What is a macchiato

What is a Macchiato? You NEED To Read This [2023]

Since there are boatloads of different coffee types out there, it’s easy to get confused. Besides, the fact that most coffee kinds have Italian names doesn’t help either. And arguably one of the greatest coffee mysteries is related to macchiato – so what is a macchiato really?

Macchiato is an espresso-based coffee with just a little bit of milk, generally foamed.

Or in other words, a macchiato is simply espresso mixed with frothy milk.

And as you might’ve guessed, macchiato comes from Italian and means ‘spotted’ (or ‘marked’).

Thus, macchiato stands for spotted coffee, which is the result of adding a splash of milk to the espresso.

Basically, the milk leaves white marks over the darker espresso texture, hence the definition in Italian!

It’s safe to say that macchiato is a staple in Italian coffee traditions, along with the likes of cappuccino and of course – espresso.

As such it deserves an entire article and today’s post is all about macchiato, so make sure to read on!

Macchiato appears way darker (almost like espresso) and it has a dash of milk on top.

Latte, on the other hand, looks much brighter because the coffee is fully mixed with the milk, while it has a very thin layer of foam on top.

And due to its espresso nature, macchiato delivers a stronger caffeine kick.

But to make things even simpler for you, here’s a short ‘macchiato VS latte’ breakdown:

  • Macchiato – Has slightly more coffee than your regular espresso shot, a pretty strong taste and a splash of frothy
  • milk on top
  • Latte – It’s a larger drink than macchiato (generally 8-oz or more), has plenty of milk that’s adequately mixed into the coffee, creamy texture and a more diluted flavor

All in all, it’s safe to say that the biggest difference between the two (appearance-wise) is that the coffee in the latte blends properly with the added milk.

But macchiato doesn’t, making it appear more ‘spotted’, hence the meaning in Italian.

What’s Stronger a Latte or Macchiato?

The macchiato coffee is stronger than a latte, hands down!

Macchiatos are basically a shot of espresso with a tiny bit of milk on top.

Thus, the macchiato packs a bigger caffeine punch and it’s also more aromatic.

On the contrary, latte coffee is weaker since they’re more diluted.

That’s because the latte is completely mixed into the added milk, which results in less oomph.

However, the upside to this is that it’s more appealing to your casual coffee drinker, due to the fact that it’s not as strong as a macchiato.

What is a macchiato
Note how the top looks somewhat ‘marked’ or even ‘spotted’. Yep, that’s what macchiato is all about!

The main difference is that cappuccino is made with equal parts of espresso, steamed milk and frothy milk.

While macchiato uses a small amount of espresso and an even smaller amount of foamy milk.

It’s fair to say that macchiato is much closer to pure espresso than the cappuccino because it’s basically espresso but with a splash of milk.

However, since there are other significant differences between the two I’d like to mention them as well:

  • TasteCappuccino tends to be more creamy and diluted due to the larger amounts of milk added. But macchiato is generally more bitter and even acidic because of the almost-pure-espresso consistency.
  • Serving sizeMacchiato is mostly served in tiny 4 oz. cups, while cappuccino is served in larger 6 to 8 oz. cups.
  • IngredientsCappuccino is made with one part espresso, one part milk and one part foamy milk. Macchiato, on the other hand, is made with a bit of espresso and just a dash of milk foam on top.

On a side note, you can mistake a macchiato coffee for a cappuccino in certain cases.

That might happen when we’re talking about macchiato latte, not regular macchiato!

You see, latte macchiato has a steamed milk base, espresso in the middle and an added layer of milk foam on top.

Nonetheless, macchiato latte does look pretty similar to a standard cappuccino, hence why you might confuse it for a cappuccino in terms of appearance.

Latte Macchiato vs Cappuccino – What’s the Difference?

Well, the only difference between latte macchiato and cappuccino are the layers.

For latte macchiato, it’s steamed milk, a shot of espresso and foamy milk.

But cappuccino starts with espresso, then milk and of course some milk foam on top.

Also, in latte macchiato the steamed milk is ‘stained’ by the shot of espresso, giving it a distinctive appearance.

And while the cappuccino has that typical dark base and white top, the latte macchiato has a little dark mark (from the espresso) sandwiched between the milk.

^ This how you make the typical and quite popular Iced Caramel Macchiato courtesy of Starbucks.

What is a Macchiato Iced?

Ice macchiato is the summer version of macchiato.

If you’re a fan of the macchiato coffee but it’s too hot outside, you’d probably want to try out iced macchiato.

For one cup of iced macchiato you’ll need:

  • 1 shot of espresso
  • 1 cup of cold milk (10 oz)
  • 2 teaspoons (around 0.3 oz) of something sweet (honey, vanilla, caramel etc.)
  • 5 cubes of ice

And here’s how to make an iced macchiato, nice and easy:

  1. Pull a shot of espresso
  2. Pour the espresso, milk, ice cube and sweetener into a blender
  3. Blend everything until the ice cubes have been properly crushed
  4. Pour the mixture into a larger glass
  5. Enjoy your ice-cold macchiato!

So, that’s how you prepare an ice macchiato.

Remember that apart from ice, you’re also adding a sweetener, both of which make this macchiato variation rather different than the original one.

Anyway, nothing can beat an ice macchiato on a hot summer day.

There’s a reason why Starbucks offers an Iced Caramel Macchiato drink!

Whichis Stronger – Macchiato or Cappuccino?

The macchiato coffee is stronger than a cappuccino, without a doubt.

That’s because macchiato is not as diluted and much closer to a regular espresso.

Or in other words, it offers a bolder, richer and stronger taste.

But cappuccino has larger amounts of milk and even frothy milk to top things off.

This makes for a nice, smooth and foamy coffee drink, albeit not as strong as a good old macchiato.

Alright, this guy sure knows how to make classical Italian macchiato.

But How is Macchiato Made and How Do You Make a Traditional Macchiato?

The traditional macchiato coffee is made by pulling a shot of espresso and then adding a dash of foamy milk on top.

That’s it, really.

Of course, you can make it with two shots of espresso instead of one (before topping it with milk foam) if you want a more potent cup of macchiato.

This is what you’ll need in order to make a macchiato coffee:

  • Espresso
  • Milk foam
  • An espresso coffee maker (preferably with a steam arm)
  • Milk frother (or you’ll have to froth the milk manually)

And to make things simpler for you, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to make classical macchiato yourself:

  1. Get around 0.3 oz of ground beans for a single shot of espresso (or 0.6 oz for a double shot)
  2. Fill your espresso coffee maker’s portafilter with the desired amount of coffee grounds
  3. Turn on the water and pull the espresso shot (preferably in a demitasse cup)
  4. Add a dash of foamy milk (or alternatively steam milk) on top
  5. Enjoy your fresh cup of macchiato

Don’t forget that this is the recipe for a traditional macchiato!

But if you wish to, you can always add some sugar or even cinnamon.

It’s up to you, really.

What is a Macchiato, caffe Macchiato in a glass cup

Only two things – espresso and milk (or the foam of the milk to be more precise).

However, remember that these are the ingredients for a regular macchiato.

Variations like the macchiato latte include steamed milk, in addition to the shot/s of espresso and milk foam.

But macchiato can also be made with other things like whipped cream, vanilla, caramel and chocolate.

There’s even something called ice macchiato, which adds cold milk, syrup (or sweetener) and ice cubes!

Just keep in mind that none of these unorthodox variations have ANYTHING to do with real, genuine Italian macchiato.

Starbucks’s version of the macchiato is made of vanilla syrup, steamed milk, espresso, milk foam and caramel sauce on top.

They even gave their macchiato drink a fitting name – Caramel Macchiato.

And that’s probably because it’s quite distant from the classic macchiato coffee.

Traditional Italian macchiato has only two ingredients – espresso and foamy milk!

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with Starbucks offering a more different and Americanized version of the macchiato.

Their Caramel Macchiato drink is quite tasty actually and it most definitely appeals to a larger audience.

However, if you’re a true macchiato coffee lover, Starbucks’ macchiato probably won’t be your cup of tea (or coffee even).

How To Make Macchiato at Home?

Here’s how to make classical macchiato at the convenience of your home in X easy steps:

  1. Add 0.3 oz (for a single shot of espresso) or 0.6 oz (double shot) of coffee grounds to your espresso coffeemaker
  2. Turn the water on and pull the shot (or shots) of espresso into the cup (preferably a small demitasse one)
  3. Steam a very small amount of milk (around 0.5 to 1 oz)
  4. Use either a manual or automatic frother to make foam from the milk
  5. Add a dollop of foam on top of the espresso to finish your very own macchiato

This is arguably the easiest way to treat yourself with some nice, homemade macchiato.

Also if for whatever reason you can’t be bothered with making milk foam, simply pour a tiny bit of steam milk on top of the espresso.

Sure, the end result won’t be a 100% genuine macchiato, but it’ll still be pretty close to the original!

The idea of having an espresso with a dollop of milk foam on top a.k.a. macchiato originated from baristas who wanted to help waiters distinguish pure espresso from espresso with milk.

That’s exactly why they thought that the easiest way to signal a waiter that a particular coffee has milk in it is to ‘mark’ it with a dash of foam.

You can also see the reference to that by taking a look at the name for a macchiato in Portuguese – cafe pingado.

And cafe pingado basically means “a coffee with a drop”, clearly referring to its origin.

Another reason for macchiato’s existence is that Italians were looking for a reason to have another espresso drink in the afternoon, albeit not as strong.

Espresso with a dash of milk on top (macchiato) was baristas way of signaling waiters that a particular cup of espresso also has milk in it.

But macchiato has changed quite a bit since its birth and these days we have all kinds of macchiatos.

Thanks to popular coffee shop chains like Starbucks we now have things like Caramel Macchiato.

Some people even add syrups, chocolate, whipped cream and whatnot to their macchiato, so this coffee drink is getting pretty diverse.

But hey, that’s perfectly okay if you ask me… unless you’re a die-hard fan of real macchiato that is!

^ Note that they show the differences between an espresso macchiato and a latte macchiato in this video!

What’s The Difference Between Caffè Macchiato And Latte Macchiato?

Caffe macchiato (or espresso macchiato) is the traditional macchiato with espresso and a splash of foamy milk on top.

In contrast, latte macchiato incorporates both steamed milk and milk foam.

In fact, here’s a short summary of all the differences between the regular macchiato and macchiato latte:

  • Caffe macchiato is usually served in a small demitasse cup, while latte macchiato is served in a tall glass
  • Caffe macchiato is made of espresso and a bit of milk (generally foamed), while latte macchiato is made of steamed milk, espresso and milk foam
  • Latte macchiato has a layered look, while caffe macchiato looks like ‘spotted’ espresso
  • Latte macchiato is creamier, more diluted and not as strong as caffe macchiato

Basically, the latte macchiato drink is pretty much a caffe latte with the espresso sitting in between the milk and milk foam.

Now, the layers of a standard latte are espresso, steamed milk and milk foam.

Macchiato latte has a different layer order – steamed milk, espresso and then foamy milk on top.

What is a Macchiato, heart drawing on top of a Macchiato

Macchiato Calories – How Many Calories Are in a Macchiato Drink?

Macchiato made with a single shot of espresso and nonfat milk has only 5 calories and 1 gram of carbohydrates.

That’s virtually nothing since you’re getting around 75 grams of caffeine for the same amount of macchiato.

Even using whole milk or 2% milk would be okay because then you’ll be looking at 10 calories, which isn’t too far off.

Nonetheless, the latte macchiato has more calories in it.

Let’s take a look at a short (8 oz) cup of Starbuck’s latte macchiato with nonfat milk for instance – it has:

  • Calories – 60
  • Carbohydrates – 10 grams

That’s due to all the additional milk that’s typical for the latte macchiato in comparison to a traditional macchiato.

So if you’re strict on your calorie intake, maybe going for regular macchiato would be a better option.

^ Okay, the pronunciation above would probably be more suitable to British English speakers. Anyway though, even if you pronounce it with an American or even an Aussie accent, the barista would be a huge a$$hole if he/she tells you that he/she doesn’t understand what you’re saying… ugh.

What’s the Proper Macchiato Pronunciation?

It’s makɪˈɑːtəʊ or mah-key-ah-toe to put it simply.

Obviously, the exact pronunciation might vary slightly, depending on the speaker.

It makes sense that there might be a slight difference in how baristas from UK and US pronounce macchiato.

But going for something along the lines of “One small cup of mah-key-ah-toe” should always work.

Alternatively, you can always show them an image of a macchiato and tell them that this is what you really want!


So there you have it folks – macchiato is simply espresso with a dash of milk foam on top.

However, this is the definition of genuine Italian macchiato.

The Americanized version will generally have slightly more milk and sometimes even caramel (yes I’m looking at you Starbucks).

Now, tell me which macchiato version you prefer…

The traditional espresso and milk foam-only one or the yummier and modern caramel macchiato type?

Drop your answer in the comment section below!

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