Macchiato Vs Cappuccino (Differences Between Them)

Looking for an amazing coffee drink? Macchiatos and cappuccinos are both very popular, and many coffee shops around the world sell them - but do you know the difference?

They both have similar names and basically the same ingredients, so it can be difficult to know what sets them apart.

In this guide we'll give the full cappuccino vs macchiato breakdown so you can understand which is best for you.  

1. Taste

Espresso drinks often have similar ingredients, but the taste can be very different. This is usually as a result of the ratio of steamed milk (or milk foam) to espresso. 

A macchiato has a bold coffee flavor and even through the thin layer of milk foam you can taste the bitter espresso coffee. In contrast, a cappuccino is smoother and sweeter, with a softer taste because of the espresso steamed milk mix. 

A macchiato has a stronger flavor than a cappuccino, so if you like strong coffee drinks then you're better off with a macchiato because it doesn't have as much milk.

2. Caffeine Level

The caffeine levels in espresso drinks can vary massively, and because a macchiato has a bolder flavor you might assume it has more caffeine, but that isn't the always the case.

A regular macchiato and regular cappuccino both contain 80-120mg of caffeine. This is fairly similar to most other espresso drinks.

However, macchiatos only tend to come in two sizes, with a single or double shot of espresso, whereas a large 16oz cappuccino will come with a double shot or triple espresso shot. 

This means that cappuccinos have a higher caffeine content because of the size of the drink.

3. Milk – Coffee Ratio

The ratio of steamed milk, frothed milk, and espresso impacts the taste and texture of these coffee drinks.

The size of these two drinks gives them away, and a cappuccino is much bigger because of the steamed milk.

However, knowing the actual ratios can help you understand how to prepare them yourself. 

A cappuccino is made with equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk.

A macchiato is 90% espresso, with a small amount of milk foam accounting for about 10% of the drink.

A cappuccino is 70% milk and 30% shot of espresso, which is why it's such an easy coffee to drink.

A macchiato is one of the newer coffee drinks, so it's not as strictly made. However, it's always espresso focused, giving it a bold flavor coffee lovers enjoy.

When it comes to cappuccino vs macchiato a cappuccino has much more steamed milk, so if you enjoy a milky coffee then that's the one for you.

Macchiato Vs Cappuccino (Differences Between Them)

4. Time Of Day

Ok, so there's no hard and fast rule about when to have coffee drinks unless you're in Italy, but it's still good to know the customs. 

In Italy, a cappuccino is strictly a morning drink, but a macchiato is generally ordered in the afternoon and evenings

An Italian barista will look down on you for ordering a cappuccino after 11am because they consider a heavy, steamed milk coffee to be too much for the afternoon or after meals.

In essence, they’re quite filling, and so is consumed in the morning to start your day. 

A macchiato was created as a less intense version of an espresso with a small amount of milk to make it smoother, so it's usually served in coffee shops throughout the day. 

5. Extras & Variations

Espresso drinks are so popular because you can customise them in a variety of ways, and most coffee shops will have a range of options available, including syrups, marshmallows, and chocolates.

There are several variations of both cappuccinos and macchiatos, but despite the different names they are all quite similar. 

Popular macchiato variations include:

  • Caramel macchiato - made with caramel syrup to give it a sweeter taste. Many places serve this as standard
  • Latte macchiato - this is a cross between a regular latte and a macchiato, and is about 1/2 steamed milk. This can be served with a single or double shot of espresso
  • Apple crisp macchiato - this is a recent addition to the Starbucks menu and features apple brown sugar and caramelized spiced apple syrup
  • Iced macchiato - made with slightly more milk (cold), and espresso shots poured over

Popular cappuccino variations include:

  • Wet cappuccino - this is made with slightly more steamed milk and without as much milk foam 
  • Dry cappuccino - this is made with less steamed milk and more milk foam 
  • Iced cappuccino - made with cold milk and poured over ice as a summer beverage

Cappuccinos and macchiatos are usually served with a range of different milks to choose from, including some dairy-free options.

Oat milk, almond milk, and coconut milk all work well as milk foam or steamed milk - and they're suitable for a vegan diet.

When it comes to cappuccino vs macchiato variations there are definitely more macchiato options, but don't be afraid to ask for extra additions even if they're not on the regular menu.

6. Preparation

Coffee comes down to personal taste so there's no exact right way, but it always pays to follow coffee recipes.

Both of these coffee drinks are easy enough to make, but you will need an espresso machine and a milk frother. 

When it comes to cappuccino vs macchiato, it's slightly more challenging and time consuming to make a cappuccino.

This is because getting the ratio of coffee to steamed milk right can be difficult, whereas macchiatos only require milk foam, which can be easily made by whipping beforehand. 

7. Price

The prices in coffee shops are rising every year, and it can be easy to spend a fortune without even noticing.

The price for your favorite espresso drink is usually influenced by the ingredients and brewing method - but thankfully neither of these amazing coffee drinks are too expensive. 

A macchiato will typically cost $2-3, whereas a cappuccino will cost $3-5

When it comes to cappuccino vs macchiato it's definitely cheaper to get a macchiato. 

This is because it's smaller, users fewer ingredients, and takes less time to prepare. In contrast, a cappuccino has a lot more steamed milk which increases the price.

Just remember that every coffee shop is different, and you'll also pay extra for any syrups or flavorings added. 


What Is A Macchiato? (Origins & How They Are Made) 

Origins

The macchiato (sometimes called caffè macchiato) is relatively new in terms of coffee making; it’s thought to have been around since the 80s.

It was made to distinguish between an espresso with a small amount milk. Macchiatos, almost exclusively, have a tiny dash of milk foam in them.  

Macchiato, literally translated, means marked,' so the espresso is marked with milk foam.

There is no specific recipe for a macchiato, which is why you’ll find a different style in each coffee shop you go to.

A generally accepted method is an espresso with roughly a spoonful of hot, steamed milk foam.  

Macchiato diagram

There are three main variations of a macchiato: 

  • Latte Macchiato 
    This is slightly different in that the espresso is poured into hot milk. Also known as an inverse/reverse macchiato. It’s served in a tall glass due to its size and has a softer taste.  
  • Iced Macchiato 
    This is made by pouring milk into a tumbler or double walled glass and topped with ice. The espresso shot is then poured over the top to create a marble-like effect in the drink. 
  • Espresso Macchiato 
    The main difference here is that the espresso macchiato is served in an espresso cup and has textured milk foam poured in. If it has latte art, it’s likely an espresso macchiato. 
latte macchiato with straw

Pros & Cons Of Drinking Macchiatos 

What We Like 
  • Not as strong as a standard espresso 
  • Comes with the aroma and crema of an espresso 
  • Great for those looking to shed some weight 
  • Many variations to suit everyone 
Things We Don’t 
  • No blended flavor 
  • More acidic than other espresso-based drinks 

What Exactly Is A Cappuccino? (Origins & How They Are Made) 

Origins

Cappuccinos first surfaced in 18th century Italy. The namesake comes from capuchin monks; dubbed so because of the resemblance to their hooded cloaks. 

They have origins in Vienna as well, served as a sweeter coffee with chocolate or cinnamon dustings. 

In Italy, a Cappuccino is exclusively a morning drink – they aren’t drunk past 11 am. It’s made with a ratio of 1:1:1.

The standard recipe is a double espresso shot, with milk poured in, followed by heated milk foam. They are then topped, usually, with chocolate sprinkles for a sweeter flavor. 

Cappuccino Diagram

There are three main variations of a cappuccino: 

  • Wet Cappuccino  
    This is made with less foam and more steaming milk. This is for those who want a milkier taste in their drink. Comparatively, it’s more like a latte than a cappuccino. 
  • Dry Cappuccino  
    This is made with more foam and less espresso steamed milk. Some have argued that the foam insulates the coffee, keeping it warmer for longer. A dry cappuccino has a stronger espresso flavor, and the coffee is darker in color - perfect for coffee lovers.  
  • Bone Dry Cappuccino  
    Like a dry cappuccino – except there is no espresso steamed milk. This is made with a thin layer of foam and espresso. The bed of foam on the espresso, like its counterpart, keeps the coffee hotter for even longer and makes way for latte art. 
white ceramic Cappuccino  cup with coffee

Pros & Cons Of Cappuccinos 

What We Like 
  • Has a much bolder flavor 
  • Sweeter flavored coffee 
  • Stays warmer longer 
Things We Don’t 
  • Has a higher calorie count 
  • Can be tough to master if you make it for yourself 

Macchiato & Cappuccino Common Questions

What is the difference between a macchiato and a cappuccino at Starbucks? 

When it comes to Starbucks cappuccino vs macchiato it's the flavors that are different.

A Starbucks macchiato almost exclusively comes with caramel in, whereas a cappuccino comes with little variation.

You can always ask your local barista for any additions or changes to your drink.  

Are you supposed to stir a macchiato? 

How you drink coffee is totally up to you, but a macchiato will already be mostly stirred from the preparation, as the milk will have mixed with the espresso.

If you’re adding sugar or sweeteners, they should be mixed in.  

How does a latte differ from a macchiato and cappuccino? 

A latte is created with a thin layer of silky micro-foam which baristas pour on top of the espresso drink.

This means that when it comes to a macchiato or cappuccino vs latte, the latte is a lot smoother and milkier, with a silky texture and softer taste.

What is the weakest coffee drink? 

Surprisingly for those who drink coffee, an espresso is the weakest. A single shot of espresso will contain the least amount of caffeine, but in terms of taste, it is the very strongest.  

Which of these two coffees is easier to make at home? 

If you're choosing whether to make a cappuccino vs macchiato then it's worth considering how much work you're willing to put in. 

Generally, a macchiato should be easier as there's less milk content, and you only need to produce the thin layer of milk foam which can be difficult at first.

With a bit of practice and the right tools both drinks can be easy enough, you just have to stick with it.


Conclusion

Having the right cup of coffee can make or break your day, but it's important to choose the right one for you. 

Hopefully this guide has given you the full cappuccino vs macchiato breakdown, but just remember that a cappuccino is a milky coffee made with steamed milk, milk foam, and a single shot of espresso.

A macchiato is basically just an espresso with a light layer of milk foam.

Just remember - don't try to order a cappuccino in Italy after 11am!