Comparing Piccolo & Cortado: The Ins and Outs of Espresso

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Written By Chad Kelley

The overly caffeinated chef dad taking you down the rabbit hole of caffeinated knowledge

If you’re a coffee drinker, you might be wondering what the difference is between a piccolo latte, cortado, and macchiato. Well, wonder no more! In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at these three drinks and help you to understand the key differences.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy learning about your favorite coffee drinks made at coffee shops everywhere!

Looking to add some “perk” to your weekend coffee routine? Take a look at this article by Chef Made Home.

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Espresso Machine Brewing a shot

Espresso – what is it?

At its core, espresso is a very strong, concentrated form of coffee. It is made by forcing hot water through tightly packed grounds of espresso beans that have been finely ground and tamped down with pressure from a small weight.

The espresso machine allows for much more pressure than standard coffee makers, resulting in a rich and flavorful beverage that has a thick layer of crema on the surface.

The espresso beans used in espresso drinks must be roasted to get the best flavor, so it’s important to find the right type that is specifically made for espresso machines.

Ristretto – A short pour of espresso

Ristretto, also known as a short pour of espresso, is an Italian-style coffee drink meant to bring out the most flavour in your espresso. It’s made with more concentrated espresso beans and less water than a traditional shot of espresso.

This means that it has a much stronger coffee flavor, but with the same amount of caffeine as a regular espresso.


Piccolo latte – a small espresso with steamed milk

The Piccolo Latte is a classic Italian concoction that packs plenty of flavor and creamy satisfaction in a small glass. It consists of a shot of espresso mixed with steamed milk, adding just the right amount of richness to the palate.

The name itself translates to ‘small coffee’ in Italian, and it has gained popularity throughout Europe – and even the United States – as an afternoon refreshment. Whether you need something sweet for an afternoon pick-me-up or just looking for coffee break alternative, the Piccolo Latte may be your perfect choice!

For a classic piccolo coffee, the preferred choice is always a single ristretto shot.  This is a single shot of espresso that uses less water than normal, resulting in a stronger concentration and bolder flavor.

The shot of ristretto is then combined with steamy milk that has been gently frothed, creating an ever-so-slight layer of foam at the top.


Cortado – an espresso with a small amount of milk

The Cortado is a delicious espresso-based coffee beverage that originated in Spain. It’s derived from the Spanish word ‘cortar’ which means to cut – referring to less milk being added than other espresso beverages.

So if you’re looking for less of a creamy taste, and more of an intense espresso burst, order the Cortado! It has less milk than a Macchiato or Piccolo Latte but is still just as flavorful and satisfying. This café classic will have you coming back for more!


Macchiato – an espresso with a dollop of foam on top

A macchiato is a morning essential for espresso lovers! Its main difference amongst its latte counterparts is the ratio of espresso to milk. Unlike a piccolo latte and cortado, which use more milk in comparison, a macchiato is made using one or two shots of espresso with a dollop of foam added on top giving it a stronger taste.

Perfect for those who like an extra kick in their coffee, or for anyone wanting to mix up their daily caffeine fix.

Classic Latte with milk being poured in

Latte – an espresso with steamed milk and foam

A regular latte is an espresso with steamed milk and a layer of frothy foam on top. Whether you’re looking for a Piccolo Latte, Cortado, or Macchiato, the drink will always involve an espresso shot but vary based upon the ratio of steamed milk it has compared to its espresso.

All types of lattes involve some sort of milk foam which makes them distinctive from regular coffee drinks – take that extra step further and you can even create intricate designs on the surface with latte art!


Cappuccino – an espresso with steamed milk, foam, and chocolate powder

Cappuccino is one of the most renowned italian espresso-based drinks and it’s become an international standard, loved by many. Originating from Italy, it features an italian word – “cappuccio” – meaning “hood”, referring to the iconic foam topping it has.

Each cup contains a  single espresso shot, drowned in rich steamy milk and topped with a generous layer of cocoa powder. A good rule of thumb when making a Cappuccino is equal parts Espresso, Steamed Milk and Foamed Milk

Although it can be compared to many other similar drinks like son Piccolo Latte, Cortado or Macchiato – it still stands apart due its unbeatable espresso flavor and creamy smoothness.

Latte Coffee in Blue Cup

Flat White- an espresso with micro-foamed milk

The Flat White may be a relatively new phenomenon, but it’s quickly becoming the favorite among coffee lovers. Whether you need an instant energy boost or just want to indulge in some yummy goodness, this double shot of espresso with micro-foamed milk is sure to do the trick.

Becoming increasingly popular all around the world, the FlatWhite was first brewed in New Zealand during the 1980’s and quickly became a staple in cafes everywhere. As different from an American latte as Piccolo Latte, Cortado and Macchiato are from one another and yet still in the same family, so too is the flat white part of an ever growing lineup of coffee drinks we have come to love!

Pouring two espresso shots into a glass of water

The Long Black – a double shot of espresso over hot water

The Long Black is a very simple but surprisingly delicious drink. It’s made with two shots of espresso poured over hot water and then stirred, giving it its distinct black hue. It has a stronger flavor than most other coffee drinks, making it the perfect pick-me-up for any time of day.

This Australian version of the Americano is different in a few small ways. First, the espresso is poured over the hot water vs being topped off with hot water. This allows the crema to remain and gives the coffee more richness. The Long black also uses less water so it is a more intense experience.

Related Article: Iced Americano vs. Iced Coffee: Battle of the Summer Sips

Glass coffee cup with coffee

The Americano – espresso and hot water

The Americano is a simple but delicious drink that consists of two shots of espresso topped off with hot water. Legend has it that the Americano coffee came from World War II soldiers stationed in Italy who found espresso too strong, so they requested a cup of (Joe) with hot water to dilute its taste.

Thus, the renowned “Americano” was born!

So there you have it! The next time you’re at your local café, order with confidence knowing the difference between these popular espresso-based drinks. And don’t forget to enjoy that creamy, delicious foam on top.

Looking for a coffee alternative? 5+ Amazing Benefits of Drinking Date Seed Coffee