Macchiato Vs Cappuccino (Differences Between Them)

Macchiatos and cappuccinos are common drinks around the globe. They’ll be in almost every coffee shop, and there are countless online tutorials on how to prepare both. With names so similar, it can be confusing as to how they’re different.  

In this guide, we’ll explore the difference between a cappuccino and macchiato to help you better understand their design.

Origins 

The 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 little milk. Macchiatos, almost exclusively, have a small amount 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.  

Macchiato diagram

There are many variations nowadays: 

  • 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.  
  • 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 macchiato is served in an espresso cup and has textured milk 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 steamed 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 milk. Some have argued that the foam insulates the coffee, keeping it warmer for longer. A dry cappuccino has a stronger espresso taste, and the coffee is darker in color.  
  • Bone Dry Cappuccino  
    Like a dry cappuccino – except there is no steamed milk. This is made with strictly 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 tea cup with coffee

Pros & Cons Of Cappuccinos 

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

Macchiato Vs. Cappuccino – Key Differences (The Bottom Line) 

1. Taste 

If you like a stronger tasting coffee, you’ll want to side with a macchiato. It was designed to ease the punch of an espresso but retain its bold flavor. 

It’s less forgiving on the tastebuds than a cappuccino, which mixes the milk with the espresso as you drink it. A cappuccino is sweeter in its overall taste and generally smoother overall.  

2. Caffeine Level 

A macchiato will taste more robust, so naturally, we would assume it has more caffeine. 

But that’s not correct! Generally, cappuccinos are served in 16oz servings and will come with double or triple espresso shots. Whereas a macchiato is either a single or double shot.  

Essentially, the caffeine content is higher in a cappuccino due to its size while also designed to drink for longer.  

3. Milk – Coffee Ratio 

It’s easy to tell these two drinks apart by their size, but knowing their ratios can also help in your preparation of them. A cappuccino is espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam in a 1:1:1 ratio. This also makes the drink 70% milk and 30% espresso. This is the standard for a cappuccino. 

Because a macchiato is a newer drink, there isn’t a strict way of making them. But generally accepted is 90% espresso and 10% milk. If you’re looking for a milkier coffee, the better option for you is a cappuccino. 

writing with coffee

4. Time of Day 

While this isn’t practiced much outside of Italy, a cappuccino is strictly a morning drink. This is because they consider a milky drink to be too heavy for the afternoon or after meals. In essence, they’re quite filling, and so is consumed in the morning to start your day. 

This is where the macchiato comes in! It’s thought a macchiato was created to get your dose of coffee, but with added milk if the taste is too intense. It’s drunk more often in the afternoon and evenings. 

Basically, don’t order a cappuccino after 11 am in Italy.  

5. Extras and Variations 

There’s no limit to the creations of coffee. In a coffee shop (like Starbucks), you’re likely to find different flavors you can add to your drinks, plus marshmallows and chocolates.  

A caramel macchiato is very much a common variant of the traditional macchiato, and you can find this everywhere. Cappuccinos aren’t flavored as often as their counterparts, but they generally come with whipped cream or chocolates on the side. Even if it’s not on the menu, you can always specifically request a shot of caramel from your barista; don't hold back! 

6. Preparation 

While there is no ‘right’ way to make coffee per se, there are also specific recipes that should be followed to create the coffee you want. 

A cappuccino is slightly harder to make than a macchiato because getting the ratio of coffee to milk right can be difficult. Macchiatos require less milk and only require foam, which can be easily made by whipping beforehand. 

7. Price 

A macchiato will usually be priced cheaper, as there is less to use and prepare. This, however, depends on where you go. A caramel macchiato from Starbucks usually costs $3.75, but a local, independent coffee chain may charge more or less than this.  

A cappuccino price will vary from $3 - $5, and this is also dependent on where you go. Essentially, expect a price upwards of $5 or less.  


People Also Ask (FAQs)

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

A Starbucks macchiato almost exclusively comes with caramel in, whereas a cappuccino comes with little variation. You can always ask the barista for any additions or changes to your drink.  

Are you supposed to stir a macchiato? 

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 silky micro-foam so that it is smoother and milkier in its texture. They have very little foam at the top, and the milk and espresso are mixed together in preparation. 

What is the weakest coffee drink? 

Surprisingly, an espresso is the weakest. A single espresso shot 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? 

Both can be easy with the right tools, but mastering them will take practice. Generally, a macchiato should be easier as it requires fewer ingredients and less attention to detail.  


Conclusion

Coffee is an important part of my day. With this applying to many people as well, it’s good to know what choices there are out there and what differentiates them. Cappuccinos and macchiatos have their merits, and if you’re a coffee enthusiast yourself, it is worth giving them both a try! Just, really, don’t try a cappuccino in Italy after 11 am.