Macchiato vs Cortado

Macchiato vs Cortado: The Ultimate Showdown Between Two Espresso Favorites

As a coffee enthusiast, one of life’s toughest choices is deciding between a macchiato vs cortado to kickstart your morning. These two espresso-based drinks have their similarities. But their differences in flavor, ingredients, and origins ignite an ongoing debate among java junkies worldwide.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down every aspect of the macchiato vs cortado showdown. Read on to finally settle this caffeinated conundrum once and for all!

Key Takeaways

  • Historical Origins: Macchiatos originated in 19th-century Italy, emphasizing bold espresso flavor, while cortados were born in Spain to mellow espresso intensity.
  • Distinguishing Features: Macchiatos feature a foamed milk dollop, offering a strong espresso taste, while cortados incorporate steamed milk for a smoother, richer profile.
  • Serving Style: Macchiatos use tiny cups, highlighting concentration, while cortados come in small glasses for more milk.
  • Audience Preference: Macchiatos suit espresso purists, delivering a potent caffeine kick, while cortados cater to newcomers and fans of creamier coffee.
top view image of a macchiato with latte art.

A Brief History Lesson: The Origins of Macchiato and Cortado

Before diving into the nitty-gritty comparisons, let’s rewind and explore how the macchiato and cortado came to be. Understanding the backstory gives insight into why coffee drinkers remain so passionate about these espresso drinks today.

The macchiato journey begins in Italy in the 19th century. Italians perfected the art of espresso early on. To showcase espresso’s bold flavor, baristas needed a way to enjoy it in purer form. Thus, the “espresso macchiato” was born – espresso “marked” or “stained” with just a drop of foam. This lets the espresso shine.

Meanwhile, in Spain, coffee culture boomed through the late 1800s. Like Italians, Spaniards also loved espresso. But they sought a way to soften its intensity for broader enjoyment. The “cortado” – “cut” espresso with a dash of warm milk – was the solution.

So while both drinks are espresso-based, the macchiato highlights espresso itself while the cortado balances its flavor. This key contrast shaped their identities forever.

Macchiato vs Cortado: How to Tell the Difference

Image of a cortado topped with cream.

One sip of a macchiato or cortado reveals some telling differences between the two drinks:


  • Macchiato: Espresso + foamed milk
  • Cortado: Espresso + steamed milk

The macchiato uses just a dollop of foamed milk floating on top while the cortado incorporates steamed milk throughout.

Flavor Profile

  • Macchiato: Strong, bold espresso forward
  • Cortado: Rich espresso mellowed out by milk

The extra milk in a cortado softens the espresso’s acidic bite. But a macchiato remains intense and bracing.

Serving Style

  • Macchiato: Tiny espresso cups
  • Cortado: Served in small coffee glasses

The macchiato’s small servings suit its concentrated flavor. The cortado’s wider glasses allow for more milk.


  • Macchiato: Few variations
  • Cortado: More customizable

Beyond size, macchiatos have limited customization. But cortados allow tweaks like extra shots, flavored syrups, non-dairy milk, and more.


  • Macchiato: Hails from Italy
  • Cortado: Born in Spain

Italy and Spain each put their unique stamp on espresso through these iconic drinks.

Image of a macchiato in a takeaway cup.

Who Will Love Each Drink? Finding Your Espresso Soulmate

With the key contrasts covered, who will fall in love with each drink?

The Macchiato Devotee

Macchiatos appeal most to:

  • Espresso purists
  • Fans of strong, bold coffee
  • Those who enjoy smaller coffee servings
  • Traditional Italian coffee fans

If you crave an intense caffeine jolt but want a touch of mellowing milk, the macchiato is your perfect match. Slurp it down in the quick espresso tradition.

The Cortado Connoisseur

Cortados better suit:

  • Those new to espresso and want an introduction
  • Fans of milky, creamy beverages
  • Anyone who finds espresso too bitter otherwise
  • Spanish coffee aficionados

If you like smooth, rich espresso drinks in larger portions, the cortado will be your new go-to. Sip and savor it once the milk works its magic.

A macchiato in a cup next to a cortado being pepared under an expresso machine.

Ordering Tips: Getting Your Favorite Espresso Drink Just Right

Ready to order your first macchiato or cortado? Here are some tips to get your drink just right:

  • Use the exact drink name (“macchiato” or “cortado”).
  • Specify hot or iced.
  • Ask about drink size if you have a preference.
  • Request extra shots or alternate milk if you want to customize.
  • Query your barista for a recommendation if you’re undecided.

With an open conversation, any barista worth their beans should be able to craft your perfect macchiato or cortado! Don’t hesitate to ask questions.

Macchiato vs Cortado: Which Reigns Supreme?

We’ve weighed all the factors, from origins to ingredients to flavor. Now the moment of truth: in the battle between macchiato vs cortado, which coffee drink claims the crown?

The verdict: both drinks have merit but for different reasons.

  • The macchiato remains unmatched when you crave a strong espresso kick.
  • But the cortado can’t be beat when you need your coffee smoothed out and mellowed.

So the winner is…you! Because with both incredible espresso drinks at your fingertips, every coffee lover can find their perfect match.

Your tastebuds and caffeine needs should dictate whether you pick up a macchiato or cortado next. There’s no universally “better” option. Rest assured, whichever you choose, you’ll be sipping an amazing handcrafted espresso drink.

Beyond Macchiato and Cortado: More Espresso Drinks to Explore

Think your espresso adventures end with macchiato vs cortado? Think again! Italian and Spanish coffee cultures blessed the world with many incredible espresso-based beverages. Here are just a few more worth trying:

  • Cappuccino: Espresso with steamed milk and frothy foam. Richer than a cortado thanks to more milk and that luscious foam.
  • Americano: Espresso with hot water. Similar to basic drip coffee but with espresso’s flavor notes.
  • Latte: Espresso topped with steamed milk and foam. A creamy, lightly sweet coffeehouse staple.
  • Mocha: Chocolate-flavored latte. Perfect for chocolate lovers who need their espresso fix too.
  • Doppio: Double shot of espresso. When you need a super-powered caffeine kick.

With your new expertise in macchiato and cortado under your belt, you now have the confidence to try out all these espresso drinks and more. Discover new favorites and become your own home barista.

The Final Sip: Enjoying the Macchiato vs Cortado Experience

There you have it – everything you need to distinguish between a macchiato and cortado like a true coffee pro. Understanding their origins, unique traits, and target drinkers allows you to decide your perfect espresso match.

But at the end of the day, any time spent sipping these incredible drinks is time well spent. So go forth, order your next macchiato or cortado, and immerse yourself in the full experience. The delicious taste, tempting aroma, and caffeine boost will all remind you that life is too short for bad coffee!


Q: What is the main difference between a macchiato and cortado?

A: The key difference is a macchiato uses just a dollop of foamed milk while a cortado contains more steamed milk throughout the drink. This gives the cortado a richer, smoother taste.

Q: Which has a stronger coffee taste, macchiato or cortado?

A: The macchiato has a bold, intense espresso flavor with just a touch of milk. The cortado’s extra milk tames some of the espresso bitterness.

Q: Which drink has more milk, macchiato or cortado?

A: The cortado contains more steamed milk than the macchiato. The macchiato uses just a small amount of foamed milk on top.

Q: What is the difference between a macchiato and a cappuccino?

A: The cortado contains more steamed milk than the macchiato. The macchiato uses just a small amount of foamed milk on top.

Q: Can I customize my macchiato or cortado drink order?

A: Yes, you can request modifications like an extra espresso shot, different milk types, flavor syrups, and more. Talk to your barista about options.

Share your love

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *