Gibraltar vs. Cortado: What Is the Difference? • Crazy Coffee Bean (2022)

Let me guess: you are currently glaring at a coffee shop menu and wondering, “What in the world is a Gibraltar?” A barista may have said it is a coffee drink similar to a cortado. However, it’s still probably hard to picture what they were referring to. After all, the names sound insanely different! So, let’s find out if there is any difference between Gibraltar vs. cortado.

What is Gibraltar coffee?

A Gibraltar is an espresso-based beverage with a double shot of espresso topped with just under two ounces of steamed milk. Coffee shops traditionally serve a Gibraltar in a Libbey Gibraltar glass, hence the name. A Gibraltar glass holds 4.5 fluid ounces.

Ironically, Gibraltar coffee doesn’t receive its name from the British territory on the south coast of Spain. Instead, this espresso drink emerged in San Francisco.

It all began when in 2005, Blue Bottle Coffee company had mistakenly purchased a bunch of 4.5-ounce Libby Gibraltar glasses that appeared to be too small for coffee cupping. So instead, those glasses were used by baristas experimenting with espresso shots.

As baristas needed a quick pick-me-up drink, they added a dash of milk to the espresso. They also treated some of their loyal clients with this coffee drink, and it was well-liked. When the clients asked the name of this concoction, it was impromptu nicknamed Gibraltar due to the Gibraltar glass it was served in.

James Freeman, the founder of Blue Bottle Coffee Company, described Gibraltar coffee as a “short, concentrated espresso and milk drink that’s made to be consumed on the spot.” With the expansion of Blue Bottle Coffee across the United States, this beverage gained popularity. It even appeared on the menus of other coffee shops worldwide.

(Video) How to Pour Latte Art in Cortados/Gibraltar's/Piccolos

Gibraltar vs. Cortado: What Is the Difference? • Crazy Coffee Bean (1)

What is cortado coffee?

A cortado is a small coffee drink made using equal parts espresso and steamed milk. Usually, it is one shot of espresso and one ounce of milk, but the variations exist, depending on who makes it.

Theword cortadocomes from the Spanish wordcortar.It means “to cut” and refers to the milk cutting down the acidity of espresso. Traditionally cortado comes in a 4.25-ounce carajillo glass, which is essentially a shot glass.

Since many popular espresso-based beverages are Italian by origin, people often mistake the cortado for Italian coffee. However, if you try ordering this coffee drink in Italy, you may get some strange looks from the waiters not understanding what you want. But ask for “un cortado” in Spain, and it will be prepared swiftly.

The exact date when cafe cortado was created is unknown, but multiple sources agree that it first appeared in Spain’s Basque Country. Like almost any Spanish coffee drink, the cortado has little to no milk foam present, which allows the milk “to cut” right through the espresso (quite literally). It is often confused with a macchiato or a latte as it comes in a glass.

A cortado has become a popular order in many coffee shops across the globe. Coffee fanatics love this drink for its perfect balance of smooth milk and rich espresso.

A cortado is a bit stronger than the flat white as it contains a little less milk. A flat white is made of one part of espresso and two parts of steamed milk, while a typical cortado contains equal parts espresso and steamed milk.

Gibraltar vs. Cortado: What Is the Difference? • Crazy Coffee Bean (2)

(Video) All Espresso Drinks Explained: Cappuccino vs Latte vs Flat White and more!

Are Gibraltar and cortado the same thing?

If you’ve been researching Gibraltar vs. cortado topic for a while and getting confused with finding contradicting information, you are not alone! While some sources say these coffee drinks are the same thing (even the Blue Bottle founder admitted it himself), others argue that they are different. So let’s clear the confusion once and for all, shall we?


When looking for the similarities of those coffee drinks, one thing is pretty obvious: they both contain the same ingredients – milk and espresso, and neither comes with milk foam. The perfect balance between the two gives these drinks their signature smooth finish.

Cup size and material

Both Gibraltar and cortado traditionally are served in 4.5-ounce glass vessels rather than ceramic cups designed to retain heat longer. It makes sense as these coffee drinks are small, and it takes a couple of sips to drink them, unlike cappuccino or a flat white that you’d sip on for a while.


Gibraltar and cortado have a silky texture and creamy mouthfeel when you can still taste the espresso. Traditionally they don’t contain sugar or flavored syrup (with some rare exceptions, such as caramel cortado in Costa Coffee shops). Most avid coffee drinkers would agree that sugar is unnecessary for those drinks. Being able to taste the coffee is arguably the best part of appreciating the cortado or Gibraltar flavor.

Gibraltar vs. Cortado: What Is the Difference? • Crazy Coffee Bean (3)

Is there a difference between Gibraltar vs. cortado?

While you may have concluded that Gibraltar and cortado are the same, if digging real deep, you can discover subtle differences between those coffee drinks.


Gibraltar and cortado originated in different countries. The cortado roots can be traced back to 20th century Spain, and Gibraltar was birthed in the 21st century in San Francisco. So while the cortado has been around for quite a few decades and is an integral part of Spanish coffee culture, Gibraltar is a fairly new take on the classic espresso drink.

Espresso to milk ratio

Different baristas and coffee shops often have their own riff on Gibraltar and cortado recipes. While espresso to milk ratio variations are less common in Gibraltar coffee, the amounts of espresso and milk in cortado can vary greatly.

(Video) Espresso Drinks Explained: Histories, Recipes and More…

In Spain, the espresso to milk ratio in a cortado can be from 1:1 to 1:0.5. Meanwhile, in the United States or some coffee chains (such as Caffè Nero), the formula can be totally reversed, with the espresso to milk ratio of 1:2. One of the reasons for this could be that baristas prefer using more milk to create latte art.

Also, Starbucks makes a cortado with a double shot of ristretto, meaning the coffee is much more concentrated.

This does not exactly set Gibraltar and cortado apart when evaluating the differences objectively but rather brings more moving parts to the equation.

Glass type

The most noticeable difference when Gibraltar and cortado coffees are compared is the type of glasses they were prepared in at their origins.

Gibraltar coffee is traditionally served in tapered octagonal bottom rock glasses. Meanwhile, a Spanish cortado comes in smooth carajillo shot glasses (the same ones used to serve the spiked coffee drink in Spanish-speaking countries).

While in the ideal world, you’d be able to tell those coffees apart just by seeing the special glass the drink comes in, the reality is a bit different. You are likely to come across the cafes that serve cortados in ceramic cups, especially in Latin American countries, such as Argentina.

Gibraltar vs. Cortado: What Is the Difference? • Crazy Coffee Bean (4)

Ordering at a coffee shop

You will hardly ever spot both Gibraltar and cortado on the menu of the same coffee shop as they are essentially the same thing. However, find out how they prepare each of those drinks if you do. In fact, this could be an exciting topic for a coffee chat with a barista!

(Video) Easy Cortado Recipe - How To Make A Cortado Coffee At Home

Starbucks or other big coffee ships may not be able to customize your drink to your liking. However, specialty coffee shops probably would. Even if there are none of those drinks on the menu, you can ask for macchiato with more textured milk or flat white with less milk, and it will be close enough to achieve that desired smooth yet strong coffee taste.

Are you still determined to try these two beverages to see if there are any subtle differences that you can pinpoint? Making an objective comparison might be tough as you will likely get different variations of those drinks or the same coffee called “Gibraltar” on the West Coast and “cortado” on the East coast.

Also, if you choose to travel to Madrid on the mission to track down the original cortado, you may get slightly disappointed. It won’t be exactly your specialty coffee shop concoction with latte art. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying you shouldn’t order an old-school cortado at one of those hundred-year-old nostalgic cafes. On the contrary, it is highly recommended for the experience itself! You may receive a cortado made of dark roasted industrial coffee, and the amount of milk will depend on the bartender’s mood. Still, you’ll be sitting alongside the old men reading newspapers and sipping on their cortados. If your Spanish is decent, you may even strike up a conversation about their coffee drinking rituals.

Gibraltar vs. Cortado: What Is the Difference? • Crazy Coffee Bean (5)

How to make a Gibraltar or cortado at home

Are you itchy to try Gibraltar or cortado? Why not try making them at home?

To prepare a Gibraltar or cortado at home, you will need:

  • Espresso machine orportable espresso maker.
  • 4.5-5oz glass or a small cup.
  • Coffee beans.Freshly ground coffee always gives the best flavor. Dark roast Nespresso pods or K-Cups can also be used.
  • Your preferred milk.Oat milk is a crowd favorite for those who prefer dairy-free options, and it steams the best.

Follow these steps to make a Gibraltar or cortado coffee:

  1. Steam the milk first using a handheld milk frother or a built-in milk steamer. An espresso shot will “die” quickly, anywhere from 10-30 seconds after pulling it. The brew will lose its taste when an espresso shot is left out too long.
  2. Pull a double shot of espresso. Don’t let them sit and lose flavor!
  3. Pour steamed milk into the coffee. Slow, circular motions are the best when pouring. Aim for around the same amount of milk as you have coffee if you like smooth and balanced coffee, or use less steamed milk for a stronger caffeine kick.
  4. Drink immediately.

Whether you like the sound of a Gibraltar or a cortado more, these espresso drinks offer a rich, robust coffee taste. While knowing what’s a cortado and what’s a Gibraltar may help, as long as you know how you want your coffee, you should be able to communicate it to the barista. Don’t be shy to simply tell them your preferred espresso to milk ratio to ensure you get the drink that you truly love and enjoy.

(Video) How to Make a Cortado at Home!


Gibraltar vs. Cortado: What Is the Difference? • Crazy Coffee Bean? ›

There is one big difference between the Gibraltar and the Cortado, and that is the glass style the barista serves you the drink in. Mainstream coffee houses serve the Cortado in a 4.5-ounce glass cup, and they serve the Gibraltar in a 4.5 rock glass.

What is a Gibraltar coffee? ›

What's Gibraltar coffee? The Gibraltar is an espresso drink made with equal parts espresso and steamed milk, also known as as a Cortado. It's Spanish in origin: “cortado” means “cut” in Spanish, indicating that the espresso is cut with the milk.

Is cortado strong coffee? ›

Cortado- In Summary

In summary, a Cortado is a small, strong espresso drink that is served in a 4.5 oz glass. The drink is typically served as a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio of espresso to steamed milk.

Which is stronger cortado or cappuccino? ›

They both contain one shot of espresso, which is around 40 milligrams of caffeine. However, more differences between the delicious espresso drinks occur when you start counting calories. A four-once cortado can be anywhere from 15 to 30 calories, whereas a 12-ounce cappuccino can be 150 to 200 (or more!)

What is Gibraltar Americano? ›

The Gibraltar Americano is made using the single origin Ristretto mixed with hot water. How does it taste: Next up on the list is the Gibraltar Americano. Our first sip revealed that the espresso shot tasted a little bit diluted because it's been mixed with hot water.

Is Gibraltar same as cortado? ›

The Differences

When making a Cortado, you use a ratio of 1:1, meaning equal parts warm milk to espresso. The Gibraltar is made using a double shot of espresso and adding one to two ounces of steamed milk.

What is a large cortado called? ›

This is a single ristretto shot in a macchiato glass that is filled with steamed milk in the same fashion as a cafe latte. A larger drink, popular in Portugal, is the galão, which uses 1:3 proportions but is otherwise similar to both cortados and manchados.

Which is stronger flat white or cortado? ›

The Cortado tastes stronger:

The Cortado is a smaller drink with a coffee to milk ratio of 1:1, whereas the Flat White is larger and has a coffee to milk ratio of 1:2. The difference in the amount of milk will make the Cortado taste stronger than the Flat White.

How does a cortado taste like? ›

One of the key reasons the Cortado tastes the way it does, is because of the way the milk's prepared. Cortado milk's prepared the same as a Flat White, with less foam, allowing for a denser milk. With roughly a 1:2 ratio of espresso to milk in the Cortado, the milk reduces the acidity and presents a sweeter taste.

Do you put sugar in a cortado? ›

Traditionally no. There's no sugar in a standard cortado, but in some countries drinks similar to cortados (like a Cuban cortadito) might have sugar. You can add sugar at the end if you'd like. Why is a cortado served in a glass?

How do you drink a cortado? ›

The cortado should always be served in a 150–200 ml (5–7 fl oz) glass and the milk should only be steamed; maybe a little foam settles to the top but the essence of the drink must be steamed milk. Cortado is more similar to a less-foamy cappuccino than an espresso macchiato.

How do you serve a cortado? ›

Serve: Pour 2 ounces espresso into the cortado glass, then top with the steamed milk. Drink immediately.

How do you make Gibraltar coffee? ›


A gibraltar is a double-shot of espresso with between one and two ounces of steamed milk, served in a glass tumbler (called a gibraltar glass, hence the name).

Does a cortado have foam? ›

The microfoam and the size of the drinks are what set these two espresso drinks apart. Cappuccino is all about the foam. Meanwhile, the traditional Cortado does not have any foamed milk unless your barista wants to serve you a Cortado with some unique latte art.

What is the difference between a latte and a cortado? ›

Cortados are made with equal parts steamed milk and espresso, and they may contain no foam or a small amount of microfoam. Lattes have quite a bit more steamed milk and are almost always topped with a solid layer of microfoam.

What is the difference between cortado and piccolo? ›

Piccolo Latte vs.

What does this mean for the taste of a cortado? The single-shot piccolo is more delicate, less intense, and sweeter. The cortado has a more bold espresso flavour and is less sweet due to less milk in the cup.

Why is it called cortado? ›

Cortado comes from the Spanish word cortar, which means "to cut." The steamed milk is said to "cut" the espresso to reduce the acidity and intensity of the drink. The Spanish origin is important to the make-up of this drink. Unlike many other popular espresso drinks, the cortado contains little to no foam.

Is cortado single or double shot? ›

Cortado coffee is a Spanish drink containing a double espresso shot mixed with hot milk. It's the espresso version of a latte, just without all that milk foam on top.

What is a cortado in Spain? ›

Larger than a macchiato and smaller than a cappuccino, a cortado, which comes from Spain's Basque Country, is composed of equal parts espresso and steamed milk. That balance allows the milk to mellow the espresso while still allowing the flavor and nuance of the coffee to shine through.

How many shots of coffee are in a cortado? ›

The Starbucks cortado is made with two ristretto shots topped with milk, while Costa Coffee (the world's second-largest coffee chain) describes their cortado as “small and luxurious”.

Is cortado same as macchiato? ›

The Big Difference? Foamed or Steamed Milk. As we are sure you have noticed, the difference between a cortado and a macchiato is the milk. If you have foamed milk, you are enjoying a macchiato while steamed milk is present in a cortado.

Does Starbucks make cortado? ›

Two ristretto shots topped with warm, silky milk served in a 6oz cup that gives you the needed coffee kick for your day.

What is a flat white called in Italy? ›

The flat white is similar to an original Italian cappuccino, which is a single espresso with microfoam served in a 150–160 ml (5.3–5.6 imp fl oz) cup. The Spanish café con leche is similar, but uses scalded milk.

How big is a cortado cup? ›

This is the same glass used in the top US coffee shops. At 4.5 oz, the glass is the perfect size for the classic Cortado.

How do you steam milk for cortado? ›

2. Steam Milk
  1. Fill your pitcher with milk (or a milk-alternative).
  2. Purge the steam wand.
  3. Stretch (aerate) and texture (emulsify) the milk.
  4. Touch the pitcher to check the temperature.
  5. Tap out any trapped air bubbles and swirl the steamed milk around to get ready to pour over your espresso shot.
Mar 27, 2018

Do you stir a cortado? ›

Since the whole Cortado drink is based on a 1:1 ratio with the coffee, then you should be using the same amount of milk as you have used espresso. You do not need to measure this out accurately, just try and get as close as you possibly can. There is no need to stir anything. Your Cortado has now been fully prepared!

Is a cortado healthy? ›

If you want to shave off a few of those calories, you can go for a flat white instead. However, a cortado remains the healthier option. Even if you opt for different substitutes, the volume difference between these two coffee beverages is going to render the cortado the more health-conscious choice.

What is a double espresso with milk called? ›

A latte, much like a cappuccino, is a combination of espresso and steamed milk. They are generally no smaller than eight ounces, though there really isn't a limit to how small or large they can be.

How do you pronounce cortado? ›

Popular in Spain, the cortado starts with a single-shot espresso base topped with a just a small amount of steamed milk and a very small layer of foamed milk to finish. Think of it as a 50:50 version of a latte. The drink is often served in a small glass. Pronounced cor-tah-doh.

Is a cortado hot or cold? ›

It's cold, and the added ice cubes will bring it to a refreshing temperature. The iced cortado stands alone as the best iced coffee you can order — it's bold and flavorful and is versatile enough to be enjoyed in a multitude of ways.

How do you make a cortado without a coffee maker? ›

Easy Cortado Recipe - How To Make A Cortado Coffee At Home - YouTube

Is macchiato an espresso? ›

The word macchiato means “marked” in Italian. So an Espresso Macchiato is mostly espresso, marked with a small amount of steamed milk and foam for those who love a rich, bold taste. A Latte Macchiato is mostly steamed milk, marked with espresso for those who prefer a creamier drink.

What is in flat white coffee? ›

The flat white coffee is an espresso-based coffee drink accompanied with steamed milk and microfoam. This microfoam is made up of steamed milk which is gently infused with air. This results in silky, textured milk containing tiny air bubbles.


1. Gibraltar
(Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters)
2. Afternoon Coffee | How to make a Cortado Coffee
(Hoon's Coffee)
3. How to Make Espresso vs Macchiato vs Cortado
(David Pakman Show)
4. The Cortado
(The Brew Architect)
5. What Even Is Milk + Espresso? (Behind The Bar)
6. How to Make a Cortado

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