Have you ever heard of the two coffee drinks, cortado and piccolo? Although the names are similar, these two coffees have different flavors and styles.

And while they may look almost identical in some cafes, both drinks serve up a unique twist on espresso that sets them apart from each other.

Quick Answer: What is the difference between a cortado vs. a piccolo?

The main difference between a cortado and a piccolo is the amount of espresso used. A cortado is a double espresso with an equal part of steamed milk. On the other hand, a piccolo coffee consists of an espresso shot topped with steamed and foamed milk.

Cortado vs. Piccolo: How Do They Differ & Which Is Better?

So, if you’re looking to explore something new or just want to find out which one is the best, let’s dive into comparing cortados vs. piccolos—so you can sip your next cup in style!

Cortado vs. piccolo, how do they differ?

Before getting into the details about each difference between these delicious coffees, you can have a look at the handy overview below:

Comparison:Cortado:Piccolo:
Flavor notesSlightly sweet, well-balancedMild and well-balanced flavor
Espresso?Yes, two espresso shotsYes, one espresso shot
Milk added?Yes, 2 ounces (60 ml)Yes, 2 or 3 ounces (60 or 90 ml)
Caffeine content136 mg of caffeine68 mg of caffeine
Number of calories38 calories38 to 57 calories

Now that you know the differences between these drinks, it’s time to get into each of them in-depth.

Below, I’ll go over which coffee is stronger, the difference in milk preparation, the calorie difference, and so much more!

Which is stronger, a cortado or piccolo?

When it comes to the strength between these coffee drinks, the cortado is considered to be a stronger option than the piccolo.

Because a cortado is used with double the amount of espresso and roughly the same amount of milk is used, it will have a more robust flavor.

A piccolo tends to have a mild flavor with light sweetness due to its higher amount of frothy milk and lower dose of espresso:

Piccolo coffee, ready to drink.
Homemade piccolo coffee

Cortados have become popular among discerning coffee drinkers as they provide an intense flavor without too much bitterness.

This makes for an interesting balance between strong boldness and mellow creaminess that isn’t often found in other coffee variations!

So, if you’re looking for something long-lasting yet flavorful, I recommend trying out this classic favorite!

Is there a difference in milk preparation?

Both cortados and piccolos are made with steamed milk. The main difference between the milk used is that a piccolo is topped with milk foam.

For a piccolo, the milk foam topping is small, unlike the amount of foam used to make a cappuccino or latte:

Dusting a cappuccino with cinnamon.

The cortado is made with mostly steamed milk, without much milk foam on top, which makes for a smooth coffee flavor.

Depending on the flavor profile and drinking experience you’re looking for, you might already have decided which might fit you the best.

Let’s get into more differences if you’re not quite sure about the best coffee for your taste buds:

How many calories are there in a cortado vs. piccolo?

When it comes to comparing the calories in a cortado vs. a piccolo, both drinks have roughly the same amount of calories at 38 when made with whole milk.

However, while cortados are made with a 1:1 ratio of espresso to milk, a piccolo can be made with a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio.

Cortado coffee.
Homemade cortado

If a piccolo coffee is made with a 1:3 ratio, the number of calories will increase to 57 per serving (with whole milk).

Is there a caffeine difference between these coffees?

Yes, there is definitely a difference in the caffeine content between these different types of coffee.

A cortado contains a double shot of espresso, which means that it will have more caffeine than a piccolo:

  • A cortado is made with a double espresso shot with 136 mg of caffeine per serving.
  • On the other hand, a piccolo is made with a single espresso, which only has 68 mg of caffeine.

An 8-ounce cup of coffee has between 80-100 mg of caffeine, which is quite different.

Single and doppio espresso next to each other.
Single espresso on the left. Double espresso on the right

So, if you’re looking for the most caffeinated small coffee out of the two, a cortado is your best bet.

If you instead like a little less buzz from the caffeine, go with a piccolo instead, or go for decaf!

Which is better, a cortado or a piccolo?

It depends on your preference and what you’re looking for in a coffee experience.

A cortado is an espresso-based drink consisting of equal parts espresso and steamed milk.

The piccolo is made with a single shot of espresso combined with textured milk, creating a silky smooth texture topped by a layer of foam – usually, it’s presented in a smaller cup.

Cortado drinkers tend to prefer the sharpness of the straight shot without too much additional flavor added from the milk, while those who like piccolo drinks are partial to its creamy mouthfeel and light foam top.

A side-by-side comparison between a cortado and piccolo coffee.
Cortado on the left. Piccolo coffee on the right

Ultimately, both cortados and piccolos offer something different depending on which way you take your coffee:

  • If you’d rather have something that tastes more intense, like an espresso, but still appreciate milk-based coffees, go for a cortado.
  • If you want something that feels more indulgent yet still energizing, then opt for a piccolo coffee.

I love a cortado a bit more, as I enjoy the robust flavor of the double espresso. But I can also enjoy a piccolo coffee every now and then to change things up!

Related coffee comparison articles

Are you wondering how the cortado and piccolo compare to other coffees?

Great! Check out the articles below for more in-depth coffee comparisons:

And to compare more coffees, visit the coffee comparison hub!

Conclusion

Ultimately, the choice between a piccolo coffee and cortado comes down to personal preference.

Of course, if you’re watching your caffeine intake or trying to trim down calories, then knowing the differences between the two is important!

That aside, the most crucial element is what it tastes like.

If you prefer a stronger coffee taste, then go for the cortado. But if you’re a fan of milder flavors, then the piccolo is ideal for you.

Espresso-based recipes to try

Picture of Jeffrey, Author at Your Dream Coffee
Author

On my coffee blog you will find everything you need in order to start brewing coffee at home. Ranging from the basics; to the newest coffee recipes everybody talks about! You can learn more about me here.

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