Brewing Guides

What is a Piccolo Coffee? A Complete Guide to my Favourite Coffee drink!

When I first came to Australia, I had never heard of a piccolo coffee before. Soon I was a huge fan though and I wanted to know how to make a piccolo at home. If you’ve been asking yourself what is a piccolo coffee? Or if you’ve had a piccolo coffee, you’re wondering where can I learn how to make a piccolo coffee? Well, friend, you’re in luck. 

Sit back, relax, and heck, maybe even grab your last cup of normal coffee, because you’re going to want to make piccolos from here on out. I’ll cover all the need-to-knows and even how to make piccolo coffee.

What is a Piccolo Coffee?

A piccolo coffee is a single ristretto shot pulled into a 90ml glass and then topped up with steamed milk. The result is a small, strong drink with more coffee than milk. A piccolo is sometimes also called a piccolo latte.

So what is piccolo coffee and what does piccolo mean? Whether you say “piccolo latte”, “piccolo coffee” or simply “piccolo” all are referring to the same drink. The three terms can be used interchangeably.

The piccolo supposedly rose to fame in Australia ten years ago and is rumoured to have come from Sydney. It is said that baristas invented the drink as a way to continually taste their coffee throughout the day without overdoing it on their dairy and caffeine intake. This makes sense given what a piccolo latte is – but this is all just conjecture.

But What is a Piccolo Latte?

Piccolo latte is just another term used to describe a piccolo coffee and is made in exactly the same way. In Italian, piccolo means small, so piccolo latte translates to small latte.

What is a Ristretto Shot?

A ristretto shot is made with the same amount of coffee as a regular espresso shot but half the amount of water. This results in a smaller shot that is stronger in flavour. Ristretto means “short” in Italian.

By using significantly less water the coffee becomes the start of the show! The result is an even more robust, stronger flavour than an espresso shot. 

Piccolo Coffee vs Cortado

When trying to understand new types of coffee I always find it helpful to compare the new drink to something else. Let’s compare: piccolo coffee vs. cortado. 

Both piccolos and cortados use ristretto shots. The differences here are the size of the beverages and the ratios between espresso and milk. A piccolo latte/coffee uses one ristretto shot but uses more espresso than milk. This results in a stronger flavour than a cortado which is larger and uses two ristretto shots but an equal ratio of milk. The higher the ratio of milk to coffee, the weaker the flavour. More milk cuts through the acidity of the coffee. 

Piccolo vs Latte

The main difference between a piccolo latte and a regular latte is that a regular latte doesn’t use a ristretto shot. A regular latte is also served in a much larger glass or cup and is not as strong as a piccolo latte. 

An easy way to remember the difference is that you’re more likely to see people taking lattes out of cafes and walking around with them in cardboard cups. Piccolos are typically served in small 90ml glasses and typically drunk in house. When was the last time you saw someone walking around with a piccolo latte?

I made a chart to help you understand the key differences between the various drinks I’ve covered:

EspressoMilk to espresso ratio
Piccolo LatteOne ristretto shotLess milk than espresso
Regular LatteRegular shot and the number depends on the size of the latteMore milk than espresso
CortadoTwo ristretto shotsEqual parts milk and espresso

Learn the difference between flat white and latte here! Or,  learn the difference between flat white and cappuccino coffee drinks here!

How to Make a Piccolo Coffee

I get the feeling that you’re ready to make one at home! Well, this is how!

What You Need to Make a Piccolo

First off, you’ll need a few things beforehand:

I’ve always been a big fan of the phrase “you get what you pay for”. My father and grandfather have always preached that phrase. I feel it is especially true when it comes to coffee making equipment. If you truly love coffee I highly recommend purchasing a top notch espresso machine. It will last you years and produce better tasting coffee!

Piccolo Recipe

Here’s how to make piccolo lattes:

  1. Brew one ristretto shot (about 15g) – whether you’re buying espresso or grinding your own beans you’re going to want to use a traditional fine grind for your piccolo. Don’t use a coarse grind. 
  2. Steam your milk of choice (no need to make it too frothy, remember, you’re working with a smaller glass than a normal latte and you’ll need mostly milk, not foam) – like all traditional coffee beverages, a piccolo is usually made with cow’s milk. Given the recent rise in milk alternatives, you can certainly try using something else. I’m personally a big fan of oat milk and coconut as I find them to be creamier than almond or cashew milk. If you drink regular milk I recommend going with that as it will likely taste the best!
  3. Get a 90ml glass of your choice – the cuter the better!
  4. Pour the espresso into the glass – have fun with it and pour with some class!
  5. Fill the rest of the glass with your steamed milk

And BOOM! That’s how to make piccolo lattes! Feel free to admire your work, inhale the aroma, and smile. Sip and enjoy – you deserve it!

Looking for something a little special? Have you heard about Melbourne’s Magic Coffee?

Now you know how to make Piccolo Coffee, why not check our brewing guides page or you can also check different types of coffee machines next!

Sophie is a barista and coffee enthusiast who has owned and ran a coffee truck in her remote community since 2017. She wants to cut the jargon and make brewing coffee enjoyable for everyone.