You can’t decide between a latte, a latte macchiato, and a regular macchiato. The names don’t tell you much, so you have to guess at them.
You could also look them up, as you are now, to see the differences between each of these espresso-based drinks.
I’ve tried these drinks before, and I must say that pure lattes are my favorite partly because they can be flavored and have a consistent flavor and texture from top to bottom.
Before we get into the main differences between the drinks, let’s look at how they’re made. The comparison will be much easier as a result of this.
The appearance of a latte, latte macchiato, and macchiato
Knowing the appearance of each of these drinks will save you a lot of time. You might even see the different layers through the glass, depending on where you get them.
If you’re getting them to-go, your only option is to observe the barista.
A latte is a milk-based beverage with a shot of espresso at the bottom.
Starting with the latte, one of the most popular espresso-based drinks, along with a cappuccino.
There is a significant amount of milk in the latte. It should be noted that the term itself translates to “milk” in Italian, so be cautious if you speak any Latin language.
The milk is large, but mostly in terms of volume rather than weight. A latte contains steamed milk, microfoam, and regular milk foam.
It’s usually a large drink, ranging from 8 to 16 oz/236 to 470 ml, depending on where you get it.
Add the espresso shot (usually a double-shot) in a fluid motion, followed by about 6 times more steamed and frothed milk. The way you incorporate the milk determines the appearance of the latte art.
A latte macchiato contains a lot of milk, but the espresso is added last.
A latte macchiato also has a lot of milk in it. It costs the same as a regular latte, but there’s a catch.
Instead of being added first, the espresso is added last. Then, after the barista has finished steaming and foaming the milk, she will pour it into your cup or glass with care.
Then she pours the espresso, crema, and all, on top (usually right in the middle for effect). This produces a very different flavor experience, and if your glass is clear, you’ll notice a lovely transition from milk foam to milky espresso to steamed milk.
This can be as big as a regular latte.
A macchiato (also known as an espresso macchiato) is a shot of espresso topped with a dollop of foamed milk.
When ordering a macchiato, please specify whether you want espresso macchiato or latte macchiato. The original, traditional macchiato is a shot of espresso with no sugar or other additives, topped with a teaspoon or two of milk froth.
This produces a very strong but small drink, with the frothed milk serving only to soften the edge of the espresso.
Some baristas may feel compelled to add a smidgeon of steamed milk. It’s not the original method, but many people prefer it because it’s easier to drink.
If you’re wondering what the name means, it means marked, spotted’ in Italian. This is due to the addition of a dollop of milk. And yes, the latte macchiato is so named because it contains a shot of espresso.
Now that you have a rough idea of what each coffee drink looks like, let’s get into the finer points of each and compare them.
1. Milk content – lattes are always higher in milk content.
The amount of milk in a product is always important. We’ve gotten to the point where people argue about whether 2 percent or whole milk is better for a latte. So, yes, milk is important.
A latte and a latte macchiato will always have a lot of milk, probably the most milk of any coffee drink. There’s only one espresso shot (usually a double shot, but it can sometimes be a single shot) and all the milk in the pantry.
Any latte contains approximately 6 times the amount of milk found in an espresso shot. Some coffee shops may use more or less depending on what the barista thinks is tasty and how she was trained; others may use less or more.
A macchiato will contain the smallest amount of milk possible because it is essentially just a shot of espresso with some foamed milk poured on top of the shot of espresso. As a result, there is little point in frothing milk.
Most of the time, the milk foam is added last, usually by spooning it on top of the espresso’s crema. However, if the barista believes it will improve the flavor of the espresso, or if you specifically request it, she can pour the espresso into the milk foam first, then pour the milk foam into the espresso cup after that.
As a result, the flavor is more even, but the overall presentation is less impressive.
- a latte macchiato
- latte in the middle
- appropriate espresso macchiato
2. A macchiato has a strong coffee flavor.
Because there isn’t much milk to dilute the espresso – it’s milk foam, not actual liquid milk – the macchiato will be your best friend if you want a strong espresso flavor.
It’s not as strong as a pure, black espresso, but it’s still a drink you’ll finish in 4-5 sips and feel the effects of.
However, if you prefer a more mellow version, the latte macchiato is the way to go. I say this because, due to the way the espresso is added to the drink, the first few sips will be stronger than the last.
This is also because latte macchiato frequently uses whole milk rather than 2 percent milk. As a result, the layers and flavors are more distinct.
Finally, go with a simple latte if you want a mild and friendly coffee flavor. This is due to the milk being poured on top of the espresso, which aids in the blend and results in a more consistent flavor from top to bottom.
It also means that the espresso flavor will be significantly reduced, and you’ll be left with a creamy, milky drink to sip on.
3. The tops of the drinks appear to be very different.
Because the drinks are constructed differently, it stands to reason that their tops will also differ.
You may be wondering why this is important, aside from being visually appealing. Aside from distinguishing each drink, the tops differ due to the order in which each item was introduced into the drink.
A latte, for example, will have a foamy top made of milk foam and espresso crema. If your barista is tired or doesn’t have her latte art down pat, she’ll likely serve you a drink with a white top and a nice tan/orange circle around the edge.
Perhaps try some cocoa powder art on top, but those are rare.
However, as you may know, lattes have latte art on top. Those lovely flowers, hearts, and leaves make everyone prefer one barista over another.
The latte art is created by pouring the milk and its microfoam into the espresso crema and moving the stream so that lines and circles are created.
There is no such thing as a latte macchiato because the milk is added first. Because there is nothing to contrast it with, it will be a top white drink. However, a tan/brown mark in the middle usually distinguishes it from other drinks.
That is where the espresso was introduced into the milk, leaving a mark (or mark, for macchiato).
A regular macchiato is a small drink with a tan/orange foamy top (the crema) and one white blob on top. That’s milk foam, and it’s usually right in the center of the crema.
4. The coffee and milk layers differ.
For a moment, let’s return to the construction of the drinks. If your drink is served in a glass or something transparent, you’ll be able to see its structure and where the milk blends into the espresso if you look at it from the side.
So, for a latte, expect a mostly uniform light tan liquid with steamed milk and espresso near the bottom. The microfoam will be slightly lighter but still a nice light tan color.
Finally, where the latte art is, you’ll notice the milk froth on top as a mixture of distinctive orange/tan and white streaks. Overall, a consistent beverage.
A latte macchiato will be more impressive because the lower portion will be steamed milk that hasn’t yet blended with the espresso.
As you raise your eyes to the ceiling, you’ll notice the espresso blending with the milk more and more until you reach the milk foam on top.
Except for the tan mark where the espresso was added, that will be completely white and almost entirely milky in flavor.
And the small macchiato will be just the espresso shot, dark brown/black with a half-inch layer of crema (possibly less, depending on the coffee used).
If you look from the side, you won’t notice the milk foam, but if you look from the top, you will.
All of these layers and how they interact in each coffee drink create a unique coffee experience, so you’ll get different flavors.
A latte macchiato is simply a latte turned upside down.
You might think the latte macchiato is a bit of a snub. I believe it is. And it’s an upside-down latte, but latte macchiato sounds fancier.
There is one distinction: regular latte uses 2 percent milk, whereas latte macchiato uses whole milk. But that’s just a Starbucks thing because most coffee shops don’t use anything other than 2 percent milk.
The drink’s name is sometimes listed as ‘upside-down latte’ on the menu, but it’s latte macchiato. Unless the barista says otherwise, please notify me; I’d like to know.
- art of latte
- espresso macchiato (on the left)
- latte macchiato in the middle
- correct – latte
5. A macchiato will always be less than a latte in size.
Serving sizes, oh my. Everyone enjoys their coffee hot, flavorful, and in large quantities. Unfortunately, however, not all coffee drinks are available in large sizes. And that’s probably a good thing because a 10 oz macchiato is probably too much for most of us.
As a result, a macchiato is always served in a small cup, such as a 5 oz/150 ml or smaller. The entire drink is only 3 oz/100 ml, so there’s no point in serving it in anything larger.
Lattes and latte macchiatos will always come in various sizes, ranging from 8 to 16 oz/236 to 470 ml. This primarily accounts for a large amount of milk that goes into all lattes, as espresso is only an ounce or two.
6. While lattes can be flavored, macchiatos cannot.
Lattes are frequently simple, but more often than not, they come with the option of flavoring. Of course, it doesn’t matter which flavor you use; the point is that you can add almost anything you want to the drink, and it will still be a latte.
This also applies to latte macchiato, but much less frequently because you’re not supposed to stir the drink. And you must stir it to distribute the flavor evenly throughout the drink.
Macchiatos aren’t flavored because they’re meant to be a pure shot of espresso, but they’re slightly toned down for those who prefer a little less kick from their coffee.
The original espresso macchiato recipe contains no sugar, resulting in a stiff drink.
Mocha is a chocolate-flavored macchiato.
You can get a flavored macchiato, but it’s not a macchiato. It is, however, the closest thing to a flavored espresso macchiato.
A mocha is made with espresso, chocolate syrup or sauce, and one part milk foam on top.
The only thing that resembles a macchiato in that sentence is the espresso shot and the milk foam.
Characteristics shared by latte, latte macchiato, and macchiato
Now that we’ve gone over every distinction between latte, latte macchiato, and espresso macchiato, let’s look at what they all have in common.
All three drinks are made with espresso.
These drinks must be made with espresso shots; otherwise, the flavor will be off, and the ratio of coffee flavor to milk will be off.
If you don’t have an espresso machine, the only vaguely acceptable alternatives are a Moka pot or an Aeropress. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to get a real espresso shot.
All of them require frothed and steamed milk.
And all of these drinks require some form of milk, even if it’s just a little milk foam on top of a macchiato. You’ll need an espresso machine with a steam wand to get the milk right.
Alternatively, a milk frothing wand can be used to achieve a similar but not quite as authentic result.
Choosing your favorite coffee drink from these three options should be easier now. You’ve had the milky espresso shot, the milder espresso shot, and the punch-in-the-face espresso shot.
If you’re new to coffee, the names of coffee drinks may be meaningless to you at first, but as you get to know them, you’ll notice they have their logic.
I hope this comparison of latte, latte macchiato, and espresso macchiato helped you decide which drink to make at home or order when you go out for coffee.