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What Is a Macchiato Coffee? - Facts, Variations & Recipe

What Is A Macchiato?

First thing’s first, what is a macchiato? Also called an Espresso Macchiato, a macchiato is an espresso coffee with a little bit of milk added in.

The macchiato coffee has no single, universally-known recipe. You can find tons of variations, from the use of foamed milk to different amounts of milk added. That’s also why you’ll see tons of different macchiato coffee drinks in your local or chain shops (like a caramel macchiato, for example)

Think of a macchiato coffee as the middle ground between a cappuccino and an espresso. While both a cappuccino and a macchiato contain a shot or two of espresso, they are still different!

A cappuccino tends to be milkier than a macchiato coffee. Compared to the small amount of milk in a macchiato (usually just a splash), a cappuccino is usually made with equal parts steamed and foamed milk.

Where Does Macchiato Coffee Come From?

Where Does Macchiato Coffee Come From?

As you can probably guess from the name, macchiato coffee hails from Italy! Macchiato literally translates to “stained” or “spotted” in Italian. This means that “caffè macchiato” literally means “stained coffee" or "marked coffee.”

The first macchiato coffee is said to have originated in the eighties when baristas would show waiters the difference between an espresso and an espresso with a little bit of milk in it. The addition of milk stained the glass, hence the name!

Macchiato Coffee Variations

As we mentioned earlier, there isn’t really one recipe to rule them all when talking about macchiato coffees. You’ll find a couple of common variations like these ones below!

  • Espresso Macchiato

When people think of macchiato coffee, they usually think of an espresso macchiato. This is the type of coffee we see with latte art. An espresso macchiato tends to be preferred by most folks because it is creamier and sweeter. That’s because it usually has a higher espresso shot to milk ratio. 

  • Latte Macchiato

Another frequent brew a lot of folks see is the latte macchiato. Visually, the difference is that the latte macchiato comes in a tall glass, while the espresso macchiato comes in a short glass. The tall glass is key because a latte macchiato is a layered cup of coffee where you can see the milk layers in contrast to the espresso. Also in contrast to the espresso macchiato, the latte macchiato is made by pouring the milk into the glass before the espresso. 

How To Make A Macchiato Coffee: Must-Haves and Must-Knows

How To Make A Macchiato Coffee: Must-Haves and Must-Knows

The key to a macchiato coffee is espresso. If you want to learn how to make a macchiato coffee, a great espresso is a fine place to start. You can find out more about the how-tos and equipment needed for an espresso in our Espresso Brew Guide!

Another thing you should have on hand is some good milk. Make sure you get milk that can withstand heat because you’ll be steaming and frothing your way to make macchiato coffees. If you can’t have dairy, you’ll find plenty of plant-based options out there. Just make sure you get the particular “barista” variant of those plant milks because they’re the ones made specifically for making coffee creations!

How To Make A Macchiato Coffee: Recipe

  • A basic starter brew would involve a shot of espresso and just a touch of milk. It’s not a 1:1 ratio, as there’s usually less milk compared to espresso. That’s about it really! 
  • If you want to take it a step further, pour a couple of espresso shots into a mug. Then get some milk (a half cup of milk is a good place to start) and heat it up and froth it. Use a spoon to gently grab the foam and dollop it on top of the mug of espresso. That half cup of milk should yield about a quarter cup of foam.
  • If you want to try making a latte macchiato, grab a tall glass. Get a shot of espresso or just half a shot (latte macchiatos often use less coffee). Heat up and forth about ¾ cup of milk and pour it into your tall glass first. Then slowly and gently add the espresso in. Pouring the espresso into the center of the glass will make it more visually appealing!

To Sum Up

There you go! Now you know the answer to the question: what is a macchiato?

A macchiato itself isn’t that difficult or time-consuming to make. The elements needed to make it, however, are a different tale. Keep practicing and soon you’ll be making espresso macchiatos with ease!

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