What Is A Macchiato (& Espresso Macchiato vs a Latte Macchiato)

Are you ready to move on from that standard latte or flat white? You’ve likely seen “macchiato” on your favorite coffee shop’s menu and heard others order it but what is a macchiato

Unlike other coffee drinks, this one depends on a variety of things. Generally, a macchiato is stronger drink than a cappuccino and latte but a bit lighter than espresso.

Today we’re going to dig into the origin of the macchiato as well as how it differs from other drinks!

what is a macchiato

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Origin of Macchiato

The name “macchiato” like many other coffee drinks comes from Italy. This time though, the drink is also credited to the Italians!  Its beginnings are routed in efficiency and customer service.  It was a way to distinguish a standard espresso from an espresso with a “bit” of milk.

“Macchiato” the Word

Why call it Macchiato?  Well that’s because in Italian, macchiato means marked or stained. As in you “mark” the top of the drink to show it has milk. 

Simple and effective, my favorite kind. I guess because it was so simple it allowed for others to take creative license on how it’s made.

Espresso Macchiato


The espresso macchiato is how the drink actually started. If you get an espresso macchiato you will typically get a traditional macchiato.

Again, a traditional espresso macchiato is a single espresso shot with a “bit” of milk.  The milk stains the espresso. In an espresso macchiato you will always have more espresso than milk.

The espresso macchiato is the espresso-based drink that has more espresso than milk with usually just around 1-2 teaspoons of steamed milk with a small dash of foam on top.

Espresso macchiatos are typically served in demitasse cups.

When to order an espresso macchiato?

If you want to taste the shot of espresso but want to tone down the flavor a bit, an espresso macchiato gives you a much better taste of the espresso itself. This is a much smaller drink the latte macchiato so keep that in mind!

Latte macchiato

The latte macchiato differs from the espresso macchiato because in this case the espresso stains the milk rather than the milk staining the espresso like in the espresso macchiato.

The latte espresso has more milk than espresso and it shows up in a layered form (when poured correctly!).

If you order a latte macchiato it will vary some depending on what type of coffee shop you are at. 

It’s best ordered at a specialty coffee shop where you’ll likely see the latte macchiato in it’s true form. The latte macchiato, if you see it on the menu, will be served in a warm glass with cold and warmed milk, milk foam and the espresso.  The glass lets you see the beautiful layering.

If you order a latte macchiato a chain coffee shop it’s likely you’ll get steamed milk with a bit of foam, then the espresso shot on top.  If you order it iced, cold milk is poured over ice then the espresso is poured over the top creating a layered drink. 

When to order a latte macchiato?

If you’re newer to espresso drinks, love espresso drinks filled with milk or just want a larger drink to sip without doubling up on espresso, a latte macchiato is a great option!

Depending on how sweet you like you’re drinks you can even add a flavor shot to it to make it into a flavored latte macchiato like a caramel macchiato!

What is a caramel macchiato?

For those of you who want something sweeter than just a macchiato (which, let’s be real, is most Americans), simply add some decadent flavoring.  The most common type of flavored macchiato is the caramel macchiato.

A caramel macchiato is vanilla flavoring in the milk and a drizzle of caramel on top.

Difference between a latte and latte macchiato?

The major difference between the latte and latte macchiato is order of ingredients.  The latte is espresso, steamed milk, foam while the latte macchiato is steamed milk, foam, espresso. 

The latte macchiato should have a distinct layered look but again, this will depend on where you order it. If you like a stronger coffee flavor macchiato is for you.


In summary, you may want to ask the barista “what is in YOUR macchiato” because it isn’t made the same everywhere! Or try making your own at home (more on that coming soon!). If you want one closest to the origins, order a shot of espresso with a bit of milk foam on top.

About bit of cream

Rishi and Jen are the creators behind Bit of Cream. They start each morning with a cup of coffee and are on the hunt to make that simple cup of caffeine better and brighter. Feel free to send them a message or follow along on Instagram!

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