Cappuccino VS Macchiato – 5 Differences, And How To Choose One

Cappuccino and macchiato are names you’ll see often on coffee menus, since they’re pretty much staples for every self-respecting coffee shop.

The differences between cappuccinos and macchiatos are pretty significant, but their names don’t really tell you much.

So, let’s look at each drink in particular, and then compare their key points. Then, you’ll have an easier time picking a favorite when out and about.

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What is a cappuccino ?

A cappuccino is an espresso based drink that also uses steamed and frothed milk.

There is generally a ratio of 1:3 espresso to milk, though some coffee shops can get a ratio as nigh as 1:5.

This results in a milky, creamy drink that’s got a decorative top (like with latte art). 

The espresso flavor is pretty muted, with a fair amount of milk but not often sweetened or flavored.

Cappuccinos are more of a morning drink, due to the high amount of milk used, which lends a slower wake-up (as opposed to a jolt)

What is a macchiato ?

A macchiato is an espresso based drink that uses frothed milk as well, but no steamed milk.

It’s a much smaller cup of coffee.

Actually, it’s just a shot of espresso with a dollop of milk foam on top.

This is because the word ‘macchiato‘ means ‘stained/marked/spotted’ in Italian. Thus, the espresso is ‘marked’ with a dash of milk foam.

This makes the drink very small – about 1 oz/33 ml, just enough for the espresso shot and the dollop of milk foam.

You get a bold espresso flavor, and it’s only just a little toned down by the teaspoon of milk foam on top.

Latte macchiato and espresso macchiato

There’s two ways you can get a macchiato.

If you wank into a coffee shop and order just ‘a macchiato’, you’ll get an espresso macchiato.

This is the basic version. The original, traditional way of serving macchiato and it’s what most folks mean when talking about this drink.

If you’re wondering about the one that’s very much like a latte, well that’s a latte macchiato.

Meaning ‘marked milk’, because 70/ of the drink is milk (steamed and foamed, mostly foamed) and the rest is just a shot of espresso poured in last.

If you’re confused, it might be because big coffee chains offer latte macchiato under the simple names of macchiato, omitting the latte part.

So if you’re used to the big, milky version and that’s what you like, then you should always ask for a latte macchiato.

Also, for reference for the rest of this post and comparison, we’re talking about cappuccino and espresso macchiato. Latte macchiatos aren’t taken into account, since they’re not the standard version.

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Which one has more caffeine ?

Both cappuccinos and macchiatos are equal in caffeine. Or at least, they have the same options.

This is because both are prepared using one shot of espresso, a standard single shot.

If you want more caffeine, you simply double the shot, or ask for two shots, or a triple shot.

For a cappuccino this will make the drink even larger, and will have a very strong coffee flavor.

For a macchiato, it might be too strong of a drink since there will be still just one teaspoon of milk foam on top to take the edge off.

So to answer you question, macchiato and cappuccinos are the same in terms of caffeine. It;s up to you how many shots of espresso go into your drink, thus how much caffeine there is.

Which is easier to make at home ?

I would argue that the macchiato is the most beginner-friendly espresso drink between the two.

Where a cappuccino needs you to know how to properly steam and froth milk, aside from pull a shot, a macchiato is simpler.

All you need to know is how to pull an espresso shot, and have just the most basic understanding of frothing milk.

Because you only need a little milk, just a teaspoon of milk foam. There’s ways to froth milk at home without an espresso machine, and they’ll work for this drink too.

All you need to do to build a macchiato is to pull a shot of espresso, and spoon over a bit of milk foam on the top and you’re done. Yep, that’s it.

Usually no sugar is added, since this is a small drink and most folks just down it in one or two gulps.

If frothing milk seems too daunting or complicated, then you may cheat a little and use a dollop of whipped cream.

That turns the macchiato in espresso con panna. Which is a different drink, but even easier to make if you’ve got canned whipped cream in the fridge.

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Main differences between cappuccino and macchiato

Now you know a little about macchiato and cappuccino, respectively. What have we gathered so far ?

They both use espresso and milk, but use them very, very differently. 

And you get opposite coffee experiences from both.

So let’s talk a little about each drink’s particular points, and compare them.

1. A cappuccino is milkier than macchiato

If you’re after the milky, creamy version of coffee then you’ll want the cappuccino.

This drink’s got up to 5 oz/150 ml of milk by volume (less by weight, since a lot of it is foam). When combined with the espresso, it creates a creamy feel, and really tones down the espresso notes.

The resulting drink is a very milky one (less so than a latte) that’s got nearly everyone hooked.

Most folks got for a cappuccino since it’s easier to drink because of all the milk. And in truth it’s rather pretty because it’s got that beautiful  latte art on the top.

A macchiato uses way less milk. In fact, all it uses is just one teaspoon’s worth of milk foam. 

The whole point of the macchiato is just to mark the coffee with a little bit of milk foam.

The coffee is supposed to be the star of the show here, and in truth it’s not for everyone. Some folks might find it too harsh, and that’s okay.

2. A macchiato has a much bolder coffee flavor

Seeing as one has more milk and the other…doesn’t, this is a bit of a no-brainer.

If you’ve got more of a sweet tooth and would like to stay away from bitter, strong flavors then a cappuccino is your best friend.

In some cases, a cappuccino may also be flavored. This results in an even sweeter drink, especially is the flavor is one that pairs well with coffee – like caramel or vanilla or banana.

A macchiato will instead run you over with its espresso-ness, and leave just one survivor to tell the tale. It’s a harsh, strong drink that is only a little rounded at the edges by the tiny milk spot on top.

Most people don’t sit and sip on a macchiato, they’d rather be done with it quickly and be on their way.

Also, if you’re trying to really taste the notes of your coffee but would still need the tiniest amount of milk, this is the coffee  for you. Enough espresso to fully explore the origin, and just enough milk to end on a sweeter note.

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3. Cappuccinos are larger than macchiato

If you’re concerned about serving sizes, then you should know cappuccinos are larger than macchiatos.

By about 5 times more, in most cases.

A macchiato is usually served in a demitasse – that’s a 2-3 oz/60-90 ml cup. You’ve got just enough room for one espresso shot, the crema, and a little bit of milk foam. With some room to wiggle.

This is one of the smallest espresso drink you can ever find, along with espresso con panna and just regular espresso.

A cappuccino is served much larger, in a 5 oz/150 ml cups that are often full to the brim with milk foam and latte art.

This is in most coffee shops. In larger coffee chains, you can get ridiculously large cappuccinos – up to 16 oz/470 ml like at Starbucks.

Not everyone will order their cappuccino extra large, but a big chuck of the population does. This leads to the expectation that a cappuccino is a big drink, like the latte for example. 

This is not true, nor is it accurate in regards to the original recipe and ratio used for this drink.

But, when compared to a macchiato, a cappuccino will always be bigger.

4. Macchiato uses just milk foam

Back to the whole serving size and milk volume, let’s talk about what each drink actually uses.

A cappuccino is milky, yes, but it’s a different kind of milky than you might expect.

It’s made up of 1 part espresso, 1 part steamed milk, and 1 part milk foam. 

The milk foam is usually a version not as creamy as microfoam. It’s a little see-through, but I’ve seen versions with microfoam and they were great.

If you don’t know what microfoam is, it’s the version of milk foam with very very tiny air bubbles incorporated, making it smooth and velvety. Most milk foam is like very fine bubble bath foam.

So for a cappuccino, most often you’ll find regular foam, not microfoam. There is a contract between the foam layer, and the mixed milk and espresso underneath. There isn’t a smooth transition, or at least not very much.

A macchiato has much less milk, because it uses only the foam that’s usually on top of cappuccinos.

So no microfoam, and no steamed milk. Just a teaspoon of milk foam, plopped in the middle of the crema.

This results in an even clearer distinction between the liquid and the foam.

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5. Cappuccino is more of a morning drink

When you take your coffee is your business, but apparently some drinks are meant for certain times of the day.

This is the case with cappuccinos, for example. They’re more of a morning coffee, due to the high amount of milk involved, and it sometimes being sweetened.

While milk and sugar don’t totally cancel out caffeine, they do slow it down and negate some of its antioxidant properties.

This results in a slower, more calm wake-up process than a shot of espresso.

It’s also the reason cappuccinos and lattes aren’t meant for the evening, since digestion is slowed after a whole day of staying awake.

And getting through all the milk is going to be even harder, because the milk itself slows things down as well.

As for macchiato, this is usually a midday pick-me-up. There’s enough espresso to keep you going, but a bit of milk to sweeten it a little.

Not enough milk to really slow things down, but still.

And if you’re wondering, pure espresso is usually taken in the evening, and especially at events after large dinners.

So which one should you get ?

It depends on your personal preference. Both drinks are very good on their own, but might be less impressive for some folks.

If you’d rather have your coffee black, simple and tend to drink it quickly, then a macchiato is for you.

It’s simple, strong, and has just the tiniest dash of milk.

However if you’d like a milky, more mellow drink then a cappuccino is better suited for you. Also better suited for breakfast, apparently.

To be honest, I take my coffee black half the time, but especially so at breakfast. Nothing to do with digestion, I just find I can fully taste the rest of my breakfast better when the coffee is just black.

So if you’re like me, you might like a macchiato at breakfast as well.

Conclusion

Cappuccino and macchiato are two very different coffee drinks. They both offer you a taste of espresso, each in their own personal way.

A cappuccino will be mellow and give you a nice coffee hit, and you can sometimes flavor it a little.

A macchiato will really get you going, and it’s very easy to drink. Since it’s such a small cup of coffee ( just 1 oz/33 ml), there’s really nothing to muck around with. Just down it in one gulp and you’re done.

Feel free to try both of them out. If you find that the macchiato is too harsh for you there;s always extra milk available. 

If you want to know more about coffee or tea, feel free to check the related articles below. Who knows what else you might find ?