Macchiato vs Latte: What are the Differences?

Macchiato vs Latte

Whether you’re sitting at the counter of your favorite local coffee shop or looking for new ways to improve your morning caffeine routine, knowing what differentiates coffee beverages can be helpful. After all, with long menus listing things like cappuccino lattes, caffe macchiatos, flat white mochas, caramel lattes, and more, things can get confusing quickly.

So, macchiato vs latte, what’s the difference? In this in-depth guide, we’ll break it all down. That way, the next time you brew up an Italian coffee beverage or order at your local Starbucks, you’ll be a pro! If you already know the the differences between these two, go ahead and pick yourself up the best latte maker so that you can wow your guests with your barista skills!

Defining A Latte

latte

A latte, otherwise known as a caffe latte, is an Italian espresso drink that’s creamy, indulgent, and rich. Caffe latte actually means “milk coffee” in Italian. Lattes are made using steamed milk and fresh shots of espresso. Then, lattes are topped with either frothed cream, milk foam, or whipped cream.

Every country seems to have a slightly different take on the classic latte. In France, the latte will almost always contain at least one double shot of espresso and is called a “Café au lait”. In Germany, the latte is called “Milchkaffee”, which also means milk coffee.

Traditional Italian lattes are pretty straightforward in flavor. In most authentic Italian latte recipes, you’ll detect the rich notes of espresso with creamy milk and other subtle undertones. However, in the United States, lattes are often flavored with a range of ingredients.

The latte is 1/3 espresso and 2/3 creamy steamed milk

For instance, when you visit a coffee kiosk, you’ll often see an extensive list of latte flavors and styles on the menu. Generally, these are all lattes that have been enhanced with sweet flavored syrups, chocolate, caramel, or made using different types of milk. When ordering lattes at coffee shops, you’ll be able to decide between varying

Moreover, many coffee chains will also make breve-styled beverages in the same way that they make lattes. In American coffee shops, Breves are generally made with heavy whipping cream or half & half.

Are Lattes a Healthy Option?

The answer to this question will depend on what’s in your latte. An unsweetened authentic Italian caffe latte will get most of its caloric content from the steamed milk. So, most lattes aren’t any worse for you than a couple of cups of hot milk.

With that being said, lattes flavored with sugary syrup contain significantly more calories. For a sweet and indulgent latte that’s still fairly healthy, consider using sugar-free syrups and low-fat milk. You can also make lattes with skim milk, coconut milk, and almond milk.

What About A Flat White?

A latte is an espresso drink served with an extra layer of foamed milk on top. Usually, this milk foam is around 5mm thick. In contrast, a flat white is a latte with a thinner layer of milk foam on top, usually less than 2mm thick. That’s what makes it ‘flat.’

How Much Caffeine Does a Latte Contain?

Depending on the espresso or coffee beans used, each shot of espresso in a latte contains around 75 milligrams of caffeine. Since a double shot of espresso contains twice as much caffeine as a single espresso shot, ordering a double shot latte will give you an extra caffeine boost in the morning.

Where to Get the Best Latte?

Although opinions vary greatly on where to get the best latte, most quality coffee shops can craft a delightful latte. With that in mind, you can also make an impressive latte at home. Provided you have the equipment necessary for pulling quality shots of espresso and a milk steamer, homemade lattes are a great go-to.

In fact, when you master the art of making your own home-made lattes, cappuccinos, and other coffee drinks, you can save tons of money every year. When made properly, the difference between a latte made at home and one from a coffee shop is virtually indistinguishable!

Making the Latte at your Home

latte recipe

If you want to indulge in a delightfully creamy latte without having to visit a coffee shop, these coffee drinks aren’t terribly difficult to prepare at home. With that being said, to make an authentic coffee-shop-style latte at home, you’ll need an espresso machine and a milk steaming apparatus.

Stop wasting money at Starbucks and go buy yourself the best latte machine you can afford along with the best espresso beans!

1. Prepare Your Steamed Milk

First, you’ll need to steam the appropriate amount of milk in a heat-safe jug. Usually, these jugs are made of stainless steel or aluminum. You can steam milk with a steaming wand or an espresso machine steamer.

For a coffee-shop-style caffe latte, a 16oz beverage will require you to steam 12 ounces of milk for every two 1-ounce shots of espresso used.

When you pour your milk into the jug, be sure to leave some room at the top. The milk level shouldn’t exceed the bottom of the jug’s interior spout. Milk expands as it heats up, so keeping things level will prevent overflow. With an espresso maker’s steaming spout or with a high-quality steaming wand, your milk will heat up to 140° in around 40 seconds.

2. Pull Espresso Shots

Once your milk is steamed, you can let it settle as you craft your shots of espresso. This will help the frothed part of the milk rise to the top. Resting also allows your steamed milk to reach its optimal consistency.

Remember, as you pull each shot of espresso, the better quality your coffee beans are, the creamier and more flavorful your shots of espresso will be. Freshly ground Arabica coffee beans or dark espresso beans make wonderful additions to any cafe latte.

Once you’ve pulled your espresso shots, you can then add them to the cup you’ll use. If you plan to use syrups or flavors, add them in with the hot espresso in your cup. This allows any flavored coffee syrups, chocolate, or caramel to dissolve consistently before you add in your milk.

3. Mix Espresso and Steamed Milk Together

Now, you can gently start to pour the steamed milk into your cup. As you pour, your steamed milk will naturally separate from the milk foam. Don’t rush this process, the foamiest part of the steamed milk will be the last bit left in the jug.

When your cup is almost full, you can pour the frothy milk foam on top. For added sweetness, you can use whipped cream instead of the frothed milk foam. You may also want to add a topping to your latte. The standard go-to is a sprinkle of cinnamon or a light drizzle of Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup.

Defining A Macchiato

Macchiato

Now that you know all about lattes, let’s talk about the macchiato. Macchiato can be a confusing term in the world of coffee. The word ‘Macchiato’ is Italian. It loosely translates to ‘marked’ and describes an espresso beverage made with milk.

The espresso caffe macchiato, or cafe macchiato in Italy, is a cup of espresso ‘marked’ with milk. Therefore, most macchiatos contain more espresso than milk. However, this isn’t always the case!

The macchiato is 2/3 espresso and 1/3 steamed milk

Macchiatos differ greatly depending on where you get them. For instance, if you order a caramel macchiato from Starbucks, you’ll get a drink with steamed milk, espresso, and caramel syrup lining the cup and on top. Alternatively, if you order a macchiato pretty much anywhere in Australia, you’ll get two shots of espresso and just a dash of milk.

The point of the macchiato is to have mostly espresso that has been subdued by a splash of warm milk or heavy cream. With a macchiato, it’s important to use the highest quality espresso beans available. This is because with a macchiato the coffee portion of the beverage is the true star of the show.

What Makes an Espresso Macchiato Special?

Macchiatos are special espresso drinks because they usually implement high-quality shots of premium espresso. This makes them creamy, rich, and exceptionally smooth.

What is the Best Macchiato Recipe?

Macchiato recipe

Many people searching for macchiato recipes are looking for a way to replicate the caramel latte macchiato coffee drink from Starbucks. So, if you want a macchiato that’s identical to, if not better than, a caramel latte macchiato from Starbucks, you’re in luck!

All you have to do to make your own home-made caramel latte macchiato is follow the recipe for a latte listed above, but add thick caramel syrup. For the best latte macchiatos, use thick premium caramel syrup and whole milk. You’ll also probably want to use a disposable paper coffee cup. These items can be purchased at just about any grocery store.

While some people love that the macchiato is a bit stronger than a latte, they still prefer to have a little flavor added in which is why we recommend a caramel latte macchiato.

To make this caramel latte macchiato coffee drink, just drizzle caramel syrup all around the inside of your coffee cup. Add about half-inch of caramel syrup to the bottom of the cup as well. Then, follow the recipe for a latte we listed above. When you’re finished, top your caramel latte macchiato with whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel!

For an authentic Italian espresso macchiato, make three shots of espresso, and steam about half of a cup of milk. Without letting the milk settle, pour it into the espresso. An authentic Italian espresso macchiato will often contain more espresso than milk, or at the most, a 50/50 ratio of both.

Do You Need Espresso Beans for a Macchiato?

To make the best macchiato, the best espresso beans are important. However, you can also use the best coffee beans to achieve nearly identical results. 

Coffee aficionados will argue that premium espresso beans are needed for a good latte, macchiato, or any other type of similar beverage. However, most coffee beans will make a flavorful espresso shot. Also, the quality of your steamed or frothed milk will impact the overall quality of your drink.

Macchiato vs Cloud Macchiato

Yes, there’s a difference between these two coffee drinks. The cloud macchiato is a type of macchiato that implements cinnamon or caramel syrup at the bottom, espresso in the middle, and an extra sturdy layer of frothed milk on top.

This top layer is more like a meringue than foam and may incorporate egg whites or other similar cumulonimbus-like material to make it sturdier. Sometimes, hot espresso is added on top of the finished coffee drink for flair.

Macchiato vs Latte Main Differences

latte vs macchiato

So what’s the biggest difference between a macchiato vs latte coffee drink? A macchiato is mostly espresso with just a little bit of steamed or foamed milk. A latte on the other hand contains espresso, but is made up of mostly steamed milk giving it a creamy mouthfeel.

Like most espresso based beverages, the main differences come down the the ratios within. A latte contains more steamed milk than espresso (2 to 1), whereas a macchiato contains more espresso than steamed milk (2 to 1).

What about a Cappuccino?

When comparing a cappuccino vs latte, macchiato, or other coffee drinks, it all comes down to the ratio of ingredients used. A cappuccino is made using equal parts steamed milk, espresso, and foam. Alternatively, lattes add significantly more steamed milk to an espresso drink with foam on top.

Meanwhile, macchiatos are made with just a splash of steamed milk and shots of espresso with thick foam on top. To reiterate, when comparing a cappuccino vs latte, macchiato, or any other similar drink, ingredients are often similar but used in different volumes and ratios.

What about a Long Black?

A long black is a coffee drink from Italy made by pouring hot water into a cup before adding in espresso. When comparing a latte vs a long black, just imagine using hot water instead of steamed milk.

A similar coffee drink is the Americano. This type of coffee drink from Italy implements first pouring espresso in a cup and then adding hot water. The Americano is great for coffee drinkers who want to avoid consuming excess calories and still get a large coffee beverage.

The long black comes from America but was perfected in Italy. Historically, Italy produced two main types of coffee drinks, the espresso, and the cappuccino. To please American visitors, coffee makers in Italy created their own version of this drink and named it the Americano!

Bottom Line

macchiato and latte

When it comes down to it, if you’re wondering what the biggest differences between a latte vs macchiato vs cappuccino coffee beverages are, it all comes down to the ratio of milk to espresso. The same goes for cappuccino coffee drinks and everything in-between.

Some say that a latte is a perfect beverage for fast-paced mornings, while a premium cappuccino or macchiato is better for relaxed afternoons shared among friends. In our opinion, all of these drinks are amazing when brewed properly. It’ll all depend on how creamy and frothy you prefer your drinks to be.

Coffee drinkers looking to learn more should definitely take a look at the other in-depth guides listed below!

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