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Piccolo Coffee Vs Cortado: What Is The Difference

As a coffee enthusiast, you might have come across the terms piccolo and cortado while visiting your favorite coffee shops.

top view of two coffees in mugs

These espresso-based drinks may appear similar at first glance, but there are some key differences between the two that set them apart.

Here’s the scoop on the distinctions between piccolo coffee and cortado, so the next time you find yourself at an espresso machine, you’ll know which one to choose.


Coffee lovers around the world are familiar with espresso drinks, but may not be aware of two popular types of coffee – Cortado coffee and Piccolo.

Though they both contain shots of espresso, they have different origins and flavors.

The Italian word ‘cortado’ literally means ‘cut’ referring to how it is made by cutting a shot of espresso with an equal amount of steamed milk.

On the other hand, Piccolo coffee originated in Australia and is a stronger blend that uses less milk than its European counterpart.

If you’re looking for a unique twist on your favorite cup of joe, then try one or both of these delicious types of coffee today!

A piccolo, also known as a piccolo latte, is essentially a small latte that consists of a single shot of espresso topped with steamed milk.

Its Italian name translates to “small” and it delivers a milder taste due to its higher milk-to-espresso ratio.

On the other hand, a cortado, which is Spanish for “cut”, is made with a double shot of espresso and an equal amount of steamed milk, resulting in a bolder flavor while still retaining the creaminess from much milk.

The main difference between these two delightful beverages lies in the milk-to-espresso ratios and the serving size.

A piccolo latte has a higher milk content, providing a smoother and creamier experience, while a Cortado opts for an equal ratio of espresso to milk, giving it a more robust flavor.

So, whether you prefer a lighter, creamier coffee like the Piccolo or something with a bit more punch like the Cortado, your taste buds are sure to be satisfied!

Piccolo Coffee vs Cortado

coffee in a white coffee mug

Piccolo coffee and Cortado are two popular types of coffee beverages in the coffee world.

Espresso macchiato is a type of Italian-style espresso beverage that includes a single espresso shot topped with a small amount of milk.

While a regular latte is composed of steamed milk with an added espresso shot.

Caffe latte is a classic Italian-style espresso beverage and consists of an espresso shot mixed with steamed milk.

Au lait is a type of coffee beverage that is most commonly found on coffee shop menus. It consists of double ristretto espresso and steamed milk with little foam.

The ratio of coffee to ounces of milk in an au lait is much greater than in a traditional latte, which makes for a larger drink with much more caffeine.

When it comes to choosing a small, espresso-based coffee drink, you might find yourself torn between the Piccolo and the Cortado.

Let’s take a closer look at these two coffee drinks to understand their key differences and flavor profiles.

Piccolo Coffee

A Piccolo is a small milk beverage that consists of a single ristretto shot, which is a more concentrated and stronger espresso shot, topped with warm milk.

Piccolo coffee is a well-blended drink that offers a great way to enjoy a cup of coffee.

Piccolo is made with a shot of espresso mixed with an equal amount of steamed milk, while the cortado uses much less ml of milk than its cappuccino counterpart.

It’s typically served in a small 90ml glass, allowing you to enjoy the flavor of the coffee beans without being overpowered by the milk.

The inclusion of milk creates a smooth, balanced drink that’s similar to a cafe latte but in a smaller size.

Cortado Coffee

On the other hand, a Cortado is a Spanish-inspired drink that consists of equal parts espresso and milk, served in a small glass or a demitasse cup.

Cortado is a well-balanced, espresso-based drink that features a small amount of foam and a ratio of milk to espresso that often differs from classic cappuccino recipes.

Though still creamy, the cortado has less foam than its cappuccino counterpart.

The Cortado has slightly more milk than a Piccolo, which results in a more mellow taste. A thin layer of foam usually tops off the drink.

The name “Cortado” comes from the Spanish word “cortar,” meaning “to cut,” as the milk helps to “cut” through the intensity of the espresso.

Here are some key differences between the two:

  • Milk-to-coffee ratio: A Cortado has a 1:1 ratio of espresso to milk, while a Piccolo has a 1:3 ratio, giving it a stronger coffee flavor.
  • Serving size: Piccolos are usually served in a small 90ml glass, while Cortados can be served in a small cup, demitasse, or even a double shot cup with less water.
  • Espresso type: A Piccolo typically uses a single ristretto shot, which is more concentrated and has less water than a regular espresso shot, while a Cortado can use a single or double espresso shot depending on personal preference.

Now that you’re more familiar with these two small coffee drinks, consider trying them at your local coffee shop to see which one best suits your taste.

Depending on your preference for milk and espresso, you might find yourself leaning towards one or the other.

Both drinks offer a unique and delicious experience in their own right, and exploring the different ways they can be prepared might lead you to discover new flavors and variations.

So, next time you’re at a cafe, don’t hesitate to ask for a Piccolo or Cortado and enjoy these espresso-based coffee drinks.

Beverage Basics

pouring creamer into a coffee mug with coffee

Espresso: The Foundation

As a coffee lover, you know that both Piccolo and Cortado are espresso-based drinks. They both start with the same foundation: a shot of espresso extracted from freshly ground coffee beans.

The quality of the beans and the extraction process are crucial for a great-tasting beverage.

Espresso plays an important role in determining the strength and flavor profile of your chosen coffee.

In a piccolo, you’ll typically find one shot of espresso, while a cortado often contains two shots.

This means that as you sip your cortado, you can expect a stronger taste owing to its higher espresso-to-milk ratio.

Milk: Key Ingredient

Milk is the key ingredient that sets piccolo and cortado apart. The main difference between the two drinks lies in their milk-to-coffee ratios.

A cortado has a 1:2 ratio, while a piccolo has a 1:3 ratio, resulting in a more milk-heavy cortado and a more espresso-intense piccolo.

Both drinks typically feature steamed milk, but the frothing techniques used in each can vary.

In a cortado, the milk is gently heated until it reaches a velvety microfoam texture, a similar drink that you’d find in a flat white. This microfoam helps balance out the strong espresso flavor.

On the other hand, a piccolo latte typically has slightly more foam than a cortado. This helps create a creamier mouthfeel that complements the strength of the espresso.

When it comes down to choosing between a piccolo and a cortado, it’s essential to consider your personal preferences for milk and espresso ratios.

If you enjoy a stronger coffee taste, a Piccolo may be the drink for you. But if you prefer a more balanced flavor with a creamier texture, a cortado could be the perfect fit.

Experimenting will help you find your perfect coffee match!

Comparing Flavors and Textures

coffee in white coffee cup on plate

Cortado Flavor and Texture

A cortado offers a smooth and creamy taste and texture, thanks to a balanced milk-to-coffee ratio.

With a 1:2 ratio of milk to coffee, the cortado has an even blend of sweetness and bitterness.

The steamed milk slightly cuts through the espresso flavors, adding a touch of creaminess to the drink.

Furthermore, a cortado has a thin layer of foam on top, which enriches the overall texture and experience.

A cortado is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a beverage that combines a mellow taste with a creamy texture.

Piccolo Flavor and Texture

The piccolo, on the other hand, has a more intense and bitter flavor compared to the cortado. The milk-to-coffee ratio in a piccolo is 1:3, giving the espresso a greater impact on the overall taste.

As a result, the piccolo has a stronger flavor and less sweetness due to the lower amount of steamed milk used.

The espresso’s boldness stands out, which means you’ll experience less of the smooth, creamy texture found in a cortado.

To help you understand the main differences between the two drinks, here’s a comparison of the two:

TasteSmooth, balancedIntense, bitter
TextureCreamy with a thin layer of foamLess creamy, more espresso-forward
Milk-to-Coffee Ratio1:21:3

Now that you’re familiar with the flavors and textures of Cortado and Piccolo, you can make informed choices when visiting your favorite coffee shop.

Experimenting with these beverages can open up a world of new taste experiences and help you find your go-to coffee order.

Brewing Techniques and Tools

creamer being poured into a cup of coffee

Espresso Machines

Choosing the right espresso machine can make a big difference in your Cortado and Piccolo experience.

For home use, there are a variety of espresso machines available with different features and price points.

When making a cortado or piccolo, you will need to consider factors such as temperature control, pressure, and consistency to ensure the quality of your espresso shot.

To start, choose a machine that allows you to adjust the temperature and pressure. This will enable you to fine-tune your espresso extraction settings for the best results.

Make sure the machine also has a steam wand for steaming milk, which is essential for creating the right milk-to-coffee ratio in a cortado or piccolo.

Steaming Milk

When preparing the milk for your Cortado or Piccolo, it’s important to steam it correctly. Steaming milk will froth it and create micro-bubbles that give the drink a creamy texture.

To steam milk:

  1. Start with cold milk, preferably in a stainless steel pitcher.
  2. Insert the steam wand into the milk, slightly off-center, and tilt the pitcher.
  3. Begin steaming by gradually increasing the steam pressure.
  4. Lower the pitcher as the volume of milk increases to maintain the steam wand’s position under the surface.
  5. Stop when the milk reaches a temperature between 140°F (60°C) and 150°F (65°C).

Try to steam just enough milk for your specific drink, as this will ensure the correct milk-to-coffee ratio and optimal flavor balance.

Ristretto Shots

A ristretto shot is essential for a piccolo and can also be used in a cortado for a more intense coffee experience.

Ristretto shots are made by brewing a shorter espresso shot with a higher coffee-to-water ratio, resulting in a slightly smaller, more concentrated drink.

To make a ristretto shot:

  • Use a finer grind than you would for a regular espresso shot.
  • The same amount of coffee grounds as for a standard espresso, but only extract half the volume of water.
  • Maintain the same pressure and temperature as when brewing a regular espresso shot.

By following these guidelines, you’ll create a powerful and flavorful ristretto shot that adds an extra dimension to your cortado or piccolo.

Origins and Popularity

coffee in a mug on a wooden table

Cortado Origins

The Cortado is a Spanish-origin espresso-based drink, often served in a small cup or demitasse glass.

Its name, which means “cut” in Spanish, refers to the milk cutting through the bold, intense espresso flavors.

Originating in Spain, this drink gained popularity in Europe and became a favorite in specialty coffee shops.

A Cortado usually consists of 1 part espresso and 1 part steamed milk, creating a well-blended beverage with a creamy texture.

Due to the equal parts of espresso and milk, you can expect a stronger coffee taste compared to a Piccolo latte. The velvety texture and milk foam on top of the espresso enhance the overall experience.

Piccolo Origins

On the other side, the Piccolo is an Italian-origin coffee drink, also popular in Europe.

It consists of 1 part Ristretto (a more concentrated form of espresso) with 3 to 4 parts of steamed milk.

In terms of coffee strength, the Cortado has a stronger flavor, while a Piccolo focuses more on the balance between milk and espresso.

As you sip on a Piccolo, you’ll notice the stronger espresso flavor, similar milk consistency, and caramel syrup undertones.

While sometimes considered the same as a Cortado in countries like Australia and New Zealand, both drinks have their respectable origins in Spain and Italy.

During the early 2000s, these drinks started gaining global attention and became popular choices in specialty cafes, where coffee lovers enjoyed experimenting with different kinds of beverages.

With the rise of coffee culture, individuals explored different caffeine content levels and found these two drinks to be the perfect blend of strong espresso flavors and smooth milk textures.

Now that you are familiar with the origins of Cortado and Piccolo, head to your nearest specialty coffee shop and savor these European espresso-based drinks to satisfy your caffeine cravings.

Coffee Culture and Personal Preferences

pouring coffee into mug

Cortado in Coffee Culture

As a coffee enthusiast, you may have come across a cortado when exploring different coffee options.

A cortado, in essence, is an espresso-based drink with a milk-to-coffee ratio of 1:2, making it slightly creamier than a piccolo latte.

When you visit coffee shops, you’ll notice that the cortado is often a popular choice, especially among those who prefer a balanced and smooth flavor profile.

As a result, baristas have mastered the skill of crafting this delightful beverage, making it an integral part of today’s coffee culture.

Piccolo in Coffee Culture

On the other hand, a piccolo latte has a milk-to-coffee ratio of 1:3, meaning it has less milk and more espresso.

This gives the piccolo a more intense, stronger, and bolder taste, which appeals to people looking for a richer espresso flavor in their coffee drink.

The total volume of a piccolo latte is usually around 50ml, making it smaller than most other espresso-based drinks, including a cortado.

In coffee culture, the Piccolo latte is appreciated for its smooth texture and is a perfect choice for someone who desires the concentrated coffee taste without the heaviness of a cappuccino or macchiato.

As a result, this compact and robust option has gained a dedicated following of people who prefer its unique qualities.

While exploring various coffee drinks such as lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos, and more, personal preference plays a significant role in determining the type of coffee you order.

When deciding between a cortado and a piccolo latte, consider the following factors that might influence your choice:

  • Milk-to-coffee ratio: Do you prefer a creamier and milder taste or a more intense espresso flavor? A cortado has more milk, while a piccolo latte is more espresso-focused.
  • Size of the drink: If you enjoy sipping on a smaller-sized coffee drink, a 50ml piccolo latte might be your go-to, while the slightly larger cortado will suit those who like to linger over their coffee for a bit longer.
  • Flavor profile: Cortado offers an overall balanced and smooth experience, whereas a piccolo latte provides a stronger, more concentrated coffee taste. Think about which of the two you find more appealing.

In conclusion, coffee culture is diverse, and personal preferences heavily influence one’s choice of coffee drink.

The cortado and piccolo latte are just two examples of how different their characteristics can be, allowing you to find the perfect espresso-based beverage that suits your taste buds.

So, next time you visit your favorite coffee shop, enjoy the process of selecting your preferred drink and engage with the vibrant coffee culture surrounding you.

Customization Options

different kinds of coffee

When ordering a Piccolo coffee or cortado, you can choose from a range of customization options to fit your taste.

Alternative Milks

If you’re looking for a dairy alternative, don’t worry – most coffee shops offer a variety of non-dairy milk. You can try:

  • Almond milk: This popular choice has a nutty flavor, which can add a unique twist to your piccolo or cortado. Almond milk is often a great option for those who are lactose intolerant or on a plant-based diet.
  • Soy milk: With a creamy texture and mild taste, soy milk pairs well with coffee. It works well in both piccolos and Cortados, and can help reduce the bitterness of the espresso.


Sometimes you might want a touch of sweetness in your coffee. Here are some sweeteners you can add to your piccolo or cortado:

  • Sugar: The classic choice, but be careful not to add too much, as it can overpower the subtle flavors in your drink.
  • Syrup: Flavored syrups, such as vanilla or caramel, can give your piccolo or cortado a special twist. Be mindful that syrups may contain more sugar than you realize, so it’s best to use them sparingly.


Why not add a little spice to your piccolo or cortado? Some popular choices include:

  • Cocoa: Dust a little cocoa powder over the top of your coffee to add a chocolatey hint. It pairs perfectly with the rich and creamy flavors of a cortado or piccolo latte.
  • Cinnamon: A sprinkle of cinnamon on top of your foam adds a warm, spicy note to your drink. It complements the flavors of both Cortados and piccolos, providing a comforting touch.

Remember to experiment with different combinations and find what suits your taste best. Happy sipping!

Health Benefits and Considerations

woman holding coffee outside by leaves

When comparing a Piccolo and a Cortado, it’s important to consider the health benefits and potential concerns associated with each drink.

Firstly, moderate coffee consumption has been linked to various health benefits, such as reducing the risk of certain diseases and improving cognitive function.

Both the Piccolo and Cortado contain espresso, so you can enjoy these potential benefits with either drink.

Now let’s take a closer look at caffeine content. A cortado contains more caffeine than a piccolo latte, with about 150mg+ in a cortado compared to 100mg+ in a piccolo.

If you’re looking for a more energizing drink, the cortado might be a better choice for you.

However, if you’re sensitive to caffeine, it’s worth considering the piccolo’s lower caffeine content.

Here are some key points to consider for each drink:

  • Cortado:
    • Higher caffeine content (150mg+)
    • Potential health benefits from moderate coffee consumption
  • Piccolo:
    • Lower caffeine content (100mg+)
    • Potential health benefits from moderate coffee consumption

Now for some considerations when enjoying these beverages. Since both drinks have varying amounts of steamed milk, they contain some lactose.

If you’re lactose intolerant or looking to minimize dairy intake, it’s crucial to adjust the milk type or ask for a dairy-free option when ordering.

Both the Piccolo and Cortado offer potential health benefits from moderate coffee consumption while differing in their caffeine content.

Consider your preferences and sensitivities to determine the right choice for your needs. Enjoy your coffee time!

Cost and Availability

Cafe Vs Home

When comparing the cost of Piccolo coffee and Cortado, there are slight differences.

Generally, piccolos tend to be more expensive than Cortados due to their need for more espresso shots and steamed milk as a frothing source.

However, making either of these drinks at home can cut down the expense.

You may consider investing in an espresso machine to perfect your morning coffee routine.

Here are some tips to create each drink at home:

  • Piccolo: Use a 1:3 milk-to-espresso ratio, with less milk and more espresso.
  • Cortado: Aim for a 1:2 milk-to-espresso ratio, with more milk and less espresso.

United States and Beyond

coffee in a mug near a gift and cotton

In the United States, you’ll likely find both Piccolo and Cortado options at specialty coffee shops.

However, mainstream chains like Starbucks may not have these specific drinks on their menu.

If you’re struggling to find them in your area, you can always ask your barista for their recommendation based on your taste preference.

LocationPiccolo AvailabilityCortado Availability
Specialty Coffee ShopsYesYes

Outside the United States, these coffee drinks are more commonplace, particularly in Europe where they originated source.

Whether you’re traveling or exploring new cafes, don’t hesitate to try out different variations of Piccolo and Cortado to discover your favorite.

Remember, maintaining a friendly relationship with your local barista can increase your knowledge of these coffee drinks and open you up to new experiences in your morning coffee routine.


What is the main difference between a piccolo and a cortado?

The primary distinction between a Piccolo and a Cortado lies in the milk-to-coffee ratio. A Cortado has a 1:2 ratio, whereas a piccolo has a 1:3 ratio.

Essentially, a cortado has more milk and less espresso, while a piccolo latte has less milk and more espresso source.

What is the difference in taste between a Piccolo latte and Cortado?

The taste and texture of a Piccolo latte are more intense and bitter compared to a smooth, creamy taste of a cortado.

This is primarily due to the fact that there is less steamed milk in a Piccolo latte than in a Cortado source.

How are cortados and piccolo lattes served?

A Cortado is usually served in a small cup, sometimes even in a demitasse if it’s a single shot, whereas piccolos are more often served in glasses.

Alternatively, a cortado can be served in a normal cup if it’s a double shot, but it won’t be filled all the way up to the brim. Just enough milk is added to match the volume of espresso source.

What are the origins of cortados and piccolo lattes?

Both drinks originated in Europe, making them a part of European coffee culture.

As you explore the world of coffee, you’ll find that coffee culture is an essential aspect of many societies and has a significant impact on social and economic systems globally sourced.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to small coffees, the differences between a Piccolo coffee and a Cortado can be subtle.

Both drinks are served in an ml glass with similar amounts of espresso and steamed milk but there is one key difference – the amount of foam.

A Cortado has just enough foam to create latte art when poured at a slight angle, while a Piccolo coffee has much less foam than its counterpart.

Additionally, the long black contains no milk at all and consists of two shots of espresso mixed with hot water for those who prefer a stronger flavor without much caffeine.

Different flavors can also be added to both drinks for more variety and taste.

piccolo coffee vs cortado Pinterest image

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