Unless you speak Italian, it’s hard to guess what piccolo coffee is by its name. But after you learn what piccolo coffee is, you will definitely want to try it.
Piccolo coffee is essentially a miniature café latte. It’s a ristretto shot of espresso topped with steamed milk served in a small 3 to 4-ounce glass.
In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about piccolo coffee. By the end, you will be a master in ordering or making this tasty little drink.
Table of Contents
What is a Piccolo Coffee?
It doesn’t take long hanging around a true Italian coffee shop before you hear someone order a piccolo coffee. But what in the world are they ordering?
Piccolo means small in Italian. And a piccolo coffee is a small version of what you consider a standard café latte.
Piccolo coffee is a ristretto shot of espresso combined with steamed milk. Traditionally it’s served in a small 3 to 4-ounce glass.
In case you don’t know what a ristretto shot is, it’s basically a concentrated espresso shot. It will be much stronger tasting than standard espresso.
But the milk in the piccolo coffee helps balance the strong ristretto shot. This is why many people enjoy the flavor of piccolo coffee.
Piccolo Coffee Ratio
If you’re familiar with a café latte, you know it’s more milk than espresso. Since a piccolo is a little version of a café latte, it follows that it has more milk than espresso.
The general ratio of a piccolo coffee is one part espresso to two parts milk. This often comes to about 20 to 30 milliliters of espresso and 40 to 60 milliliters of steamed milk.
This is why most of the glass appears to be milk when you look at a piccolo in clear glass.
But don’t let these ratios fool you. The espresso will still be the dominating flavor of this drink, especially since it’s a ristretto shot.
What is a Piccolo Latte?
You will also hear people order piccolo lattes. A piccolo coffee and a piccolo latte are the same things. You can see how things get a little confusing in the world of coffee.
But any time you hear someone use the word piccolo, you can assume they are talking about an espresso shot topped with milk.
So simply choose whichever term you prefer. But at the end of the day, it’s important to know that you will be ordering the same drink.
Piccolo Coffee vs Cortado
The main difference between a piccolo coffee and a cortado is the amount of steamed milk. These drinks will look very similar when you put them side by side.
A cortado is also an espresso shot topped with steamed milk. However, it’s topped with less steamed milk than a piccolo.
And where it gets confusing is many baristas will have a slightly different definition of a cortado. So this can skew the espresso-to-milk ratios between various coffee shops.
However, it’s generally accepted that a cortado has a one-to-one espresso-to-milk ratio. But some cultures will use a double shot of espresso in a cortado.
Cortados may also come in a tiny mug-like cup, whereas piccolo coffee is typically served in tiny clear glasses.
Piccolo Coffee vs Macchiato
The main difference between a piccolo coffee and a macchiato is that a macchiato only has milk foam on top. Macchiatos also typically have two espresso shots, whereas a piccolo only has one.
The milk-to-espresso ratio of a macchiato is typically one part milk to two parts espresso.
If you’re starting to get confused, hang in there. From most milk to least milk, we have the piccolo, cortado, then macchiato.
This means a macchiato will have the strongest coffee flavor because it has the least milk. A macchiato may not be your best drink choice if you don’t enjoy strong and bitter coffee.
Easy Homemade Piccolo Recipe
- 1 espresso machine
- 6-8 g finely ground espresso blend
- 2 oz milk preferably whole milk
- Take 6 to 8 grams of fine espresso grounds and tamp them in your portafilter.
- Attach your portafilter to the espresso machine, then make your espresso. To make a ristretto shot, stop the filtration process at around 15 to 20 seconds to get a bolder flavor.
- Put your ristretto shot in a small glass while you prepare the steamed milk.
- If your espresso machine has a steam wand, use your wand to steam just over 2 ounces of whole milk. If you don’t have a steam wand, you can steam your milk on a stovetop.
- Lastly, top your espresso with about 2 ounces of steamed milk. Then, serve and enjoy your piccolo coffee!
A piccolo coffee is a very tiny version of a café latte. It’s simply a ristretto espresso shot topped with steamed milk in a ratio of one part espresso to two parts milk.
The terms piccolo, piccolo coffee, and piccolo latte all refer to the same drink, so you can use them interchangeably.
A piccolo coffee has more milk than a cortado. A cortado has a one-to-one ratio of espresso to milk, making it a stronger-tasting coffee drink. However, this may vary slightly between coffee shops.
When comparing a piccolo to a macchiato, a piccolo will have significantly more milk. A macchiato only has milk foam on top, so it will be much more bitter than a piccolo coffee.
While a piccolo coffee may be tiny, it still packs a flavorful punch. Give this drink a try next time you’re at a coffee shop, or make it from home to enjoy a classic Italian coffee.