Espresso vs. Macchiato vs. Latte Macchiato: What’s The Difference

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Espresso, espresso macchiato (also known as macchiato), and latte macchiato are three different coffee drinks.

The word ‘macchiato’ means “stained” in Italian. So any drink with ‘macchiato’ in its name primarily consists of one ingredient (espresso or milk) with a “stain” (small quantity) of one and more of the other ingredients. 

So a macchiato is of two types: Espresso macchiato & Latte Macchiato. The ingredients in both are the same—milk and espresso. It all comes down to the question of ratio. 

But if you simply order a macchiato at most cafes, they will assume you mean an espresso macchiato unless you specify that you want a latte macchiato.

Key Takeaways:
  • Espresso is a small, concentrated shot of coffee that can only be made with an espresso machine that brews a small amount of finely ground coffee under immense pressure for a short time.
  • The espresso macchiato, or cafe macchiato, is a cup of espresso ‘marked’ with milk. Which means it contains more espresso than milk.
  • Latte macchiato is made with steamed milk , followed by 1-2 shots of espresso poured into the center of the drink.
  • Espresso has a robust, bold, bittersweet taste, espresso macchiato, on the other hand, cuts the bitterness and intense flavor of espresso with a small amount of steamed milk.

As I mentioned before, an espresso macchiato is simply called a macchiato, but there’s another kind of macchiato – Latte Macchiato.

So what’s the difference between an espresso macchiato and a latte macchiato?

Espresso Macchiato vs. Latte Macchiato

Espresso macchiato is a small coffee drink with a rich, bold taste as it contains mostly espresso with a small amount of steamed milk and foam. Latte macchiato is a much larger and creamier beverage with a mild coffee taste as it has a larger quantity of milk and 1-2 shots of espresso.

So, espresso vs. macchiato vs. latte macchiato, what’s the difference? In this in-depth guide, we’ll break it all down. That way, the next time you brew up an Italian coffee beverage or order at your local coffee shop, you’ll be a pro!

What’s the difference between espresso, macchiato & latte macchiato?

Check out this brief overview of the main differences between the three coffee drinks. In the rest of this article, we will cover each of these differences in much more detail.

Espresso vs. Macchiato vs. Latte Macchiato
Espresso

Ingredients: Coffee & water

Taste: Rich, strong, bold coffee taste.

Caffeine: One shot of espresso has 68mg of caffeine.

Calories: 2.7 calories/shot. Very low in calories.

Which is stronger?Espresso is stronger than macchiato and latte macchiato.

Macchiato

Ingredients: 2/3 Espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, microfoam

Taste: Creamy with a strong espresso taste.

Caffeine: It depends on how many shots of espresso are used.

Calories: 10-30 calories/serving. 

Which is stronger?
Bold but not as strong as espresso.

Latte Macchiato

Ingredients: 3/4 Steamed milk, 1/4 espresso, microfoam

Taste: Milky with a hint of coffee.

Caffeine: It depends on how many shots of espresso are used.

Calories: 100-130 calories/serving. Most calories come from the added milk

Which is stronger?
Mellow, mild flavor.

What is Espresso?

Espresso is a small, concentrated shot of coffee that can only be made with an espresso machine that brews a small amount of finely ground coffee under immense pressure for a short time. 

It’s made from the same beans as coffee but is more robust, thicker, and bolder in taste.

When hot water is pushed through the coffee grounds at extremely high pressure, it results in a liquid (espresso) topped with a “crema,” a brown foam that forms when air bubbles combine with the soluble oils of fine-ground coffee and sits on top of a correctly pulled shot of espresso. 

The crema adds to the rich flavor and lingering aftertaste of espresso.

The espresso can be enjoyed as-is or used to make a long list of drinks, including a latte, macchiato, cappuccino, or Americano.

What does ‘Macchiato’ mean?

The word macchiato is Italian, and it roughly translates to “marked” or “stained.” 

Both of the main macchiato variations, the espresso macchiato and latte macchiato, involve “staining” or “marking” one ingredient (either milk or espresso) with the other.

Espresso Macchiato – A drink that has more espresso with a “mark” of milk.

Latte Macchiato – A drink that has more milk with a “mark” of espresso.

What is Macchiato or Espresso Macchiato?

The espresso macchiato, commonly called macchiato, is a strong coffee drink with bold flavors and caffeine.

In Italy, the espresso macchiato, or cafe macchiato, is a cup of espresso ‘marked’ with milk. Which means it contains more espresso than milk.

The point of this drink is to have an espresso slightly moderated or subdued by a splash of milk.

It’s a perfect espresso-based milk beverage for espresso lovers who look for a hint of additional sweetness and creaminess from the milk.

Espresso macchiato is for someone who doesn’t want the full impact of espresso but likes to maintain the strength of flavors in the cup. 

The milk foam adds texture to the drink without diluting the espresso too much.

Espresso macchiato is most similar to a cortado but is slightly more concentrated. A cortado consists of 50% espresso and 50% milk. While in a macchiato, espresso is the primary ingredient with very little steamed milk.

What is Latte Macchiato?

To make a latte macchiato, steamed milk is first poured into a cup, followed by 1-2 shots of espresso poured into the center of the drink.

Being heavier than milk, Espresso sinks beneath, but since it’s poured gently, it doesn’t mix with the milk. The espresso’s crema gently floats on top, “marking” the milk.

It also means you’ll taste more espresso in the first sip since the milk is at the bottom.

It differs from the espresso macchiato in that it emphasizes milk rather than espresso.

A latte macchiato is similar to a latte. One big difference between a latte and a latte macchiato is the order. 

The espresso is added to the cup first in a latte, and the steamed milk is then poured into it.

Espresso vs. Macchiato vs. Latte Macchiato

What is Caramel Macchiato?

The Caramel Macchiato is essentially a vanilla latte topped with caramel. The “macchiato” distinction is because the espresso is layered on top of the milk, as opposed to the Starbucks latte, which does the opposite.

This drink is much sweeter and has more milk.

A caramel macchiato is made like an upside-down latte: steamed milk is poured into the cup after the vanilla syrup, and the shots and milk foam are poured on top.

From there, the caramel drizzle is poured in a crosshatch pattern over the top. This flavor balances nicely with vanilla.

But for true espresso lovers, caramel macchiato may be too sugary and milky compared to other espresso-based drinks.

Caffeine Content in Espresso Macchiato vs. Latte Macchiato

Depending on the espresso or coffee beans used, each shot of espresso in a macchiato or a latte macchiato contains around 70mg of caffeine. 

Since a double shot of espresso contains twice as much caffeine as a single espresso shot, ordering a double shot latte will give you an extra caffeine boost in the morning.

The amount of caffeine in an espresso macchiato or a latte macchiato depends on the number of shots of espresso used.

One shot of espresso has around 60-80mg caffeine.

Espresso, Macchiato & Latte Macchiato: Difference in Taste

Espresso has a robust, bold, bittersweet taste that some may find too strong for their palette.

A macchiato or an espresso macchiato, on the other hand, cuts the bitterness and intense flavor of espresso with a small amount of steamed milk.

Macchiato is perfect for someone who doesn’t want the bold flavor of espresso but likes to maintain the strength of coffee flavors in the drink.

A latte macchiato is a much milkier beverage with a mild flavor of the coffee.

In a latte macchiato, the espresso taste is most pronounced at the beginning and fades into a milkier beverage toward the bottom.

Calories in Espresso, Macchiato & Latte Macchiato

A shot of espresso has only 2.7 calories. So, calories don’t come from coffee/espresso; they typically come from other additives such as milk, cream, sugar, sweeteners, toppings, syrups, and sauces. 

If you’re watching your weight but still want to enjoy a strong coffee drink without worrying about calories, an espresso macchiato is a great way to go. 

Since it’s mostly espresso with a tiny amount of milk in it, the total calorie count is somewhere around 10-30 calories.

A latte macchiato without any sweetener is the second-best option if you’re counting your calories. A 12-ounce latte macchiato will have between 120-160 calories, depending on the type of milk you use.

The more milk you use to make a latte macchiato, the higher the calories you consume.

Any flavored macchiato, like a caramel macchiato, should be avoided if you’re counting calories. These drinks are loaded with sugar and flavoring syrups and are incredibly high in calories.

How To Order Macchiato

If you’re going to order a macchiato at a coffee shop, the first thing that you have to decide is  how strong you want your coffee to be. 

If you want a coffee with bold, robust flavor, then espresso macchiato is the drink for you. However, if you’re looking for a light, creamy beverage with mild coffee flavor, then latte macchiato is the drink that you should order.

At most cafes, if you simply order a macchiato, they will assume you mean an espresso macchiato.

If you’re ordering an espresso macchiato, it will come in two sizes: single or double. This is simply a count of how many espresso shots you want. 

Latte macchiato sizes are determined by the cup sizes offered in the coffee shops. Usually, a “tall” is 8 ounces, a “small” is 12 ounces, a “medium” is 16 ounces, and a “large” is 20 ounces. That said, the standards may differ from place to place. 

How To Make Espresso

High-quality espresso is an essential ingredient in any café drink and is especially important for espresso macchiatos and latte macchiatos.

To brew espresso at home, you’ll need:

  • Espresso machine
  • Grinder
  • Coffee beans

Instructions:

Finely grind 18-21 grams of coffee into your portafilter.

Tamp the espresso grinds down using pressure.

Insert the portafilter into the group head and lock it into place.

Start the brew. Allow the espresso to brew for 20-30 seconds.

The espresso typically comes out of the spout in a steady stream and has a dark brown color. 

Here’s a video that can guide you in brewing your espresso at home.

How To Make Macchiato

The espresso macchiato simply called a caffé macchiato in Italy, is the original form of this drink. In this case, the milk stains the espresso.

To make an espresso latte, you’ll need:

  • Espresso
  • 1-ounce steamed milk

Instructions:

Pull a shot of espresso.

Steam your milk until your pitcher feels warm.

Add just a dash (about a half of an ounce) of steamed milk to your shot of espresso to “stain” it with just a bit of milk.

Check out this video to watch a step-by-step tutorial on how to make a traditional macchiato.

How To Make Latte Macchiato

Latte macchiato is a smooth and velvety beverage. The main ingredient for a latte macchiato is milk… lots of milk, giving the coffee subtle sweetness and a silky texture.

You’ll need:

  • ½ cup of milk
  • Espresso

Recipe:

Heat the milk slightly and froth it with a milk frother.

Pour the frothed milk into a prepared glass (you can leave a spoonful of foam to cover the stain after adding coffee) and wait about a minute for the milk to separate.

Gently pour the hot espresso into the milk in the center of the glass and add the rest of the foam.

Watch this video to learn more about making latte macchiatos at home.

Espresso, macchiato, or latte macchiato, which should I order?

Trying to figure out which is right for you in the espresso vs. macchiato vs. latte macchiato debate? Well, that depends on what kind of flavor you want.

Order an espresso macchiato if you want something with a robust, rich espresso flavor and if a cappuccino is too milky for you. 

This drink is perfect for people who just can’t get enough of that distinct espresso flavor but don’t want the full strength of an espresso shot. 

On the other hand, if you’re more into milky beverages or you’re ordering for a kid who might not like a strong espresso drink, try a latte macchiato. It will have just a hint of the espresso flavor, which the steamed milk quickly smooths over.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is macchiato stronger than espresso?

No, macchiato has a dollop of steamed milk added, which cuts down espresso’s bitterness and robust flavor, and milk gives it a creamy texture.

Is macchiato coffee or espresso?

Macchiato is a type of coffee drink made with 1-2 shots of espresso and a small amount of steamed milk and milk foam.

How many shots of espresso are in a macchiato?

A macchiato typically has 1-2 shots of espresso unless you ask the barista to make your macchiato stronger by adding more than two shots.

Does a macchiato have more espresso than a latte?

A macchiato and latte typically have the same amount of espresso (1-2 shots), but a latte has higher milk to espresso ratio. A macchiato has very little added steamed milk, while a latte is made with a larger quantity of milk. 

Written by:
Amit Gupta
Amit Gupta

Hi, my name is Amit Gupta, and I am the owner and contributor at Cafeish. My obsession with coffee started when I received my first French press as a gift almost ten years ago. Since then, my love of coffee – and the number of coffee gadgets I own – has grown considerably.

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