What Is A Macchiato?

By Brooke Davis •  Updated: 02/09/22 •  8 min read

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Every coffee enthusiast loves an authentic coffee shot. Espresso and cappuccino are the most infamous varieties found in coffee shops. Macchiato is one of the lesser-known varieties.

What is a macchiato?
A macchiato is an espresso drink with a small amount of foamed milk on top

Macchiato vs Cappuccino and the Espresso Shot

Macchiato, cappuccino, and espresso contain similar ingredients such as coffee, steamed milk, and foam. Yet, the barista at your local coffee shop blends each differently to achieve different tastes and flavors.

This coffee article shares everything you need to know about the macchiato.

What is a macchiato?

What is a macchiato?

This hot beverage, commonly called a coffee macchiato or espresso macchiato, is less frothy, steamed milk on top. The drink originated in Italy and means stained, marked, or spotted. It was named espresso macchiato or coffee macchiato for the light marks that develop after pouring a dash of steamed milk into the rich, dark espresso.

Almost all cafes and coffee shops have this traditional drink listed on the menu.

How is the word macchiato pronounced?

The proper pronunciation of macchiato is ‘mah-key-AH-toe’? Now you can go into a coffee shop and order one!

Who is the espresso macchiato made for?

Espresso macchiato is perfect for Italian coffee drinkers who want a strong coffee with a rich, creamy foamed milk texture.

Understanding the Latte Macchiato

What is a Latte Macchiato
What is a Latte Macchiato?

On the other hand, latte macchiato is a blend of espresso with steamed milk. So, if you want lots of hot milk along with a robust and bold flavor of coffee, then you might consider latte macchiato.

History of Macchiato

Now that we know what this hot beverage is let’s learn the history of this drink.

The traditional macchiato originated in Italy. In the beginning, there was not a significant difference between espresso with and without milk. Italian baristas had to find a way to signal their staff on whether to add steamed milk or not to the espresso.

An Espresso by Any Other Name

The easiest way to differentiate a customer’s espresso preference was to refer to these coffees by two different names. Remember, the word macchiato in Italian means marked or spotted.

So, Baristas started calling espresso, with a splash of steamed milk, espresso macchiato, or just macchiato for short.

Eventually, everyone started using the term for a double shot of espresso with a spot of milk. This steamed milk not only changes the color of the espresso but adds a creamy texture to the coffee overall.

The Evolution of the Espresso Macchiato

Thanks to the baristas’ creativity, the traditional macchiato has evolved to a great extent over the years. Now, you can order latte macchiato with a considerable amount of milk in it.

Espresso Macchiato
An Italian Espresso Macchiato

And adding a layer of caramel or other flavored syrup at the top provides a sugary taste to the latte macchiato.

How is an espresso macchiato prepared?

If you are a coffee art enthusiast or an expert, attention to detail is one of the most significant steps to learning a new recipe.

And if you want to prepare this beverage perfectly, using the right ingredients in appropriate quantities is crucial.

As its name suggests, one must be careful while adding the right splash of steamed milk to it.

To craft a perfect espresso macchiato:

  1. the first step is to prepare a classic espresso shot. 
  2. Add a double shot of espresso in a demitasse or the small coffee cup in which traditional macchiato is served. 
  3. Then, pour a dash of the hot milk into it.
  4. While adding milk to the espresso, be careful about the ratio of milk to preserve the bold, robust flavor of espresso, along with the optimum texture.
  5. Finally, add some foam or syrup to the top layer depending on your taste. A perfectly blended macchiato!

The Perfect Beverage for You: Macchiato vs Espresso and Cappuccino

Although there is just a slight change in preparation, there is still a massive difference between the taste and flavors of these hot beverages. Coffee lovers from Italy habitually start their day with a strong coffee, without even a pinch of sugar and cream.

Thus, keep this in mind if you are visiting Italy!

Espresso macchiato is best for those who want a drink that is not as acidic as an espresso but not as sweet as a cappuccino.

A macchiato is a middle road between a shot of espresso and a cappuccino. With an intense flavor of coffee, the macchiato is not as hard-hitting as a shot of espresso.

Additionally, with a spot of steamed milk, a macchiato has more sweetness than an espresso shot.

So, if you enjoy a not too sweet, not too hard coffee, then macchiato is the best blend you can have. Next time you visit a local coffee shop, be sure to try one!

The Difference Between Macchiato and Latte

There is a considerable difference between a macchiato versus a classic latte, although appearances alone will not reveal it.

Both latte and macchiato are Italian words. Latte means milk, while macchiato means a dash of milk. Additionally, a latte is loaded with steamed milk, while in macchiato, there is just a splash of milk in it.

Preparing a Macchiato vs Latte

The preparation process for an espresso macchiato vs latte is also different. For a latte, you pour steamed milk on espresso. To prepare a macchiato, add hot milk and then espresso. Usually, you don’t need to stir macchiato while a latte requires mixing.

Lastly, at the top of the latte, the milk foam is added for visualization, while in macchiato, milk is the visual representation.

What is the difference between a macchiato vs espresso?

The base of both latte and macchiato is an espresso shot. Yet, these coffees have a slight difference in flavor and texture.

Macchiato is the espresso with a spot of milk in it. Initially, it was known as espresso, but there was a name change for a more precise definition.

On the one hand, where espresso contains coffee’s vital, overpowering acidic feature, you can find a creamy soft texture in a macchiato.

Espresso macchiato is prepared after dropping a dash of milk at the top of the espresso. And the creaminess in macchiato is achieved by that pinch of foamed milk.

Additionally, you won’t find sweetness in an espresso shot, while macchiato has an essence of sweetness because of the milk.

Macchiato vs Mocha

Both macchiato and mocha are two entirely different coffee drinks. On the one hand, where mocha is made of two shots of espresso with up to 4 oz of milk, macchiato has just a single shot of espresso with 5 to 6 grams of milk.

Additionally, you won’t find any topping in the macchiato, while mocha is topped with foam or whipped cream and sometimes even marshmallows. Espresso Macchiato is served in a small coffee cup called demitasse, while mocha is served in a large cup or sometimes in a glass. Lastly, mocha is light brown, while macchiato is deep brown or even black.

Is macchiato stronger than a latte?

Macchiato is much stronger than a latte. Both latte and macchiato contain a shot of espresso, which means initially, they both are equally strong.

The difference within the strength of each coffee arises when steamed milk is added. So, it depends on the amount of milk and milk foam added.

The milk content in the latte adds creaminess to it while reducing the overall acidity of the coffee. With just a spot of milk, the macchiato retains caffeine’s hit-making the macchiato is stronger than a latte.

What is a macchiato: Starbucks?

What is a Macchiato Starbucks
What is a Macchiato: Starbucks?

Macchiato is a standard coffee drink that one can find at almost any coffee shop, including Starbucks. But the macchiato sold at Starbucks is slightly different than the traditional.

At Starbucks, a macchiato is more like an upside-down latte. A considerable amount of steamed milk is poured over the espresso, the result of which is a light brown colored coffee.

Additionally, at the bottom, Starbucks offers various syrup types that customers can choose based on their preferences.


If you are a coffee connoisseur, you can easily differentiate between local coffee shops’ many coffee drink varieties.

But it might be possible that you just have not tried a macchiato yet. We are sure you will love both the flavor and the taste.

Today, it is available in many variations to try a completely new coffee drinking experience.

So, next time you are at one of your favorite coffee shops and cannot decide between an espresso shot or a cappuccino, why not try an espresso macchiato instead.

Learn more about “what is a macchiato” by watching this cool video!

Brooke Davis

Hi everyone, my name is Brooke and I’m a Barista and freelance writer. I love brewing coffee and my favorite coffee drink is without doubt an Americano (espresso with added hot water). When I’m not busy making or writing about coffee you’ll find me hanging out at the beach with friends in California where I am currently residing. Follow me on: Linkedin

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