If you’re a coffee lover like me, you’re probably always on the hunt for the next latest coffee trend or shopping for unique coffee beverages. So, you may have wondered what is a piccolo latte after seeing it on a menu board.
A piccolo latte is simply a small, strong latte. This small but mighty espresso beverage is rapidly gaining popularity among caffeine enthusiasts around the world. It may be tiny in size, but don’t let that fool you – this intense yet creamy brew packs a full flavor punch.
What Is In A Piccolo Latte?
For those who are new to the coffee world, a piccolo latte is a small latte that’s known for its intense flavor. “Piccolo” translates to “small” in Italian, hence the name. It’s typically made with a single shot of espresso, usually ristretto espresso, two parts of steamed milk, stretched milk, and then a layer of delicate foam on top.
Sounds like a latte or cappuccino, right? Well, there are a few differences. You might also be interested in our guide on the history of Italian coffee.
The type of espresso used for the piccolo latte is one of the key defining characteristics that make it stand out from other espresso drinks, like lattes or cappuccinos. Unlike a traditional shot of espresso, a ristretto shot has less water and is more concentrated. This creates a much bolder flavor that’s not as acidic or bitter but can be a bit too intense for some first-time coffee drinkers.
Instead of the barista pulling a longer shot and adding more water to reduce the intensity of the espresso, they create a ristretto shot. This gives the piccolo latte its unique flavor profile that you won’t find in other drinks, and it’s definitely an acquired taste. It also allows you to get an intense flavor while still having the frothiness of the textured milk shine through.
Piccolo Latte Origins
The piccolo latte is believed to have originated in Sydney, Australia, where it quickly became a favorite among coffee enthusiasts. Baristas are thought to have made the drink so they could continue to test their coffee batches throughout the day without overloading on caffeine. Today, you can find them in coffee shops around the globe.
Finding A Piccolo Latte
Unfortunately, not all coffee shops offer the piccolo latte – so you may have to do some digging to find one. Most countries that readily sell piccolo lattes are located in Asia since this part of the world still abides by traditional Italian nomenclatures for size. However, it’s well worth the effort to find one.
If you’re lucky enough to stumble upon a local coffee shop that serves this delicious beverage, make sure to try it out and ensure it’s not simply a cortado or flat white in your cup. Some baristas mistakenly think that a piccolo latte is the same as a cortado or macchiato. However, there are vast differences between these espresso-based drinks.
In addition, it’s important to know how a Piccolo latte differs from a regular latte. Below are some key differences to consider in case you want to try this drink and have it specially made by your barista. Knowing how all of these drinks are made can help you know the difference between them and their taste profiles.
Piccolo Latte Vs. Cortado
Most people might mistake a piccolo latte for another espresso-based beverage, the cortado. While these two drinks may appear similar at first glance, there are some key differences.
The cortado has equal parts of espresso and steamed milk served in a smaller glass. It usually comes in a glass similar to a piccolo latte, about three to four ounces, and is usually a double shot of espresso compared to the piccolo latte’s single shot. In addition, a piccolo latte is made with more steamed milk than the cortado, making it a great choice for coffee lovers that want something smoother and on the more mild side.
Because a cortado, meaning “cut” in Spanish, has slightly steamed milk and more espresso, it can be a bit more intense and bolder. For those that want a dark, bitter flavor with a creamy finish, a cortado is a great option.
On the other hand, the piccolo uses steamed milk and foam that is more textured. While it uses a ristretto shot that is concentrated and can be intense, the intensity is cut down by the frothiness of the steamed and stretched milk, making it weaker in the eyes of some coffee lovers than a cortado.
Piccolo Latte Vs. Flat White
Flat whites are similar to piccolo lattes in that they both use ristretto espresso and steamed milk. The flat white is made of a double ristretto, meaning two shots pulled back-to-back, while a piccolo latte only uses one. This difference in espresso concentration makes the flat white have an even more intense flavor than the piccolo latte.
The flat white is also made with a larger quantity of steamed milk, making it seem more balanced in taste. This makes the flat white a great choice if you want something with a bit more bitterness that still has some sweetness to it.
In addition, flat whites use micro foam without any air bubbles. This foam is incredibly fine compared to that of a piccolo latte, making it one of the most popular drinks for those that like their coffee light and sweet.
Piccolo Latte Vs. Macchiato
The macchiato is another espresso-based beverage that’s popular in many coffee shops around the world. It’s made with a single shot of espresso and means “spotted” in Italian. That’s because this espresso shot is topped off with a dollop of foamed milk.
Macchiatos tend to be stronger than other espresso-based drinks, as they are made up of espresso and a bit of steamed milk. They also tend to be on the smaller side, usually served in two-ounce glasses.
Piccolo lattes, on the other hand, are made with a single ristretto shot of espresso and steamed milk that is stretched and foamed to make a creamy, sweet drink. While it still has some bitterness and intensity that espresso-based drinks are known for, the larger proportion of milk makes it milder than a macchiato.
Piccolo Latte Vs. Cappucino
Lastly, a piccolo latte is sometimes mistaken for a cappuccino. The difference between these two drinks lies in the ratio of espresso and milk used to make them. Cappuccinos are made with equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and foam, resulting in a thicker beverage.
Piccolos are made with one ristretto shot of espresso, more steamed milk than a cappuccino, and little to no foam.
This makes piccolo lattes sweeter but bolder in flavor than cappuccinos. Cappuccinos are also typically served in eight-ounce glasses, while piccolos are usually served in three or four-ounce glasses. Cappuccinos are perfect for those that want something thicker and more textured to start off their morning or during the day.
Can I Make A Piccolo Latte At Home?
You can make a Piccolo latte at home. All you need is an espresso machine and some milk. Start by brewing a ristretto shot, which is about 18 to 20 ml of espresso brewed in about 15 seconds.
Next, steam and foam the milk until it’s light and airy. Then combine your ristretto and steamed milk in a cup or mug using equal ratios. Finally, top off your creation with some micro-foam to give it an extra creamy texture.
Making a Piccolo latte at home is easy and incredibly satisfying. Plus, you can customize it to fit your tastes by using different espresso blends and types of milk. You can even make your own latte art using a demitasse spoon.
You might find our round-up of the best milk for latte art helpful.
How Much Caffeine Is In A Piccolo Latte?
A piccolo latte typically has about 33 mg of caffeine per three to four-ounce serving. That’s less than the average shot of espresso, which is between 75 to 85mg.
While the ristretto shot is more concentrated, it’s important to remember it still has less caffeine than a regular shot. So if you’re looking to get a good energy boost without getting the jitters, the Piccolo latte might be the right choice for you!