Macchiato Vs Cortado (Differences + Which To Choose)

The macchiato and cortado are two of the most popular espresso-based drinks in the world. But what is the difference between the two? And when should you choose one over the other?  

To understand the difference, we must first understand each drink's recipe. 

The main difference between a macchiato and a cortado is the type of milk used to prepare the beverage.  

1. Milk Content & Type 

  • macchiato is made with espresso and foamed milk, which is a lot like steamed milk, except that the milk is frothed before it's steamed to give it a nice, silky texture. 
  • Cortado is a Spanish word that means 'cut' in English. The origin of this name comes from the traditional method of preparing this coffee drink. The traditional method involves a shot of espresso and a small amount of milk, but the modern-day version involves steamed milk and a double shot of espresso. 

2. Caffeine Content 

The caffeine content of your macchiato or cortado will depend on how many shots of coffee it contains. A typical shot of espresso is 1 1/2 ounces or 77mg of caffeine. A double shot of espresso can have up to 185mg of caffeine. 

3. Calories 

Most of the calories in the coffee comes from the milk or sugar you add to it. Typically macchiatos and cortados use a small amount of milk, so the calorific content is much lower than a typical latte or cappuccino. Using alternative kinds of milk such as Almond or Oat will affect the calorific content of your drink. 

4. Extra Additions 

There are several different cortado variations, including café con leche and bombón (espresso with condensed milk). Many customers may choose to add sugar or sugar alternatives to sweeten their drink. 

One of the most popular variations of the macchiato is the caramel macchiato, which adds caramel syrup to the beverage. The drink became a hit after Starbucks introduced it in their stores and is now one of their signature drinks. 

5. Price In Cafes 

Depending on your local coffee shop, both drinks will typically set you back between $4 - $6 for a basic drink. If you switch out the milk for something non-dairy or add in flavored syrups, you can expect to pay more. 

Macchiato Vs Cortado: How Are They Made? 


A Macchiato is an Italian espresso-based coffee drink made with a small amount of hot milk. It's called a Macchiato because the espresso is "stained" or "marked" with a small amount of milk foam. 

To make a macchiato: 

  1. 1
    Prepare a single shot of espresso
  2. 2
    Froth a small amount of milk in a pitcher
  3. 3
    Remove the top of the foam (dry foam) with a spoon. Then, float it over the espresso


The name "cortado" is derived from the verb "cortar," which means "to cut" in Spanish. A cortado is essentially an espresso "cut" with a little bit of steamed milk to give it a creamy texture and a bit of sweetness. It's also important to note that the milk in the cortado is steamed, not frothed. 

To prepare a cortado: 

  1. 1
    Extract one (or two) shots of espresso.
  2. 2
    Gently steam your milk
  3. 3
    Pour the steamed milk into the espresso in a 1:1 ratio

What Does A Cortado Taste Like? 

A cortado is a coffee with character. Its smooth, full-bodied flavor has a gentle kick of espresso and a creamy finish. You'll enjoy the strong, rich, and bold character of this drink. It's available in many different variations, but its main ingredient is always espresso. 

A key ingredient of a cortado is steamed milk. The amount of steamed milk and the ratio of steamed milk to espresso depends on the barista and each region but is typically in a 1:1 ratio.  

The cortado is a great latte alternative because it doesn't have the strong flavor and aroma of espresso. Its other distinctive feature is its lack of foam. The milk is able to cut through the espresso and blend together as smoothly as possible. Coffee lovers love this drink due to its rich, creamy taste. 

Macchiato Vs Cortado (Differences + Which To Choose)

What Does A Macchiato Taste Like? 

The macchiato is a creamy, milky espresso drink that's more flavorful than a regular espresso. A small amount of steamed milk is blended together with a lot of strong coffee for a stronger and more rich drink. Rather than thinking of ratios, it's easier to view the macchiato as an espresso with a little milk in it. 

In a market saturated with milk-based coffee drinks, an espresso macchiato could be seen as a healthier alternative to regular lattes and cappuccinos. The macchiato contains only a small amount of milk or milk foam and won't dramatically increase the drink's calorific content. 

Macchiato at cafe

Things That Impact The Taste Of These Coffees 

  • Milk 
    Sugar, protein, and fat are the three main components in milk that affect the flavor and body of the coffee. These components are also used to enhance the sweetness and reduce bitterness in brewed beverages. If you want a more richly flavored drink, then ask for your beverage to be made using less foam. Adding extra foam (milk) will deliver a creamier texture. Among dairy alternatives, almond and soy milk are the most popular. Soy milk is an excellent alternative to dairy milk, offering similar protein levels and great taste when heated. However, it can curdle as a reaction to the coffee's acidity or temperature. Almond milk is a little nutty, with a slightly bitter aftertaste. That's why some people prefer to use the sweetened version of almond milk. 
  • Type Of Beans (Arabica & Robusta/other)  
    When using Arabica beans to make espresso, the taste will be more smooth and mellow than with robusta beans. 
  • Roast – Light Or Dark 
    If beans with a light roast are used, then the espresso will have a milder taste that's smoother. However, darker roasts can give the espresso a bitter taste. 
  • The Grind  
    If the grind is too fine, it can cause your espresso to be bitter. The finer the grind, the longer it will take for the water to reach the coffee bean, which means more water will enter the mixture, and more coffee will be extracted. 

Macchiato Vs Cortado FAQs

How many shots of espresso are usually in cortado? 

That depends on where in the world you're ordering your cortado. In Spain, the cortado is typically a single espresso of espresso and a small amount of milk. Other locations prefer to use a double shot of espresso. 

Regardless of the number of shots, the ratio of steamed milk to coffee should be about half and half. 

What is the difference between cortado, cappuccino & flat white? 

Again, this all pretty much comes down to milk. 

The cortado is a little bit smaller and a little bit stronger than a cappuccino, which is typically served in a larger mug or cup with more milk and foam. Sometimes, it can also be topped with chocolate powder. 

Though they have the same amount of espresso, the flat white and cortado differ in terms of the amount of milk and how much foam is added. The flat white has more milk than the cortado and is often topped with "latte art," where the cortado has a much more basic presentation. 

Is a cortado sweet? 

Not naturally. When you add sugar or syrup to your cortado, it makes it sweet. The taste of coffee is typically bitter, but it can be sweetened with honey, sugars, or flavored syrups. Some milk can also sweeten your drink, so be careful about what you add to your cortado if you're not a fan of overly sweet coffee. 

Is macchiato considered healthy? 

When consumed in moderation, a macchiato can be a healthy part of your diet, but if you're regularly consuming large amounts of coffee, it may be time to cut back. 

As a macchiato is typically a smaller drink, less sugar is required to sweeten the drink, and less milk is added. For that reason, a macchiato is typically considered more healthy than, say, a latte or cappuccino. 


Now that you understand the basics of these popular coffee drinks, you'll be ready to start experimenting with your own versions. Whether you're brewing one at home or going to a cafe, this guide will help you get started.