What Makes The Piccolo Latte Different From Other Coffee Drinks

While Australia has blessed us with the ever-popular flat white, that's not the only coffee creation to come from down under. If you've never heard of the Piccolo latte, you may think it originated in Italy at first glance — the word "piccolo" does mean "small" in Italian, after all. But this concoction has roots in Melbourne and Sydney and only gained popularity in the last decade or so.

So what makes the Piccolo latte different from other types of coffee, and specifically from a typical latte in the U.S.? Piccolos are mostly made with ristretto shots, which originated in Italy. These types use less hot water than the espresso shots we're used to in the U.S., so they're even more concentrated and boast a deeper flavor. Piccolo lattes also contain about one-third as much milk as regular versions (around 70 ml vs. 230 ml) and are served in smaller glasses, so you kind of have to like the flavor of coffee to enjoy one — although according to some, these drinks are more balanced than the excessively milky U.S. lattes. But when you combine a more concentrated espresso shot with less dilution, you get a much stronger drink overall in a Piccolo.

Milk and ristretto blend together in a Piccolo latte

So we know the difference between a Piccolo and a typical U.S. latte, but what about other coffee drinks with smaller amounts of milk? The singular ristretto shot in a Piccolo is typically enough to differentiate it from other java beverages in the U.S., as most drinks here are made with full-sized espresso shots. To achieve this alternate version, you'll want to stop your espresso after about 20 seconds of brewing and use a light roast, as a darker roast concentrated to this level may result in an overly bitter flavor.

But once you get past the ristretto shot, the milk content and preparation is the main distinction that separates a Piccolo latte from other coffee drinks. Cappuccinos feature fluffy steamed milk that contains more air, so the foam sits on top of the coffee instead of mixing into it — and in a similar vein, macchiatos offer just a few spoonfuls of foam. But part of making a Piccolo latte is mixing the ristretto and milk together so they form one cohesive drink. And as opposed to the other beloved Australian beverage featuring two shots of espresso, the flat white, you'll only find one ristretto shot in a Piccolo latte. They may be hard to find here in the States, but worth trying if you find them on a coffee shop menu.