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Blog | Guides & Tips

Cortadito: What Is It & How Is It Made?

If you’ve visited Little Havana, are planning on taking a trip to Cuba, or have eaten at a Cuban restaurant, you’ve heard the name: cortadito.

This popular Cuban drink is a sweet, dark roast coffee often made in a stovetop espresso maker. 

A cortadito is similar to a cortado, but there are differences. What are those differences, and how can you make one at home?

I’ll give you the low-down on this Cuban drink as well as a cortadito coffee recipe so you can make your own right on your kitchen stove.

cortadito cuba

What Is A Cortadito

It’s easy to confuse the cortado and cortadito drinks. The names are almost the same, but there are some essential differences. We get a cortado from Spain, while a cortadito coffee comes to us from Cuba.

Cortado means to cut, as in adding milk to the coffee drink to cut any bitterness from the espresso.

A cortado has a shot of espresso and steamed milk, usually at a coffee to milk ratio of 1:2. The size is small since it’s just a few ounces. There’s no foam in a cortado, just steamed milk.

In parallel, a cortadito starts out with the same ingredients as a cortado: a serving of heavily sweetened Cuban coffee that gets some steamed milk. 

Given the diminutive name of the drink (cortado+ito=cortadito), you might think that it’s simply a tiny cortado.

Same drink, different name? No.

The difference is in the ratio. The Cuban version of this coffee drink generally gets less milk than a cortado. And while the ratio can vary, 1:1 is common. 

Also, a cortadito is made with Cuban espresso, which is a strong coffee that might or might not come out of an espresso machine. 

The Cuban drink is also heavily sweetened, either before or after the milk is added. You can sweeten it even more with evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk.

Related Read: Cortado vs macchiato

cuban coffees

How to make a cortadito

Making a cortadito at home is simple. The prep time for this sweet cortadito coffee recipe is short, and can take you just a few minutes as you pull the espresso shot and steam the milk.

What You Need

To make a cortadito coffee you do need some equipment, but you can usually adapt what you already have at home.

What gear and ingredients do you need?

Moka Pot or Espresso machine

The traditional way to make Cuban espresso is with the stovetop brewing method called a Moka Pot. If you don’t have a Moka Pot, you can use a manual espresso machine or an automatic one. 

You can even use a capsule machine. If you don’t have any of these brewing methods, you can also make coffee on the stove in a small saucepan over medium heat.


The traditional coffee to make this drink is ground Cuban coffee, which is a finely ground dark roast that creates a strong taste.

If you prefer, you can start with whole beans so you can grind them fresh and appropriately for your espresso machine. Either way, you’ll need 18 grams of finely ground coffee (or an espresso pod) for each cup of brewed coffee.

Coffee grinder 

Unless you’re using a capsule machine or pre-ground coffee, you’ll need to grind the beans. All espresso machines require a fine grind.


Most Cuban baristas use whole milk, but you can also use 2%. If you prefer to avoid dairy, you can use non-dairy milk substitutes such as oat milk or almond milk. 

For each cup of coffee, use one or two ounces of warm milk. If you will froth the milk, use about 50-100 ml or the least amount you can froth in your machine.

Measuring cups 

containers come in handy when whipping the sugar into espuma, which I’ll explain below.


You’ll need 2 teaspoons of brown sugar or white sugar for each cup. If you want extra sweetness, you may want to add a small amount of condensed milk or evaporated milk in addition to the sugar, to taste.

Related Read: Brown sugar in coffee

Coffee cup

The traditional way to serve this Cuban beverage is in a demitasse coffee cup.

Spoon or whisk

To create the espuma you’ll need a spoon or whisk. 

How To Make The Espresso Cuban Style

In this cortadito coffee recipe I give you the basic recipe but feel free to experiment. You can add an extra shot of espresso, more steamed milk, or more or less sugar.

The first step is to weigh 18 grams of coffee beans. If you are using a capsule machine, you can skip this step.

If you’re using whole beans, now’s the time to grind them. If you are preparing an espresso, grind the beans fine. If you’re using pre-ground Cuban coffee, you can skip this step.

Cubans traditionally use a Moka Pot. If you’ll make your stovetop espresso the Cuban way, follow the instructions on how to use a Moka Pot.

If you are using an espresso machine, place the finely ground coffee beans in the portafilter and tamp the grinds. Then pull a shot or double shot of espresso.

If you’re using a capsule machine, preparing coffee in a Moka Pot, or brewing it in a saucepan, prepare a strong brew. When you’re finished brewing, pour it in a small cup such as a demitasse.

Warm Your Milk

If you want to use whole milk, heat it in a saucepan. If you use an espresso machine, you can steam the milk with the steam wand, which will heat it.

But, if you prefer to use evaporated milk or condensed milk, you may want to warm it a bit before you pour it into the beverage.

Prep The Espuma

An important part of this drink recipe is the espuma. To make the espuma, put half of the espresso or strong brewed coffee in a measuring cup, saucepan, or jar and add the sugar.

Stir or whip the sugar mix until you have a thick foam that’s called espuma. The sugar dissolves faster in warm liquid. 

Although this sugar mix is not the same as crema from an espresso machine, it does give some satisfying texture.

Combine Your Espresso and Milk

Pour the remaining coffee and the espuma into the demitasse cup, stirring as you combine the liquids. Pour the warmed milk into the coffee.

Add Espuma Foam

Spoon 1 tablespoon of espuma foam on top of the sweet coffee. If you’re not scared of the additional hit of calories, add evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk to the cup of coffee.

Wrapping Up

This cortadito coffee recipe creates the traditional Cuban servings, which are small-sized. You can add more milk and sugar or simply double the recipe and serve it in a mug if you want a larger amount. 

You can choose to add more or less condensed milk to taste and, depending on the calories you want in the final drink.