Last Updated: 7th July 2021

What Is a Macchiato – Definitive Guide & Recipe

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    When it comes to coffee shop favourites like the well-established latte and the cappuccino. But the macchiato still feels like the new kid on the block thanks to the mystery that surrounds it. So what is a macchiato?

    The macchiato is a coffee drink said to have originated in Italy in the 1980s.

    Maybe you’re well-acquainted with this powerful little drink. Or perhaps like many people, you’ve seen it on the menu board but you’re just not entirely sure what a macchiato is.

    As creatures of habit, we naturally go with coffees we’re already familiar with. But with its strong espresso taste and frothy milk texture, the macchiato is a drink worth trying out. There are two main macchiato types: the espresso macchiato and the latte macchiato.

    The shortness of the drink ensures that the taste of the espresso shot maintains its intense flavour comes through intensely, yet while the foam top ensures it’s not too harsh. So if you find a cappuccino too weak but an espresso too strong, macchiatos are this one’s for you.


    In short

    • The macchiato is small and strong like an espresso, while also foamy like a cappuccino.
    • The macchiato is said to have originated in Italy in the 1980s.
    • There are two main variations of macchiato: the espresso macchiato and the latte macchiato.


    What Is a Macchiato?

    There are two main types of macchiato: espresso macchiato and latte macchiato. Each type is brewed differently and is served in different sizes. But both types consist of separate distinct layers. The discussion below goes into further detail. 


    Espresso Macchiato

    The espresso macchiato is the original version of the drink. Other variations such as the latte, iced, or caramel macchiatos came later.

    An espresso macchiato is made with one espresso shot and 1-2 teaspoons of frothed milk on top.

    But over the years, the macchiato has evolved into what some people would call a mini cappuccino. coffee shops have made the foam thicker on top of the espresso. But since every coffee shop has their own take on the macchiato, the mystery around this drink continues. And you’ll often find that it’s made slightly differently wherever you go.


    Latte Macchiato

    While some might think this alternative defeats the objective of a macchiato, the latte style has its own benefits. The latte macchiato is served in a larger glass than the espresso macchiato. This variation is also more of a drink than an espresso shot.So it’s likely that more people will find it a little more palatable.

    It’s made with a ⅓ espresso shot and ⅔ steamed milk with a thick foam topping But it is also common for people to have double shots in latte macchiatos to maintain their high caffeine levels.

    Unlike a regular latte, the espresso shot is usually put into a latte macchiato last. Since coffee sits closer to the top, the taste is much stronger than an ordinary latte.

    Another major difference between the latte macchiato and a regular latte is the presence of clearly defined layers. Latte macchiatos usually have a bottom layer of steamed milk followed by a middle layer of espresso, and then a top layer of thick foam. The difference in consistency gives the tri-colour layer look that the latte macchiato is famous for.

    Due to the different densities of each layer, the espresso will sit in between the milk. unlike a latte where the drink ends to blend into one overall consistency.


    Origin and History of the Macchiato

    As the Godfathers of coffee, it won’t surprise you to learn that Italy is thought to be the home of the macchiato. Many believe the macchiato surfaced in the 1980s and got its name from how it’s made.

    What is a macchiato? Two glasses of macchiato on a table.

    “Macchiato” means “stained” in Italian. It is thus likely that customers began calling the drink a macchiato because of how the foamed milk would stain the espresso.

    Since then, the term has been adapted in a range of ways. So you’ll often find that many coffee houses have their take on what a macchiato is. The most commercially successful example being Starbuck’s invention of the caramel macchiato.


    How to Make Your Own Macchiato

    While the drink may sound pretty fancy, it’s actually easy to make one of these at home. Homemade macchiatos are also delicious treats for guests.

    And it’s always nice to learn a new skill so let’s get started!




    Instructions for Brewing an Espresso Macchiato

    An espresso macchiato is so easy to make that it doesn’t require much explanation. The amount of milk you use depends on the size of your espresso glass and your taste preference.

    Espresso macchiato on yellow background

    Step 1: Steam your milk until you have a nice foamy texture. If you are using an espresso machine, use the steam wand included on the side. Remember to position the wand to the side of the jug so that it creates a vortex in the centre of the milk.

    Alternatively, you can also use a milk frother for similar results.

    Once the milk has reached 60–65°C (140–145°F), turn it off to prevent burning. Set aside for now.

    Step 2: Prepare your espresso shot. Make sure to prepare two shots if you want to create a larger macchiato.

    Step 3: Use a teaspoon to scoop the milk foam onto the top of the espresso. You can also use the teaspoon to transfer a small amount of milk into the espresso if you wish. But do not pour the milk into the espresso in order to maintain the drink’s distinct layers. Serve hot.

    Note: Since espresso macchiatos only use such a small amount of milk, some may be tempted to “reuse” the leftover steamed milk at a later point. But this is not recommended because it could potentially be unsafe for consumption. Additionally, steamed milk tastes best when it is fresh. So avoid letting steamed milk sit for more than 7 minutes.

    So if you don’t want to simply throw it away, then consider making another drink for you to enjoy after your espresso macchiato. For example, you can transfer the milk into a cup and add cocoa powder to make hot chocolate. Alternatively, you could also pour the milk into another tea or coffee that you’re making for someone else.


    Instructions for Brewing a Latte Macchiato

    The latte macchiato takes a little more skill. The milk should have the right consistency, especially if you’re aiming for the famous 3-layer look that macchiatos are renowned for.

    Latte macchiato next to a croissant on table

    The exact amount of milk you use depends on your taste preference and the size of your coffee cup or coffee glass. In general, you will need enough milk to fill ⅔ of your glass.

    Step 1: Place the milk jug under your steamer, making sure that the steamer wand is just below the surface of the milk. Position the wand to the side of the jug so that it creates a vortex in the centre of the milk.

    Step 2: Aim to froth a good amount of thick foam on top of your milk. If your milk is too runny, bring the wand slightly closer to the surface of the milk to create more bubbles before dropping it deeper into the jug again.This will turn the bubbles into a thick foam.

    Step 3: When the milk reaches 60–65°C (140–145°F), turn off the heat to prevent burning. Swirl and tap the milk jug against the countertop to remove any large air bubbles and create a smooth foamy consistency.

    Step 4: Pour your milk into the cup you want to drink out of. Use a spoon to hold back the foamy milk and then gently tilt your milk jug forward. This will allow the runnier milk to flow first. Allow the foam to slide until it sits on top of the rest of the milk.

    Your cup should be about ⅔ full. The remaining ⅓ is space for your espresso.

    Step 5: Prepare your espresso shot in the portafilter and brew it through your espresso machine into a smaller cup. Prepare two shots for a stronger flavour and caffeine boost.

    Step 6: Pour your shot down the centre of foamy milk, “staining it”. The espresso shot should settle below the foam, but still on top of your runnier milk. This will create three distinct layers.


    And there you have it! Your macchiato is ready to enjoy! Aren’t you glad you made one at home? In fact, we imagine you’re too busy enjoying it right to even answer that question.

    Transparent coffee glasses are the best way to flaunt your homemade macchiato’s distinct layers on social media. Or you could check out other coffee drinks for you to master!



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