Savor the Flavor: Exploring the World of Macchiato Coffee

Macchiatos are a delicious and popular style of coffee drink that coffee lovers around the world enjoy. Macchiatos offer a tasty way to get your caffeine fix with their rich, intense coffee flavor topped with foamed or steamed milk. The many variations of macchiatos available means there’s a type of macchiato beverage for every coffee drinker to explore and enjoy.

Key Takeaways

  • What is Macchiato: Macchiato is espresso with a touch of steamed milk foam, creating a two-toned appearance. It’s a balanced mix of bold espresso and creamy milk.
  • History: Macchiato originated in Italy to distinguish espresso from plain shots. It’s ideal for afternoons or post-dinner, offering a smoother espresso experience.
  • Types: There are three types of macchiato: espresso macchiato (coffee with a dollop of foam), latte macchiato (layered with more milk), and caramel macchiato (sweetened).
  • How to Make: Brew espresso, froth a small amount of milk, and spoon the foam over the crema. Drink it immediately for the best taste. Tips and comparisons to other coffee drinks are provided.
4 macchiato drinks on a table.

What is Macchiato?

A macchiato is a coffee drink featuring espresso topped with a small amount of foamed milk. The word “macchiato” comes from an Italian word meaning “stained” or “marked“, referring to how the steamed milk marks or stains the espresso.

Macchiatos highlight the bold, intense flavor of espresso by using just a splash of foamed milk rather than more milk as you would find in a cappuccino or latte. This results in a stronger coffee taste that many espresso aficionados prefer.

While espresso and foamed milk are the two central ingredients, many delightful macchiato recipes add flavorings like caramel, vanilla, hazelnut or chocolate.

From Italian Roots to Your Cup: The Fascinating History of Macchiato

The macchiato originated in Italy, where the drink was created by Italian baristas as a small morning pick-me-up featuring a stained mark of foamed milk on top of a shot of rich espresso.

Dating back to the 19th century, the macchiato gained popularity across cafes in Italy before spreading to coffee shops around the world. The drink became increasingly beloved internationally in the late 20th century with the rise of specialty coffee shops and espresso bars.

Today macchiatos are served across Europe, North America and beyond at premium coffee shops like Starbucks as well as independent cafes. They have become a globally enjoyed coffee drink.

How to Make a Macchiato at Home

A cup of macchiato on a table with a sign saying 'How to make macchiato'

Making macchiatos at home is easy with the right equipment and a few key ingredients. Here’s a look at how to make some of the most popular macchiato recipes:

Equipment Needed

  • Espresso machine or stovetop espresso maker
  • Milk frothing pitcher
  • Milk frothing wand or handheld frother
  • Espresso cups or small coffee mugs


  • Espresso
  • Milk (whole milk or 2% milk works best for frothing)
  • Sweeteners like sugar or syrups (optional)
  • Flavorings like cocoa powder, spices, extracts (optional)


  1. Brew 1-2 shots of espresso according to your machine’s directions. The espresso should be freshly brewed and piping hot.
  2. Steam or froth 2-4 oz of milk until it reaches a thick, foamy texture. For richer foam, use whole or 2% milk.
  3. Pour the shots of espresso into your cup.
  4. Slowly pour the frothed milk over the espresso. The milk should float on top of the espresso crema and form a thin layer.
  5. For a caramel macchiato, drizzle a teaspoon of caramel sauce over the foam. For a hazelnut macchiato, sprinkle cocoa powder or hazelnut spread over the top. Add any other flavorings as desired.
  6. Enjoy your fresh homemade macchiato immediately!

Tips for Making the Perfect Macchiato

Here are some top tips for brewing and frothing milk to make the ideal macchiato:

  • Always use freshly ground coffee and brew espresso right before making the drink
  • Brew espresso at the proper temperature (195°F to 205°F)
  • Froth milk until silky smooth, without large bubbles
  • Pour milk delicately onto espresso crema so it floats on top
  • Drink immediately before the foam mixes in completely
  • Use an espresso blend or single-origin coffee with chocolate, nutty or caramel notes
  • Store any leftover steamed milk in the fridge for later use

Beyond the Basics: Types of Macchiato Drinks

top view image of a macchiato with latte art.

There are many delicious variations of macchiatos to enjoy. Here’s an overview of some of the most popular macchiato recipes:

Espresso Macchiato

The traditional, most basic macchiato featuring a stained mark of foamed milk on a single or double shot of espresso. Intensely coffee-forward.

Latte Macchiato

A layered drink starting with foamed milk marked with espresso. More milk than an espresso macchiato resulting in a bolder milk flavor.

Caramel Macchiato

Espresso topped with foamed milk and drizzled with sweet caramel sauce. Often made with vanilla-flavored syrup too.

Hazelnut Macchiato

Espresso marked with foamed milk and hazelnut flavor from hazelnut syrup or cocoa powder dusted on top.

Vanilla Macchiato

It features espresso, steamed milk, and vanilla, usually made with vanilla syrup. May also contain cocoa powder or vanilla bean flecks.

Mocha Macchiato

Chocolate lovers will enjoy the blend of espresso, foamed milk, and chocolate sauce or cocoa powder.

How to Order a Macchiato at a Coffee Shop

Macchiatos are offered at just about every coffee shop. Here are some tips for ordering a great macchiato at your local cafe:

  • Specify espresso macchiato or latte macchiato – this helps baristas know which drink you want.
  • Request your preferred milk: Whole, 2%, skim, or non-dairy milk like almond or oat milk.
  • Ask for extra shots of espresso if you like an extra bold, intense coffee kick.
  • Customize with syrups (vanilla, caramel, hazelnut), chocolate sauce, or spice flavors.
  • Ask for light or heavy foam to match your texture preference. Light foam blends more with the espresso.
  • To get that perfect stained “macchiato” look, ask for the espresso shots to be poured first before the foamed milk.
  • Ensure to enunciate the “ch” sound in “macchiato” so baristas don’t mistake your order!

Espresso Drinks Compared

Sign with lights in it saying "Coffee".

How does macchiato compare to other popular espresso-based coffee drinks like lattes and cappuccinos? Here’s a quick rundown:

Macchiato vs Latte

  • Macchiato: 1 shot espresso, dollop of foamed milk
  • Latte: 1-2 shots espresso, much more steamed milk

The main difference is latte contains a lot more steamed milk, usually 1 cup or more. Macchiato only uses a spoonful of milk foam.

Macchiato vs Cappuccino

  • Macchiato: 1 shot espresso, dollop of foamed milk
  • Cappuccino: 1-2 shots espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, 1/3 milk foam

While both contain foamed milk, a cappuccino has equal parts steamed milk and milk foam, while a macchiato features just a small portion of milk foam.

Final Thoughts: Embrace the Macchiato Experience

With its simple ingredients of rich espresso and lightly foamed milk, the macchiato is a delightful way to enjoy a strong coffee flavor. The many variations like caramel, hazelnut, and mocha macchiatos add sweet flavors and creativity. Both simple and customizable, the macchiato has become a coffee shop favorite around the world. So try your hand at making macchiatos at home or visit your nearest cafe and order one of these perfectly “stained” coffee drinks.

Macchiati FAQs

What is the difference between a macchiato and a latte?

The main difference is that a latte contains much more steamed milk, usually around 1 cup. A macchiato only uses a splash of foamed milk, about 1-2 tablespoons.

Is macchiato stronger than espresso?

No, a macchiato has a similar strength and caffeine content to espresso since it contains 1-2 shots of espresso. The small amount of milk does not dilute the espresso much.

Can you make macchiato without an espresso machine?

Yes, you can make macchiato without an espresso machine by using a Moka pot or Aeropress to brew concentrated coffee, and then frothing milk with a French press or milk frother.

What milk should you use for macchiato?

Whole milk or 2% milk works best since the small amount of foam will not overwhelm the coffee. Non-dairy milks like oat or soy can also be frothed for macchiatos.

Do you have to drink macchiato immediately?

It’s best to drink a macchiato immediately while the milk foam is still resting on top of the espresso crema. If left too long, the foam will start to integrate into the coffee.

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