 🥶 So I say, drink your coffee how you want! But, I’ve also included instructions for how to enjoy this beverage hot, if that’s what you’re into.
- espresso - to get a great cortado, start with great espresso! Each cortado is made with a double espresso. Choose an espresso that you love, based on your own flavor preference, for the best cortado! I like fruity coffee beans and lighter roasts. Since this beverage will be iced, you can also allow your espresso to cool slightly. Check the equipment section of this post for more details on espresso makers!
- milk - classic cortados have dairy milk like whole milk or 2% milk, but you can use whatever milk you like. If you are making a hot cortado, you will need to steam the milk first. If you are making an iced cortado, you can use cold milk straight from the fridge.
- ice - Use larger cubes of ice if you can. Since we will be pouring hot espresso over ice, it melts quickly. You can also add in a few espresso ice cubes if you like, so things don’t get as watered down.
☕️ cortado vs. latte & cortado vs. flat white
All three beverages are made with espresso and milk. The difference is in the ratios!
- cortados have equal parts of espresso and milk. That means if you have 2 ounces of espresso (one double shot) you will also include 2 ounces of milk. The milk is lightly steamed, so there is not much foam that forms.
- caffé lattes have more milk than espresso. Typically, lattes have double the amount of milk as espresso. So a 12 ounce latte will have 4 ounces of espresso and 8 ounces of milk. Lattes are made using steamed milk, with a layer of foam on top.
- flat whites are made with even more milk than lattes. Additionally, the milk is steamed more vigorously to create a microfoam, which results in a more texturized mouthfeel opposed to a latte. There is also a denser layer of foam on a flat white than a latte or cortado.
Step 1: Brew a double shot of espresso according to your manufacturers' instructions.
Step 2: Fill your desired glass with ice.
Step 3: Slowly pour the espresso over the ice.
Step 4: If you want a bit of froth in your milk, you can froth it lightly using a hand frother.
Step 5: Gently layer the milk overtop of the espresso in your glass.
Step 6: Serve immediately.
Hint: Allow your espresso to cool slightly. When you pour hot espresso over ice it can lead to a bitter taste.
☕️ does espresso go bad?
Espresso is the basis of nearly every coffee house beverage! Drip coffee and cold brew are totally separate drinks, so if you ever order anything other than a cup of coffee or cold brew, it has espresso!
Allowing espresso to cool is a hot topic among coffee-lovers. You may have even heard about espresso shots being “dead” after a period of time. But how long?
Starbucks once famously said they instruct their baristas to serve pulled espresso shots within 10 seconds or they have to throw them out. I think they must have wasted a lot of coffee, because they seem to have changed their tune. 😅 Some people will say the espresso is good as long as it still has the crema on top. Others still maintain that after a few minutes, the coffee oxidizes and is no longer drinkable.
Truthfully, the flavor of espresso does change after it is pulled. But, like most recipes, it’s all a matter of personal preference. I like allowing the espresso to cool slightly, especially when I’m going to be pouring it over ice. After all…you won’t be able to taste anything if you drink your espresso too fast and burn your tongue. 😜 On top of that, rapidly changing the temperature of espresso (from fresh brewed to over ice) can lead to bitter or sour notes.
🍽️ serving tips
Serve your iced cortados with breakfast or brunch!
They’re perfect for a cozy morning at home or a busy workday.
Having a party during the day? You can even set up a DIY coffee station for your guests to customize their coffees to their liking. Simply prepare as much espresso as you’ll need for the number of guests you have, place it in a glass pitcher, and allow them to choose their own coffee adventure!
ℹ️ troubleshooting tips
Even though this is a simple recipe that only has two ingredients, things can go wonky. Try these troubleshooting tips if things don't exactly work out right.
- bitter - if your cortado is bitter, it could be due to the extraction of your expresso maker. You may need to troubleshoot the grind level of your espresso beans in order to balance out the flavor. The good news is, once you figure out how to make espresso you like at home, it gets easier to make consistent shots of espresso!
- too much or too little milk - if you prefer a beverage like a latte or flat white that has more milk in it, go ahead and add in more milk! I won’t tell! 😉
- too foamy - if you find that your hot cortado has a lot of foam, it’s possible that you over-steamed the milk. If you’re using a hand frother to whip your milk, take care not to over mix it otherwise you’ll end up with a dense foam.
⚖️ Scaling Tips
You can easily double or triple this recipe if you want a bigger caffeine fix!
Simply brew more shots of espresso to increase the size of your beverage.
🔆 top tip
You can brew your espresso directly into a glass that holds 4-5 ounces in order to get the proportions of this coffee beverage right!
Missing an ingredient? No problem. Check out these tried-and-true substitutions, or comment below with your question. I’m here to help you troubleshoot!
- nondairy milk - while a traditional cortado uses dairy milk, you can use whatever milk you like. This drink would be wonderful with coconut milk or oat milk! Keep in mind, if you want foam on your cortado, different non-dairy milks like almond milk can be difficult to foam. But it will still taste great!
- cold brew concentrate - no espresso? no problem! You can use undiluted cold brew concentrate in place of espresso!
- instant espresso - instant espresso can be a great way to get a quick fix coffee break, especially when you’re traveling! Use a packet of instant espresso or strong instant coffee in place of espresso in this recipe.
Feeling like a rebel?! 😈 Feel free to stray from the recipe card using these variations, or leave me a comment with your own!
- hot cortado - to make a hot cortado (which is the traditional way its served) skip the ice and steam the milk before adding it to the espresso.
- cortadito - a cortadito is a Cuban variation of the cortado using sugar, milk, and espresso. To make a traditional cortadito, you mix espresso with granulated sugar until it forms a paste, then add in steamed milk.
- café bomnon - you can swap the milk in a cortado for sweetened condensed milk to create a sweet take on a cortado. Another name for it is "café canario," because it’s popular in the Canary Islands. You can also top this drink with an added layer of cold foam or whipped cream!
🧰 equipment needed
- espresso machine - you will need to make a double shot of espresso for this recipe, but you don’t need to have a fancy espresso maker. While I do have (and love!) the Breville Barista Pro espresso machine, it is quite the splurge. If you make more than a few trips to your local barista, it’s worth investing in a nice machine. If you are looking for a cheaper alternative, you can totally make coffeehouse quality espresso at home for $25 - $60! These moka pot espresso makers are quick, easy, and affordable!
- drinking glass - if you’re enjoying a regular cortado, a Gibraltar glass is the vessel of choice! For an iced cortado, choose a glass that can hold at least 8-10 ounces of liquid. You’ll need more room to hold all the ice! I love using these Picardie glasses from Duralex.
- hand held frother or milk frother - if you like a little foam on your coffee beverages, you can use a handheld milk frother like this one to whip your milk before pouring it into your glass. If you’re enjoying a hot cortado, you’ll need a way to steam your milk. You can use one of these countertop frothers if you don’t have an espresso machine with a steamer attachment.
It is best to enjoy this espresso drink shortly after making it. If you can’t finish your cortado in one sitting, you can store it for up to 24 hours before the flavor starts to deteriorate.
A cortado typically has 2 shots of espresso, or one double shot.
A latte, also called a caffé latte, has twice the milk as espresso. A cortado has the same amount of milk and espresso. The milk to make a cortado is steamed, but not frothed. In a latte the milk is steamed and frothed.
The main difference between a cortado and a flat white is that a cortado has less milk. A cortado is equal parts espresso and milk, with very little foam. A flat white has 2-3x the milk as espresso, and has a thicker layer of foam.
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- 1 espresso maker
- 1 glass of choice
- 1 hand frother
- 2 ounces espresso freshly pulled
- 2 ounces milk use milk of choice
- ice to fill glass
- Brew a double shot of espresso according to your manufacturers instructions.
- Fill your desired glass with ice. Choose a glass that can hold at least 6 - 8 ounces.
- Slowly pour the espresso over the ice.
- If you want a bit of froth in your milk, you can froth it lightly using a hand frother. Cortados are traditionally not as foamed as lattes or cappucinos.
- Gently layer the milk overtop of the espresso in your glass.
- Serve immediately.
🧯food safety & other information
Food safety is an important ingredient in any recipe for success! Here are some tips to keep you safe in the kitchen!
- Use caution when handling hot espresso as it can reach temperatures of over 200ºF