What is the Difference Between a Latte and a Macchiato?
Both Macchiatos and Lattes are made with espresso and contain milk. Both Lattes and Macchiatos come from Italy. And that’s right around where the similarities end though.
Macchiatos are an espresso drink made with a scoop of milk foam. The espresso is the main ingredient and that is clearly reflected in how the beverage tastes.
A latte also uses espresso as the base. But, there’s a lot of milk added. Your typical Latte is around 1/3 espresso and 2/3 steamed milk with a bit of milk foam on top. The milk is the main ingredient and your typical Latte tastes a lot smoother compared to an Espresso Macchiato.
Don’t confuse a traditional Macchiato with the syrup-induced beverages you can often get at your coffee shop around the corner. You know, the one with the green logo… That version of a Macchiato has nothing in common with the Italian Macchiato. However, the coffee shop with the green and white logo does have an Espresso Macchiato. That is the beverage we’re talking about!
The traditional Macchiato is one or two shots of espresso with a spoonful of milk foam on top. That’s also where the name comes from as Macchiato translates to ‘stained’. Your espresso is stained with a spoonful of milk! The milk takes the espresso-edge off but does not dominate the taste of the beverage.
The Caffe Latte is a lot smoother. It’s also a great drink to mix with different flavors like Caramel, Vanilla, and many more. You probably won’t find a coffee shop that doesn’t have a wide variety of flavored Lattes.
Is a Latte Macchiato the same as a Latte?
Both the Latte Macchiato and the Caffe Latte use the exact same ingredients. Both are around 1/3 espresso and 2/3 of steamed milk with milk foam on top of the beverage.
The difference is the way how the drinks are prepared. A Latte starts with the espresso on the bottom. The steamed milk is poured on top of the espresso and the foamed milk is added to the top. Without further stirring you have a more milk tasting beginning of the beverage and then end up with a somewhat more espresso taste towards the end.
The Latte Macchiato in comparison starts with pouring the steamed milk first. You then add the espresso shots and then top the drink off with the foamed milk. The principle in this case is reversed. You first experience the higher concentration of espresso in the milk. Later on the amount of milk in each sip is getting more dominant.
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How is a Latte different from a Macchiato?
The difference comes from the vastly different amounts of milk in the drink. You mix a Latte typically with around a 1:2 ratio between espresso and steamed milk. Then add a bit of foamed milk on top and you end up with a perfect Caffe Latte.
A Macchiato is usually a single or double shot of espresso. Once poured into a cup the barista will add a spoonful of foamed milk.
When you look at both beverages next to each other, you’ll see a huge difference. The Macchiato is dark brown or even black as it consists mainly of coffee.
The Latte, on the other hand, is usually served in much larger cups. It has a golden color which is the result of the white milk mixed with the dark brown/black coffee.
When you taste both drinks, the Macchiato is bold and you get a strong coffee taste. You’ll taste the bitter and acidic notes of the brewed espresso which are softened a bit by the milk foam.
The Latte is a very different animal. You’ll get the richness and smoothness of the steamed and foamed milk (Frothed Milk vs Steamed Milk – What are the Differences?). Underlying, you taste the bold espresso. It’s like a perfect mix of the two components to produce one of the most enjoyable and decadent coffee beverages you can get.
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Is a Macchiato stronger than a Latte?
Yes, a Macchiato tastes stronger than a Latte. Technically, if you have a Macchiato with two shots of espresso and compare it to a Latte that also has two espresso shots, you have the same amount of caffeine and coffee in both drinks.
However, where a Latte has a sizeable amount of milk, the Macchiato only has a small amount of milk on top. It’s ‘spotted’ or ‘stained’, which is the literal translation of Macchiato from Italian.
Therefore, Macchiatos taste a lot stronger and bolder. You get all the bold and acidic espresso flavors when you take a sip. As it’s mostly espresso, it’s also served in a much smaller cup. In Italy you’ll usually see it served in a 2 or 3 oz cup. Large enough to hold the espresso and the dip of milk.
A Latte on the other hand contains a much larger amount of milk. For some coffee lovers, a typical Latte is not their preferred beverage as the milk somewhat overpowers the coffee aromas. It’s silky-smooth but certainly much weaker in taste compared to a Macchiato.
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Is a Latte Macchiato just an Upside Down Latte?
Technically, you can call a Latte Macchiato an Upside Down Latte. A traditional Caffe Latte is poured by adding the espresso first and then topping it off with steamed and foamed milk.
The Latte Macchiato is exactly the other way around. You (or the barista) pour the steamed and foamed milk first into the mug and then add the espresso on top. That’s why it’s called a ‘Macchiato’ as the espresso ‘stains’ the milk.
Latte vs Macchiato Calories
Due to the fact that the Espresso Macchiato barely has any milk while the Caffe Latte is mostly milk, it’s pretty obvious that the Latte will have more calories!
The Espresso Macchiato mostly consists of coffee which has no calories. The spoonful of milk to top it off adds some calories. Starbucks lists their Espresso Macchiato with two espresso shots and a scoop of milk at 15 calories.
The milk in the Caffe Latte is what gives the drink the smooth taste but also the calories. A typical 12 oz Latte with a single shot of espresso made with 2% milk has around 150 calories.
You end up with a much larger cup when ordering a Latte compared to a Macchiato. However, even if you were to triple the Macchiato, you’d still only have 45 calories from the milk. You probably also wouldn’t sleep for a while considering that you’d have six shots of espresso!
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Final Thoughts on Macchiato vs Latte
So, there are quite a lot of differences between a Caffe Latte and a Macchiato. Macchiatos are bold and flavorful espresso beverages. The milk provides a hint of smoothness but not enough to suppress the bold espresso flavors.
A Latte has a lot more milk and therefore tastes creamy and smooth. The espresso boldness is hidden underneath the milk taste.
Which is better? That’ll be for you to decide! Try them both and you might at different times of the day prefer one over the other.