A macchiato is made up of three famous ingredients that can create any one of many coffee drinks. Espresso, milk foam, and steamed milk are the base ingredients for a macchiato, or what is often referred to as an espresso macchiato.

Any coffee shop the world over will serve up a delectable cup of espresso macchiato in minutes. So why is this small coffee drink so popular?

For starters, a macchiato is made using one shot of espresso. Some baristas may use two shots of espresso. But traditionally, this coffee drink contains only one shot of espresso.

Secondly, a macchiato has very little milk foam. The name Macchiato means “stained with milk”. A coffee lover who likes their coffee only mildly strong with just a hint of steamed milk will love the macchiato.

What is the origin of this espresso drink? How is it made? Find out this and more right here.

What Is A Macchiato?

Dark coffee mug with foam

That is the million-dollar question. What constitutes a macchiato? Is the coffee drink you’ve been taking a true Macchiato?

Well, the literal meaning of the word ‘macchiato’ is spotted or stained. This points to the characteristic look of this drink with the milk foam or steamed milk placed on top of the espresso shot.

A macchiato, therefore, is a drink made with one or two shots of espresso, topped off with some steamed milk foam. It is usually a small drink, about 3 ounces. There are two types of macchiatos famous with Starbucks. Those are the espresso macchiato and the caramel macchiato.

The espresso macchiato is the standard macchiato (or traditional macchiato). It has no additional flavor profile apart from that of the coffee and milk foam. On the other hand, the caramel macchiato is topped off with some caramel sauce and vanilla syrup. It is sweeter than the traditional Italian macchiato.

The origin of the Macchiato

origin of the Macchiato

Many coffee drinkers and lovers can agree that the macchiato became popular in Italy, specifically in Venice in the early 80s. The drink became popular all across Italy and spread like wildfire in Europe in the 19th century. It is believed that this Italian coffee drink was invented for those who wanted less milk in their coffee.

The café culture in Venice is still quite strong to date. You can enjoy the standard macchiato or traditional macchiatos in the dozen of coffee shops that dot the town. Originally, people did not sweeten their coffee drinks, so even the macchiato was served straight up without sugar. However, with the growth of the coffee culture in America came the different varieties of sweetened and flavored macchiato.

All over the world, there are different variants of macchiato-like drinks served in coffee shops. However, they all derive their origin from the original recipe.

With that said, let’s look at the varieties of this drink of coffee as prepared and served across the world.

Different Varieties of Macchiato

As the coffee culture in the world continues to grow, more and more people are leaning toward drinking coffee. However, not everyone can appreciate (or identify) the distinctive bitter taste of a well-brewed espresso macchiato. Hence the advent of different types and flavors of macchiatos which are:

espresso macchiato

espresso macchiato

The traditional macchiato is also known as the espresso macchiato. This macchiato is typically served in a small espresso cup. It is no more than 3 ounces a serving. The espresso macchiato is a shot of espresso topped off with steamed milk foam. The preparation of this drink is very specific and most coffee shops in Italy will serve the macchiato this way.

The barista will first brew the espresso and then pour a single or double shot of espresso into a small espresso cup. Next, he will create some steamed milk foam using frothed milk. This is added on top of the espresso to create the ‘stained’ effect from which the macchiato derives its name.

latte Macchiato

Macchiato - Everything You Need to Know About this Coffee Drink 1

The other version of macchiato is a more urban drink which is a larger drink than the traditional macchiato. Typically, a latte macchiato can be found in specialty coffee shops such as Starbucks. The Starbucks macchiato is a huge favorite for its customers.

So what is the difference between latte macchiato and espresso macchiato? Well, the latte macchiato has more milk added to it. Secondly, with the latte macchiato, the foamed milk is usually poured in first. The espresso will then be added last to create the stained effect that is distinctive of a macchiato.

A latte macchiato can be flavored using vanilla syrup to make a vanilla macchiato. You can also opt for a caramel macchiato flavored with caramel sauce and vanilla syrup. The Starbucks macchiato is a caramel macchiato that is super popular with coffee lovers in America. It was invented in the 90s by this coffee franchise and has remained a top-selling favorite.

How to make a macchiato

make a macchiato

The macchiato is a drink that is made up of one part espresso and a small amount of foamed milk. This merges into one of the most delicious drinks of coffee you could ever enjoy. Making a Caffe macchiato is not rocket science, but you must use only the finest of ingredients for that smooth, delectable espresso taste with a tinge of sweetness from the steamed whole milk.

First things first, let’s talk coffee beans. Which are the best beans that can be used to make this drink? Freshly ground beans or a store-bought variety that is already ground up? A dark roast or a medium roast? The quality of the coffee will determine the quality of your espresso and in turn the quality of the latte macchiato or espresso macchiato.

It is best to get the dark espresso roast coffee beans. Make sure to use a fine grind if you do buy a readily ground-up variety.

Here are the steps to follow when making a macchiato.

tools and ingredients

To make a macchiato, you will need:

  • An espresso machine – A tabletop espresso machine will work well for this recipe. Even a manual espresso maker will work fine, though the flavor profile may not be as good.
  • A coffee grinder – If you prefer to use coffee beans, then you will need to grind them first using a grinder. There are many grinders to choose from in the market.
  • A foaming wand – Remember, this drink calls for foamed milk. However, Starbucks macchiatos tend to use more milk whereas a regular macchiato needs equal parts espresso to milk foam. You can use a battery-operated foaming wand if your coffee machine does not have a milk foaming wand attachment.
  • Steaming wand – While this may not be a necessary tool, if you have it, why not use it? A steaming wand brings your steamed milk up to the correct temperature without boiling it. Alternatively, you can make some steamed milk in a saucepan on your stove on low heat.
  • A jug – You will need a jug to froth your steamed milk in.
  • Espresso roast coffee – This is usually a dark roast of coffee that produces an aromatic brew that’s smooth with the slightly bitter aftertaste that’s a signature of espresso.
  • Milk – You may use whole milk or any vegan milk substitute such as soy milk or almond milk. However, the original recipe calls for whole milk which produces a rich foam.

step by step instructions to make a macchiato

When the craving for a macchiato hits, you can make your drink at home. It is quite simple if you have all the tools and the ingredients. And of course way more affordable than dashing off to get a Starbucks macchiato.

How do you make a macchiato at home? We have put together a simple step-by-step guide that will have you sipping on a delicious latte macchiato, caramel macchiato, or your standard espresso macchiato in no time. Let’s get brewing, shall we?

Brew your espresso shot

The base of any macchiato is the espresso. A standard macchiato is made up of equal parts espresso to milk foam. To brew your espresso, if you are using an espresso brewing machine, follow the instructions as usual. If using a manual espresso maker like a French press, boil some water first.

Put the right measure of espresso coffee grinds into the press and pour hot water over them. Let it steep for a few minutes, usually 4 minutes. After 4 minutes are up, put the lid on and press down to extract your espresso.

steam some milk

As your espresso brews, steam some milk using a steaming wand. Some coffee machines have a steaming wand extension so you can use this. Otherwise, pour your milk into a saucepan and place it on a stove, on medium heat.

Keep stirring the milk to get the temperature even, until it reaches a temperature of 150 degrees Fahrenheit or 65 degrees Celsius. When ready remove it immediately from the heat and transfer the milk to your jug. The result is warm milk as opposed to hot milk.

Foam the milk

If your espresso machine does not have a steaming wand, or if you are using a manual coffee maker, then you can foam your milk using a frother. These are handheld wands that have a small whisk attached to the end of a long, thin shaft.

Put the wand just under the surface of the milk and agitate it until you have foamed milk. Remember, unless you are making a latte macchiato, you only need a little foam, enough to scoop up with a spoon.

Build your macchiato

A macchiato is usually poured starting with the shot of espresso first followed by a dollop of milk foam on top. Since it is usually a small serving, you may use a small coffee cup if you do not have espresso cups, just to mimic a novelty coffee shop vibe.

Measure out a shot of espresso and pour it in first. Next, spoon up some of the foamed milk and add it to the top of your espresso. If you are more inclined to a larger drink, you can create a latte macchiato by first pouring your foaming milk into a larger cup. Next, measure out two shots of espresso and pour them in.

Many specialty coffee shops will create latte art which will take some practice to get right at home. Next, you can now enjoy your specialty coffee in the comfort of your home.

Comparing Different Varieties of Macchiatos

There are two main varieties of macchiatos. These are the espresso macchiatos or caffè macchiato and latte macchiato. The caffè macchiato is the classic macchiato that is served in novelty coffee shop chains in Italy (and America too). This coffee is served hot and in small espresso cups. On the other hand, the latte macchiato is a variation of the original drink, with more foamed milk.

Let’s compare these three variations of the same drink.

Espresso macchiato vs Latte macchiato
Espresso macchiato vs Latte macchiato

The espresso macchiato or caffè macchiato is the original standard recipe. It is comprised of one shot of espresso and a dollop of milk foam to create the stained effect. This macchiato has a more powerful espresso flavor. The milk does not alter the flavor profile much.

The latte macchiato, on the other hand, is a sweeter, milkier version of the Caffe macchiato. It is a layered drink with lots of steamed milk, topped off with an espresso shot and milk foam. This drink is flavored with vanilla syrup and served in a tall glass or cup.

Espresso macchiato vs Caramel macchiato
Macchiato - Everything You Need to Know About this Coffee Drink 2

The espresso macchiatos differ from the caramel macchiatos in the flavor profile. Caramel syrup is topped with a vanilla macchiato to add a new flavor. Just like the latte, the caramel macchiato is a tall drink and has lots of milk.

Espresso macchiato vs iced macchiato
Espresso macchiato vs iced macchiato

Just as the name suggests, an iced macchiato is served with plenty of ice. It is a variation of the latte or caramel macchiato, only it is served cold. The Starbucks macchiato is usually served this way, with lots of vanilla syrup and caramel sauce. They also have a macchiato that has chocolate.

Caffe Macchiato FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions

Is a macchiato stronger than a cappuccino?

A cappuccino is made up of equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. It is a milkier drink than a macchiato which has two shots of espresso topped off with a dollop of milk foam. A macchiato, therefore, has a more intense coffee flavor and less milk. As for the caffeine content, an espresso shot contains 90mg of caffeine.

What is special about a macchiato?

A macchiato gives you a more intense coffee taste, thus a better coffee experience for coffee lovers. It is also served in smaller cups than other standard coffee drinks, making it that much more different and a specialty coffee.

How are you supposed to drink a macchiato?

A macchiato is an espresso drink topped off with a small dollop of milk foam. The ideal way to take this drink is by first having it fresh off the espresso machine. Secondly, it’s best not to stir the drink but to sip it as it is so that the crisp coffee notes linger in your mouth last.

However, some people do stir their macchiato, which is a matter of preference. Also, a macchiato is not usually sweetened. If you prefer a sweeter drink, a latte or caramel macchiato will work just great for you!

Go Ahead and Try a Macchiato Today!

There you have it, everything there is to know about this popular espresso The macchiato has its roots in Italy, specifically Venice, a city well known for its coffee culture. Throughout the 19th century, the love for the macchiato spread like wildfire across Europe and America.

Today many more people have come to appreciate the dark, rich taste of espresso expressed so fluently in this drink. If you love to try out novelty coffee drinks, you can try to brew a cup of macchiato at home. Even if you do not have an espresso machine, you can easily use the manual process that we have shared here.

Cheers to a delectable cup of one of the finest coffee drinks in the world.



Last Updated on August 31, 2022 by Ashok Parmar


My name is Ashok Parmar, and for seven years, I worked as a warehouse manager that strictly dealt with coffee shops all around the United States.

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