Piccolo latte is filled in a glass

Cortado vs Piccolo: Know The Exact Differences

Audrey Harrison
Home brewer

Coffee is the most popular drink in the world, with 2.25 billion cups drunk every day. Given the extensive array of coffee options, it is not uncommon for individuals to experience confusion when confronted with the diverse range of coffee drinks.

Two drinks that often lead to confusion are the Cortado and Piccolo. These two espresso drinks are known for their strong, concentrated flavors, but they each have their unique characteristics.

Let's break down the differences and discover which might become your next favorite coffee indulgence.

Cortado Overview

What is cortado?

A cortado, a Spanish term meaning "cut," is a delightful espresso-based coffee beverage that beautifully balances the intense flavors of espresso with a gentle infusion of warm milk. Its simplicity and focus on quality characterize this drink.

To create a cortado, a shot of espresso is "cut" or diluted with an equal amount of warm milk and steamed to a velvety microfoam. The result is a small, but potent, coffee that showcases the rich and bold characteristics of the espresso, while the milk softens its edges and lends a subtle creaminess.

The cortado is renowned for its flavor profile – it delivers a harmonious blend of intense coffee notes with the sweet, creamy touch of milk, creating a drink that is strong yet smooth, and not overwhelmed by bitterness or sweetness. Served in a small glass or cup, it's a favorite among coffee connoisseurs who appreciate the nuances of a well-crafted espresso.

How to make cortado?

Making a cortado at home is easier than you might think, and this guide will take you through the steps to create a perfect cortado.


  • Espresso beans (high-quality, freshly roasted)
  • Fresh milk (whole milk or your milk of choice)
  • An espresso machine or an alternative brewing method (e.g., Moka pot)


  • A milk frothing tool (steamer or a microwave-safe container)
  • Espresso cup or glass
  • Coffee grinder
  • Timer

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Start with quality espresso beans. Use freshly roasted beans, either single-origin or a balanced blend.
  • Grind the beans finely using a burr grinder.
  • Aim for a coffee-to-water ratio of 1:18 or 1:2, depending on your taste.
  • If you have an espresso machine, brew a single shot of espresso. For a Moka pot, brew strong espresso-like coffee.
  • Heat milk to about 150°F (65°C) in a microwave-safe container or steaming pitcher.
  • Froth the milk to create velvety microfoam, not stiff foam.
  • For a traditional cortado, use a 1:1.5 espresso-to-milk ratio (about 1.5 ounces of espresso).
  • Pour the espresso into a cup or glass.
  • Gently blend the frothed milk with the espresso, holding back the foam.
  • Enjoy the harmonious combination of rich coffee and creamy milk. Savor the intense yet smooth flavor with a mild sweetness.

Piccolo Overview

What is Piccolo?

A piccolo, Italian for "small" or "tiny," is a delightful and lesser-known coffee beverage with a flavorful punch. This coffee creation originates from Australia and New Zealand and is gaining popularity worldwide for its unique character.

A piccolo consists of a single espresso shot, traditionally served in a smaller glass or cup. What sets the piccolo apart is the ratio of espresso to textured milk. While it may resemble a mini latte, the key distinction lies in the milk portion.

The milk is steamed to a microfoam consistency in a piccolo, making it smoother and creamier than a regular latte or cappuccino. The result is a harmonious blend of bold espresso and velvety milk, creating a rich and well-balanced coffee experience.

The small size of a piccolo makes it an excellent choice for those who enjoy the intensity of espresso but prefer a bit of milk to mellow out its robust flavors. It's a drink that caters to coffee lovers looking for a quick, flavorful pick-me-up without the overwhelming strength of a straight espresso.

How to make Piccolo?

The piccolo is a delightful coffee concoction that packs a punch in a small package. This coffee drink, originating from Australia, consists of a single shot of espresso with a small amount of warm, silky milk.

If you're an espresso fan but find it too strong, the piccolo is your perfect choice. In this guide, we'll walk you through the steps to craft a satisfying piccolo right at home.


  • Espresso beans (high-quality, freshly roasted)
  • Fresh milk (whole milk or your milk of choice)
  • An espresso machine or an alternative brewing method (e.g., Moka pot)


  • A milk frothing tool (steamer or a microwave-safe container)
  • Espresso cup or glass
  • Coffee grinder
  • Timer

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Start with high-quality espresso beans, freshly roasted, and choose single-origin or a blend.
  • Grind the beans finely with a burr grinder and adjust the coffee-to-water ratio to 1:1 or 1:1.5 as desired.
  • Brew a single shot of espresso. Ensure it is fresh, aromatic, and has the right consistency. If you don't have an espresso machine, a Moka pot can provide an espresso-like coffee.
  • Heat milk to about 140-150°F (60-65°C) in the microwave or with your espresso machine's steaming pitcher, avoiding overheating.
  • Froth the milk gently with a milk frother or steam wand to create a smooth microform.
  • For a classic piccolo, take one part espresso and two parts of steamed milk.
  • Blend the espresso and frothed milk, aiming for an equal balance with a thin layer of microfoam on top.
  • Enjoy your piccolo with its harmonious blend of robust coffee and velvety milk. It's an intense yet balanced coffee experience, perfect for milder espresso enthusiasts.

Cortado vs Piccolo: Quick Comparison

The main difference between Cortado and Piccolo is that the Cortado is from Spain, and features a 1:1 ratio of espresso to steamed milk. On the other hand, Piccolo is from Australia and is a 1:2 ratio of espresso to microtextured steamed milk.

Where Cortado has a bolder espresso flavor with less sweetness, Piccolo offers a slightly milder and sweeter taste compared to the Cortado.

Let's explore more differences.

1) Origin

Cortado and Piccolo are two delightful espresso-based beverages, each with unique characteristics and origins. The Cortado, a Spanish term that means "cut," hails from Spain. It is believed to have originated in the Basque Country, where it was created to "cut" the strong flavor of espresso with a small amount of milk.

On the other hand, the Piccolo, with its name derived from the Italian word for "small," has its roots in Australia, specifically in the coffee culture of Sydney. The Piccolo is a relatively recent addition to the coffee scene, developed to cater to the Australian penchant for espresso-based drinks with a creamy touch.

2) Ingredients

Both the Cortado and Piccolo are minimalist in their ingredient lists, emphasizing the quality of the espresso. In a Cortado, the amount of espresso to warmed milk is usually 1:1, and there are no other flavors or ingredients added.

The Piccolo, while also centered around espresso and milk, often features a ristretto shot (a shorter and more concentrated form of espresso) paired with warm, silky microfoam milk.

3) Espresso base

In the Cortado, a standard espresso shot is used as the base. It's the heart and soul of the drink, delivering a bold and robust coffee flavor with a subtle sweetness.

The Piccolo, on the other hand, often incorporates a ristretto shot, which is even more concentrated than a regular espresso. This intensifies the coffee's flavor, making it richer and more aromatic.

4) Milk Texture

It plays a significant role in distinguishing Cortado from Piccolo. In a Cortado, the milk is steamed to a velvety microfoam, creating a creamy yet balanced texture that complements the espresso without overwhelming it.

In contrast, the Piccolo also employs microfoam but tends to be silkier and creamier, enhancing the coffee's overall mouthfeel and lending it a more luxurious quality.

5) Ratio

One of the key distinctions between these two beverages is their ratio of espresso to milk. In a Cortado, the ratio is traditionally 1:1, meaning equal parts of espresso and milk. This balance ensures that the coffee remains prominent while introducing a touch of creaminess.

The Piccolo, however, often uses a shorter ristretto shot and a smaller amount of milk, resulting in a higher coffee-to-milk ratio. This makes the Piccolo an even more concentrated coffee experience.

6) Taste & Flavor

The Cortado offers a delightful equilibrium between the coffee's robust flavor and the silky, steamed milk. It results in a strong and smooth drink, with a slight sweetness from the milk.

The Piccolo, due to its ristretto base, boasts an even more intense coffee flavor, with notes of chocolate, caramel, and a gentle nuttiness. The milk in a Piccolo complements these flavors with a creamy and slightly sweet undertone.

7) Presentation

Cortados are usually served in a small glass or cup to highlight the contrasting layers of espresso and milk. The minimalist presentation highlights the drink's simplicity and elegance.

In contrast, Piccolos are often served in a smaller glass, similar to a Gibraltar glass, offering an elegant appearance that emphasizes the rich coffee color with a crown of microfoam.

8) Caffeine Content

In terms of caffeine content, Cortados and Piccolos are quite similar. Both are espresso-based drinks, and the caffeine concentration primarily depends on the size of the coffee shot used.

However, Piccolos may have a slightly higher caffeine kick due to the use of ristretto shots, which are more concentrated.

From the above quick comparison of Piccolo Coffee vs Cortado, it is evident that both may share common characteristics as espresso and milk-based beverages. But their origins, ingredients, preparation, and overall experience set them apart.

Whether you prefer the Spanish simplicity of a Cortado or the Australian ingenuity of a Piccolo, these drinks offer delightful ways to savor the richness of espresso combined with creamy, textured milk. Your choice ultimately comes down to your personal taste preferences and the coffee experience you seek.

Wrapping up

And there you have it, the Cortado and the Piccolo – two distinctive coffee experiences with their unique characteristics.

The choice between these two ultimately comes down to your preference for coffee intensity and the amount of milk you prefer in your cup. Whether you're enticed by the Spanish charm of the Cortado or the Australian ingenuity of the Piccolo, both offer a delightful coffee experience.

With this knowledge, you can savor the one that best suits your taste. Cheers to your next coffee adventure!


Audrey Harrison

Team TAB
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I am a coffee aficionado based in Seattle. I have devoted my passion and expertise to perfecting the art of home coffee brewing. I became known for my exquisite pour-over and espresso creations. I source coffee beans from local roasters and explores ...