What Is a Macchiato? Interesting Facts You Should Know

What is a macchiato? You are probably entering your favorite coffee shop and be ready to order your favorite beverage. But then you stop at your track because you see a word that is completely new to you. The new word ‘macchiato’ doesn’t seem familiar and you don’t know what it is. Well, if you have an open mind and you don’t mind trying different kinds of variants, then you may add macchiato into your favorite list.

Those who aren’t familiar with espresso or macchiato or cappuccino are often asking, “What is a macchiato?” This question can arise once you have taken a sip and you wonder, are those caramels that you taste? Or is it a honey syrup or another type of sugary syrups? To understand more about what a macchiato is, we need to talk about espresso – and its effects in the making of cappuccino, latte, and macchiato. Without them, it would be difficult to grasp the idea of the macchiato.

How the Macchiato Is Created

what is a macchiato - coffeetimeusa_com.jpg
what is a macchiato – coffeetimeusa_com.jpg

Whether you are drinking cappuccino or espresso or macchiato, everything originated from the espresso. This deep and dark beverage is the source of caffeine – and your best friend in the morning. Espresso is the pure coffee brew without any other addition – such as water or coffee. It is pure black. Coffee is liked by those who need to have a strong eye-opener in the morning. When you need a kick of power when you are sleepy or when you have lost some of the energy, then espresso will be your best companion.

Coffee lovers simply love the idea that they can have a strong and deep beverage any time of the day. However, when health studies are performed and done, it turns out that too much caffeine isn’t good for health. You can have two cups – three cups are the max – a day, divided into the morning route as well as the afternoon.

If you like any beverage with the espresso based, then you may like the macchiato. It is an espresso with a tad milk – just a dash. However, don’t expect the milk to be too much.

Unlike the latte or the cappuccino, the milk on the coffee is only enough to stain the espresso. The name macchiato originates from Italian word, meaning spotted or stained or marked. The rich and dark espresso is then added by a small quantity of the milk – enough to create a lighter color of the beverage. The black and smooth espresso surface is broken or pierced by the milk.

Why is the macchiato created? Basically, there are so many different variations to the basic espresso. For those who want to enjoy the dark and strong coffee flavor along the light creaminess of the milk, then macchiato would be the perfect option. But if you prefer the milky and sweet flavor, then macchiato may be too strong for you.

For some people, especially the coffee lovers, there are different beverages for different occasions. For instance, the cappuccino is considered the exclusive cup of Joe for the mornings. Espresso is often consumed during the night.

And what’s the use of macchiato, anyway? Well, if you are trying to sneak in the espresso to your afternoon time, then macchiato will be your way. For a lot of coffee addicts, macchiato would serve as the middle ground in between the cappuccino and the espresso. It is definitely stronger than the cappuccino and yet it isn’t as strong as the espresso.

So, what exactly is a macchiato? As time passes by, people started to realize that having two black beverages a day may be too much. Then they started to ‘soften’ it up by adding the extra ingredients. At the same time, people started to come up with variations of the ‘softer version of espresso’. Then, there seems to be an unwritten rule that morning should be started with an espresso or at least a cappuccino, while macchiato is the lighter espresso to be enjoyed in the afternoon.

Espresso, Cappuccino, and Macchiato

macchiato at herkimer in Seattle
image by https://www.flickr.com/photos/jonathanmcintosh/

So, when you brew your coffee grounds, the result would be the espresso. Cappuccino is the espresso mixed together with steamed milk and then topped off with milk foam. In some cases, cappuccino is known as espresso macchiato.

The name is different but the contents are the same. In Italy, espresso macchiato is more known as caffe macchiato. In Portugal, the drink is known as cafe pingado which means coffee (beverage) with a drop.

Like what we told you earlier, macchiato is an Italian word meaning stained or marked. It depends on which the main element is stained by which another element. The meaning of stained here isn’t completely mixed or diluted. It means that there is a tad addition of another ingredient that makes the main ingredient isn’t pure anymore.

What is in macchiato? Believe it or not, the contents of the macchiato are just similar to the cappuccino, but the proportion of each ingredient is different. Yes, macchiato also contains steamed milk and milk foam.

In cappuccino, the main element is the espresso that is ‘stained’ with the steamed milk. The proportion of both can be similar – sometimes 1/3 of espresso is combined with another 1/3 of milk. The milk foam will be the frothy topping that can be adorned with different designs. Basically, the base is espresso subdued by milk.

In macchiato, on the other hand, the main element is still the espresso that is stained with only a little milk. Unlike the cappuccino where the proportion of milk and espresso can be similar, the macchiato has the majority of espresso with a little tad of milk. If seen from above, the look of macchiato is like the black coffee with a little pool of milk on the center.

There are different kinds of serving to macchiato. Sometimes the milk foam is added, but when it does, the foam is only a little – definitely very little when compared to cappuccino. In most cases, though, the foam isn’t added at all, especially for those lovers of black coffee. However, if you go to most common coffee shops or establishments, you will get the foam. If you don’t want it, you need to say that to your barista.

Macchiato sets up a middle ground between the cappuccino and espresso. If you don’t want an overly strong coffee (like the espresso) and yet you want something punchy enough, then macchiato will be your answer. It doesn’t have as much caffeine (and coffee punch) as espresso, but it is surely stronger than the cappuccino.

What is a Macchiato? The Variations

When you learn more about macchiato, you will also learn about the main variations of the beverage. There are two major options for the macchiato, the latte macchiato and the espresso macchiato.

The Variations
The Variations

Espresso macchiato is also called caffe macchiato where the milk would stain the espresso. The purpose of the beverage is to subdue or reduce the strong flavor slightly with the presence of the (splash of) milk. The espresso is still strong but not too strong.

Normally, the first shot of espresso is used and then 2 teaspoons of steamed milk will be added – and topped off with a little of foam. To retain the flavor, it is better to serve this espresso macchiato in ceramic or glass cups.

And what about latte macchiato? It is like the contrary to the espresso macchiato. The steamed milk will be the dominant part of the beverage, stained by the espresso shot. Latte macchiato is completely different from latte because it has less espresso, more milk, and it is a layered beverage. It is different from espresso macchiato because latte macchiato has more milk than the espresso.

The focus of the drink is on the milk – not the espresso. Making this beverage usually starts from the milk which is around half the glass. Then, the barista will pour the espresso very slowly into the milk so there will be a dot in the center of the milk.

A Barista usually serves latte macchiato in a glass cup so you can see the different layers. The key to creating a unique and distinctive look of the beverage is the pouring method. When done properly, you should be able to see a clear layered gradient look. It goes from the thicker milk (right on the bottom), and then the espresso, and then the foam layer right on the top.

So, what’s the difference between macchiato vs latte? Macchiato has more espresso than milk, while latte has more milk than espresso. The purpose is also different. Macchiato is for espresso lovers but with a softer result from the milk. Latte is for dairy lovers with a little taste of espresso – so it wouldn’t be similar to a milkshake.

How to prepare one? The glass (usually in 12 oz of size) will be pre-warmed and then filled with the steamed milk from half full. And then the espresso is poured slowly over the milk – creating a stain on the milk with the espresso. If the pouring method is done correctly, there should be clear differences of gradient texture. It starts at the bottom with the thick steamed milk. Then there is the espresso on the top and finalized with the foam at the top.

Flavor and Preference

When you want something strong and rich, then the espresso macchiato would be the best option – provided that you don’t want the super rich espresso. The espresso macchiato would be perfect for those who want to enjoy the espresso taste but don’t really want to deal with the total strength. Don’t forget that a cup is pretty small – it isn’t big. If you want to have a double shot, then you may have it. Or even better – ask for a cappuccino if you want the bigger one.

Flavor and Preference
Flavor and Preference

When you want something milky and sweeter without ditching the strong espresso kick, then latte macchiato would be the perfect option. Unlike the espresso macchiato, the espresso isn’t too rich or strong. You can have a balanced combo of milky (and sweetness) with the espresso. Be aware that this kind of beverage often includes extra syrups even if you don’t ask for it. If you don’t want the extra addition, tell the barista. If you still don’t like the latte macchiato (thinking that it is too strong), then you may choose a latte – or a milkshake for sure.

How to Enjoy Your Cup?

Basically, if you want the strongest coffee without any addition, go with espresso. If you want something strong, but not too strong, you can opt for the pure macchiato – which is the one without foam. You can also go for espresso macchiato, which is the one with foam. For some people, cappuccino can be too milky so they prefer espresso macchiato.

Remember that espresso macchiato usually comes in a small portion. If you want it big, you should order a double – which would also deliver punchier effect. If you are sensitive to caffeine, ordering a double may not be the best idea.

If you are a dairy lover and you want a milkier beverage, then you should order latte macchiato. You can still feel the espresso taste but it is quickly covered by the smooth milk. If you want to have another taste (and sweeter effect), there are some establishment that adds the extra syrups.

Iced Macchiato

Iced Macchiato
photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/30478819@N08/

Although we know two major types of macchiato, it turns out that there are more and more modern variants to it. Another popular one is the iced macchiato, which is basically the macchiato with ice cubes. To create tasty and fresh iced macchiato, the key is on the espresso. After all, it is the base – the foundation platform of the drink. You can create cold espresso from a cold brew.

Wait, why should you use cold brew instead of the regular brew? Can’t you just add the regular brew with cold water or some ice cubes? First of all, adding water to the brew will create a watery and runny coffee. It will make the coffee thin and watery, which is bad for the flavor. Trust me, you don’t want to make this kind of coffee. Second, you can always add the ice cubes, but how many of them will be needed for a cup? And the result will be the same – your coffee will be runny.

Because of these reasons, it is only logical if you use cold brew to create a strong espresso base without having to compromise the flavor. However, making the regular brew and cold brew is different. The regular brew needs boiling water and the brewing process only takes minutes. The cold brew, on the other hand, requires cold water and longer time.

The cold brew time takes from 12 hours to 24 hours. If it is less than 12 hours, the result won’t be maximum because the extraction time hasn’t been completed. If it is more than 24 hours, it can be too thick and it results in an over-brew outcome, which is bitter.

Once you understand the concept of macchiato, getting know the iced version will be simpler. Making iced macchiato is similar to making the regular one, but instead of the regular espresso (from regular brew), we use cold espresso (from cold brew). The rest is just the same.

Some baristas even have a special tip to maintain the espresso taste. They make espresso ice cubes for the macchiato. When the ice cubes are mixed with the macchiato, you won’t have to worry that the macchiato will be runny. You can imitate the tips to maintain the freshness and macchiato taste.

Caramel Macchiato

Caramel Macchiato
photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/20179579@N00/

You may have heard about caramel macchiato. With the basic recipe of macchiato, you still add the caramel to the mix. However, it turns out that the recipe for caramel macchiato isn’t the same as the regular macchiato – you have the addition of caramel as well as vanilla syrup.

The barista will build the beverage in this manner: He will pour the vanilla syrup on the base of the cup, followed by milk and then ice. After that, he will add the espresso shot. After that, the caramel drizzle will finish the look. And it turns out that there are two types of caramel macchiato: the unmodified type and the stirred one. The unmodified one means that the macchiato will be served to you as it is. The stirred one will be served to you after the barista stirs it with the spoon.

However, there is a problem with the unmodified and stirred version. You see, when you order the unmodified caramel macchiato, you will taste the vanilla syrup first – the caramel is coming last. It’s because when the straw gets into the cup, it will go straight to the bottom, right? And with the previous ingredients building that I have mentioned earlier, what is on the bottom? You guess it right: vanilla syrup. After the syrup, you taste the milk, and the espresso, and the caramel as the closure.

Because of this problem, the stirred caramel macchiato has resulted. The barista will stir the macchiato before giving it to you. However, here is the problem: even with this method, you will still taste the caramel last. And when compared to the unmodified version, your caramel content is actually more little.

Once the barista stirs the macchiato, a part of the caramel will stick to the spoon and be taken away (when the spoon is removed). As a result, the caramel content will actually be reduced because of this action. Moreover, once the stir is set, the caramel still comes last.

Some coffee establishments have come up with a solution. They turn the construction up and down. First, they add the caramel on the bottom, followed by the espresso. Then the milk and ice go and finalized by the vanilla syrup. When you drink it, the caramel will come first and the vanilla syrup will be the last. In some establishments, the barista even adds some caramel drizzle on the inner side of the cup.

Starbucks Macchiato

starbucks macchiato
Photo by https://pxhere.com/en/photo/1058440

You can probably guess it: Yes, Starbuck macchiato is the macchiato made by Starbucks. As one of the most popular coffee chains (probably the most popular one) in the world, you can find different kinds of coffee-based beverages here, including the macchiato.

There are also different kinds of macchiato drink there. Iced Caramel Macchiato, for instance, is combining espresso, vanilla syrup, milk and ice, and caramel syrup. It has 250 calories per cup. Caramel Macchiato is combining espresso and fresh milk as well as vanilla syrup and topped with caramel drizzle. It is the warm variant with 250 calories.

Of course, you can always go to Starbucks and ask the barista about their hot and cold variants. If you want to learn more, you can even log into their official website and dig further about their coffee-based variants, especially the macchiato. You can also check how much caffeine in a Starbucks Coffee at one of our posts.

Making Your Own Macchiato

Just like other coffee variants, you can always make your own macchiato at home. You can make cappuccino, latte, or Americano at home too. Most of these beverages have espresso as the base (even with a latte with the majority content of milk, you still need an espresso to deliver nice coffee taste).

If you know how to make good-quality espresso, then everything will go smoothly. Espresso is the key ingredients. If you manage to make tasty espresso, then your coffee result will be tasty too.

There are some important elements when you want to brew. Consider the coffee beans and roast quality. Fresh coffee will deliver tasty flavor. If you have a coffee grinder at home, you can buy the beans and store them.

When you want to make coffee, you can start grinding them so the brew will be fresh. You can always buy the coffee grinds (which usually comes in packages), but the longer you keep them, the taste will be stale.

If you don’t have the grinder and you buy the packaged ones, buy the small packages so the flavor won’t be affected too much. Once you open the package, the coffee grinds will start losing its freshness (and tasty flavor).

The method of brewing will also affect the taste of your macchiato. You can use the regular French press if you don’t have the coffee machine. Of course, it would be great to have the machine, but if you are rather low on the budget, then there are other alternatives that will work just well. I will focus on the French press because it is simple and it is what I do every day.

You can also use the microwave and the pot (on the stove) – find the information on the net. A French press requires you to have the right temperature of boiling water and the brewing time. If the temperature is right, you only need 4 minutes to produce a tasty result.

A video by howcastfooddrink shows how easy it is to make your own macchiato, you can find the video at this link.

Foam and Milk

foam and milk
image by wonderhowto

Now you understand what is a macchiato, right? The traditional one is made from espresso and milk. If you like milk foam, then you can make one too. It turns out that the types of milk will also affect the taste of your macchiato. Basically, there is nothing right or wrong about the different types of milk. However, some milk can create a ‘standard’ and balanced result while the other types can affect the espresso in a negative way.

The best milk for macchiato is the whole dairy milk that has a balanced proportion of proteins, water, fats, and sugar. The result won’t be too foamy. Almond milk is also good because it can create rich foam with a relatively sweet balance of the macchiato. Oat milk is also nice although the foam may not be long-lasting.

Soya milk is surprisingly very nice. It can produce a creamy texture and dense foam. The only downside is that it can be difficult to perform the latte art. But if it isn’t a problem and you focus more on flavors, then these types of milk can be your options.

If you want to make foam, you can always heat it up in the microwave. Heat it for one minute. If you don’t have the microwave, you can use the pot or pan, but you can’t leave the milk boil. You need to stir it continuously to prevent fat skin development. You can always use stainless steel pan and pot but be extra careful about scorching the milk on the bottom.

Final Words, What is a Macchiato?

In the end, you also need to remember that the traditional macchiato can be found mostly in small coffee shops or cafes. If you go to the modern and popular establishments, like Starbucks, you will get the extra vanilla syrup and caramel in your macchiato. Some people call it the modern versions – which, unfortunately, may not fit everyone’s taste.

If you want to enjoy the best from your coffee time, you should make research about the coffee contents. A friend of mine likes to explore small coffee shops and talk to the baristas. He can also talk to them about the macchiato that he likes – traditional without the extra syrups.

Some coffee shops may add an extra syrup to your macchiato – even if you don’t ask for it. They believe that it makes the drink sweeter; thus, better. If you want to enjoy the pure macchiato drink, be sure to ask the baristas first about the contents. Afterward, you can make requests – such as without the extra syrups, or with only a small part of milk, and such thing alike.

After all, going to small coffee shops has this personal and intimate feel because you get to interact with the baristas without having to worry about the long lines behind you.

If you still want to go to Starbucks or other popular brands, ask them whether they can change the contents or not. If they can, maybe you can ask them to skip the vanilla syrup and other ingredients. However, if they can’t, you just have to live with it. After all, now that you already understand what is a macchiato, you can always try making one at home.

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