What is a Caramel Macchiato

What is a Caramel Macchiato

Seeing the menu board at a coffee shop can be overwhelming. Subtle differences in how coffee is prepared to turn into something new you can order from the menu. Caramel macchiatos are at coffee shops around the world. What is a caramel macchiato? Keep reading to learn all about this delicious drink!

What is a Caramel Macchiato

The word macchiato is Italian, meaning to stain or to mark. This popular dessert-like coffee drink gets this name because a macchiato in the coffee world is espresso with just a touch of milk or foam. This touch of milk “stains” the espresso, hence the name – macchiato.

This decadent dessert drink is made iced or hot. It is essentially a subtly-sweet vanilla latte topped with caramel sauce. Starbucks has coined this drink, drawing its difference from a latte because of the milk and espresso layers.

In Starbucks Caramel Macchiato, the espresso goes on top of the milk, followed by vanilla syrup, caramel sauce, and whipped cream. A latte at Starbucks has the espresso and milk in reverse order, with espresso on the bottom and frothy milk on top. Starbucks made this coffee beverage popular across the globe.

Homemade versions of a caramel macchiato are good, but nothing can be as good as the original. People have been trying to recreate these coffee drinks for decades without any luck.

A caramel macchiato is a perfect drink for any season. Enjoy it iced for a sweet dessert on a summer day, or enjoy it warm on a chilly winter afternoon. The perfect mix of milk, vanilla syrup, espresso, and caramel sauce will have you coming back for more!

Traditional Caramel Macchiato

History of the Caramel Macchiato

The Starbucks caramel macchiato first appeared in the fall of 1996. At this time, Starbucks only had around 1,000 stores and was not the coffee superstore they are today. A twenty-one-year employee named Hannah Su developed the iconic drink to mark the special 25th anniversary of the franchise.

The first step for Hannah Su to make the perfect celebratory drink was to develop a velvety, silky caramel sauce. The most challenging part was making a sauce that not only tasted good but also stayed on top of the frothy foam of the latte.

It took over ten months for Hannah Su and her coworkers to develop the perfect beverage. No wonder no one can recreate this drink at home! The team tried more than 30 versions of a caramel macchiato before they were satisfied.

The caramel macchiato was to be on the menu for a few weeks, but the drink rose quickly in popularity. Hannah was not expecting this success, but she was elated when her drink took off. She credits her team, claiming their dedication made this the perfect drink. 

How to Brew Caramel Macchiato At Home

What is a Caramel Macchiato & Its Recipe

A caramel macchiato can be how the drinker wants it. Hot caramel macchiatos are popular in the colder months, while iced caramel macchiatos are a hit in the summertime. Caramel Macchiato Frappuccino has now risen in popularity, taking over the Caramel Macchiato world. 

A good caramel macchiato starts with an espresso shot. For a hot caramel macchiato from Starbucks, two shots of signature espresso coffee roast give the robust coffee flavor everyone loves in a caramel macchiato.

The two espresso shots go on top of steamed hot 2% milk and foam. This frothy milk gives the velvety feel that everyone loves in a caramel macchiato. Most of the drink uses 2% milk.

Three pumps of vanilla syrup are in the cup before the milk. Starting the cup with vanilla syrup allows the syrup to distribute throughout the drink evenly, giving off the perfect amount of sweetness to the beverage.

The signature caramel macchiato gets topped with the caramel drizzle, which adds just a touch of sweetness with a rich caramel flavor. 

Syrup, shot, and milk Ratios


A caramel macchiato has both vanilla syrup and caramel drizzle in it. These together create a warm, comforting sweet flavor to this beverage. A regular caramel macchiato has 3 pumps of vanilla syrup. If you like your coffee less sweet, you can ask for less syrup.

If you are a sugar bobber, ask for extra pumps of vanilla! Be careful not to get too much vanilla. You do not want the vanilla to overpower the caramel flavor. It is a caramel macchiato, not a vanilla macchiato, after all!

The caramel drizzle is what sets the caramel macchiato apart from other drinks. It is the drizzle that Hannah Su spent so long perfecting. The key is that the caramel syrup stays on top of the milk foam. The luxurious caramel drizzle gives the caramel macchiato its signature flavor.

Milk Ratios

A traditional macchiato is two parts espresso and one part milk. This small amount of milk is what gives the macchiato its name, meaning a “mark” of milk in the espresso. For hot macchiatos, the milk is steamed warm to give a warm, comforting drink.

An iced caramel macchiato has the same ratio of milk to espresso as a hot macchiato. Two parts espresso to one part cold milk. This ratio gives macchiatos a strong, bitter coffee flavor that everyone loves.

This strong coffee flavor allows a large amount of syrup to be used to sweeten the drink. The touch of milk is the perfect way to tame the strong espresso.

Coffee beans

There is a misconception that espresso beans and regular coffee beans are different beans. Espresso beans are regular coffee beans that have been roasted longer. The longer roasting time is what gives espresso beans their bitter flavor.

Espresso beans are ground finer than regular roast coffee beans. The finer grounds allow more surface area and more flavor to escape the dark roast. Espresso beans are brewed in an espresso machine or an Aeropress.

Espresso machines use steam, pistons, or pumps that force hot water through the puck of espresso-roasted coffee beans. The high pressure the espresso machine uses and the low water-to-coffee ratio are what give espresso its thick consistency. 


Some caramel macchiatos have foam on top; some do not. All hot caramel macchiatos have steamed milk to give a slight milky flavor. Adding foam to the top of a hot caramel macchiato is the perfect way to finish off the drink.

Milk foam is made by steaming milk to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. The steam wand is held just below the surface of the milk to create foam. The milk is added to the espresso first, and then the foam is spooned on top. The caramel drizzle is then drizzled on top of the foam.

Foam is a popular part of many espresso drinks. A latte has both steamed milk and milk foam in it. Cappuccinos are another popular espresso beverage that has milk foam in it. A dry cappuccino has less steamed milk and more foam, while a wet cappuccino has more steamed milk and less foam.

Tasting notes of a Caramel Macchiato

The signature flavors of a caramel macchiato are bold espresso, milky coffee, and hints of sweetness from vanilla and caramel. This drink is popular with the old and young alike, appealing to all generations.

The bitter espresso flavor is tamed with steamed milk and foam. The slight sweetness from the rich caramel drizzle hits your tongue first. You then reach the foamed milk, a velvety sensation in your mouth.

After you get through the foam layer, slightly sweet, milky coffee covers your mouth. The foam and caramel drizzle slowly fade into the coffee, leaving you with a homogenous mixture of espresso, milk, foam, and caramel drizzle.

Caramel macchiatos are great for chilly winter days when you need a sweet pick-me-up. An iced caramel macchiato gives the same sweetness as the hot but in a refreshing cold form!

Difference between a Caramel Latte and a Caramel Macchiato

The only difference between a macchiato and a latte is the ratio of espresso to milk. A latte is called a latte because of the high amount of milk it contains. A macchiato has less milk in it than a latte.

Caramel Latte

Latte means milk in Italian, hence the high ratio of milk to coffee. A latte has a ratio of 1 part espresso to 3 parts milk. This is triple the amount of milk as coffee, giving a very milky coffee. Caramel syrup is added to the cup first, then the espresso, then the steamed milk.

A macchiato is two parts espresso to 1 part milk. This is the opposite of a latte. A macchiato has just a touch of milk compared to a latte. The caramel drizzle is added to the top of the milk foam, compared to within the espresso, like a latte.


Caramel macchiatos are a delicious treat for everyone. The warm vanilla and caramel notes will keep you warm on a chilly day. The Starbucks caramel macchiato has given this delicious drink the popularity it deserves.

Next time you stop at your local coffee shop, grab a caramel macchiato to see what all of the hype is about! Whether you get it iced or hot, you won’t be disappointed.

Leave a Comment