Piccolo Coffee is a specialty coffee drink that has become popular recently among java lovers. It’s a small but mighty espresso-based drink with a punch of flavor and aroma.
In this article, we’ll dive into the fascinating world of piccolo coffee, its origins, how it’s made, and what sets it apart from regular lattes. Join us on this flavorful journey as we discover the world of Piccolo coffee!
What is a Piccolo Latte?
A Piccolo Latte, also known as a “Piccolo Coffee,” is an Italian-style coffee drink that’s considered a smaller version of the classic latte, with less milk and a more concentrated espresso flavor.
The espresso is brewed directly into the glass, and the steamed milk is added to create a creamy, smooth texture.
This delightful drink provides coffee enthusiasts with a great harmony between the coffee beans’ strong flavor and the steamed milk’s smoothness. This combination makes it ideal for those seeking to enjoy their caffeine without being overpowered by too much milk.
The name “piccolo” is Italian for “small,” which reflects the size of the drink. Despite its small size, a piccolo latte is a flavorful coffee beverage often served as a morning or mid-day pick-me-up.
The History of Piccolo Coffee
Piccolo coffee has a murky history with no clear origin story.
Some say this coffee beverage originates in Italy’s longstanding tradition of expertly crafted coffee drinks. While there isn’t an exact date pinpointing when piccolos first emerged, they’re believed to have been inspired by traditional macchiatos.
On the other hand, others believe that piccolo coffee originated in Australia. Some sources suggest that the piccolo latte was created in response to the growing popularity of the latte in the 1990s.
Sources claim that baristas in Australia were looking for a way to make a smaller, more robust version of the latte, thus creating the perfect concoction: piccolo coffee.
Why the Piccolo May Be Hard To Find
Despite its distinct taste and traits, piccolo coffee is a relatively new beverage that’s not as widely known in places outside of Australia or Italy. Thus, fewer cafes offer this drink on their menus.
It can sometimes be confused with other similar espresso drinks, such as cortados or macchiatos, due to their similarities in size and composition. As a result, some baristas might unintentionally prepare one of these alternatives when a customer orders a piccolo coffee.
In addition, the drink’s small size can be a challenge for some coffee shops that rely on selling larger, more expensive drinks to customers. Since the piccolo latte is typically served in a smaller glass, it may be less profitable for some cafes.
Finally, piccolo coffee requires a specific skill set and equipment to prepare correctly. Not all coffee shops have the expertise or equipment to make a good Piccolo coffee. Thus, you might have trouble finding it in your area.
Difference Between a Piccolo Latte and a Latte
Although they may appear similar, there are marked distinctions between a piccolo latte and a regular latte. Some of these differences are explained below.
A piccolo latte is served in smaller cups with typically 100 ml capacity. On the other hand, regular lattes come in larger cups or glasses of around 240 ml or more.
A piccolo latte consists of one ristretto shot (15-20 ml) topped with steamed milk and microfoam; this creates an intense yet balanced flavor profile due to its higher concentration of espresso compared to milk volume.
In contrast, a standard latte features one full espresso shot (30ml) combined with steamed milk and froth, resulting in a milder taste as it has more milk diluting the coffee’s strength.
For a piccolo latte, the goal is to create a velvety microfoam with tiny air bubbles that blend seamlessly with the espresso.
In comparison, traditional lattes feature larger froth bubbles on steamed milk, creating a lighter mouthfeel and allowing for more elaborate latte art designs.
Which Coffee Beans Are Best Used for This Recipe?
A medium to dark roasted bean with a rich, full-bodied flavor profile works well for a piccolo latte to bring the perfect balance.
Arabica and Robusta coffee beans are often used in this espresso-based beverage. Arabica beans tend to be more delicate with nuanced flavors, while Robusta beans offer a stronger taste with higher caffeine content.
Additionally, medium-roasted coffee beans are ideal for this espresso beverage. Light roasts typically offer brighter acidity and more pronounced fruity or floral notes, while dark roasts bring out deeper flavors like chocolate, caramel, or nuts. Thus, medium roasts strike a balance between these two extremes.
How Many Shots Are in a Piccolo?
A piccolo latte typically contains one shot of espresso (around 20-30 ml). This single shot provides this Italian-style coffee drink’s intense flavor and robust aroma.
Using only one shot, baristas can ensure that the taste profile remains balanced while delivering enough caffeine for those who need it.
However, the exact amount of espresso in a piccolo latte can vary depending on the size of the glass and the barista’s technique.
In addition to one espresso shot, the piccolo latte has a specific coffee-to-milk ratio with a dollop of frothed milk. This allows for a harmonious blend between the espresso’s bitterness and the velvety-textured milk’s sweetness.
How to Froth Milk for a Perfect Piccolo Latte
To froth milk for a perfect piccolo latte, select cold, fresh milk and purge the espresso steam wand.
Then, position the wand just below the surface of the milk and angle it off-center to create a whirlpool effect.
Start steaming and texturing the milk until it’s slightly warm and the large bubbles turn to microfoam. Then, tap and swirl the milk in the pitcher to create a velvety texture.
Finally, pour the milk slowly into the espresso shot, starting from the center of the cup and moving in a circular motion. This process creates a smooth, creamy texture that complements the intense espresso flavors of the piccolo latte.
What is the Ratio of a Piccolo?
A traditional piccolo latte consists of a ratio close to 1:1 or 1:2, where one ounce (30 ml) of the espresso is complemented by either an equal or double amount of steamed milk. This ratio provides a balanced and intense flavor that is strong and creamy.
The small size of the drink also ensures that the coffee-to-milk ratio is maintained, resulting in a more potent coffee taste than a regular latte.
However, the exact amount may vary depending on your preference or the coffee shop’s recipe.
Piccolo Latte Cup Size
A smaller cup is typically used for serving a piccolo latte, as it helps maintain the perfect balance between espresso and milk.
The ideal cup size for a piccolo latte ranges from 3 to 4 oz. This compact size allows the barista to pour just enough steamed milk over a single shot of espresso, creating that velvety texture and rich flavor profile that distinguishes piccolos from other coffee beverages like lattes or cappuccinos.
A glass or ceramic cup is often used to showcase the drink’s layered appearance, with the espresso shot at the bottom and the steamed milk on top. Some cafes may also serve the drink in a demitasse or stainless steel cup.
How to Make a Piccolo Latte at Home
Follow these simple instructions to make a piccolo latte in your home and experience its rich flavor and velvety texture.
- Freshly ground espresso beans (preferably medium roast)
- Cold whole milk or alternative milk of choice like almond
- An espresso machine with a steam wand
- A small milk frothing pitcher (around 12 oz.)
- A thermometer for measuring milk temperature (optional but recommended)
1. Prepare Your Espresso Shot(s)
Start by grinding your chosen coffee beans to ensure you extract maximum flavor from the beans during brewing.
Next, prepare your espresso machine according to its instructions and pull one shot (preferably a ristretto shot) into a pre-warmed demitasse cup.
2. Froth Your Milk
Pour cold whole milk into your frothing pitcher until it’s almost half full. Insert the steam wand at an angle into the frothing pitcher, just below the surface of the milk. Turn on your steam wand while maintaining contact between it and the milk.
As the milk froths, gently move the pitcher up and down to create a creamy, velvety texture. Check the temperature of your milk to ensure it reaches around 150°F (65°C).
3. Pour Your Milk Over the Espresso
To assemble your piccolo latte, hold your demitasse cup at a slight angle and slowly pour the steamed milk over the espresso shot. Aim for equal parts espresso and frothed milk in each serving.
Piccolo coffee is a small yet powerful espresso-based drink with a unique flavor profile and layered appearance. It’s the perfect balance of bold yet sweet and creamy, with its 1:2 coffee-to-milk ratio.
Whether you’re a seasoned coffee expert or just starting to discover the world of specialty coffee, trying a piccolo coffee is an adventure worth having.