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What is a Piccolo Coffee?

A piccolo coffee, often asked as “what is a piccolo coffee?”, is a petite yet potent espresso-based drink, characterized by its combination of a single, concentrated ristretto shot and a smaller portion of steamed milk. Served in a demitasse cup, the piccolo appeals to those seeking a bold coffee flavor with a smooth texture in a compact form, making it a favorite among enthusiasts and a staple in coffee culture.

Key Takeaways

  • A piccolo latte is a compact but flavor-rich coffee that combines a ristretto shot with steamed milk, offering a bolder taste than a traditional latte in a smaller size.

  • Making the perfect piccolo requires precision with the ristretto shot quality, milk temperature and texture, and the skillful art of pouring to mix flavors and achieve the characteristic smooth texture.

  • Piccolo lattes have carved out a niche in the coffee world, originating in Australia and gaining popularity globally, appreciated for their strong espresso flavor balanced with creamy milk in a conveniently small serving.

The Mini Expresso Explained

Piccolo latte coffee, a name that rings with Italian flair, literally translates to “small milk”. But don’t let the size fool you. This compact beverage is a powerhouse of bold flavors, a delightful marriage of a ristretto shot and steamed milk. The ristretto shot, a more concentrated and flavorful version of an espresso shot, meets the creamy smoothness of steamed milk to create a unique coffee experience. If you’re wondering how to make a piccolo latte, it’s all about combining these two key ingredients.

What makes the piccolo latte special is its balance. Compared to a standard latte, it has a stronger, more espresso-focused flavor, packed into a smaller size. It’s perfect for those who enjoy their coffee bold but don’t fancy a large cup. And no, a piccolo latte isn’t the real deal without the milk. The harmony between the milk and ristretto shot gives the piccolo its unique character.

Crafting the Perfect Piccolo Latte

Crafting the perfect piccolo latte may seem as simple as blending a ristretto shot with steamed milk. However, it’s not just about that, it involves more complexity. The process involves precision and a keen sense of timing and texture.

Let’s delve deeper to comprehend the artistry involved in creating this delicious mixture.

The Role of Ristretto Shots

A ristretto shot, the star component of a piccolo latte, is the first part of an espresso shot. It’s super concentrated and rich, made with less water than a regular espresso, resulting in a stronger and slightly sweeter flavor. This means that the ristretto shot brings a profound intensity to the piccolo coffee, forming the backbone of the drink’s balanced taste.

So, how is a ristretto shot prepared? It involves pulling a 15 ml shot from 7 grams of espresso grounds. With less water and the same amount of coffee grounds, the result is a shot that packs a punch. While brewing a ristretto shot, the water temperature should be between 195°F and 205°F (90°C-96°C). Perfecting the temperature and timing can be the difference between a good and a great piccolo latte.

Milk Consistency and Texture

The other key ingredient in a piccolo latte is creamy, steamed milk. Getting the right temperature and texture during the steaming process is vital. The sweet spot lies around 60-65°C (140-150°F). Touch the milk jug – if it’s too hot to touch, you’ve got it right.

To achieve that silky smooth texture typical of a piccolo latte, you need to create microfoamed milk. This is finely textured milk that incorporates tiny air bubbles, creating a silky feel. A milk frother jug or frothing pitcher are the go-to tools for achieving the perfect milk consistency at home.

The Art of Pouring

The act of pouring milk from a milk pitcher into the espresso shot is a skill in its own right. The trick is to pour the milk at an angle into the espresso shot. This technique ensures a perfect mix of flavors and a visually pleasing result.

Pour the milk evenly over the coffee from a height of about 5cm, starting slower and ending right against or just above the cup. This technique affects the taste and texture of a piccolo latte by perfectly mixing the steamed and stretched milk with the espresso. The result? A smooth texture with a touch of frothiness, the perfect piccolo latte.

The Journey of Piccolo Coffees Around the World

Believe it or not, the piccolo latte hails from down under. Yes, Australia, with Sydney and Melbourne being the frontrunners of its inception. What began as a local favorite soon found its way into coffee shops worldwide, winning hearts with its unique flavor profile.

Today, piccolo lattes have made a name for themselves in major cities like New York and London. Asian countries have also embraced the piccolo latte, adding their unique spin to this classic Italian coffee drink. From the streets of Melbourne to the bustling cafes of New York, the piccolo latte continues to woo coffee enthusiasts around the globe.

Piccolo Lattes vs. Other Espresso Classics

Given the wide range of espresso-based beverages available, it’s normal to question how the piccolo latte compares with other traditional drinks. Let’s start with the cortado. A cortado combines equal parts espresso and steamed milk, resulting in a stronger espresso flavor due to the higher ratio of espresso.

Next up, the macchiato. Unlike the piccolo latte, which blends a ristretto shot with smoothly steamed milk, the macchiato features a bit of frothy, dry milk on top of the espresso.

Then, we have the flat white, another Aussie favorite. Flat whites typically come with a double shot, providing a strong espresso taste. In contrast, the piccolo latte, with its single ristretto shot, is less intense on the espresso front, but still packs a bold coffee punch.

Single or Double Shot?

Traditionally, piccolo lattes are made with a single ristretto shot, contributing to a robust coffee flavor in the beverage. This process enhances the richness of the espresso, resulting in a more intense and flavorful beverage. This gives the drink its signature bold flavor in a small package. But as with any coffee drink, there’s room for improvisation.

Some coffee lovers prefer their piccolo latte with a double shot for a stronger flavor and higher caffeine content. A double shot has more caffeine than a single ristretto shot, making it an appealing option for those who need an extra kick. Using multiple ristretto shots amps up the flavor intensity, making it a delicious alternative for those seeking a more robust coffee experience.

Demitasse Glass or Ceramic Cup?

The choice of vessel for serving a piccolo coffee can influence both its flavor and presentation. Demitasse glasses and ceramic cups are both great options that don’t interfere with the taste of piccolo latte.

The perfect size for a demitasse glass when serving a piccolo latte is around 90ml. Ceramic cups, on the other hand, offer a classic look and are an environmentally friendly choice compared to plastic or disposable cups.

Your At-Home Piccolo Barista Guide

Having learned the craft of making a piccolo latte, you’re now ready to put your barista skills to the test. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you recreate this delicious drink at home.

First, you’ll need an espresso machine and a steam wand. If you don’t have these, a stovetop Moka pot or a French press can serve as an alternative coffee maker for the single espresso shot, and a stovetop jug with a NanoFoamer for the milk will do the trick. Brew the ristretto shot, remembering to grind the beans, pack the ground coffee into the portafilter, and let it brew for about 15-20 seconds, resulting in a small but intense and flavorful 15-20ml shot of espresso.

For the milk, aim for a temperature between 55-65°C (131 – 149°F) to ensure the right temperature and texture. With the right tools and a little practice, you’ll be making piccolo lattes that rival those at your local coffee shop.

Selecting Beans for Your Piccolo Creation

The quality of the coffee beans you choose can significantly determine the success of your piccolo latte. High-quality coffee beans are crucial as the milk in piccolo latte can sometimes mask the coffee flavor. Therefore, you want to ensure the coffee taste stands out and makes the drink enjoyable.

For your piccolo latte, opt for high-quality coffee beans like single-origin, Arabica, and Robusta blends. These coffee roasts provide a range of flavors to suit your preferences. Single-origin Arabica beans offer a delicate, sweet, and slightly acidic flavor, while Robusta beans present a bitter, earthy taste with nutty and chocolatey notes. The Knight Espresso Blend and Signature Blend Coffee Beans are excellent choices for making Piccolo Lattes.

Piccolo Lattes in the Local Coffee Scene

In local coffee shops, particularly in urban centers like Australia, Sydney, and Melbourne, piccolo lattes have gained considerable popularity. Coffee shops promote piccolo lattes through various means, including:

  • Websites

  • Online ordering

  • Social media

  • Deals and discounts

  • Collaborations with local influencers

The price of a piccolo latte is usually around $4.50 or less at local coffee shops, making it an affordable and delicious alternative to other coffee drinks. You can find creative variations of piccolo lattes in local coffee shops, with options to tailor the drink to your preference, similar to a Cortado.

The Piccolo Latte’s Place on Modern Coffee Menus

On modern coffee menus, piccolo lattes have secured a unique position for themselves. This espresso-based drink has grown in popularity over the years, and it’s not hard to see why. The piccolo latte appeals to coffee enthusiasts who prefer a stronger espresso flavor and a smooth, velvety milk texture, making it a tasty and popular coffee choice.

The piccolo latte stands out on modern coffee menus with its smaller but intense flavor experience. This unique appeal, coupled with its affordable price, makes it a beloved choice among coffee lovers who enjoy piccolo style coffee.


From its humble beginnings in Australia to its worldwide popularity, the piccolo latte has indeed come a long way. Whether you’re a coffee connoisseur or a casual coffee drinker, the bold flavors and velvety texture of a piccolo latte offer a unique coffee experience. With a little practice, you can recreate this delightful espresso classic at home, opening up a whole new world of coffee exploration. So, why not give it a shot?

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a latte and a Piccolo?

The main difference between a latte and a Piccolo is their size: a standard latte is around 8 oz compared to the 3–4 oz piccolo. While both have similar milk consistency, the piccolo has a stronger flavor.

Is Piccolo a strong coffee?

No, Piccolo is not a strong coffee, Piccolo latte is a small latte with a stronger coffee flavor due to the 1:2 or 1:3 ratio of espresso to milk. Therefore, it’s not a strong coffee on its own.

What is a Piccolo in Australia?

In Australia, a piccolo is a single ristretto shot topped with warm silky milk served in a 90ml glass or ceramic cup. Enjoy your piccolo latte!

What is a piccolo coffee?

A piccolo coffee is just another term for a piccolo latte, which consists of a single shot of ristretto served in a small glass and topped with steamed milk. Enjoy your drink!

How is a ristretto shot different from a regular espresso shot?

A ristretto shot is more concentrated and flavorful than a regular espresso shot because it’s made with less water. Enjoy!