What Is The Difference Between Espresso And Macchiato?

Espresso is well-known to be the foundation of many coffee beverages including the classic americano, cappuccino, and also macchiato. Usually served as a double shot or a two-ounce drink, espresso possesses boldly refined flavors and complexity due to its tripartite composition and brewing method. This well-favored blend of taste and aroma, along with its strong caffeine content and minute serving, make espresso the perfect base for the popular java drinks we enjoy today.

An espresso shot contains only finely ground coffee beans extracted through a machine with high-temperature water and pressure and served within 30 seconds. The macchiato in Italian means stained, and it’s a double shot of espresso with an ounce of warm, frothed milk, creating a white stain visible on the surface of the beverage that can be either shaped or left as is.

Because the espresso to milk ratio in a macchiato is 2:1, macchiato presents one of the boldest coffee flavors among espresso-based blends. In emphasis, a macchiato is stronger than a cappuccino or latte.

Making Macchiato

It starts with making espresso first. A medium or medium-dark roast coffee is preferred to make espresso because these darker roasts contain the necessary complex flavors and the presence of oils to pull a triple-layered shot with a balance of nutty, bitter, and cocoa notes. Using light roast coffee will result in a thinner crema and a slightly more acidic cup.

Next, you want to grind your coffee to a fine size, but not too powdery as this may cause your joe to taste too bitter. Finer grind size allows the water to deeply penetrate and saturate the grounds, which now has greater surface area exposure, resulting in an even and flavorful extraction despite the short brewing time. The hot water and pressure dissolve the water-soluble polyphenols, introducing the variable taste notes of the coffee, but extra-fine grounds would allow more of the bitter-tasting compounds to seep through.

It’s been confirmed in this study that polyphenols in coffee not only introduce wonderful flavor but also come with great health benefits. Furthermore, the chances of metabolic syndrome (cluster of conditions occurring simultaneously such as high blood sugar and pressure) are significantly decreased the more often a person drinks coffee, such as 2 to 3 cups per day.

Learn more about caffeine restrictions from the FDA.

Going back, once you’ve brewed your double shot of espresso, you can now froth and warm your milk, but be sure not to overdo it otherwise too many bubbles may appear. You can tap your container of milk on a surface to rid the excess bubbles before your pour an ounce of it into your espresso. If you can draw art on the surface, that’s great, but if you can’t, don’t fret, it’s fine.

When pouring, you want to start near the edge of the cup instead of the dead center as to not disturb the composition of the espresso and to properly draw your shape. You also might want to let it sit for a bit so that the milk and coffee can blend uniformly, and for the crema to rise once again.

There you go, a properly “stained” macchiato! A macchiato should taste less bold than an espresso shot since you’ve mixed it with an ounce of milk, which has a milder taste and acidity. However, the coffee flavors shouldn’t drown out either as what makes a macchiato is the original taste of espresso coffee tainted with a dash of milk.

Since a macchiato is standardly served with a double shot of espresso, you can expect it to have around 120 g of caffeine, that’s more than what an eight-ounce cup of coffee can give you.

Macchiato Vs Cortado

Cortado is also an espresso-based coffee, but unlike the espresso-milk ratio of macchiato at 2:1, cortado has an equal ratio, which means a balance of flavors between milk and coffee. What makes cortado a bar favorite is its flavor equality between the punch of espresso and the sweetness of the milk. It’s a beverage that wakes you up and soothes your throat equally.

Cortado in Italian means to cut, and this again implies how the coffee’s acidity is cut with an equal amount of warm milk. The milk in a cortado isn’t frothed like in macchiato, but it’s simply warmed and poured into the espresso shot, a doppio I should say.

Macchiato Vs Latte

Latte is perhaps the most popular blend of coffee and milk, and people love it because of its sweetness and creamy texture. I’d rather say that latte is more milk than coffee because it’s the opposite of macchiato. Both drinks call for frothed, warm milk, but while macchiato has a 2:1 ratio of espresso to milk, the latte has 1:2, and sometimes even 1:3.

Latte also starts with a double shot of espresso filled with milk so that only a third of the beverage is coffee. This doesn’t completely drown the coffee flavors which settle to the bottom of the cup, but the sweet milk does take over and forms a creamy layer on top. Milk art is also as common in a cup of latte as with any other milk and espresso-based coffee.

Macchiato Vs Cappuccino

At first, you may seem confused as cortado and cappuccino are both espresso-based drinks with an equal amount of milk, but the main difference is also the milk. Again, the milk in a cortado is only warmed, but the milk in the cappuccino is frothed.

On the other hand, what makes macchiato and cappuccino different from one another is the amount of milk each contains. More so, baristas usually tend to froth cappuccino milk longer as they desire the rich, foamy cream on top of the cup to sprinkle with cocoa powder.

So a cappuccino has a stronger coffee taste than a latte because it has less milk, but it also has a creamier, thicker milk layer that you can actually scoop over with a teaspoon.

Macchiato Vs Flat White

A flat white is a great option if you like the balanced taste of cappuccino but with less foam. Now, this may seem a little too perplexing, but the texture of milk in flat white is between a cortado and cappuccino, but the amount is just about the same. So it’s got a bit more foam and thickness than cortado, but less creamy compared to cappuccino.

So you can easily craft a slightly different type of coffee if you make but an inch mistake in how long you froth your milk and the amount you input. Nonetheless, I do believe that’s what makes coffee crafting a lot more fun when you need to adequately measure your components and adjust your methods accordingly. Each combination would immediately result in a different type of coffee with varying texture, taste, body, and aroma.

More Macchiato

There are different versions of macchiato as well, and how these other variants are made is what we’re about to find out.

Latte Macchiato

You love the taste of macchiato but you also want an extra foamy texture in your drink, then a latte macchiato may just be the answer to your craving. Now, remember how macchiato means to stain, and a traditional macchiato as we’ve discussed is milk tainting the espresso in a 1:2 ratio, but with latte macchiato, the espresso is tainting the milk in a 1:5 ratio.

What makes a latte macchiato fundamentally different from its namesake counterparts is that it’s made by pouring the frothed milk first, letting it sit till a foamy layer forms on top, and finally staining the drink with a double shot of espresso that settles to the bottom, much like a standard latte.

Breve Macchiato

A breve can refer to any espresso-based or coffee-based drink that uses frothed half-and-half milk. Since the milk is half whole and half heavy cream, you don’t need to froth it that much as it’s already thicker and creamier than the standard.

So to make breve macchiato, it’s the same as making a regular macchiato with a 2:1 espresso to milk ratio, but frothing this milk and putting it into the macchiato creates a longer-lasting and thicker foam. It’s almost as if you’re drinking creamy cappuccino but with a macchiato taste.

Bottom Line

Macchiato packs a punch almost the same as an espresso shot but also tastes sweeter and milder thanks to a bit of warm, frothed milk added. There are so many ways you can experiment with coffee, espresso, milk, and other toppings, and so many coffee varieties to choose from born from the creativity of enthusiastic coffee aficionados.

At the end of the day, how you like to make and drink your coffee is totally up to you, you only have to enjoy it with every sip. Simply put, you can perhaps even make your version of macchiato or latte, as long as you are adventurous and passionate enough about creating great coffee.