Macchiato vs. Piccolo: What’s the Difference?

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Macchiatos and Piccolos are both popular espresso-based drinks, but they can be easily confused due to their similarities in size and presentation.

Despite these similarities, they offer unique flavour profiles and experiences for coffee lovers.

In this Coffee Expert guide, we will break down the differences between a Macchiato and a Piccolo, their origins, ingredients, and how to make and enjoy them.

Origins of Macchiato and Piccolo


Originating in Italy, the Macchiato, which translates to “stained” or “spotted” in Italian, is a simple yet flavourful espresso-based drink. Traditionally, a small amount of milk is “stained” into the espresso, creating a balanced and bold coffee experience.


The Piccolo, also known as the Piccolo Latte, is an Australian creation with Italian influences. The term “piccolo” means “small” in Italian, reflecting the drink’s size. It consists of a ristretto shot topped with steamed milk, resulting in a small, smooth, and creamy coffee beverage.

Ingredients and Ratios: Macchiato vs. Piccolo


The Macchiato is composed of a single or double espresso shot, with a small dollop of steamed milk or frothed milk foam added on top.

The milk serves to soften the espresso’s intensity, allowing the drinker to experience the rich flavours of the coffee without overpowering bitterness.


A Piccolo is made with a single ristretto shot (a shorter and more concentrated espresso extraction) combined with a small amount of steamed milk, usually in a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio.

The milk is textured similarly to that of a latte, with a velvety consistency and a small layer of microfoam on top.

Flavour Profiles: Macchiato vs. Piccolo


The Macchiato offers a more intense and bold coffee experience compared to a Piccolo. The small amount of milk in a Macchiato serves to highlight the espresso’s unique characteristics, allowing for a rich and full-bodied taste.


The Piccolo, with its ristretto base and larger milk-to-coffee ratio, delivers a smoother and creamier taste. The steamed milk balances the strong ristretto flavours, resulting in a delicate and well-rounded coffee experience.

How to Make and Enjoy Macchiatos and Piccolos

Making a Macchiato:

  1. Pull a single or double espresso shot using an espresso machine.
  2. Steam a small amount of milk, creating a velvety texture.
  3. Pour or spoon the milk or frothed milk foam on top of the espresso shot.
  4. Serve immediately.

Making a Piccolo:

  1. Extract a single ristretto shot using an espresso machine.
  2. Steam a small amount of milk, aiming for a silky texture and a small layer of microfoam.
  3. Pour the steamed milk over the ristretto shot, maintaining the 1:1 or 1:2 ratio.
  4. Serve immediately.

Macchiato vs. Piccolo: Which One to Choose?

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

If you prefer a more intense and bold coffee flavour, a Macchiato may be the better choice. However, if you’re looking for a smoother, creamier, and more balanced coffee experience, a Piccolo might be the right option for you.

Our Conclusion on Macchiato vs. Piccolo

Macchiatos and Piccolos, though similar in size and presentation, offer distinct flavour profiles and experiences for coffee aficionados.

By understanding the differences between these two espresso-based drinks, you can make an informed choice when visiting your local café or experimenting at home.

Whether you’re a fan of the bold intensity of a Macchiato or the delicate balance of a Piccolo, these drinks are just two examples of the rich diversity that exists within the world of coffee.

So, go ahead and enjoy these unique coffee creations, and don’t be afraid to explore even further. There are countless variations and new coffee drinks waiting to be discovered, each offering a different taste and experience. Embrace the diversity of coffee culture and let your taste buds be your guide!