Comparing Macchiato vs Latte – Differences & Similarities!

Have you ever found yourself standing in a coffee shop, staring at the menu, and wondering what the difference is between a macchiato and a latte? You’re not alone. With the ever-growing popularity of specialty coffee drinks, it’s easy to get lost in the world of espresso-based beverages.

In this blog post, we’ll dive into the fascinating world of “macchiato vs latte,” uncovering the differences and similarities between these two popular coffee drinks. By the end, you’ll be a coffee connoisseur, ready to impress your friends and confidently order your next cup of java.

Short Summary

  • Explore the unique flavor and two variations of macchiatos, or try a latte for something smoother.
  • Macchiatos have bolder flavor & stronger strength than lattes, while lattes offer more milk content & larger cup sizes.
  • Customize your coffee experience with milk alternatives, syrups & spices, plus experiment at home with espresso machines!

Understanding Macchiatos

Macchiatos are espresso-based drinks with a small amount of milk, giving them a bolder flavor than their creamy counterparts – the lattes. With two types of macchiatos available, espresso macchiato and latte macchiato, the coffee world offers a wide range of options for coffee enthusiasts looking for something a little different.

Let’s delve deeper into the origins and variations of macchiatos to understand what sets them apart.

Origins of Macchiato

The word “macchiato” means “spotted” or “stained” in Italian, which gives us a hint about its origin. Macchiatos were first made in Italy in the 1980s as a twist on the classic espresso; adding a small dollop of frothed milk makes the rich and bold espresso “marked” with a velvety texture and a slightly milder flavor.

This unique combination quickly gained popularity and became a staple in coffee shops all over Italy, eventually spreading across the globe.

Espresso Macchiato

The espresso macchiato, also known as “marked coffee,” is a tiny cup with an espresso shot or two and a little bit of steamed milk and foam on top. This delightful concoction provides a perfect balance between the strong, rich flavor of espresso and the smooth, creamy texture of a cappuccino. It’s an ideal mid-afternoon pick-me-up for coffee lovers who crave a bolder taste.

However, it’s essential to note that not all espresso macchiatos are created equal. The espresso macchiato you’d get from a chain like Starbucks isn’t quite the same as the real deal. The original recipe for espresso macchiato doesn’t include any sugar. Still, many chain coffee shops often add sweeteners and syrups, altering the authentic experience.

To enjoy a true espresso macchiato, we recommend visiting your favorite specialty coffee shop, where skilled baristas prioritize quality and tradition.

Latte Macchiato

In contrast to the espresso macchiato, the latte macchiato is a larger coffee drink that features the espresso “staining” the milk. It is made by steaming milk and then carefully pouring a shot of espresso on top, creating visually appealing layers of milk, espresso, and foam. Latte macchiatos are usually served in 12 oz glass cups, allowing you to appreciate the distinctive layers and the subtle interplay of flavors.

The latte macchiato offers a creamier, mellower flavor profile compared to the espresso macchiato, starting with the rich, foamy espresso and gradually mellowing out as you sip through the layers of steamed milk. With a 1:1 milk-to-espresso ratio, the latte macchiato provides a smooth and satisfying coffee experience that appeals to a wide range of coffee drinkers.

Delving into Latte

Now that we’ve explored the world of macchiatos let’s turn our attention to the ever-popular caffè latte. Lattes are coffee beverages made with espresso, steamed milk, and a layer of milk foam on top, creating a smooth and comforting drink that has become a staple in coffee shops worldwide.

Just like macchiatos, lattes also come in various forms, such as classic and flavored varieties, offering a rich and diverse coffee experience for everyone to enjoy.

Latte Origins

The history of the latte can be traced back to Austria, where it evolved into the cappuccino in Italy. The modern latte, as we know it today, was invented by Lino Meiorin in California. This delightful blend of espresso, warm milk, and a dollop of milk foam quickly became a favorite among coffee drinkers, spreading its popularity across the globe.

It’s no wonder that lattes have become one of the most beloved coffee drinks, with their smooth texture and versatile flavor profiles.

Classic Latte

A classic latte combines 1/3 espresso and 2/3 warm milk. To top it off, a half-inch layer of foam is added for the perfect harmony. The velvety steamed milk complements the bold espresso, creating a smooth and comforting taste that has won the hearts of coffee enthusiasts everywhere. The milk foam adds an extra touch of indulgence, often used by skilled baristas to create delightful latte art, ranging from simple hearts and leaves to intricate masterpieces.

In addition to the traditional café latte, flavored lattes have also gained popularity, offering a creative twist on the classic drink. With options like caramel, mocha, and chai, flavored lattes cater to various taste preferences, making them a popular choice in coffee shops worldwide.

Whether you prefer the classic or flavored variety, there’s no denying that the latte is a timeless coffee drink that will continue to be a favorite for years to come.

You might like: Types of Coffee: The Connoisseur’s Bucket List

Flavored Lattes and Café au Lait

Customizing lattes with various flavors is a fun and creative way to enjoy this classic coffee drink. Adding flavored syrups such as vanilla, caramel, or hazelnut can transform a traditional latte into a delectable treat, perfect for satisfying your sweet tooth. Some coffee shops even offer seasonal flavors, allowing you to indulge in unique combinations and discover new favorites.

Café au lait is another coffee drink that shares similarities with the latte. The main difference between the two lies in the type of coffee used: lattes are made with espresso. Café au Lait is made with brewed coffee instead of espresso. The resulting drink is a milder yet still creamy and enjoyable coffee experience that can be customized with flavors and milk alternatives, just like a latte.

Macchiato vs Latte: Key Differences

Now that we have a better understanding of macchiatos and lattes let’s highlight their key differences. Macchiatos are characterized by their stronger coffee flavor and smaller serving size due to their 1:2 milk-to-coffee ratio. Lattes, on the other hand, have a higher milk content, resulting in a creamier texture and a milder taste.

The presentation and size of the two drinks also vary, with macchiatos typically served in a 5 oz cup and lattes ranging from 8 to 16 oz. With these distinctions in mind, you can now confidently navigate the world of espresso-based beverages and find the perfect drink to suit your preferences.

Milk Content and Ratio

The milk content and ratio play a significant role in distinguishing macchiatos and lattes. Macchiatos have a 1:2 milk-to-coffee ratio, meaning they have less milk and a stronger coffee flavor. Lattes, in comparison, have a higher milk content, which contributes to their creamier texture and milder taste.

Knowing these differences can help you make an informed decision when choosing between a macchiato and a latte.

Coffee Strength

Another key difference between macchiatos and lattes is their coffee strength. Macchiatos have a more potent flavor and smaller serving size, making them a stronger choice for those who prefer a bolder coffee experience.

Lattes, on the other hand, offer a smoother, more comforting taste with a larger serving size, making them the perfect choice for those who enjoy a milder coffee drink.

Presentation and Size

The presentation and size of macchiatos and lattes also set them apart. Macchiatos are typically served in a smaller 5 oz cup, highlighting their stronger coffee flavor and smaller serving size.

Lattes, however, come in a range of sizes, from 8 to 16 oz, catering to a variety of preferences and allowing for a more customizable coffee experience. By understanding the different presentation and size options, you can choose the coffee drink that best suits your taste buds and daily caffeine needs.

Customizing Your Coffee Experience

One of the most enjoyable aspects of coffee culture is the ability to customize your coffee experience. Both macchiatos and lattes can be tailored to your preferences, with milk alternatives and flavor additions available to create your perfect coffee drink.

Let’s explore some of the most popular customization options that can take your coffee experience to the next level.

Milk Alternatives

Whether you’re lactose intolerant, vegan, or simply looking for a new flavor profile, milk alternatives can offer a unique twist on your favorite coffee drinks. Options like almond, soy, and oat milk can be used in place of traditional dairy milk in both macchiatos and lattes, providing a variety of tastes and textures to suit every preference.

By experimenting with different milk alternatives, you can uncover new and exciting ways to enjoy your milk coffee, such as trying hot milk, creamy steamed milk, or foamed milk.

Flavor Additions

Adding syrups and spices to your coffee can enhance its taste and create a personalized flavor profile. Popular syrup options include vanilla, caramel, and hazelnut, while spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom can add a touch of warmth and complexity to your drink.

By incorporating these flavor additions, you can transform your macchiato or latte into a truly unique and indulgent experience, perfect for satisfying your cravings and discovering new favorites.

Coffee Shop Misconceptions

As coffee enthusiasts, it’s essential to be aware of the misconceptions that often arise in the world of coffee shops. Chain coffee shops, in particular, can blur the lines between specialty coffee drinks like macchiatos and lattes, leading to confusion about their true nature.

By understanding these misconceptions, you can better navigate the coffee world and ensure you’re getting the authentic coffee experience you desire.

Chain Coffee Shop Variations

Some chain coffee shops may serve macchiatos and lattes that differ significantly from their traditional forms. For example, a macchiato from a popular chain like Starbucks might be more like a sweetened latte, while a latte from the same chain could come with various syrup flavors and added toppings.

To truly enjoy the authentic taste of a macchiato or latte, consider visiting a specialty coffee shop where skilled baristas prioritize quality and tradition over convenience and mass appeal.

Ordering Tips

When ordering macchiatos and lattes at coffee shops, it’s crucial to be specific about your preferences to ensure you get the coffee drink you desire. Whether you’re at a chain coffee shop or a specialty café, don’t be afraid to ask for your preferred milk alternative, flavor addition, or even the specific size of your drink.

By being clear and friendly with your barista, you’ll be more likely to receive a customized coffee that meets your expectations and satisfies your taste buds.

Brewing at Home

Why not bring the coffee shop experience to your own kitchen? With the right equipment and techniques, you can create delicious macchiatos and lattes in the comfort of your own home.

Not only is it a fun and rewarding process, but brewing at home also allows you to experiment with different coffee beans, milk alternatives, and flavor additions to create the perfect coffee drink tailored to your unique tastes.

You can explore the world of coffee with the freedom to experiment and find the perfect cup.

Espresso Machines

Investing in an espresso machine with a steaming wand is essential for creating the best macchiatos and lattes at home. There are various types of espresso machines available, including manual, semi-automatic, and automatic options. Each type offers a different level of control and ease of use, so it’s essential to find the one that best suits your needs and preferences.

Related: The Best Coffee Beans for Espresso

With your very own espresso machine, you’ll be able to craft perfect espresso shots and steam milk to create the foundation for your macchiatos and lattes.

Techniques and Tips

To create the perfect macchiato or latte at home, it’s essential to learn proper steaming and pouring techniques. For a macchiato, start by pouring the espresso, then add the steamed milk.

When making a latte, pour the steamed milk first, then add the espresso. By mastering these techniques, you’ll be able to create beautiful layers and achieve the perfect balance of flavors in your homemade coffee drinks.

Brewing coffee at home also opens up a world of possibilities for experimentation and customization. You can explore various coffee beans and roasts, try different milk alternatives, and add your favorite syrups and spices to create a truly personalized coffee experience.

Whether you’re a seasoned barista or a coffee enthusiast looking to expand your horizons, brewing at home is a rewarding and enjoyable journey that allows you to discover new flavors and develop your coffee-making skills.


In conclusion, understanding the differences and similarities between macchiatos and lattes is essential for any coffee lover. While macchiatos offer a bolder, stronger flavor with a higher coffee-to-milk ratio, lattes provide a creamier, smoother experience with more milk.

By recognizing these distinctions and exploring various customization options, you can find the perfect coffee drink to suit your taste buds and enjoy a truly personalized coffee experience.

So, go ahead and embrace the world of espresso-based beverages, and let your coffee journey lead you to new and exciting flavors.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a latte stronger than a macchiato?

Yes, a macchiato is stronger than a latte; it offers bolder flavors and higher caffeine content and is traditionally made with a single shot of espresso and steamed milk.

It is a popular choice for those who want a stronger coffee experience but don’t want the bitterness of a straight espresso. It is also a great way to add a bit of sweetness to a cup of espresso.

Which is healthier, a latte or a macchiato?

Overall, macchiatos are the healthier option as they have significantly fewer calories, fat, and protein than lattes or cappuccinos.

However, lattes offer the most nutrition due to their higher milk content.

Is a Starbucks macchiato the same as a latte?

A Starbucks macchiato is different from a latte because it contains just espresso and steamed milk, while a latte consists of espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk.

The layering of the two ingredients is also more noticeable in the macchiato as compared to the latte.

Related: Starbucks Espresso Roast Blend Review

Is a macchiato stronger than coffee?

The macchiato is stronger than coffee, as it has a bolder flavor and contains more caffeine. It’s traditionally made with a single shot of espresso and steamed milk, with a ratio of one part milk to two parts espresso, resulting in a much stronger flavor and a smaller serving size.

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Nathan is the founder of The Darkest Roast (featured in the NY Times, Yahoo, and Tasting Table). He is a self-taught coffee expert and has tried 100s of coffees from around the world. Nathan's goal is to help you find the best coffee, so you only drink the best.