Macchiato Vs Latte: How They Differ & Compare

If you’re no stranger to feeling overwhelmed by your local cafe’s menu, this topic is for you! We’re here to discuss two of the most beloved and most ordered coffee drinks: the macchiato and the latte.  

Not only will this guide to macchiato vs. latte cover the basics of both beverages, but it will also provide you with their similarities and differences so that you can make a more informed decision next time you place a coffee order.  

To top it off, you’ll learn easy methods for making both drinks at home, even if you don’t own a fancy coffee machine.  

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First, let’s talk about the classic macchiato. Although the name is fancy, the drink itself is very simple. It consists of an espresso shot and a splash of steamed milk - that’s it!  

So why the fancy name? Well, the history of the macchiato traces back to Italy, and in the Italian language, macchiato literally translates to stained or spotted. This means that caffè macchiato literally translates to spotted coffee. This name makes sense since the espresso (coffee) is “spotted” with a splash of milk.  

The main thing that sets the macchiato apart from other espresso drinks is the high ratio of espresso to milk. By adding a quick splash of steamed milk, whether it’s full-fat or a dairy-free alternative, the espresso flavor is able to remain strong and bold.  

This is exactly why so many people choose the macchiato as their drink of choice.  

warm coffee drink

What Exactly Is a Latte? 

Since a latte uses the same ingredients as a macchiato - espresso and milk - many people assume these beverages will taste the same. They’re actually very different in terms of taste, and this is because a latte has a much higher milk content.  

A latte is made by combining a shot of espresso with a heaping amount of steamed milk, and then it is topped with milk foam. It can be made with either 1 or 2 shots of espresso, but no matter which one you go with, the milk should take up about ⅔ of the entire drink. 

Just like the macchiato, the latte originated in Italy as an important fixture in Italian coffee culture, where it is known as caffè latte. However, ordering a latte is a better choice for anyone wanting to sip on a creamy milky beverage with hints of coffee (rather than sip on a bold coffee beverage with a hint of milk).  

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Macchiato Vs Latte: Differences + Which to Order 

The main difference between a macchiato and a latte is the ratio of milk to espresso. While a latte uses about ⅓ espresso to ⅔ milk, a macchiato consists of 1-2 shots of espresso with a splash (or dollop) of milk.  

This is the biggest difference, but it’s not the only one. Here are a few more things that set apart these two beverages:  

Ingredients

At first look, it’s easy to assume that the ingredients are exactly the same for both drinks. But there’s one big difference; the addition of foamed milk on top of a latte. A macchiato is not generally topped with foam, and if it is, it’s generally just a thin layer of microfoam to enhance the espresso flavor. 

Preparation

The main preparation for both drinks is all in the espresso. It starts by making 1 or 2 shots of espresso, followed by a milk steaming process.

As you can see, the preparation is very similar; the main difference in preparation is the ratio in which these ingredients are combined. 

Caffeine Content

A macchiato and latte contain the same amount of caffeine. Of course, this depends on whether you drink yours with 1 or 2 shots of espresso, but both drinks are traditionally made with 1 espresso shot, which ranges from 80 to 120mg caffeine. 

espresso machine extracting coffee

Size

Macchiatos are traditionally much smaller in size than lattes. Most macchiatos are served in 2 to 3-ounce cups, whereas a latte is served as 8-ounces or more. 

Hot or Cold Options

Both drinks can be ordered hot or cold. When comparing an iced latte vs. iced macchiato, the same differences apply - a macchiato contains less milk, less foam (if any at all), and is stronger in taste. 

Healthiness

If you’re looking at it from a calorie perspective, the macchiato has fewer calories. This is because it has less milk, and milk is the culprit for the majority of the calories in these coffee drinks. While a 2-ounce macchiato has just ~15 calories, a 16-ounce latte can have 200+ calories. 

For either drink, you can go with a dairy-free option if you’re trying to cut back on calories or want to stick to a vegan diet, like almond milk or oat milk. 

Variations

Both drinks come in a variety of variations, and this is all thanks to the many syrups and flavors lining coffee shop shelves. For the macchiato, the most popular variations right now are the latte macchiato and caramel macchiato, and for the latte, people love to add flavors like vanilla, mocha, and caramel. 

plastic cup with coffee

How to Make Macchiatos & Lattes at Home 

You don’t need a high-end espresso maker to enjoy a macchiato or latte at home. You don’t need to go through extensive barista training, either. All you need is the ability to make espresso - don’t worry, there are several easy ways to do this - and your favorite milk product or dairy-free alternative.   

For both drinks, start by making a shot (or 2) of espresso. This can be done using an espresso machine, but you can also use a French Press with espresso coffee beans or even an espresso Keurig cup. 

Once the espresso is made, it’s time to add the steamed milk. Once again, you don’t need a fancy milk steamer or frother to do this. Here are a few ways to steam milk without a steamer. When you’re happy with the milk’s consistency, it’s time to combine it with your espresso.  

Making Your Macchiato 

For a macchiato, you just need to add a dollop of milk to the top of the drink - the foamier, the better - and you’re done! For a latte, slowly add the steamed milk so that it makes up about ⅔ of the total drink (and the espresso makes up the other ⅓).  

Tips for Making a Latte at Home 

Traditional lattes have a thick layer of foam on top, which can be difficult to accomplish without the right equipment. However, it is possible; just pour your milk of choice into a jar, screw the lid tight, and shake vigorously for 30 seconds to a minute.  

Once it's frothy, microwave it (uncovered) for about 30 seconds, and it will have a nice, foamy consistency. Pour the milk over the espresso, then use a spoon to gather up the foam and top the drink. To give it a nice finishing touch, sprinkling some cinnamon or cocoa powder on top.  


People Also Ask (FAQs)

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

Starbucks is without a doubt the global leader in coffee drinks, and that includes both lattes and macchiatos. The baristas here stick to the traditional differences, like milk to espresso ratio, cup size, and thickness of foam on top.  

Why are Starbucks macchiatos different from other places? 

Most people who order at Starbucks add flavored syrup to their macchiatos, which makes the drink taste a lot different - and a lot sweeter - than a traditional macchiato. The most common variation ordered here is the caramel macchiato, and according to the Starbucks menu, here’s how it is made:  

"Freshly steamed milk with vanilla-flavored syrup is marked with espresso and topped with caramel drizzle for an oh-so-sweet finish." 

If you prefer the traditional macchiato without the extra flavoring, make sure to order the Espresso Macchiato drink instead.  

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Which is stronger, a macchiato or latte? 

A macchiato has a much stronger, bolder flavor since the coffee to milk ratio is higher. However, both drinks contain the same amount of espresso (unless you order an extra shot), so in regards to caffeine, they’re the same.  

How does a cappuccino compare to these two popular coffee orders? 

When comparing a latte vs cappuccino vs macchiato, the cappuccino falls somewhere between a latte and macchiato. It contains more milk than a macchiato, but not as much as a latte.  


Conclusion

While it’s impossible to say which beverage is better when comparing a macchiato vs. latte, we can tell you that one is very espresso-dominant (macchiato) and the other is very milk-dominant (latte).

The one you order depends entirely on your preferences - do you want an espresso with a splash of milk, or does milk with a splash of espresso appeal more to you? 

Back in 2016, Starbucks released a drink called the Latte Macchiato, so if you just can’t decide between the two, why not go with both!?