Macchiato vs Latte – The Differences Explained

In trendy coffee culture today, the terms macchiato and latte are often used interchangeably. However, this is a mistake that makes anyone who is familiar with the finer aspects of the industry cringe. 

Macchiato and latte have their own specific qualities that make them quite different from one another.

So, what is the difference between a macchiato and a latte?

Macchiato Means Spotted Coffee in Italian

Translate - Macchiato means Spotted Coffee

The macchiato was first discovered in Italy. 

Caffé Macchiato and Espresso Macchiato are also widely recognized variations on the name.

The name it was given thoroughly explains a macchiato’s make-up. The Italian word macchiato translated into English basically means spotted, stained or marked.

Since the bit of milk added to this drink essentially stains the espresso, it is an apt description. The espresso remains dominant while the milk makes only a light appearance.

Read More : Macchiato vs Cappuccino – Do You Know the Differences?

Espresso is At the Center of the Macchiato

Composition of Macchiato Coffee

In a traditional macchiato, the star of the show is the espresso. 

The macchiato restricts the amount of steamed milk added in order to maintain the boldness of the shots, allowing the power of the espresso to shine through.

Rather than diluting the espresso by pouring a generous amount of steamed milk on top as is done with many other drinks, a macchiato features only a dollop of milk, meaning the finished product is made up of mostly shots.

For those who wish to experience the full flavor of the espresso shots but want to break it up with a little creaminess, a macchiato is an excellent choice.

Barista Tip : The caramel macchiato you order from commercialized coffee menus is drastically different from the macchiato we’re talking about.

Macchiato is Served in A Tiny Cup

Macchiato in a Blue Demitasse Cup

A macchiato is served in a cup that only holds a couple of ounces of liquid along with a saucer and a demitasse spoon.

A white dot of milk will often be the only thing disrupting the espresso. 

However, a well-trained barista will be able to manage a design on top, though it takes a great deal of skill in order to manage it with such a small amount of milk.

Caffe Latte Refers to Coffee with Milk

Translate - Caffe Latte means Coffee with Milk

Italy also owns the credit for introducing latte to the coffee scene, so it’s Italian name too serves as a description. 

Caffé Latte is the full name with caffé meaning coffee and latte meaning milk.

Most coffee shops know what you’re asking for when you simply order a latte. However, in Italy, be sure to include both terms unless you wish to be served warm milk when you simply order a latte!

Read More : 21 Common Types of Coffee Around the World

Pay Attention to the Milk in the Latte

Composition of Latte Coffee

When it comes to a latte, the espresso shots are, of course, important. However, a great deal of attention is transferred to the composition of the milk.

The composition of the milk is more noticeable due to the fact that it makes up more than half of the latte, though the taste of the espresso is still present.

The reason the quality of the steamed milk is important in a latte is not only because the smooth feel is pleasant to the palate, but because texture makes a huge difference when it comes to executing beautiful latte art.

Depending on the barista’s skills, a poorly made latte might end up looking like a flat white and y you can’t even tell the differences!

Read More : Flat White vs Latte – Find Out the Differences

The Milk Foam is the Star of the Show

Beautiful Latte Arts in Coffee

The milk foam is essential in order for the barista’s design to stand out in the cup. The finished product should be a pure white picture on the backdrop of rich, tawny espresso.

Lattes are traditionally served hot, but can also be served iced in which case the barista does not steam the milk, but simply pours it over the espresso shots and adds ice, stirring to integrate the elements together.

Whether hot or iced, sugar or syrups can be added to a latte. 

The barista will allow the warm, freshly pulled espresso to envelop the chosen sweetener, mixing it thoroughly so that it’ll add sweetness to the entire beverage.

Latte Can Be Served in A Variety of Cup Sizes

Barista Pouring a Latte Ary

In the third-wave coffee industry, the options for lattes are usually 8oz, 12oz, and 16oz. Less traditional shops will often times go up to 20oz or higher.

When choosing your size of latte, it’s important to take into account that if you choose a larger size cup, you’re not getting more coffee in your latte, just more milk.

Whatever size you choose, a latte in a fine coffee shop will be served in a ceramic cup with a matching saucer. If it is in a to-go cup, it’ll be left uncovered so that you can appreciate the latte art presented on top.

Barista Tip : If your goal is to up the caffeine jolt a few notches but you want a larger drink, consider asking for a couple of extra shots to balance out the espresso to milk ratio.

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About Sarah Lee

Sarah Lee is a former barista who discovered the power of coffee while maintaining a rigorous dance and writing schedule. She trained as a barista in the third-wave coffee industry, receiving in-depth instruction about how to assemble traditional espresso drinks and perfecting her latte art skills.