What is a Macchiato?

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If you stare blankly at a coffee menu and try to distinguish between the espresso based drinks, you could be there a while. There are also so many varieties, it’s hard to choose. One particular drink that seems to baffle most is the macchiato and it’s one of the simplest to make. But the majority of the time, you won’t even see it on the menu. So, what is a macchiato?

A macchiato is an espresso drink with a small amount of milk. The milk is usually steamed. According to the Italians, it is stained coffee or marked coffee as they call it. This is because, in Italian, macchiato means “spotted or stained”.

The drink is really just a cross between an espresso and a cappuccino. The Italian’s reasoning for creating this drink was to give them something to consume in the afternoon since they drink cappuccino in the morning.

macchiato coffee art in a cup

How to Order a Macchiato

Most coffee bars will know what a macchiato is but if they don’t you may have to ask for a caffé macchiato or an espresso macchiato.

No one really knows how much milk to add and most of the time it is a personal preference.

You might end up with slightly different versions of the drink by accident simply because they don’t know for sure. There is no set amount of milk to add so coffee shops end up making it their way and you either like it or you don’t.

When you are ordering, if you want a slightly modified espresso, this is the drink for you.

There are basically two types of this drinks, I have described both of them below.

Macchiato or Espresso Macchiato

This is the most basic form of the drink. You can make it by taking a double shot of espresso and topping it with spooned milk foam or a full shot of espresso with a drop of milk foam.

It’s sometimes referred to as a caffé macchiato. It’s basically an espresso with a splash of milk.

Here’s the other way to make it:

First, you will need to pull a shot of espresso as if you were fixing a plain espresso. then you will take 1-2 teaspoons of steamed milk and pour it on top. This is what “stains” the drink.

The espresso macchiato is served in a short glass. If you want more, you will have to ask for a double.

Typically this is the drink you see when they have “latte art” on top.

two latte macchiatos in glass, and coffee beans on the table beside it

Latte Macchiato

The latte macchiato is steamed milk that is stained by your espresso shot. So you do it backward from the caffé macchiato. It has more milk, less espresso, and is layered, unlike the traditional latte.

To prepare, you will take your warm glass that has 4-6 ounces of steamed milk and very slowly pull the espresso over the steamed milk. The key to this drink is how slow the shot of espresso is pulled and the fact that you do it over your milk.

Because of how it is poured, you will get layers of milk, espresso, and foam.

The latte macchiato is served in a tall glass.

milk frother on espresso machine

When to Choose the Macchiato

People who are wanting the strong espresso flavor but aren’t a fan of the full espresso shot’s strength should try this drink. Also, if you think a cappuccino has too much milk, you will love the macchiato.

The future of espressos might be changing all together and you may not need to add milk. The roast quality of coffee beans is constantly improving so the flavor of espresso could get better and will leave you not needed to add milk.

However, badly extracted espresso can’t be hidden so it could challenge baristas to up their game.

I have included a simple printable recipe if you want to try a caffé macchiato.

You can try this at home if you have your own espresso machine. You can also take a stab at the Iced Caramel Macchiato. I have included that recipe below as well.

It’s very easy and very delicious! Please comment below if you prefer this drink or if you have tried to make an iced one before. I love hearing all the different things people have tried.

cup of macchiato

Caffé Macchiato

The caffé macchiato is prepared by pulling your espresso shot and adding a dash of milk. This drink is for those who want to modify their espresso slightly with steamed milk.
Prep Time 3 minutes
Total Time 3 minutes
Calories 15 kcal


  • 2 oz Espresso
  • 1 oz Steamed Milk


  • Pull one shot of espresso
  • Steam your milk
  • Add the steamed milk to your espresso
Keyword espresso drinks
iced caramel macchiato in plastic cup with a straw

Iced Caramel Macchiato

This delicious iced beverage can be enjoyed anytime.


  • 2 tsp Vanilla Coffee Syrup
  • 2 oz Espresso
  • 8 oz Cold Milk
  • 4-5 Ice Cubes
  • Caramel Sauce for Drizzling


  • Add vanilla syrup to glass
  • Pour your milk of choice
  • Add Ice
  • Pour Espresso over the mixture
  • Drizzle with caramel and Enjoy!
Keyword espresso drinks, iced coffee
what is a macchiato?

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