Coffee Brewing

Cortado vs Macchiato – 5 Key Differences You Need To Know

Written by

Erica Cervenkova

Coffee Holli Top Pick

Cortado vs Macchiato


Cortado and Macchiato are two of the smallest espresso-based drinks.

But can you tell them apart?

This post compares the Spanish-origin Cortado and Italian-origin Macchiato, comparing their origin, preparation, and taste differences.

The goal is to make it easier for you to choose and order and the best part – you will have the know-how on how to make them at home.

With that out of the way, let’s get into the business of the day.

Cortado vs Macchiato – What’s the Difference?

A Cortado is an espresso drink containing 1 or 2 shots of espresso and an equal amount of steamed milk without foam. Macchiato on the other hand contains 1 or 2 shots of espresso and a spot of steamed milk. It contains the least milk among all the espresso drinks.

Here is a simple table comparing the origin, ingredients, nutritional value, and taste of these two drinks.

Ratios1:1 Espresso and steamed milk1:<1 1- 2 shots of espresso stained with steamed milk.
The number of espresso shots21-2
Serving size3-4 oz3 oz
Caffeine content126 mg126 mg
Calories59 (when 2 shots are used)10-25
ToppingsVanilla syrup Honey syrupNo  
TasteIntense espresso taste yet sweetStrong espresso flavor

5 Key Differences Between Cortado vs Macchiato

1. Origin


The Cortado and Macchiato originated from two neighboring European countries. History points out that the first Cortado drink was made in Spain.

To date, the Cortado is still one of Spain’s most popular and readily available coffee drinks.

Macchiato on the other hand originated in Italy in the 1980s. The word Macchiato is an Italian word meaning marked, stained, or marked in English.

Surprisingly the staining of espresso with steamed milk was to mark the drink.

2. Ingredients


Macchiato and Cortado are both made of espresso and steamed milk.

On one hand, a Cortado is prepared with equal parts of espresso and steamed milk. This is traditionally two shots and an equal amount of steamed milk.

The milk should have little or no foam so that it can blend perfectly with the espresso.

A Macchiato is made of espresso, which is also traditionally two shots and a little bit of milk. With a Macchiato there is no specific amount of steamed milk to use, but it should be less than the amount of espresso.

This is unlike a Latte, which is the largest espresso drink and also the milkiest.

While the traditional Macchiato recipe uses steamed milk, some recipes use foamed milk.

3. Taste

As you would expect, Cortado and Macchiato have different tastes.

Cortado contains an equal part of steamed milk to dilute the espresso flavor.

The result?

A soft, rich, and strong drink.

The espresso flavors are distinct but not near what you get from a shot of espresso.

A Macchiato on the other hand contains very little milk. This results in a very strong espresso flavor and a bit of texture from the steamed milk.

4. Serving


Because a Macchiato and Cortado traditionally contain two shots of espresso, the amount of milk determines the size.

A Cortado contains an equal amount of steamed milk to the espresso, while Macchiato has more milk than espresso.

That’s why a serving of Cortado prepared with two shots of espresso is bigger than a serving of Macchiato containing two shots. 

Cortados are normally served in 3-4 oz glasses, while Macchiato is served in 3 oz glasses. However, this may change from one coffee shop to another.

5. Nutritional value

Since Cortado and Macchiato contain 1 or 2 shots of espresso, they both contain the same amount of caffeine.

That is, 63 mg for 1 shot and 126 mg for 2 shots. A Cortado contains the most calories as it has more milk content.

The Starbucks Espresso Macchiato has between 10 and 25 calories depending on the size, while the Starbucks 2 ristretto shots Cortado has 59 calories.


While they both contain shots of espresso and steamed milk, Cortado and Macchiato are completely different espresso drinks. Below is a recap of the differences.

  • Cortado originated in Spain, while Macchiato originated in Italy.
  • A Macchiato contains 1 or 2 shots of espresso and a spot of milk.
  • Cortado contains 1 or 2 shots of espresso and an equal amount of steamed milk.
  • A Cortado is served in 3-4 Oz glasses, while Macchiato is mostly served in 3 Oz servings.
  • A Macchiato is prepared with either steamed or foamed milk.
  • Cortado is prepared with steamed milk without foam.

And that is it for the differences between the Cortado and Macchiato. Did I leave anything out?

Go ahead and try any of the two drinks. You will probably identify another one of your favorite coffee drinks. Let me know how it goes in the comment section below.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much caffeine is in a Cortado?

A glass of Cortado containing two shots of espresso contains 126 mg of caffeine.

How much caffeine is in a Macchiato?

Just like a Cortado, a glass of a Macchiato made with two shots of espresso has 126 mg of caffeine.

Is Macchiato stronger than Cortado?

Yes, a Macchiato is stronger than a Cortado since it contains just a dollop or stain of milk. This is unlike a Cortado which is made with an equal amount of milk to the espresso.
A Macchiato has a very strong espresso flavor, while a Cortado is strong with balanced espresso and milk flavors.

What’s the difference between Cortado and Macchiato?

The major difference between Cortado and Macchiato is the amount of milk used.
A Macchiato is made with two shots of espresso and a dollop of steamed milk, while a Cortado contains an equal amount of espresso and steamed milk. 

Does a Cortado or Macchiato have more milk?

A Cortado has more milk than a Macchiato. A Macchiato serving with two espresso shots contains 1-2 spoonfuls of steamed milk.  A Cortado serving with 2 shots of espresso contains 2 ounces of

Erica Cervenkova
Coffee Connoisseur, SCA Member

As a coffee connoisseur and member of the Specialty Coffee Association, I am dedicated to understanding the sustainability of coffee pods and the impact it has on the environment. My expertise lies in the realm of capsule coffee machines, from the likes of Keurig and Nespresso to other well-known US brands. I am passionate about sharing my knowledge and helping others make informed decisions about their coffee choices. Whether you're a coffee enthusiast or just looking for a new way to enjoy your morning cup, I'm here to help.


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