What is a piccolo coffee?

If you have ever asked the question, what is a piccolo coffee? Or wondered how to make a piccolo latte then you have come to the right place. In this post we outline what a piccolo is and how it compares to some of your other favourite coffees. We also look into the origins of the piccolo latte and how you can make one at home. 

What is a piccolo coffee?

A piccolo coffee, is as the Italian name suggests, a small coffee. However, there is more complexity to the piccolo coffee than the name lets on. For starters there is a lot of conjecture surrounding how a piccolo coffee is actually made. 

For some, a piccolo is made with a single shot of espresso, topped up with steamed milk. Others believe you make a piccolo latte with a ristretto shot, topped up with steamed milk. I will jump into the difference between a shot of espresso and a ristretto shot shortly. 

I follow the belief that a piccolo coffee is made with a ristretto shot pulled into a 90-100ml glass and topped up with steamed milk. The ristretto shot provides slightly less caffeine than using a shot of espresso. Additionally as less water is used it provides a more concentrated flavour.

What is a piccolo latte?

A piccolo coffee and piccolo latte are exactly the same thing. Depending on where you order your coffee drink from you may experience these terms being used interchangeably. However, every coffee shop should know that they both require a single shot topped up with steamed milk.

what is a piccolo coffee?

Tell me the origin of Piccolo coffee?

Just like your favourite marvel hero having a strong origin story, the piccolo coffee also has one. Even though the name is Italian, the piccolo latte was created in Australia. Exactly where in Australia it was created is still up for some debate.

Both the Melbourne and Sydney coffee crowd are sure it was their city that created the piccolo coffee. I am unsure where it was created, although they do all seem to agree on one thing. It was created because baristas wanted to taste their coffee throughout the day without overdoing it with milk. So they would pull either a ristretto shot or an espresso shot and top it up with steamed milk. Thus creating the piccolo latte, that is well loved in Australia and the world today.

What is a ristretto shot?

A ristretto shot is pulled from an espresso machine, following almost the same process you would for a single espresso shot. The key difference between a shot of espresso and a ristretto shot is that a ristretto shot is pulled for a shorter amount of time and with half the amount of water. What this means is that a ristretto shot is not only slightly smaller than an espresso shot, but also more concentrated, sweeter and has less caffeine than an espresso shot. 

How many calories does a piccolo latte have?

Most calories in coffee that you drink will come from the steamed milk and will vary depending on the type you choose. However, a piccolo latte can have anywhere between 14 to 55 calories.

The milk is a key factor in the calories and also the ability to perform latte art, if that is something you like to do. So make sure you consider which milk to use if you are keeping a close eye on your calories. A piccolo latte can be a great option to enjoy a caffeine hit and low calories.

What is the difference between a piccolo latte and a latte?

The biggest difference between a piccolo latte and a regular latte is their size. A piccolo latte is often served in a 90-100ml glass, whereas a latte is often served in a standard glass or cup (220ml). The difference here is that the regular latte uses more steamed milk in the drink.

Another difference is that the piccolo latte uses a ristretto shot, where a regular latte uses a shot of espresso. Given the regular latte has a lot more milk in the glass it often doesn’t taste as strong as a piccolo latte. Traditionally a piccolo latte is to drink in the coffee shop or at home, whereas a latte is usually served for take away orders.

Piccolo Coffee vs Flat White

One of the biggest differences between the piccolo and flat white is the amount of coffee used. The flat white has a double shot of espresso, compared to the single shot of ristretto used in the piccolo latte.

A flat white is also served in a larger glass, often 170ml compared to the smaller sized glass of a piccolo. This also means the flat white has more steamed milk with its double espresso shot. With the double shot a flat white has a stronger espresso flavour than the piccolo latte does.

Piccolo Coffee vs Cappuccino

A cappuccino is a coffee shop favourite globally. It is served in a 170ml glass or cup and includes a shot of espresso with steamed milk and foam on top. The milk is purposely made to have a frothy texture. The frothy milk aids in creating seperate layers within a cappuccino as it reacts differently to the milk used in piccolos.

A piccolo has a higher ratio of ristretto to milk than a cappuccino does. Additionally the different texturing technique of the milk with a piccolo provides a stronger espresso flavour.

Piccolo Coffee vs Cortado

The piccolo and cortado are often confused for one another, given their similarities. They both use shots of ristretto, with a piccolo using one shot and the cortado using two shots. Their difference comes in the size of the coffee and the ratio of ristretto to milk.

A piccolo uses less milk than ristretto, whereas a cortado uses an equal amount of ristretto and milk. This ratio of ristretto to milk has a big impact on the flavour and strength of the coffee. The more milk used in coffee the weaker the flavour will be. 

Piccolo Coffee vs Macchiato

The difference between a piccolo coffee and macchiato is very subtle, and it actually comes down to the texture of the milk. Both the piccolo latte and macchiato use a single shot of ristretto served in a 90-100ml glass, topped up with milk.

The key differentiating factor here is the milk. In the piccolo coffee, the milk used is steamed and very silky in texture. Whereas the milk used for the macchiato is similar in texture to the milk in a cappuccino. This milk is very frothy and dry in texture and only a small amount of milk is added.

How to Make a Piccolo Coffee

Now you know what a piccolo coffee is, I am sure you are eager to try and make one of your own. Some of the key requirements for a piccolo coffee are milk and espresso, the best of which will be an individually acquired taste. We have you covered with all the equipment/ingredients you will need and tips on how to make a perfect piccolo coffee below.

What ingredients are needed to make piccolo latte at home?

You will need the following items to make a piccolo coffee:

  • An espresso machine
  • Coffee Beans & Grinder of your choice (Or already ground coffee)
  • Milk of your choice
  • A milk frother/steamer (If your espresso machine doesn’t have one)
  • Cup, glass or mug of your choice

If you are starting out in the world of coffee it can be tempting to buy cheaper equipment to get started with. This is not a bad idea as it helps keep your start-up costs low, while you figure out if it really is for you. However, you do get what you pay for, and coffee machines are a great long term investment. So ensure you pick your equipment wisely.

Piccolo Coffee recipe/instructions

Now you have all the ingredients and equipment ready to go, you should be all set to make a piccolo coffee. Follow the steps below for a quick guide on how to make a piccolo coffee, but feel free to experiment along the way.

  1. Grind your coffee beans. You should look for a fine texture
  2. Insert your coffee grind into a portafilter basket (select a single or double basket based on how many piccolo’s you want to make)
  3. You want to extract a single ristretto shot, which is about 15g (you can have your glass on a scale to help with this measurement)
  4. Next, you will need to steam your milk. Remember this is being used to top up your glass, so you shouldn’t need too much milk and you don’t want it to be too frothy.
  5. Pour your milk into the glass with your shot of ristretto, to top it up
  6. Sit back and enjoy your freshly brewed piccolo latte!

Which coffee beans are best used for this recipe?

Selecting beans for your coffee is always going to be a personal preference, with many factors impacting the overall taste. However, my personal preference is to use dark roast beans as they provide a bolder taste.

How many shots are in a piccolo?

Traditionally a piccolo has one shot of ristretto. If you use two shots of ristretto, you are actually making a cortado.

Which is stronger a piccolo or cortado?

A piccolo has only one shot, whereas a cortado has two shots. Given the size of the drinks is the same, the cortado has more caffeine than a piccolo does. But the taste of a piccolo is stronger than a cortado, due to the ratio of espresso to milk.

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