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What is a Macchiato?

Whether it was invented in the US or not, there is no questioning the ability of Americans to come up with a seemingly infinite number of variations to a popular product. That is certainly the case with espresso-based coffees which seem to have a wide variety for a relatively simple drink. One of the more popular versions is the macchiato.

It can be argued that the macchiato is somewhere between an espresso and a cappuccino. This means that a macchiato is stronger than your average cappuccino, but not quite in the same league as an espresso.

The name itself is Italian for “stained” or “marked” which gives some clue as to the makeup of this particular drink. There are two known variations of the macchiato, the espresso and latte versions. Basically, it involves staining or adding a dash of one element depending on which version of the macchiato you choose.

Espresso Machiatto

Sometimes called café macchiato when in Italy, in this version the milk will “stain” the espresso. This is essentially an espresso that has a dash of milk added which moderates the taste. It is usually done to moderate the flavor of the espresso with the milk. To create a macchiato from an espresso, you need to do the following.

  • Create a normal shot of espresso
  • Add one to two teaspoons of steamed milk and a little foam on top

You can serve the macchiato espresso versions in a ceramic or glass demitasse cup.

Latte Machiatto

Here, the steamed milk is now stained by the espresso. So, there is more milk and the layering is reversed compared to that of an espresso.

  • Pre-warmed 12 oz glass
  • 1/3 to ½ full of steamed milk
  • Slowly pour one shot of espresso over the steamed milk

If done correctly, you should see the distinctive dot in the center of the milk that denotes the espresso. But you should also see the layers along the side of the glass that run from the thicker steamed milk at the bottom to the espresso in the middle and the foam at the top.

Which One to Choose?

You should try both versions to see which one is your favorite. But in basic terms, the espresso version is stronger and has less milk. If you do not like a milky flavor, but also are not in the mood for a full shot of espresso, then this version is for you. Keep in mind that it is barely more than a shot, so you are only getting so much.

The latte version is a larger drink that is mostly steamed milk. If you like a hint of espresso, then this is for you. You can also add extra syrup to augment the taste, although it will lose some of that light, frothy feel. And light is the keyword because if you still find the drink too strong, then you should switch to straight milk.

You can certainly make your own version of the macchiato, but there are many coffee shops that have perfected the technique.