Espresso Macchiato vs Latte Macchiato: What's the Difference

Macchiatos can be a confusing drink for coffee shop customers. If someone orders a macchiato in your coffee shop, it's a gamble to know what they want in their hot paper cup. They could be asking for an espresso-heavy drink or an upside-down latte. A good way to make a distinction between these drinks is to give them two different names: espresso macchiato and latte macchiato.

What is an Espresso Macchiato?

Espresso Macchiato in hot paper cup, Espresso Macchiato vs Latte Macchiato: What's the Difference

This is the traditional macchiato. Literally speaking, it's "spotted espresso," meaning it's espresso with a spot of milk. To make an espresso macchiato, pour two shots of espresso into a small hot paper cup. Steam milk until it has a thick layer of foam. Take a spoon and scoop a large dollop of this thick milk foam onto the espresso. Your finished product will be a strong cup of espresso with just a touch of milk foam.

What is a Latte Macchiato?

Latte Macchiato, Espresso Macchiato vs Latte Macchiato: What's the Difference

This is the modern version of a macchiato. Unlike the espresso macchiato, this isn't "spotted espresso." Instead, it's "spotted milk." To make a latte macchiato, steam 8 oz milk until it has a thick layer of foam on top. Pour it into a 12 oz hot paper cup. Top that with 2 shots of espresso. The foam is separate from the milk and espresso, and you'll end up with a beautifully layered drink.

What's the difference between a macchiato and a latte?

It's unclear why both these drinks are called macchiato. Customer confusion continues to be perpetuated by coffee shops defining the word differently.

Frothing Milk, Espresso Macchiato vs Latte Macchiato: What's the Difference

The popular coffee chain Starbucks is one of the original proponents of the macchiato as "spotted milk" rather than espresso. Their common drink, the caramel macchiato, is actually closer to a traditional flavored latte than any kind of macchiato. This causes mass confusion for customers branching out to smaller coffee shops.

To clarify this confusion, you can add both an espresso macchiato and a latte macchiato to your coffee shop menu so your customers get exactly what they want in their hot paper cups.


When considering the health aspects of latte macchiato vs espresso macchiato, it's vital to delve into their nutritional profiles. A latte macchiato, with its greater milk volume, tends to have more calories, calcium, and protein due to the steamed milk. It's predominantly steamed milk marked with a shot of espresso. On the other hand, an espresso macchiato consists of an espresso shot marked or topped with a dollop of frothy milk, making it lower in calories but higher in caffeine concentration. Between espresso macchiato vs latte macchiato, your health choice might hinge on whether you're prioritizing lower calorie intake or higher calcium and protein content. Both drinks, however, offer unique flavors and nutritional benefits, so the choice is often down to personal preference and dietary needs.

When discussing the difference between a latte and a macchiato, it's essential to note their distinct flavor profiles and compositions. A latte generally tastes milder and milkier due to its higher milk content, giving it a somewhat sweeter taste from the lactose found in milk. On the other hand, a macchiato retains a more robust espresso flavor since it's primarily espresso with just a touch of milk. The macchiato vs latte debate often revolves around personal preference for stronger coffee flavor or a creamier, milder taste. The key difference between latte and macchiato lies in the milk-to-espresso ratio and the method of preparation, with lattes having more steamed milk and macchiatos showcasing the espresso more prominently.

A macchiato is certainly a strong coffee option as it primarily consists of espresso with just a touch of milk. The term "macchiato" means "stained" or "spotted" in Italian, indicating that the coffee is "stained" with just a dash of milk. So, does a macchiato have espresso? Absolutely, it's the primary component of the drink. However, while the macchiato is robust, other espresso-based drinks, like a straight espresso shot or a ristretto, can be considered even stronger due to their concentrated nature and lack of milk.