Cortado vs Piccolo Coffee: Differences Explained

Both a piccolo latte and a cortado are espresso-based drinks with some steamed milk added, but what is the difference between them? In this post, I will explain to you how these two coffees are different from each other.

Neither of these two coffee drinks is available in many coffee shops. Recently they have been getting a bit more attention in the coffee world, which, is why I decided to look into what they are and what the differences between them are.

The short answer is that the key difference between a piccolo and a cortado is the amount of espresso and the amount of steamed milk in the drink. While a cortado is equal parts milk and espresso, a piccolo has about two to three times more milk than coffee.

The result of this is that a cortado has a stronger coffee flavor.

I also want to mention that you can use a shot of ristretto instead of a regular espresso shot for both of these drinks. The difference between the two is that a ristretto is made with less water and pressure, but with the same amount of coffee as an expresso. This results in a smaller drink that is more concentrated and has a sweeter and richer flavor.

Before I go in-depth into the differences between a piccolo and a cortado, I guess I should tell you what each of them is.

Piccolo Latte

The word piccolo comes from the Italian word that means “small”, “young” or “little”. It is most often used in music for a small, high-pitched flute. However, here we use it for a kind of small coffee; a small latte, to be exact.

The word “piccolo” is thus, very descriptive of this drink which, ironically, is an Australian invention. Quite often we actually leave out the “latte” part of the name and just use the short, descriptive part. But the fact remains that it is quite similar to its bigger counterpart, the caffe latte.

What is in a Piccolo Coffee?

In a piccolo, there is a single shot of espresso (about 1 oz or 30 ml) topped with two to three ounces of steamed milk (a regular latte has at least four to five oz of milk. See why the “little” part of a piccolo’s name is so appropriate?).

The exact ratio is really based on personal preference. The perfect balance isn’t universal. If you use less milk, the coffee flavor gets more intense. While an extra dash of milk can give you a sweeter, more delicate and less intense drink.

How to make a piccolo latte

Here are the steps for making a piccolo:

  1. Grind the beans.
  2. Extract one shot of espresso (you can also use a single ristretto shot) using your espresso machine or stovetop espresso maker.
  3. In the meantime, steam some milk.
  4. Next, pour the espresso into a glass (a demitasse glass is used most often) followed by the steamed milk.

Cortado Coffee

The word cortado originates from the Spanish word “cortar” which means to cut. Basically, we use “cortado” to describe this particular kind of coffee drink because the added milk cuts the flavor of the coffee.

A cortado has a double shot of espresso and the same amount of steamed milk. Usually, there isn’t much foam on top of the drink.

How to make a cortado

Here are the steps for making your own cortado:

  1. Grind the beans.
  2. Extract two shots of espresso (or a double ristretto).
  3. While you are waiting for the espresso, steam the milk.
  4. Pour the coffee into a small cup and pour the milk on top of it.

Similarities Between These Two Espresso Drinks

These two types of coffee are really quite similar drinks. So, here are the things about them that are the same:

Size

Both of these drinks are really tiny but quite potent. Usually, they are less than 4 oz.

Ingredients

Both of these are espresso-based coffees, which, obviously means that they both contain espresso. They also have some steamed milk added topped with a thin layer of foam.

Instead of normal milk, you can try dairy alternatives for both of these drinks.

What is the Difference Between a Piccolo and a Cortado?

The key difference between a piccolo and a cortado is the ratio of espresso to steamed milk. Where a piccolo is one part espresso topped with about twice or even three times that amount of steamed milk, a cortado has less milk resulting in equal parts espresso to steamed milk. However, there are also some other differences like their taste, appearance, and what they are served in.

Container Served In

Where a piccolo is most often served in a small glass, a cortado is usually in a small cup.

Appearance

While both of these can have some milk foam on top, a piccolo can be decorated with some pretty latte art whereas this is not the case with a cortado.

Taste

A cortado has a much stronger espresso flavor than the piccolo due to the different ratio of milk to coffee.

Piccolo coffee in red mug.

So, Piccolo Coffee or Cortado?

Both of these drinks have a more intense coffee flavor than some of the other espresso-based drinks on coffee shop menus. But choosing one is ultimately up to personal preference.

Next time, you are paying a visit to your local coffee shop looking for a cup of coffee, see if they maybe have one of these two on the menu. If you don’t feel like either of those. There are many other great coffee drinks for you to choose from.

Other Coffee Comparisons

Iced Latte vs Iced Mocha

If it is a hot summer day and you are not up for a hot coffee. Why not try a cold coffee? Both of these drinks are delicious.

Here are the differences between an iced latte and an iced mocha.

An iced mocha and an iced latte in takeaway cups.

Cappuccino vs Americano

Every coffee shop that you go to will have these two on their menus. It is a given. However, many people don’t know the differences between these two staples.

Here is how a cappuccino and an Americano differs.

Cappuccino next to americano
Piccolo Coffee vs Cortado Coffee

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