Are you a coffee enthusiast trying to decide between two popular espresso drinks - piccolo and cortado? In this espresso showdown, we're breaking down the milk, espresso, and foam components, the brewing techniques, and the unique flavor profiles of each drink. Get ready to discover which one is the ultimate winner for your taste buds and coffee preferences. Don't miss out on this chance to become an expert in espresso drinks - let's dive into the world of piccolo and cortado!

Piccolo Latte and Cortado: Origins

In this section, we dive into the origins of the Piccolo Latte and Cortado, exploring their respective Italian and Spanish beginnings. These two coffee drinks have carved a niche for themselves, becoming popular choices for those who love the intense flavors of espresso with the added creaminess of steamed milk.

Italian Origins: Piccolo Latte

The Piccolo Latte, as the name suggests, finds its roots in Italy. "Piccolo" translates to "small" in Italian, and this petite beverage is essentially a small latte. It is traditionally made with an espresso shot (sometimes a ristretto shot, depending on the cafe), topped with smooth, steamed milk and served in a small 3-4 oz glass. The Piccolo Latte showcases the rich, bold flavors of espresso while softening the bitterness with a velvety layer of milk. In Italian coffee culture, the Piccolo Latte is enjoyed as a mid-morning or afternoon treat, often alongside a pastry or light snack. This drink allows coffee enthusiasts to appreciate the complex taste profiles of their chosen espresso in a smaller, more concentrated package.

Spanish Origins: Cortado

The Cortado, a popular coffee drink in Spain, also traces its origins to its namesake country. Cortado means "cut" in Spanish, and the drink is essentially an espresso "cut" with an equal amount of steamed milk. And the milk does precisely that – it "cuts" through the strong taste of the espresso while still keeping the bold flavors front and center. The Cortado is typically made with a 1:1 ratio of espresso to milk, which is often served in a small 4 to 5 oz glass. This compact and well-balanced drink has gained immense popularity not just in Spain but also throughout the world. In Spain, a Cortado is commonly enjoyed in the mid-morning or afternoon, similar to a traditional Italian Piccolo Latte.

Understanding the origins and essential differences between the Piccolo Latte and Cortado can help coffee aficionados appreciate and select their preferred beverage based on taste preferences or even specific cultural experiences. The Piccolo Latte offers concentrated flavors with a touch of milk, while the Cortado embraces a more balanced and equally strong espresso-milk combination. While they share similarities, these two coffee drinks from Italy and Spain each have their unique characteristics that have contributed to their worldwide popularity.

Main Components


Both Piccolo Latte and Cortado are espresso-based beverages, but they differ in the amount of espresso used. A Piccolo Latte typically contains one shot of espresso, while a Cortado is made with a double shot. This means that the Cortado has a stronger and more concentrated coffee flavor due to its higher espresso content.


Milk is an essential component of both Piccolo Lattes and Cortados. In general, the Piccolo Latte has a higher milk content than the Cortado. While a Piccolo Latte contains steamed milk combined with the espresso shot, a Cortado consists of an equal ratio of espresso and milk. The milk used in both beverages is steamed to create a velvety texture, which helps balance the robust flavor of espresso.


The amount and texture of foam also play a role in differentiating a Piccolo Latte from a Cortado. In a Piccolo Latte, there is usually a minimal amount of foam on top of the steamed milk. This combination creates a smoother, milkier beverage, perfect for those who prefer a less intense coffee flavor. On the other hand, a Cortado has a more dense and creamy foam, resulting from the equal parts of espresso and milk. This denser foam contributes to the overall stronger taste of a Cortado when compared to a Piccolo Latte.

In summary, the main components that differentiate a Piccolo Latte from a Cortado are the amount of espresso, the ratio of milk to espresso, and the texture of the foam. While a Piccolo Latte has a milder and smoother taste due to the higher milk content and minimal foam, a Cortado is stronger and bolder because of its higher espresso content and denser foam.


Piccolo Latte

A piccolo latte is a small coffee beverage that originates from Australia. It consists of an espresso shot combined with steamed milk. The traditional preparation calls for a single shot of approximately 30ml (1 oz) of espresso or a single ristretto shot, which is a more concentrated and bolder-flavored variant of espresso. The espresso is then topped with steamed milk, resulting in a creamy texture and a strong coffee flavor.

To prepare a piccolo latte, a barista would begin by tamping the coffee grounds tightly in the portafilter of an espresso machine. The barista then pulls the shot for about 20-30 seconds, aiming for a rich and concentrated extraction. Once the shot is ready, they steam the milk to achieve a silky and smooth consistency. It's important to avoid creating too much foam since a piccolo latte's milk-to-foam ratio should lean more toward the milk side. Lastly, the steamed milk is carefully poured into the espresso, ideally in a small 3-4 oz glass, which results in the final piccolo latte beverage.


A cortado, on the other hand, is an espresso-based drink that originates from Spain. It is made with a double shot of espresso topped with an equal amount of steamed milk. The balance between the espresso and milk in a cortado allows for the coffee's bold flavors to shine through while still enjoying a creamy texture from the milk.

In preparing a cortado, a barista begins by pulling a double shot of espresso using an espresso machine. This involves using approximately 60ml (2 oz) of espresso as opposed to the single shot used in a piccolo latte. The milk is then steamed to create a velvety texture without much foam, as a cortado aims for a balance between bold coffee and creamy milk. To serve, the steamed milk is poured gently over the double espresso shot, usually in a 4-6 oz glass or a small cup.

Both piccolo latte and cortado beverages require skillful barista techniques and a suitable espresso machine to create an enjoyable and balanced drink. With their unique preparations and flavor profiles, these small yet flavorful drinks cater to coffee lovers who appreciate a more concentrated and intense coffee experience without sacrificing the creaminess offered by steamed milk.

Taste and Flavor Profiles

Piccolo Latte

A piccolo latte is essentially a small latte that typically contains one shot of espresso, topped with smooth, steamed milk and served in a 3-4 oz glass. The taste profile of a piccolo latte can be described as a soft combination of the espresso's boldness with the creaminess of the steamed milk. It is a popular choice for those who enjoy the rich taste of espresso without the intense strength, as the milk tempers the boldness of the coffee.

The sweetness of a piccolo latte is also dependent on the balance between the espresso and milk. Due to the higher milk-to-coffee ratio (approximately 1:3) compared to a cortado, it may be too sweet for some coffee drinkers who prefer a bolder taste. However, the smoothness and creaminess of a piccolo latte makes it an enjoyable drink for those who appreciate a milder coffee experience.


In contrast, a cortado is made by combining equal parts espresso and steamed milk, resulting in a 1:2 milk-to-coffee ratio. This drink is served in a smaller glass than a piccolo latte and features a harmonious blend of the rich, intense espresso with the delicate flavors of the steamed milk. It creates a stronger flavor profile compared to a piccolo latte, as the amount of espresso is increased to two shots while maintaining a lower milk content.

The lower milk-to-coffee ratio in a cortado results in a less sweet and more balanced taste compared to a piccolo latte. The defining characteristic of a cortado is its smooth yet bold flavor, which is achieved by the carefully calibrated ratio of espresso to steamed milk. This choice of beverage is ideal for coffee enthusiasts who desire a stronger-tasting drink without sacrificing the creamy texture provided by steamed milk.

In summary, the key difference in taste and flavor profiles of a piccolo latte and cortado lies in the milk-to-coffee ratios and the number of espresso shots used in each drink. The piccolo latte offers a sweeter, creamier coffee experience, while the cortado presents a more balanced, bolder taste with a smoother finish. For those who are interested in replicating these flavors in a commercial setting, choosing the right equipment is crucial. Visit our Commercial espresso machine collection for a selection of the best machines on the market. Whether you're looking to buy a commercial grade espresso maker or explore options for your coffee shop, MajestyCoffee offers a range that caters to every need.

Serving Sizes and Cups

In this section, we will discuss the serving sizes and cups used for Piccolo Latte and Cortado to provide an understanding of how these two beverages differ in terms of presentation and volume.

Piccolo Latte

A piccolo latte is a smaller version of a standard latte, served in a small glass or demitasse. The serving size of a piccolo latte typically ranges between 3 to 4 ounces (85 to 114 ml). It is made up of a single shot of espresso, topped with steamed and stretched milk that blends smoothly with the coffee. Since piccolo lattes are usually served in small glasses, consumers tend to enjoy them in-house, rather than ordering them to go.


On the other hand, a cortado is a type of coffee drink that originated from Spain, where it is served in a small cup or a mug. Cortados are similar in size to piccolo lattes, ranging between 4 to 5 ounces (113 to 142 ml), though size may vary depending on the coffee shop. A cortado consists of roughly equal parts espresso and steamed milk, resulting in a balanced flavor without overpowering the taste of the coffee.

To recap:

  • A piccolo latte serving size is 3 to 4 ounces (85 to 114 ml), served in a small glass or demitasse.
  • A cortado serving size is 4 to 5 ounces (113 to 142 ml), typically served in a small cup or a mug.

By understanding the differences between piccolo lattes and cortados, we can appreciate the nuances in flavor, texture, and presentation that these coffee beverages offer. It is important to note that, while these beverages are distinct, their serving sizes and presentation can still vary between different coffee shops.

Milk Alternatives

Almond Milk

Almond milk is a popular non-dairy milk alternative for those who are lactose-intolerant or following a vegan diet. Not only does it work in both Piccolo Latte and Cortado, but it also provides a distinct nutty flavor. Substituting almond milk in these coffee drinks doesn't compromise the overall taste, as it blends well with the strong espresso, offering a delightful twist to the traditional beverages.

Soy Milk

Soy milk is another plant-based milk alternative that can be used for lactose-intolerant or vegan individuals. When used in a Piccolo Latte or Cortado, soy milk introduces a slightly creamier texture, maintaining the rich coffee flavor. Furthermore, it froths well, allowing for a smoother consistency, making it an excellent option for those looking for a non-dairy substitution that mimics the characteristics of cow's milk.

Half and Half

Half and half, a mixture of milk and cream, is a popular choice for those who desire a richer, creamier texture in their coffee beverages. However, it is important to note that half and half is not a non-dairy option and may not be suitable for those who are lactose-intolerant or vegan. In a Piccolo Latte or Cortado, using half and half enhances the velvety smoothness, amplifying the luxurious experience without overpowering the espresso's bold notes.

To summarize, various milk alternatives such as almond milk, soy milk, and half and half can be utilized to suit individual preferences and dietary requirements in preparing Piccolo Latte and Cortado. Each option contributes unique flavors and textures to the coffee beverages, ensuring a delightful experience for every palate.

Similar Coffee Drinks


The macchiato is a popular choice among coffee connoisseurs for its rich, bold espresso flavor, delicately balanced with a small amount of steamed milk. This coffee drink starts with a shot of espresso, followed by a dollop of frothed milk on top. Since it contains a smaller amount of milk compared to other coffee drinks, the macchiato's dominant flavor comes from the espresso, making it ideal for those who prefer a more robust, concentrated taste.


Cappuccino is a popular coffee beverage, recognized for its balance of espresso, steamed milk, and frothy milk foam. It is typically created with equal parts of each element: one-third espresso, one-third steamed milk, and one-third foam. This harmonious combination of flavors and textures creates a smooth and creamy experience, loved by many coffee drinkers around the world.

Flat White

Originated in Australia and New Zealand, the flat white has gained popularity in recent years due to its perfect blend of bold espresso and creamy, velvety milk. The flat white begins with a shot of espresso, followed by steamed milk, resulting in a decadent coffee creation. The key difference between a flat white and a cappuccino is the absence of foam on top of the flat white. The absence of foam allows the espresso's flavor to shine through while still enjoying a lusciously creamy texture.

Cafe Latte

The cafe latte, or regular latte, is another popular coffee beverage that combines a shot of espresso with steamed milk, creating a rich and smooth experience for those who desire a more mellow alternative to stronger, more concentrated coffee drinks. A cafe latte typically contains more milk than a cappuccino, making its overall taste smoother, slightly sweeter, and more indulgent.

In conclusion, all these coffee drinks offer distinct flavors and textures for a variety of preferences. Whether you are looking for a bold and intense flavor, like the macchiato, or the smooth and creamy taste of a cafe latte, there is a coffee beverage that caters to your desired coffee experience.

Caffeine Content Comparison

When examining the caffeine content in piccolo latte and cortado, one must consider the number of espresso shots used in each beverage. The piccolo latte typically contains one shot of espresso, while the cortado contains two shots. This difference significantly affects the caffeine content in each drink.

In general, the caffeine content in an espresso shot is estimated to be around 63 to 75 milligrams. However, this number might vary based on factors such as the bean type, roast, and preparation method. Since the piccolo latte contains only one espresso shot, its caffeine content typically ranges between 63 and 75 milligrams.

On the other hand, the cortado contains two shots of espresso, doubling the caffeine content compared to the piccolo latte. This results in an estimated caffeine content of 126 to 150 milligrams in a cortado.

Given the differences in the amounts of espresso and milk, the taste and texture of the beverages also differ. A piccolo latte has more milk, resulting in a less intense flavor compared to the cortado, which has less milk and more espresso.

To summarize the caffeine content comparison:

  • Piccolo latte: one shot of espresso (approximately 63-75 mg of caffeine)
  • Cortado: two shots of espresso (approximately 126-150 mg of caffeine)

It is essential to keep in mind the individual preferences and caffeine sensitivities when choosing between a piccolo latte and a cortado. With more caffeine content, the cortado might be the better choice for those seeking a bolder flavor and an extra caffeine kick. Conversely, the piccolo latte offers a milder option with less caffeine.

Popularity and Availability

Specialty Coffee Shops

In specialty coffee shops, both piccolo latte and cortado are gaining recognition among coffee enthusiasts. The piccolo latte, a single espresso shot topped with steamed milk and served in a small 3-4 oz glass, is known for its subtle taste and exciting flavor combinations. Conversely, the cortado is made with two shots of espresso and has a smooth, creamy taste, with a 1:2 milk-to-coffee ratio. These establishments often feature unique brewing techniques and roast profiles that cater to discerning palettes, making either drink an enjoyable option for those looking to expand their coffee repertoire.


While Starbucks may not have the traditional piccolo latte or cortado on their menu, they do offer similar drinks that can satisfy those cravings. For example, the Starbucks Flat White is a close counterpart to the cortado, containing two shots of espresso topped with steamed milk to create a balanced yet robust flavor. The smaller size and similar preparation method make it a familiar choice for cortado fans. Although the piccolo latte is not explicitly available, customers can customize their drinks to replicate the experience by requesting a single shot of espresso with steamed milk in a smaller-sized cup.

Cafes Worldwide

Across the globe, cafes have been adopting the piccolo latte and cortado into their drink offerings. With the increasing popularity of specialty coffee, these small yet flavorful beverages are becoming more accessible to coffee lovers everywhere. In Europe, for instance, the cortado has strong ties to Spanish and Portuguese cafe culture, making it a popular drink in those regions. Meanwhile, the piccolo latte finds its roots in Australia, where the drink has been embraced by local coffee shops as a distinctive alternative to other milk-based espresso drinks.

By understanding the varying preferences and availability of the piccolo latte and cortado in different environments, coffee enthusiasts can better appreciate the nuances that set these two drinks apart. Although their popularity may differ depending on the region or cafe, both beverages offer unique taste experiences that are worth exploring.

Customizing Your Order

When ordering a Piccolo Latte or a Cortado, customers have several options for personalizing their drinks to suit individual tastes. Both beverages can be customized in terms of espresso strength, choice of milk, and sweetness.

For those craving a stronger or more intense coffee flavor in their Piccolo Latte or Cortado, they can request a double shot of espresso or a ristretto shot. Alternatively, using a single shot of espresso will provide a more balanced taste, wherein neither the coffee nor the milk dominates the flavor profile.

Milk selection also plays an essential role in customizing these drinks, as different milk varieties impact the texture and taste of the overall beverage. Piccolo Lattes and Cortados can be prepared using whole milk, skim, almond, soy, or oat milk, depending on preferences and dietary restrictions. Whole milk creates a rich, creamy layer of foam, while using an alternative milk creates a lighter or nuttier flavor.

Sweetness levels can also be adjusted according to personal preference. When ordering a Piccolo Latte or Cortado, customers can ask for additional sugar, syrups, or flavorings to enhance the sweetness and complexity of the drink. The flavors of popular natural sweeteners like honey or agave can also add depth to the taste experience.

Lastly, foam quality impacts the overall mouthfeel and presentation of both types of coffee beverages. A Piccolo Latte will typically have a thicker layer of foam, adding a touch of creaminess to the drink. A Cortado will generally have less foam, with a more equal balance of espresso and steamed milk which results in a smoother character. Adjusting the quantity of foam or ensuring proper steaming techniques are used can help create the perfect beverage for individual tastes.

In sum, customizing every aspect of a Piccolo Latte or Cortado, from espresso strength and milk choices to sweetness levels and foam consistency, allows for a highly personalized and enjoyable coffee-drinking experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main differences between a Piccolo Latte and a Cortado?

A Piccolo Latte and a Cortado are both small espresso-based drinks served in small cups or glasses. The primary differences lie in their milk-to-coffee ratio, caffeine content, and taste. A Piccolo Latte typically contains one shot of espresso and more steamed milk, while a Cortado has two shots of espresso and less milk. As a result, a Piccolo Latte has a milder, creamier taste, whereas a Cortado has a more intense, slightly bitter flavor.

How does the caffeine content compare between the two drinks?

Due to the higher amount of espresso in a Cortado (two shots) compared to a Piccolo Latte (one shot), Cortado is naturally more caffeinated. Keep this in consideration when choosing your espresso-based beverage.

What is the origin of these drinks?

Both Piccolo Lattes and Cortados originated in Europe. A Piccolo Latte has Italian roots, while the Cortado finds its origins in the Spanish-speaking regions. Their growing popularity has now spread them across cafes and coffee houses worldwide.

How are the milk-to-coffee ratios different in these beverages?

In a Cortado the milk-to-coffee ratio is typically 1:2, meaning there is twice as much espresso as there is milk. In contrast, a Piccolo Latte has a 1:3 ratio, with three times the volume of milk compared to espresso. This ratio difference gives the Cortado a stronger, more espresso-forward flavor, while the Piccolo Latte offers a smoother, milkier taste.

Remember to keep these differences in mind when selecting your preferred coffee drink, and enjoy the unique flavors and textures each beverage offers.


In the world of specialty coffee, the piccolo latte and cortado reign as popular choices for those seeking smaller, espresso-forward beverages. Both drinks share similarities in their origins and components, yet each offers a unique flavor profile and experience.

The piccolo latte, hailing from Italy, is composed of a single espresso shot coupled with steamed milk, typically served in a demure 3-4 oz glass. This concoction results in a delicate balance between the bold espresso and the smooth, subtle flavor of the milk. Fans of the piccolo latte praise this combination for enhancing their overall coffee encounter.

On the other hand, the cortado, originating in Spain, is centered around a more robust, espresso-driven experience. Featuring two shots of espresso and a 1:2 ratio of espresso to milk, the cortado boasts a bolder coffee taste. With less milk than its piccolo latte counterpart, the cortado's flavors tend to be more pronounced and suited for genuine espresso aficionados.

To summarize, both the piccolo latte and the cortado cater to distinctive preferences among coffee enthusiasts. The piccolo latte, with its delicate balance of espresso and milk, may appeal to those who appreciate a smoother, milder beverage. Conversely, the cortado, with a more prominent presence of espresso, may satisfy the palates of die-hard coffee devotees. Ultimately, it's up to individual preferences when deciding which diminutive coffee masterpiece to indulge in.

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Tony Barlow

Tony Barlow

Majesty Coffee Technical Sales Expert - Meet the Team

Tony Barlow, with over a decade of experience in the coffee industry, is the go-to technical sales expert at Majesty Coffee. He's passionate about helping businesses find the right espresso equipment for their needs.

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