Macchiato vs Cortado – Comparing these two Delicious Espressos with Milk

What’s The Difference between Cortado vs Macchiato?

There are some significant differences between a Cortado and Macchiato. Both drinks contain espresso and milk, but that’s where the similarities end…

The Cortado originated in Spain. It’s somewhat similar to a cappuccino, but there’s barely any foam on top. A cortado is made by combining two shots of espresso with an equal amount of warm steamed milk. 

The traditional Macchiato, on the other hand, is one espresso shot with a splash of foamed milk. The amount of milk used is just enough to cut through the espresso’s bitterness. It’s by no means a milky-tasting drink. The sweetness of the milk is just enough to give a little balance to the beverage.

There’s another kind of Macchiato you can find. It’s the Latte Macchiato. It uses the same ingredients as the traditional or Espresso Macchiato, but the reversed amounts. So, you have mostly foamed milk with a dash of espresso. It’s a pretty sweet beverage and has an entirely different taste than you get from the traditional Macchiato.

How come Milk is used in so many Espresso Drinks?

Milk in nearly any form is an excellent ingredient for espressos and coffees. It’s also versatile in how you prepare it. It can be mixed straight into the coffee, steamed, or foamed.

Many of the best-tasting espresso beverages use milk as their ingredient. Just think of a latte with its steamed and foamed milk or a cappuccino with a thick layer of milk foam on top. Both use espresso and milk yet taste very different.

It’s similar when you look at a Macchiato compared to a Cortado. Both of these drinks also use espresso as their base and milk as the additional ingredient. Yet, they have very different flavors simply due to the amount of milk vs espresso.

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Foamed vs. Steamed Milk – What’s the Difference?

Many espresso drinks, including Macchiatos and Cortados, are simply espresso mixed with varying amounts of milk. Yet, it’s not quite as simple. Not only do the amounts of milk vary, but there are also differences in how the milk is prepared!

A Cortado is prepared using steamed milk. Steamed milk is simply heated milk. At home, it’s easy to prepare as you simply heat up some milk on your stovetop or in the microwave. Make sure the milk is not boiling but stays just below the boiling temperature.

At your coffee shop, a steam want is used to heat the milk. Your barista will have the steam heat the milk but not use the wand to produce foam.

You’ll get the slightly sweet taste with the creamy texture of the heated up milk. You do end up missing the lightness and fluff that you get with foamed milk, though!

A traditional Macchiato is made with foamed milk. At home, it’s easiest to use heated milk and then produce the foam with a milk frother. Your favorite coffee shop will use a steam wand to heat the milk and then produce foam.

The foam builds by having air trapped inside the milk from using either of these two approaches. The air is trapped in tiny bubbles, which add to the sweetness of the milk and add a lightness to the beverage.

Many of the most common espresso-based beverages use both steamed and foamed milk. Take, for example, the cappuccino, which consists of espresso, steamed milk, and a layer of foamed milk on top.

You might also like: Frothed Milk vs Steamed Milk – What are the Differences?

You might also like: What Is a Lungo? – Know your Different Types of Espresso!

A Detailed Comparison of Macchiato vs. Cortado

As mentioned above, both beverages consist of espresso and milk. But that’s where the commonalities end.

No, we’re not talking about the geographic region that makes the two beverages different. While the Cortado has its origins in Spain, the Macchiato comes from Italy.

Yet, both are not the same beverage with a different name. The Macchiato, with its splash of milk on top of the espresso, has a strong coffee/espresso taste. The ‘stain’ of milk is there to take the edge away but not make it a ‘milk’ drink.

How do you make a Macchiato?

A Macchiato is pretty easy to prepare. First, you need to brew some espresso. If you do not have an automatic espresso machine at home, a Moka pot is the best brewer to use for espresso.

A single shot of espresso is around 1 oz. So, you probably want a small cup that holds at least 2 ounces, better 3 or 4. Add the single or double shot of espresso to the cup.

Next, you add a splash of foamed milk on top. You need to steam or heat the milk and use a foamer or steam wand to produce some foam. Take one or maybe two spoons of delicious milk foam and add them on top of the espresso. 

You ‘marked’ your espresso with the milk foam. That’s all there is to brew a Macchiato!

The Cortado, on the other hand, consists of equal amounts of espresso and milk. The espresso taste is toned down through the milk, making it a much smoother beverage.

You might also like: Make Espresso with a Coffee Maker – Drip Coffee Brewer, Moka Pot, or French Press?

How do you make a Cortado?

Preparing a Cortado is equally simple. Similar to the Macchiato, you prepare two shots of espresso. The easiest is to use a Moka pot to brew your espresso.

Then take two ounces of steamed milk. If you don’t have a steam wand, then simply heat the milk up on the stovetop or in the microwave. Pour the milk over the brewed shots of espresso, and you have a Cortado.

True to the name, you ‘cut’ your espresso with milk!

So, in short, the flavor profile of a Cortado comes closer to a traditional latte or flat white. The Macchiato tastes like a smooth espresso with a hint of milk flavor.

Which is Better? – Cortado vs Macchiato

There’s really no definitive answer. Both beverages are delicious even though they taste quite different. Both are easy to make at home so try a Macchiato one day and a Cortado the next.

You might just find out that you like both. For us, it’s clear – a tasty and slightly bitter Macchiato in the morning and then later in the day a smooth Cortado. There’s no law that says you have to choose between Macchiato vs Cortado. How about a Cortado and a Macchiato? Enjoy!

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