Macchiato vs. Latte


In this article, we continue our knowing your coffee series. In this series, we’ve been explaining and comparing different coffee drinks side by side. In this installment, we pit up, macchiato vs. latte.

You’ve probably heard the latter more than the former. And that’s okay.

But if you’ve been around the coffee shop enough times, you’ve probably seen or heard a good number of customers, or the barista, call out both beverages.

As in the rest of this series, we’ll try to demystify the more confusing coffee drinks. This way you can confidently step up to the counter at your favorite coffee shop and make informative decisions on which to order based on how you’re feeling that day.


Macchiato vs. Latte

difference-between-macchiato-and-latteThe Macchiato and the Latte are known most by those who grace

Starbucks lines and drive-thrus. Both drinks actually originate in Italy.

And, there are not only differences between the macchiato and the latte in America, but they differ once the ocean is crossed as well.


How They’re Known as in Italy

In Italy, a latte is actually ordered as a caffe latte.

This is because “latte” in Italian, just means milk. So if a customer ordered a “latte”, they would only receive a cup of milk.

A caffe latte in Italy consists of a single shot of espresso, or a double if the customer orders. This coffee beverage is served with hot, steamed milk.

latteThe size is smaller because their espresso is so strong. And, Italians believe in drinking coffee in smaller amounts throughout the day. So, the caffe latte will be a cup full, instead of a sixteen-ounce paper cup like in the U.S.

Actually, the caffe latte is not a very commonly-ordered drink in Italy. So, the results might be different from bar to bar, and vastly different from what one finds in the U.S.

The Italian word “macchiato” meanwhile, means “marked” or “spotted”.

Also, it is worthwhile to note that Macchiato is different from Mocha, which is another coffee drink. While the two may sound similar, they are totally different drinks.

With that cleared up, let’s continue with the macchiato.

An Italian macchiato is made of a single or double (usually single) shot of espresso and just a small dollop of steamed foam.

Once again, the size of a macchiato is very small, a maximum of one cup. And it is very simple. Pretty much the same as the caffe latte in terms of simplicity.

Neither come with sugar or sweetener in Italy.

The customer must add these if they wish. But, it is not common to drink very sweet coffees in Italy.

And a hot milky coffee is never consumed after a meal, customarily. This is wildly different from the U.S.


How They’re Done in the United States

If you’ve been to Italy, or have friends who’ve come from Italy, you’ve probably figured out at some point that that not all our coffee drinks are completely identical to their original forms.

While they may carry the same name, be it cappuccino, mocha or macchiato, for some of these beverages, a few modifications here and there have been made.

latte-macchiato-in-the-usAnd now that we’ve gone through how the original caffe lattes and macchiatos are in Italy, we take a look at how they’re served here in the U.S.

In America, a latte is a blanket order for a coffee made with espresso and hot milk, just like in Europe.

However, the difference is that in the U.S., it is widely considered a baseline on which customers can add a variety of flavors and sweeteners.

Here, people barely ever order it without caramel or hazelnut or a sweetener of some kind.

Also, Americans can order large sizes. This goes all the way up to twenty-four ounces. And, we tend to consumed all day long, even with meals.

An American macchiato on the other hand, is extremely different from an Italian one in both size and flavor.

A macchiato in the U.S. can be ordered in any size. These can vary from small to very large.

Just like a latte, a macchiato is espresso with hot milk and hot foam, but with more emphasis on the foam.

Again, just like the latte, it is often used as a base on which people order a variety of flavors.

The Caramel Macchiato has become such a sensation that people rarely know that the macchiato is a separate drink. Hence it is treated very similar to the latte in the United States.


Closing Thoughts

All in all, the latte and the macchiato are similar coffee drinks,

Their difference lies in the small variations of milk and foam.

  • A Macchiato has a lot of espresso and just a spot of foam on the top.
  • Lattes on the other hand, has more milk. That’s why the word caffe latte means “milk coffee” in Italian. With lattes, the silky, smooth thin foam on the top is also very important.

However, the biggest difference occurs when the continents are crossed and cultures clash. Either way, the base of espresso unifies the coffees and makes for a delicious drink.


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