Cortado vs. Macchiato 

Cortado vs. Macchiato 

In the vast world of espresso and milk-based coffee beverages, two contenders often spark heated debates among aficionados – Cortado and Macchiato.

This comprehensive guide dives into the origins, brewing methods, flavors, and even calorie counts of these drinks to help you navigate through their subtle differences in taste, aroma, and strength.

Cortado vs Macchiato – Differences 

Here are some key differences between the two:


  • Spanish drink
  • Made with espresso and steamed milk
  • Typically served in a small glass
  • Has a smooth and velvety texture


  • Italian drink
  • Made with espresso and a small amount of milk foam
  • Typically served in a demitasse cup
  • Has a strong espresso flavor with a touch of sweetness from the milk foam

Overview of Cortado

Originating from Spain’s vibrant cafe scene, a cortado is an elegant espresso-based beverage composed of equal parts robust espresso shot and creamy steamed milk.

A traditional cortado can easily be recognized by its small size (usually served in 4–6oz glass cups), allowing for sipping rather than gulping down at once like larger counterparts such as Americanos or lattes.

A cortado is a Spanish-originated drink consisting of espresso and steamed milk in equal parts. At the same time, a macchiato hails from Italy and is made with a shot of espresso topped with a dollop of foamed milk.

How to Make an Authentic Cortado

Creating an authentic Cortado begins with brewing a fresh shot of espresso using high-quality coffee beans for the perfect aroma and taste. As a specialty beverage, it’s essential to use an espresso machine that can extract rich flavors from finely ground coffee.


The key to crafting a true Cortado lies in the delicate balance between its components. Expert baristas pour steamed milk over the freshly brewed espresso in small glass or ceramic cups, ensuring both layers seamlessly blend while maintaining distinct characteristics.

When to Choose a Cortado

The Cortado is a great option for coffee drinkers who enjoy the taste of espresso but are looking for a slightly milder experience. It’s also an excellent choice if you prefer your coffee with just a touch of milk rather than being heavily inundated with it.

Moreover, if you are lactose intolerant, Cortado is the best cup of joe because it contains just a touch of milk.

Overview of Macchiato:

Macchiato is an Italian coffee drink made with espresso and a small amount of milk foam. The word “macchiato” means “stained” or “spotted” in Italian and refers to the dollop of milk foam that’s added to the espresso shot. 

Unlike a latte or cappuccino, which are milk-heavy drinks, the macchiato is all about the espresso, with the milk foam serving to add a touch of sweetness and texture to the shot. It’s typically served in a small demitasse cup and is a popular choice for coffee lovers who enjoy espresso’s strong, bold flavor but want a touch of sweetness and creaminess in their drink.

Making a Traditional Macchiato

To make a traditional macchiato, start with a shot of espresso in a demitasse cup. Then, top the espresso with just a dollop of foam and a small amount of steamed milk.

One thing to note about making macchiatos is that they should be consumed quickly since the foam tends to dissipate relatively quickly.

When to Choose a Macchiato 

A macchiato is an excellent choice for coffee enthusiasts who love a strong, bold espresso taste. This drink consists of a shot of espresso with a dollop of milk foam on top, making it a perfect pick-me-up to start the day or as an afternoon boost.

If you prefer a less intense flavor profile than espresso but still want something with more depth than your usual latte or cappuccino, then the macchiato might be what you’re looking for.

Macchiato and Cortado – The Key Similarities 

Both macchiato and cortado are espresso-based drinks made by adding a small amount of milk to a shot of espresso. They both have similar ratios of espresso to milk, with the main difference being the type and quantity of milk used in each drink.

In terms of taste, both drinks offer strong, rich flavors that highlight the boldness of the espresso. They are ideal for coffee lovers who enjoy their beverages on the stronger side without overwhelming bitterness or acidity.

One key similarity between these two drinks is that they require skill and expertise from a barista to make them properly. The techniques involved in creating proper foam or steaming the right amount of milk can be challenging for beginners or those who need experience making specialty coffee drinks.

Macchiato and Cortado – The Key Differences

The key differences between a macchiato and cortado lie in their origin, milk used, amount of coffee grounds, drink size, taste, flavor, calorie count, caffeine content, and possible variations.

Origin of the Drinks

The origins of both Cortado and Macchiato can be traced back to Italy, where coffee culture has been a way of life for centuries. A Cortado is said to have originated in the Basque Country, along Spain’s northern coast, whereas a Macchiato hails from Italy.

Interestingly enough, the origins of these two beverages explain their subtle differences in flavor and presentation. The word “cortado” comes from Spanish and means “cut,” which refers to how a small amount of warm milk cuts through the bitterness of an espresso shot.

On the other hand, “macchiato” translates from Italian as “stained” or “marked.” This drink involves adding just a little more milk foam than you would find in a Cortado and leaving it unstirred so that it leaves its stamp on the drink’s surface.

What is the Difference Between Milk Used and Milk Volumes? 

When comparing a Macchiato and a Cortado, one significant difference is the type and volume of milk used. A Macchiato contains just a small amount of steamed milk, typically only about 1-2 ounces, added to an espresso shot.

The difference in milk volumes affects the taste and texture of each drink. The minimal amount of steamed milk in a Macchiato allows the rich flavor profile of the espresso to shine through, providing a bold and slightly bitter taste with velvety microfoam on top.

Meanwhile, the increased amount of steamed milk in Cortado creates a smoother mouthfeel while still complementing the robust coffee flavors with its creamy sweetness.

Adding the Milk

Adding milk is where the Cortado and Macchiato begin to differ. For a traditional Cortado, steamed milk is added equal to espresso, creating a smooth and creamy texture with balanced flavors.

On the other hand, a classic Macchiato involves adding just a small dollop of foam or steamed milk on top of an espresso shot. This creates a bolder flavor profile that emphasizes the coffee’s strength while providing some creaminess.

Amount of Coffee Grounds 

The difference in the number of coffee grounds used in a Cortado and Macchiato is subtle but still significant. A Cortado typically uses less espresso, about a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio between coffee and milk, resulting in a stronger-tasting drink.

In contrast, a Macchiato has more espresso with a higher ratio of milk or foam on top for decoration. The proper amount of coffee grounds depends on the specific recipe used by the barista or individual brewing at home and personal taste preferences.

Size of the Drink

The size of a cortado and macchiato is one of the key differences between these two popular espresso-based drinks. A traditional cortado typically has a 2:1 ratio of coffee to milk, resulting in a small and concentrated drink that’s about 4-6 ounces in size.

In contrast, a macchiato is even smaller, generally consisting of just an ounce or so of espresso with a splash of steamed milk on top for flavor.

It’s important to note that while some cafes may offer variations on these sizes, particularly with larger “grande” versions, staying true to the original dimensions can help ensure you’re getting an authentic experience from your favorite cafe or barista.

Taste and Flavor & Which is Stronger, a Macchiato or a Cortado?

When it comes to taste and flavor, both cortado and macchiato are known for their smooth taste. However, a cortado tends to have a more robust coffee flavor than a macchiato.

The milk in a cortado is steamed less than in a latte or cappuccino, providing its unique texture while allowing the espresso to shine.

On the other hand, the milk added in a macchiato is more of an accenting ingredient that takes some of the edges off from the shot of espresso.

Whether you choose one over the other depends entirely on your personal preference and what taste you crave at that particular moment.

The Difference in Calories 

The difference in calories between a cortado and a macchiato is quite significant. A standard serving of cortado contains around 70 to 80 calories, while a traditional macchiato only has about 15 to 20 calories.

One reason there is such a big difference in calories between these two drinks is the amount of milk used. The milk is steamed and frothed in a cortado with an espresso shot, creating a creamier texture that adds more calories.

On the other hand, in a traditional macchiato, only a small amount of foamed milk (usually just enough for decoration) is added to an espresso shot without significantly altering its calorie content.

Caffeine Content 

Caffeine content is an essential factor to consider when choosing between Cortado and Macchiato. While both drinks are espresso-based, the amount of milk each uses affects their caffeine levels.

A Cortado has less milk than a Macchiato, which contains less caffeine. Therefore, if you’re looking for a more robust coffee with more caffeine, then Macchiato would be your better choice.

Possible Variations in The Drinks 

Both macchiato and cortado provide an excellent platform for customization, allowing coffee lovers to experiment with different tastes and textures. One popular variation of the cortado is a Honey Cortado, which involves adding honey to the drink instead of sugar for a sweeter taste.

Similarly, variations of macchiatos are also numerous. 

You may have heard of caramel, vanilla-flavored Macchiatos, or even iced versions for summertime sipping. In some cultures, such as Italy, adding liquor like Grappa into your macchiato is common for an added boost after dinner.


In conclusion, the debate of Cortado vs. Macchiato comes down to personal preference. While they share similarities, such as espresso-based and milk-focused drinks, their differences lie in origin, milk amount and type used, the drink’s size, taste, flavor intensity, caffeine content, and possible variations.

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