What Is Macchiato?

There are a lot of different espresso drinks to choose from when you walk into a coffee shop, and macchiato is one of them.

If you never got around to ordering it before just because you don’t exactly know what it is, macchiato (also known as caffé macchiato or espresso macchiato) is a drink simply created by adding a very thin layer of steamed milk to a shot of espresso.

The milk foam which comes from the steamed milk provides a nice and creamy texture to the espresso without making the drink heavier, and without diluting the strength of the espresso.

If you love the foamy part of a latte but the amount of milk gets too heavy to drink at times, or you’re just looking to spice up your espresso with a creamy finish, you will love macchiato.

Origin

The Italian word macchiato translates to “stained” in English, which refers to the milk foam on top of the espresso. The full name of this drink, espresso macchiato would then translate to “stained espresso”.

The macchiato was first invented to be able to tell a regular espresso apart from espresso with milk in it so that the waiters in the coffee shop could easily tell which order belongs to which customer.

By adding the milk foam on top, the espresso which contained milk was “marked”, as milk foam leaves a white spot on espresso which would otherwise be completely dark-colored. It’s definitely a smart and elegant way to solve a problem.

Over time, macchiato evolved into a drink of its own, as the creamy texture which comes with milk foam complements espresso very nicely while keeping the punch that comes from the espresso. 

Latte macchiato, which is another popular espresso drink we will be mentioning later in the article also originated from espresso macchiato, and even managed to exceed espresso macchiato in terms of popularity as it is the first drink most people think of when the word “macchiato” is mentioned, mostly thanks to major coffee chains which popularized these drinks under the name of macchiato.

How To Make a Macchiato?

Making macchiato at home is very simple!

For this drink, you’ll require an espresso machine and a milk frother. If you can prepare espresso without an espresso machine, that would also work.

As with every other espresso-based drink, you’ll have to pull a shot of espresso into a glass first.

After that, it’s time to steam some milk. The amount of milk used in macchiato is very small, (1-2 teaspoons) just enough to create a very thin layer of milk foam. If you use too much milk, the milk will overwhelm the taste of the espresso, which shouldn’t be happening in the case of macchiato.

When the steamed milk is ready, all you have to do is to pour the milk on top of the espresso, making sure that the foam of the milk tops the drink off. If you’re having trouble getting the milk foam out, you can use a spoon to scoop the milk foam and place it on top of your cup.

If you wish, you can add some flavor to your macchiato just as you could do with other espresso drinks. We believe that caramel complements this drink brilliantly, so make sure that you give it a try if you have any caramel syrup laying around!

Espresso Macchiato vs Latte Macchiato

When the word macchiato is used, it mostly refers to espresso macchiato which we have been talking about so far.

We said mostly because espresso macchiato isn’t the only espresso-based drink that contains the word “macchiato” in its name. Latte macchiato is another espresso drink that also contains the word “macchiato” as you can see, and that creates confusion every now and then.

Latte macchiato is a completely different espresso drink that is actually closer to a latte, due to both drinks containing the same elements which are espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. Compared to latte, latte macchiato contains more milk foam and less espresso.

The relation to espresso macchiato comes from the fact that just as you mark the espresso with milk in espresso macchiato, you mark the steamed milk with espresso in latte macchiato instead, meaning that the steamed milk goes into the cup first, followed by the espresso.

Ordering Macchiato

Due to there being two different drinks that contain the word “macchiato” in them, you may not always get what you actually wanted to order.

Whether you’ll get espresso macchiato or latte macchiato when you order “macchiato” can differ depending on the coffee shop you are in.

In most third-wave coffee shops, ordering a macchiato will get you an espresso macchiato, whereas, in a coffee chain such as Starbucks, you’ll most likely end up with a latte macchiato. 

This is because specialty coffee shops try to stay as true as possible to Italian origins of espresso for coffee enthusiasts to enjoy, whereas coffee chains try to produce drinks that will please the general public. These drinks usually contain large amounts of milk and syrups to mask the flavor of coffee, as the actual coffee flavor isn’t really enjoyed by a lot of people.

For instance, the Starbucks caramel macchiato we all love is actually a spin on latte macchiato, rather than espresso macchiato. You will be able to tell that it has nothing to do with espresso macchiato due to the high amount of milk it contains. Then again, it’s probably the first drink everybody thinks of when the word “macchiato” is used.

For this reason, we believe that you should always specify which drink you want by using the full name to save yourself the frustration.

Conclusion

Macchiato is a staple of espresso-based drinks, with a simple yet effective twist on a regular espresso shot.

We believe that a macchiato will especially please those who love to enjoy an espresso shot, so if you fall into this category, definitely don’t miss out on trying a macchiato.

Enjoy!