Cortado vs. Piccolo: What’s the Difference?

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Cortado and Piccolo are both small espresso-based drinks that incorporate steamed milk to create a balanced and creamy coffee experience.

While they share similarities in their components, these two beverages differ in milk-to-coffee ratios, origins, and the way they are served.

In this Coffee Expert guide, we will delve into the distinctions between Cortado and Piccolo, their ingredients, and how to make and enjoy these delightful coffee drinks.

Origins of Cortado and Piccolo


The Cortado originates from Spain and is also popular in Portugal and various Latin American countries.

Its name comes from the Spanish verb “cortar,” which means “to cut,” as the drink is essentially espresso “cut” with a small amount of steamed milk.


The Piccolo, on the other hand, has its roots in Australia, where the vibrant coffee culture has given rise to many unique and innovative coffee drinks.

A Piccolo, or “Piccolo Latte,” is a small latte-style drink that showcases the intense flavours of espresso while incorporating the smooth texture of steamed milk.

Ingredients and Ratios: Cortado vs. Piccolo


A Cortado is made with equal parts espresso and steamed milk, typically a 1:1 ratio. This creates a well-balanced drink that allows the boldness of the espresso to shine through while being softened by the creamy milk.

The standard volume of a Cortado is around 60 ml.


A Piccolo consists of a single Ristretto shot, which is around 15-20 ml, topped with steamed milk and a small amount of foam. The milk-to-coffee ratio in a Piccolo is slightly higher than that of a Cortado, resulting in a creamier texture and a milder coffee flavour.

The total volume of a Piccolo is usually around 50 ml.

Flavour Profiles: Cortado vs. Piccolo


The Cortado offers a balanced and smooth flavour profile, with the equal parts of espresso and steamed milk complementing each other perfectly.

The result is a bold yet creamy coffee experience that is neither too strong nor too milky.


The Piccolo features a slightly milder coffee flavour compared to a Cortado, as the higher milk-to-coffee ratio tempers the intensity of the Ristretto shot.

The small amount of foam adds a velvety texture to the drink, making it a delightful and smooth coffee option.

How to Make and Enjoy Cortados and Piccolos

Making a Cortado:

  1. Pull a 30 ml shot of espresso.
  2. Steam approximately 30 ml of milk to a silky, micro-foam consistency.
  3. Pour the steamed milk over the espresso, maintaining the 1:1 ratio.
  4. Serve in a small glass or ceramic cup.

Making a Piccolo:

  1. Pull a 15-20 ml Ristretto shot.
  2. Steam approximately 30 ml of milk, creating a small amount of micro-foam.
  3. Pour the steamed milk over the Ristretto, allowing the foam to rest on top.
  4. Serve in a small glass or demitasse cup.

Cortado vs. Piccolo: Which One to Choose?

When deciding between a Cortado and a Piccolo, consider your taste preferences and desired coffee experience.

If you prefer a bolder coffee flavour with a balanced creaminess, a Cortado may be the better choice.

However, if you enjoy a milder, smoother coffee experience with a velvety foam, a Piccolo might be more to your liking.

It’s worth trying both to discover which one suits your palate best.

Pairing Cortado and Piccolo with Food


The balanced flavour of a Cortado pairs well with both sweet and savoury foods.

A buttery croissant or a slice of almond cake can complement the bold coffee notes, while a savoury quiche or a Spanish-style tapa can create a harmonious contrast with the creamy milk.


The milder, smoother character of a Piccolo makes it an excellent partner for lighter pastries and desserts, such as fruit tarts or lemon poppyseed muffins.

It can also work well with savoury breakfast items, like avocado toast or a bacon and egg roll.

Our Conclusion on the Cortado vs. Piccolo

Cortado and Piccolo are both delightful espresso-based beverages that showcase the rich flavours of coffee while incorporating the smooth creaminess of steamed milk.

By understanding the differences between these two drinks in terms of their origins, ingredients, ratios, and flavour profiles, you can make an informed choice when ordering or preparing your next coffee beverage.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and try both Cortado and Piccolo to discover which one truly resonates with your coffee preferences and taste buds!