What is a Macchiato?


This website contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

The macchiato coffee is a menu staple for most coffee shops. In the eyes of a non-coffee person, macchiato looks and tastes just like any other coffee beverages but with a dash of whatever syrup or sweetener that the barista used.

You really can’t blame them because, unlike other coffee types, the macchiato isn’t something that has a screaming attribute unique to it. But what’s the deal with macchiatos and why did it become one of the most famous coffee types? Read on to find out.

Focus what is a macchiato

What is Macchiato?

The simplest way to break this drink down is to have an espresso shot with a splash of milk.

An Italian coffee staple, the word “macchiato” means “marked”. This refers to the marking or staining of the coffee with milk. On a coffee scale, the macchiato is smack right in the middle of espresso and cappuccino.

The taste of a traditional macchiato coffee has a bold and rich undertone mellowed out by the creaminess of the milk. Since macchiatos are usually topped with steamed milk and foam, the body has a smooth and silky texture.

Espresso Macchiato vs. Latte Macchiato

Focus what is a macchiato

In coffee shops, options for macchiato are usually just distinguished by the additional syrup added into it (like caramel macchiato). But macchiato actually has two different types: espresso macchiato and latte macchiato.

The main difference between the two is the espresso-to-milk ratio. The traditional macchiato has a single shot of espresso stained with a teaspoon or two of milk.

Espresso macchiato leans more towards that, and has a higher ratio of espresso to milk where the espresso flavor is really pronounced.

On the other hand, the latte macchiato is the most common category sold in coffee shops. This drink is comparatively sweeter and more milk-forward compared to the espresso macchiato. This layered drink contains a shot of espresso, steamed milk, and finished with a milk foam layer.

Latte macchiatos are also commonly served with a type of syrup flavoring.

The Origin of Macchiato

Macchiato was believed to be created in Italy back in the eighties. This was originally made not as a beverage but rather as a way for the baristas to determine different types of espresso for different coffee drinks.

Italian baristas would use a dash of milk to stain the top of espresso mixed with milk to differentiate it from the plain one. Eventually, when baristas would serve the espresso with milk, there’s a significant stain on top of the coffee and that’s how macchiato was invented.

Unlike cappuccino, which is usually categorized as a morning drink, the macchiato is traditionally drunk in the afternoon. This came to be when Italians wanted to have a bit of espresso as an afternoon drink, but don’t want to fully consume pure espresso.

Now, the macchiato evolved into something personalized and customizable. This drink evolved from its traditional recipe and become something that is crafted by different coffee shops depending on their customers’ tastes.

Who Is The Ideal Audience for Macchiato?

Focus what is a macchiato

No single type of coffee was made to be equally liked by everyone.

For die-hard coffee lovers, macchiato might be something that is not appealing to them because of the huge amount of milk diluting the coffee itself. This could be a jab at coffee shops for serving macchiato as milk stained with coffee rather than the other way around.

But that doesn’t demerit the deliciousness of this cup. Taking a look at its origins, the modern macchiato has come a long way from the traditional version of the drink. This might be viewed in a positive or negative light for some.

Focusing on the positive, the modern macchiato, especially latte macchiato is really geared towards people that simply enjoy a cup of coffee at any time of the day without having to deal with huge caffeine hit. For comparison, a 60ml macchiato only has 85mg of caffeine while cappuccinos and lattes contain about 173mg.

Since macchiato is also a pretty versatile drink to be added different flavors to, it helps people who are not coffee lovers to transition to drinking coffee. After all, the best thing about coffee is that you could basically do anything to it to suit your taste!

How to Make Macchiato (the Recipe)

There are two ways to make this coffee drink: the traditional espresso macchiato and the latte macchiato. Here’s how to do both:

Espresso Macchiato

Focus what is a macchiato

Ingredients

  • 2 oz espresso
  • 1 oz steamed milk
  • Milk frother

Instructions

  1. To make a shot of espresso, simply use 20-22 grams of coffee and let your coffee machine do the rest. If you don’t have a coffee machine, you can use a Moka pot or a French press.
  2. Then, steam your milk on a pitcher until the pitcher feels warm to the touch. A traditional espresso macchiato doesn’t have milk foam on top, but it’s up to you if you wish to add some.
  3. Once your espresso shot is ready, just add about half an ounce of milk to stain the coffee then serve.

Latte Macchiato

Focus what is a macchiato

Ingredients

  • 2 oz espresso
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1-2 tablespoons of desired syrup (optional)
  • Cinnamon (optional)
  • Cocoa (optional)
  • Milk frother

Instructions

  1. Prepare your espresso shot by grinding 20-22 grams of coffee and running it through your coffee machine. You can also use coffee pods.
  2. Warm-up your milk and froth it using a milk frother. Make sure to create a significant amount of milk foam for your drink.
  3. Grab a tall glass and add a tablespoon or two of your desired syrup. Popular options are caramel, vanilla, and chocolate. Skip this step if you want your latte macchiato to be as is.
  4. Once your milk is frothed, grab a spoon and shave off some foam on top of the pitcher. You’ll use this later to finish off your drink,
  5. Gently pour the rest of the milk and foam onto the tall glass. Wait for a couple of seconds for the milk and foam to separate again, creating a distinct layer between the two.
  6. Grab your espresso shot and slowly pour it down the side of the glass. You can also use the back of the spoon as a buffer.
  7. Add the rest of the foam and sprinkle some cinnamon powder, cocoa, or shaved chocolate, then serve.

Tips on How to Make the Perfect Macchiato

1. When frothing your milk, a good sign that you’re doing it correctly is when the milk “expands”. Your goal is to incorporate air as much as possible into the milk in order to achieve your desired texture.

The ideal frothed milk looks double the amount of the milk that you put in the pitcher.

2. You would usually see some baristas tapping the milk pitcher to incorporate the foam back to the milk. You can also do that, but if you want a significant foam on top of your latte espresso, don’t tap or swirl the milk.

You should also let the milk rest to create that clean line between the milk and the foam.

3. When making your espresso, make sure to thoroughly clean the portafilter and other inside components of your coffee machine even if you just freshly made a batch prior to it.

The reason behind this is leftover coffee grounds will make your espresso taste bitter and over-extracted.

4. Tamp your espresso grounds as evenly as possible. You don’t want any air pockets or put too much pressure on it.

Make sure to level the coffee grounds into a proper horizontal puck to avoid any sloping.

Macchiato vs Latte vs Cappuccino vs Espresso

Focus what is a macchiato

So what’s the difference between a macchiato and those three coffee types?

Let’s start with the easiest: macchiato vs espresso. Espresso is the purest, most concentrated form of coffee while macchiato contains espresso stained with milk.

On the other hand, latte and latte macchiato differs in the process of making it. A latte is made reversely compared to a latte macchiato, whereas the espresso shot is added first followed by the milk and froth. The ratio for a latte is two shots of espresso and two-thirds of milk with a bit of foam at the top.

Macchiato is made by pouring milk first, then slowly adding the espresso and finishing it with milk foam. The ratio for macchiato is almost the same with latte except for the significant layer of milk foam.

Lastly, the cappuccino is basically the mother of all milky coffee drinks. This is traditionally served in the morning and the invention of other milky drinks came to be when people wanted a cappuccino-like beverage in the afternoon.

The ratio for cappuccino is well-balanced. A cup of cappuccino contains a third of espresso, a third of frothed milk, and a third of milk foam.

The Best Coffee Beans for Macchiato

1.      Volcanica Coffee – Espresso Dark Roast Coffee

Focus what is a macchiato

If you don’t like the taste of a light roast coffee in your macchiato, then you may try a darker coffee roast. I recommend the Espresso Dark Roast Coffee from Volcanica Coffee Company. Aside from ensuring the freshness and quality of their products, they offer a wide variety of coffee that works perfectly for espresso.

This coffee is bold and full of flavor, which complements the creaminess of the milk in a macchiato. While it may taste bold and strong, this coffee has still great flavors. The beans are not roasted very dark, which leaves a rich and perfectly balanced flavor and aroma. You can taste the notes of a sweet caramel, with light acidity, and spice.

2.      Cooper’s Cask Coffee – Ethiopian Bold Roast – Light Roast

Focus what is a macchiato

Cooper’s Cask Coffee is a small batch coffee roaster that specializes in barrel aged coffee and single origins. You might want to try one of their single origins and feel the characteristic taste of Ethiopia. This Ethiopian Bold Roast is lightly roasted with a vibrant taste profile that works ok for espresso. While Ethiopian flavor may not for everyone, I recommend this coffee for macchiato or any espresso-based drinks.  

The beans are roasted to a light roast level to maximize the flavor and aroma. Having that said, this coffee offers an intensely bright and clean taste. You can taste the notes of lemon tart, raw honey, and floral nectar.

3.      Equator Coffees – Decaf Espresso

Focus what is a macchiato

If you want to reduce the amount of caffeine in your coffee, then going with decaffeinated beans is the right thing to do. I recommend this Decaf Espresso blend from Equator Coffees. You can use this coffee in macchiato because it was sourced and roasted to create a rich and balanced espresso that has the versatility to be paired with milk.

Even though this coffee is decaffeinated, it retained its original flavor intensity through the decaffeination process and adds brightness and complexity to the espresso. You can taste the flavors of dark chocolate, dried cherry, and roasted nuts with a moderate acidity.

4.      Black Ink Coffee – Espresso Blend

Focus what is a macchiato

If you’ve gone through a lot of espresso and didn’t find the right beans, then this blend might be the one you’re looking for. Blank Ink Coffee Company provides you the Espresso Blend that is their take on a traditional Italian style espresso beverage.

While this blend is dark, smoky, and quite strong, it will still perform well if you desire a rich and creamy espresso beverage. It can be paired with milk and cream, while still delivering a delicious and strong coffee flavor. Aside from that, the beans are roasted and aged to help provide maximum crema in your shot of espresso.

5.      Lifeboost Coffee – Espresso

Focus what is a macchiato

Organic and fair trade are some of the factors that make a coffee taste delicious. And if you want to get the cleanest coffee available directly from the highest quality farms, then start with this Espresso Roast from Lifeboost Coffee. This coffee comes from premium beans that have been individually hand selected and roasted.

Even though this coffee is the darkest roast you can have, it still provides a well-rounded and balanced cup every time. Not to mention its intense, unique and delicious aroma with medium to low acidity. This seems also the perfect beans for creating lattes and macchiatos as they can be paired with milk and sugar. 

Overall, you can taste a rich and bold flavor with undertones of chocolate and caramel with a slight sweetness and fruitiness.

6.      Illy Espresso Classico – Fine Grind Medium Roast

Focus what is a macchiato

The classic, fine grind, and medium roasted coffee beans are what makes a great espresso. If you want a perfectly roasted coffee for full flavor for your macchiato or any coffee drinks, then you might want to try this single blend, Illy Espresso.

This coffee is a single blend of the best 100% Arabica beans carefully selected from all around the world. What makes it unique is that the beans are skillfully roasted and air-cooled. And to ensure freshness, the espresso beans are then packaged in an oxygen-free pressurized environment.

7.      Lavazza Super Crema Whole Bean Coffee Blend – Medium Espresso Roast

Of course, don’t forget about Lavazza Super Crema when it comes to espresso. This mild and creamy medium espresso roast is blended and roasted in Italy. It’s perfect for those who want to experience an authentic Italian coffee scene.

But what makes Lavazza Super Crema special is it came from careful selection of beans and innovative roasting techniques. This coffee blend is a mix of Arabica and Robusta varieties from different origins. And by having the right combination, it creates a well-balanced taste that many people love. You can taste the notes of brown sugar and hazelnut in it.

Final Thoughts

With all of the information, you’d probably already know why the macchiato is such a hit and a staple to coffee shops. The versatility of this drink makes it an excellent cup at any time of the day regardless of whether you’re into coffee or not.

Plus, a macchiato makes such a huge room for flavor personalization so there’s always a drink that will perfectly suit your taste!