Coffee Brewing

Macchiato vs. Latte: What’s The Difference?

Written by

Erica Cervenkova

Coffee Holli Top Pick

There are many different ways to enjoy espresso, but macchiatos and lattes are the most popular options.

So, do you want to know the difference?


Both are more complex than your average cup o’ joe!

These coffee drink staples have class and are a great choice for those who relish a bit of sophistication.

If this question is keeping you up at night, look no further. This post will give you everything you need to know about these two coffee drinks.

Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

What is a Latte?

A Latte (or Caffè Latte or Café au Lait in French) is an Italian espresso drink containing steamed milk (hot or cold).

The steamed milk is typically added to the coffee in a pitcher and then poured into a cup.

Lastly, the coffee shop’s barista will froth milk using a steam wand to position a layer of microfoam on top. This foam will help to hold the coffee’s crema.

So what does a classic latte taste like?

The drink’s high milk content results in a very light taste, hence, softening the bitter taste of espresso.

What is a Macchiato?

The Macchiato (or Caffè Macchiato) is yet another strong Italian espresso drink served in a small cup.

Get this:

This type of espresso is strong and flavorful, while the small portion of milk foam adds a creamy richness to its taste profile.

Sounds delicious, right?

A typical macchiato has around .5 ounces of steamed/foamed milk paired with a single or double shot of espresso.

Typically, it’s served in a glass cup and has two distinct layers.

Fun Fact:

The Italian word Macchia means “stain” and macchiare means “to stain.”

Yes, you read that right.

When added to the espresso, the milk stains the espresso creating an alluring layer of velvet. Hence the name “Caffè Macchiato;” which directly translates to “Stained Coffee.”


If you love both of these coffee drink staples, you can order a Latte Macchiato.

It features foamed milk on top, a shot of espresso in the middle, and steamed milk as the bottom layer. 

What is The Difference Between a Latte and a Macchiato?

The main difference between a caffè latte and macchiato is their coffee-to-milk ratio.


Macchiatos are smaller than lattes because they contain less milk. Whereas, a caffè latte has more steamed milk than espresso, thus, releasing more sugar and creating a sweeter taste.

More so:

A typical latte has 1 part espresso and 3 parts milk. On the other hand, the macchiato has less milk, so it’s easier to taste the bold espresso.

In essence, a macchiato has 2 parts espresso and 1 part milk.


The total caffeine content will depend on your preference; i.e. a single or double shot of espresso. In any coffee shop, it’s the same either way with these coffee drinks!

Brief Comparison Table

Espresso Cup Size8-12 oz3-5 oz
Beverage Volume (coffee: milk ratio)1:32:1
Caffeine Content (single/double)80mg /120 mg80mg /120 mg
TasteMild, SweetSharp, Bold, Lightly sweet


All in all:

The most important point to note is that a latte is made with more steamed milk, while a macchiato contains more coffee.

The result?

Lattes have a rich, flavored taste that’s somewhere between milk and foam, while macchiatos have bolder flavors of espresso.

Got it?

If so, which one will you order the next time you go to Starbucks?

Let me know in the comments section below.

Frequently Asked Questions about Macchiato vs Latte

What Is The Point Of A Macchiato?

The point of a macchiato is to enjoy a light and refreshing espresso, with a slightly sweet flavor. A macchiato is perfect for those who want an iced or hot “pick me up” without the espresso’s bitterness.
A macchiato is small and light; making it the ideal drink to grab on the go. Plus, it’s not too sweet, so it appeals to those who do not want added sugars in their coffee.

Is a Macchiato Just an Upside-Down Latte?

No, it’s not. The upside-down latte is a rather interesting take on the traditional latte drink.
In this variation, espresso coffee beans are added to your usual cup of steamed milk before you pour any foam over it for extra taste and texture! The sequencing is what makes it different.
On the other hand, the macchiato has an entirely different coffee-to-milk ratio.

What Makes an Espresso Macchiato Different from Coffee?

A macchiato is an espresso with a little bit of milk foam on top. Regular coffee is usually hot water diluted with coffee grounds.
To make a macchiato, add a little bit of steamed milk to an espresso shot – enough to make a thin layer on top. This makes the drink less bitter and a little creamy.

What Is The Difference Between Latte Macchiato and Cappuccino?

Latte macchiato and cappuccino are both coffee drinks, but they have different flavors and textures.
A Cappuccino comprises espresso, steamed milk, and a little foam. The foam is what gives the cappuccino its characteristic “pillowy” texture.
As a popular variation of the typical latte, a latte macchiato is made with espresso and steamed milk. What makes the latte macchiato different is the special pour effect. Pouring the milk slowly into the coffee brings out three beautiful layers in your drink.

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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