What is a macchiato

What is a macchiato

With so many processes to grow, roast, and brew coffee, someone not into coffee may be confused by the terminology of the coffee industry. Espresso drinks bring new and exciting ways to enjoy the roasted bean drink.

So, what is a macchiato? How is it different from a latte or a cappuccino? These are the types of questions we will be answering in this article.

What Is a Macchiato?

A macchiato is something seen on almost every coffee shop menu. While it is not as popular in a cafe that serves black-brewed coffee, any shop that serves espresso drinks typically offers a macchiato.

So, what is a macchiato? What makes it different from other espresso drinks? Is it how the beans roast, how it brews, or the ingredients used to make the macchiato?

A macchiato uses simple ingredients: espresso and foamed milk. The same ingredients of many other espresso drinks include a latte, cappuccino, and cortado. So, what is the difference between these espresso drinks?

The main difference between these drinks is the ratio of espresso to milk to foam in the milk. A macchiato is one espresso shot with a dollop of steamed milk, about 90% espresso, and 10% foamed milk.

A macchiato is an Italian espresso drink. The name macchiato comes from the Italian word meaning a mark. This name is from the small amount of milk in the dark espresso, and the bright white milk leaves a distinct mark on the black espresso shot.

What is a Macchiato - See the Recipe

Origins and History of the Drink

Ordering a macchiato at coffee shops can be a frustrating process. One coffee shop’s macchiato tastes different from the macchiato at the coffee shop down the street. Why is there so much variety in macchiatos?

The reason for the variety in how a macchiato tastes and is prepared is that there is no recipe for a macchiato. Every coffee shop has to make its own version of the espresso drink because there is no set way to prepare one.

The term macchiato developed in an Italian coffee shop where baristas distinguished between orders of espresso that had milk and orders without milk. The stained coffee got the name macchiato because of the small amount of foamed milk in it. 

Because of the fluidity of the term macchiato, every coffee shop has the right to make a macchiato of its own. As long as the drink uses espresso and a form of milk, it is allowed to call it a macchiato.

Everyone’s Ideal Macchiato Is Different

No two macchiato’s are the same. Every barista in a coffee shop or every home barista prepares a macchiato to their liking. If you find a coffee shop with a macchiato you like, you cannot expect another shop’s macchiato to be the same!

There are multiple ways to prepare a macchiato. Many coffee experts define a macchiato as one shot of espresso with a dollop of milk foam. But since there is no definite recipe for a macchiato, this definition can be twisted to fit the liking of the barista.

Some say a macchiato is an espresso layer with cold and hot milk in a tall glass. Because these are the same ingredients, it is called a macchiato, but the lines blur on what a macchiato is when this is the definition.

An espresso macchiato is the name of a macchiato served in a small espresso cup. One espresso shot mixed with hot, cold, or foamed milk is considered an espresso macchiato.

How Is a Macchiato Made?

The root of a good macchiato is the espresso when the shot pulls. A high-quality espresso roast will make the macchiato taste better because of the high ratio of espresso to foamed milk. If the espresso is not good, the whole drink will not be good.

A macchiato is single or double. A traditional Italian macchiato pulls a single shot of high-quality espresso and tops it with steamed milk. You can make the espresso shot with a high-end espresso machine or an espresso machine using a pod.

Traditionally an espresso machine is used to make a macchiato. Pull the shot in a 25-30 second extraction and add it to your small espresso cup. Get your milk of choice and add it to a steamable pitcher. A macchiato traditionally uses whole milk, but you can substitute this with a milk of your choice. 

Use your steam wand to make a low-temperature microfoam. A low temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit brings a sweeter flavor and a nice, silky texture than steaming the milk too hot. Get a small spoon and dollop a small amount of foamed milk onto your espresso shot and enjoy!

Making a Macchiato at Home

Is a macchiato only available at specialty coffee shops? Not at all! If you have an espresso machine at home or a Nespresso, you can make a macchiato in your home. It might take some practice to perfect your macchiato, but just like in any coffee shop, it can be your own!

Start by pulling an espresso shot from your choice of espresso machine. If you have a traditional espresso machine, pull a single shot of espresso. If you have a Nespresso machine, use one pod to get one shot of espresso. After you pull your shot, dump it into your cup of choice.

If you have an espresso machine with a milk wand, steam one ounce of milk until it is 105 degrees Fahrenheit. You can still make a macchiato if you do not have a milk wand! Simply heat the milk on the stovetop until it is 105 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you use a milk wand, froth the milk until it is a fluffy consistency. If you do not have a milk wand, use a handheld milk frother to get the right consistency. After your milk is the right consistency, spoon the foam on top of the espresso shot.

Your macchiato is ready to enjoy!

A Cup of Macchiato Coffee

Who Is a Macchiato Best for?

A macchiato is best for someone who wants a shot of espresso but does not like it straight black. Some people like espresso straight, but others need something to cut the strong coffee flavor of an espresso shot.

Macchiatos are great for those types of people, and it is a quick pick-me-up for someone who wants a shot of espresso with a tiny bit of milk. Because of the versatility of a macchiato, a creative person will love making a macchiato at home.

A macchiato is best when made to be your own. Get creative with your espresso shot and how your milk is heated and frothed. Although it is not a traditional Italian macchiato, flavors are added to make it more interesting.

Where Is the Macchiato Most Popular?

The coffee scene is huge in North America, and the coffee industry has become its own culture. However, typical Americans enjoy either a cup of brewed coffee or a flavored, sweet espresso drink.

True coffee enthusiasts who enjoy a shot of espresso with a dollop of milk reside in Italy. The birthplace of the macchiato is still the most popular place to find a macchiato. 

What Is the Difference Between a Latte and a Macchiato?

A latte and a macchiato use the same ingredients; milk and espresso. The similarities of many espresso drinks confuse a lot of consumers. Because a macchiato does not have a specific recipe, it can be even more confusing. 

In short, a latte has much more milk than a macchiato. Instead of being served as an espresso shot with a dollop of foamed milk like a macchiato, a latte is a shot or two of espresso mixed with 12-16 oz of steamed milk. 

The milk in a latte is typically not as foamy as the foamed milk of a macchiato. Iced lattes have come to the scene too, which are espresso shots and cold milk mixed often with a sweet syrup to flavor the latte.

Latte Recipe

What Makes a Macchiato Different From a Coffee?

So, a macchiato is a coffee, right? Yes, a macchiato is a type of coffee drink made from espresso-roasted coffee beans. How a macchiato is prepared is quite different from how a brewed cup of coffee is prepared.

Brewed coffee uses percolating hot water to run over ground coffee beans until the water is infused with the coffee beans. The resulting water and coffee essence mixture is drunk as a cup of coffee.

A macchiato uses an espresso shot, which is hot water pressurized through espresso-roasted coffee beans to produce a concentrated liquid of hot water and coffee essence. The espresso shot is mixed with a dollop of foamed milk to create a macchiato.

Which Is Stronger: Macchiato or Cappuccino?

A cappuccino is another espresso drink that uses the same ingredients; milk and espresso. A cappuccino is equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. The three are layered and are served in a larger glass or mug.

A latte is mostly steamed milk with a shot of espresso. A cappuccino and a latte are similar in strength. Conversely, a macchiato has just a splash of milk to a shot of espresso. In volume, a macchiato is much stronger than a cappuccino. If a cappuccino is made with a double or triple shot of espresso, the whole drink might have more caffeine than a macchiato.


A macchiato is a great way to enjoy a shot of espresso when you need just a little bit of milk to cut the strength. Macchiatos are versatile espresso drinks, so try them at home and make the macchiato your own!

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