What is an Espresso Macchiato?

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A macchiato (mah-kee-AH-toh) is a type of espresso-based coffee drink that originated in Italy. It is made with an espresso shot, a small amount of steamed milk, and a dollop of milk foam on top. The word “Macchiato” is an Italian word that means “marked” or “stained,” referring to the small amount of milk used to mark or stain the espresso.

Key Takeaways:

  1. The caffรจ macchiato originated in Italy.
  2. It is made with a single shot of espresso and a small amount of steamed milk, with a dollop of foamed milk on top.
  3. The word “macchiato” means “marked” or “stained” in Italian
  4. It is often served in a small glass or demitasse (ceramic) cup.
  5. It’s different from a Starbucks macchiato (caramel macchiato).
Espresso Macchiato
Espresso macchiato | Photo by Jeremy Yap on Unsplash

Understanding the Macchiato

A macchiato is a type of coffee drink that is made by adding a small amount of steamed milk to a single shot of espresso. It is typically served in a small glass or ceramic cup and is known for its strong, bold flavor and creamy texture.

Macchiatos are popular at cafes and coffee shops around the world and are often ordered as a way to add a little bit of creaminess to an otherwise strong, bold espresso drink.

A Starbucks caramel macchiato, also known as a latte macchiato, is a different drink altogether. It is made with espresso, steamed milk, and caramel syrup, and is typically served in a larger cup. While both drinks are made with espresso and milk, they are prepared and served in different ways and have distinct flavor profiles.


The name “macchiato” comes from the practice of baristas marking or staining the espresso with a small amount of milk to distinguish it from a plain espresso. This practice was also reflected in the Portuguese name for the drink, “cafรฉ pingado,” which means “coffee with a drop.”

The exact origins of the macchiato are somewhat unclear, but it is thought to have originated in the early 20th century in Italy. It quickly gained popularity at cafes and coffee shops throughout the country and eventually spread to other parts of the world.

Today, the macchiato is a popular coffee drink at cafes and coffee shops around the globe, and it is often ordered as a way to add a little bit of creaminess to an otherwise strong, bold espresso drink.

Macchiato In A Glass Cup
Macchiato in a glass cup | Photo by Daria Rudyk on Unsplash

How to make a Macchiato

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to make a macchiato:

  1. Start by brewing a single shot of high-quality espresso with an espresso machine.
  2. While brewing the espresso, steam a small amount of milk until it is smooth and frothy using a milk frother or stovetop steamer.
  3. Pour the brewed espresso into a small glass or ceramic cup.
  4. Add the steamed milk to the cup, using a spoon to hold back the foam. You should aim for a 1:1 ratio of milk to espresso.
  5. Spoon the frothy foam on top of the milk and espresso.
  6. Serve the Macchiato immediately, while it is still hot.

Remember to use high-quality milk and espresso for the best flavor. The milk should be steamed until it is smooth and frothy, which helps to create a creamy texture and a rich, velvety foam.

Macchiatos compared to other Coffee Drinks

A Macchiato is similar to other popular coffee drinks, such as a latte, flat whites, and a cappuccino, but it has some key differences. Here are some ways in which a macchiato differs from these other coffee drinks:

โ˜• Macchiato vs. Latte

A macchiato is a small espresso-based drink made with a shot of espresso and a small amount of steamed milk, while a latte is made with espresso and a larger amount of steamed milk. The main difference between them is the ratio of espresso to milk and the resulting flavor.

โ˜• Macchiato vs. Cortado

A macchiato and a cortado are espresso drinks with different ratios of espresso to milk, resulting in bold and creamy flavors, respectively. The size of the drink also differs, with Macchiato typically served in a small glass or ceramic cup and Cortado usually served in a small, 4-6 oz ceramic or glass tumbler.

โ˜• Macchiato vs. Cappuccino

Macchiatos are espresso-based drinks with a bold, intense flavor, made with a shot of espresso and a small amount of frothed milk. They are usually served with less foam than cappuccinos, which have a shot of espresso, a small amount of steamed milk, and a thick layer of frothed milk on top, resulting in a creamy, frothy texture.


Are macchiatos sweet?

Espresso Macchiato

Macchiatos are not typically sweet, but you can add sugar or flavored syrup to taste. Some coffee shops may offer sweeteners as an option, and you can also make a sweetened version at home by adding sugar or vanilla syrup to the espresso and milk before frothing the milk.

Can a macchiato be iced?

An iced macchiato cannot be made in the traditional way because it requires frothed milk. However, you can make a cold brew version using espresso and cold milk. It will not have the same creamy, foamy texture as a traditional macchiato.

Can a macchiato be decaf?

Decaf macchiatos can be made with decaffeinated espresso and a small amount of steamed milk. Many coffee shops offer decaf options for their espresso-based drinks. Decaf versions have the same bold, creamy flavor as regular macchiatos, but without the caffeine.

Why are macchiatos served with sparkling water?

Macchiato Faq

Consuming sparkling water after a macchiato can help to refresh the palate and cleanse the mouth of any lingering coffee flavors. The carbonation in the sparkling water can assist in removing any residue left behind by the espresso, and it can also help to freshen the breath.

Will drinking a macchiato break my fast?

The effect of a macchiato on a fast depends on the specific type of fast being practiced and the guidelines being followed. Some fasting protocols permit the consumption of non-caloric beverages like water, black coffee, and unsweetened tea, while others may restrict all forms of caloric intake.

Are you supposed to mix a macchiato?

It is not necessary to mix a macchiato, but you can stir gently if desired. Mixing too vigorously can cause the foam to collapse and flavors to become muddled. Mixing is a matter of personal preference.

Does Keurig make Macchiato K-Cups?

Yes, it is possible to find Macchiato-flavored K-Cups. Keep in mind that Macchiato-flavored K-Cups are not the same as a traditional Macchiato and may not have the same flavor profile or texture as a drink made with espresso and steamed milk. They are a convenient option for those who want to enjoy a Macchiato-flavored coffee at home, but they are not a substitute for a true Macchiato.


If you’re in the market for a Keurig but you’re not sure what’s best for you, be sure to read my top 16 Keurig coffee makers for 2023 blog post:


In conclusion, Macchiatos are a delicious and unique way to elevate your coffee game. With their bold, creamy flavor and small size, they are perfect for those who love strong espresso flavors but want a little bit of creaminess to balance things out.

So next time you’re at your local coffee shop, give one a try and see if it becomes your new go-to drink. And don’t be afraid to experiment with different ratios of espresso to milk to find the perfect balance of flavor for your taste. Happy sipping!

Avatar Of Kelsey Todd
With over two decades in the coffee industry, Kelsey is a seasoned professional barista with roots in Seattle and Santa Barbara. Accredited by The Coffee Association of America and a member of The Baristas Guild, he combines practical expertise with a profound understanding of coffee's history and cultural significance. Kelsey tries his best to balance family time with blogging time and fails miserably.