Macchiato vs Latte: What’s the Difference?
Macchiato vs latte – what exactly is the difference between these two espresso-based coffee drinks? In short, the macchiato contains less milk. The macchiato is served in a small demitasse cup and showcases a bold espresso flavor. The latte is served in a bigger glass or mug, with a creamy, milky flavor. While both drinks contain espresso and milk, the differing ratios and preparation methods result in two very different coffee experiences.
Macchiato vs Latte: Key Takeaways
- Macchiatos contain less milk and are served in smaller portions compared to lattes. They showcase the bold espresso flavor.
- Macchiatos have a small amount of foam, while lattes traditionally have a layer of microfoam on top.
- Macchiatos are typically served in demitasse cups, while lattes come in glasses or mugs.
What is a macchiato?
A macchiato is an espresso-based drink with a small amount of steamed milk and foamed milk. The word “macchiato” means “marked” in Italian, which refers to the small amount of milk that is used to mark the top of the espresso. Macchiatos are typically served in a demitasse cup, which is a small, espresso-sized cup.
The macchiato showcases the flavor of the espresso, with just a hint of milk to mellow out the bitterness. The milk is gently steamed, rather than frothed, so there is minimal foam on a traditional macchiato. Just a splash of warm, silky steamed milk is added to the espresso. This results in a macchiato that highlights the rich, intense espresso flavor first and foremost.
A properly made macchiato has a dark brown, deep red-brown crema on top, which comes from the fresh espresso extraction. Underneath, you’ll find the lush, caramel-like espresso shots. On top floats, just a spoonful of lightly steamed milk to provide an alluring contrast to the intensity of the espresso. It’s the pure, bold espresso flavor that makes the macchiato such a beloved drink for coffee enthusiasts.
What is a latte?
A latte is an espresso-based drink with steamed milk and foamed milk. Lattes are typically made with more milk than macchiatos, and they have a higher milk-to-espresso ratio. Lattes are typically served in a glass or mug, and they can be made in a variety of sizes.
Unlike the macchiato, the latte features espresso complemented by warm, creamy steamed milk and a light layer of foam on top. The emphasis is on the milk as much as the espresso. The microfoam adds a pleasant textural dimension to the drink.
With a latte, the espresso is the foundation, providing a base note of bittersweet intensity. The greater proportion of steamed, creamy milk adds sweetness and cushion to the drink. You can expect much more milk in a latte, usually an even 1:2 ratio with the espresso. This results in a refreshing, milky coffee drink that is sweeter and more approachable than a bold, intense macchiato.
Key differences between macchiatos and lattes
There are a few key differences between macchiatos and lattes:
- Milk-to-espresso ratio: Macchiatos have a lower milk-to-espresso ratio than lattes. This means that macchiatos are more espresso-forward, while lattes are more creamy and milky.
- Foam: Macchiatos typically have a small amount of foamed milk on top, while lattes may have more or less foamed milk, depending on the barista.
- Serving size: Macchiatos are typically served in a demitasse cup, while lattes can be served in a variety of sizes, from a small glass to a large mug.
To summarize the differences:
|Espresso||More espresso||Less espresso|
|Milk||Less milk||More milk|
|Milk Texture||Lightly steamed||Steamed and foamed|
|Foam||Minimal foam||Light foam layer|
|Size||2-4 oz||8-20 oz|
|Taste||Espresso-forward||Milky and creamy|
Similarities between macchiatos and lattes
While there are some distinct differences between macchiatos and lattes, there are also some similarities between the two drinks:
- Both macchiatos and lattes are espresso-based drinks.
- Both drinks can be made with a variety of types of milk, including cow’s milk, almond milk, and oat milk.
- Both drinks can be flavored with syrups and spices, such as vanilla syrup, chocolate syrup, and cinnamon.
- Both drinks contain espresso topped with steamed, foamy milk, just in different proportions.
- Both drinks can be customized to preference with modifiers like extra espresso shots or alternative milks.
So in essence, both macchiatos and lattes contain the same two ingredients – espresso and milk. It’s the ratio and preparation of the ingredients that set the two drinks apart when it comes to taste and texture.
Which drink is right for you?
With the key differences in mind, which drink will suit your tastes better?
- If you prefer a strong espresso flavor, then a macchiato is a good choice. The macchiato highlights the full espresso flavor with just a hint of milk.
- If you prefer a milder espresso flavor and a creamier drink, then a latte is a good choice. The abundance of steamed milk softens the espresso’s bitterness.
- If you are looking for a smaller drink, then a macchiato is a good choice. Macchiatos are usually around 3-4 oz, while lattes are available in sizes from 8 oz and up.
- If you are looking for a larger drink, then a latte is a good choice. Lattes can be customized up to 20 oz or larger if you need a serious caffeine kick.
- If you want a to-go drink with minimal mess, a macchiato may be your best bet. Less milk means less chance of splashing around a to-go cup.
So consider your ideal coffee flavor, creaminess level, caffeine dosage, and portability when choosing between a macchiato versus latte. Both are excellent options, so it just comes down to personal preference!
Popular macchiato variations
The traditional macchiato can be customized and flavored to create delicious variations:
- Caramel macchiato: A caramel macchiato is a macchiato with a layer of caramel syrup on the bottom. The sweet, gooey caramel provides a wonderful contrast to the intense espresso.
- Vanilla macchiato: A vanilla macchiato is a macchiato with a shot of vanilla syrup. This adds a lovely sweet, aromatic quality to balance the espresso bitterness.
- Mocha macchiato: A mocha macchiato is a macchiato with a shot of chocolate syrup. The chocolate pairs perfectly with the nutty notes of the espresso.
- Hazelnut macchiato: A hazelnut macchiato is a macchiato with a shot of hazelnut syrup. The rich, nutty hazelnut flavor complements the espresso beautifully.
- Cinnamon macchiato: A dash of cinnamon brings warmth and spice to a macchiato.
Let your creativity run wild and craft your own signature macchiato! The small size makes it perfect for highlighting mix-ins.
Popular latte variations
Much like the macchiato, the traditional latte can be enhanced with delicious flavors:
- Mocha latte: A mocha latte is a latte with a shot of chocolate syrup. Chocolate is an enduring classic flavor pairing with coffee’s roastiness.
- Caramel latte: A caramel latte is a latte with a layer of caramel syrup on the bottom. The sweet taste contrasts with the bitter espresso.
- Vanilla latte: A vanilla latte is a latte with a shot of vanilla syrup. Vanilla adds aromatic sweetness and complexity.
- Chai latte: A chai latte is a latte that is made with chai tea instead of espresso. The spicy tea makes for a cozy, aromatic latte.
- Dirty chai latte: A twist on the chai is a dirty chai, made with both chai tea and espresso.
- Iced latte: Any latte can be transformed into an iced latte, served chilled over ice. Perfect for hot summer days.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to inventive latte recipes to suit your tastes. Try out flavors until you find your favorites!
How to make a macchiato at home
With a little bit of equipment, you can easily make cafe-quality macchiatos at home:
What you’ll need:
- Espresso machine
- Milk frother
- Demitasse cup
- Espresso beans
- Grind the espresso beans fresh to ensure optimal flavor. Use about 15 grams of fine-ground beans per shot.
- Brew the espresso. Pull the shots directly into your warmed demitasse cup. For a macchiato, use a double shot which will yield about 2-3 oz espresso.
- Steam the milk to about 150°F to 160°F. Steaming rather than frothing incorporates minimal air for light, silky steamed milk.
- Pour just 1-2 oz of the steamed milk over the espresso. Tilt the cup to allow the milk to gently settle.
- Using a spoon, dollop just a scant teaspoon of milk foam over the top. This adds a nice finishing touch.
- Enjoy your fresh, homemade macchiato! Sip slowly to appreciate the bold, nuanced flavors.
The key is pulling a double shot of rich, high-quality espresso to shine through the silky steamed milk. Freshly grinding the beans and using an espresso machine will ensure the best results.
How to make a latte at home
With some simple equipment, you can craft delicious lattes at home:
What you’ll need:
- Espresso machine
- Milk frother
- Glass or mug
- Espresso beans
- Grind fresh espresso beans, about 15-18 grams per shot.
- Brew the espresso. Pull double shots directly into your glass or mug. For a 8 oz latte, use a double shot which yields around 2-3 oz.
- Steam and froth the milk until light and foamy with a temperature of 150°F to 160°F.
- Pour 6-8 oz of the foamy steamed milk over the espresso shots. Aim for a roughly 1:1 ratio for balanced flavor.
- Using a spoon, top with an additional dollop of silky foam.
- Enjoy your freshly brewed homemade latte!
Getting the ratio of espresso to foamy steamed milk is key for making cafe-worthy lattes at home. Fresh beans, properly textured milk, and an espresso machine are essentials.
Macchiato vs Latte Final Thoughts
Macchiatos and lattes are both beloved espresso-based drinks. While the two drinks share some similarities, there are a few key differences:
The preparation method also differs slightly, with macchiatos using gently steamed milk and lattes incorporating lightly foamed, frothy milk. But both drinks can be customized with flavors, milk alternatives, and espresso doses to suit anyone’s tastes.
So whether you prefer a powerful espresso punch or a sweeter, creamy coffee drink, both the macchiato and latte are delicious choices!
Macchiato vs Latte FAQs
A: The main difference is a macchiato contains much less milk than a latte. A macchiato is espresso “marked” with just a dollop of foamed milk. A latte is espresso mixed with steamed milk and topped with foam.
A: Macchiatos and lattes contain similar caffeine when made with the same number of shots. However, the small size of a macchiato means the caffeine may hit faster. A latte is consumed slowly so the caffeine release is more gradual.
A: The macchiato originated from Italian espresso culture in the 1800s. The latte also came from Italy but became popular in the 1980s. Lattes use more milk to mellow the espresso flavor.
A: Popular macchiato variations include caramel, hazelnut, and mocha. Popular latte variations include pumpkin spice, chai tea, and matcha. Iced lattes are also very common.
A: In terms of caffeine content, a macchiato and latte are similar when made with the same amount of espresso. But a macchiato is considered stronger because the espresso flavor is highlighted rather than diluted by milk.