Macchiato is one of those drinks that, if made the traditional way, might make a few self-proclaimed coffee lovers steer clear of any such drink.
Most of the time a macchiato is not what you'd expect, and this has a bit to do with the fact that some coffee shops tend to stretch the limits of imagination.
Still, macchiato is always going to be on the menu, one way or another. Whether it's espresso macchiato or latte macchiato, or any other recipe, this is something you'll bump into very often.
What is a macchiato in the first place ?
We should start with the word 'macchiato'. It's Italian for spotted, or marked. Originally the drink was known as a shot of espresso (1 oz/33 ml), with a whisper of milk foam on top.
Basically a 'spotted espresso'. However in the past decades we've come to know another type of macchiato - the latte macchiato. This is pretty much the opposite of a traditional macchiato.
A tall glass of steamed and frothed milk, a bit smaller than a latte, with an espresso mark or spot - an entire shot poured into it.
The problem is that each coffee shop think is its macchiato as being 'the macchiato'. So what in one shop may be an espresso macchiato, in another it might be a latte macchiato, depending on what the barista was trained to do.
And no one really talks about this, so you'll have to be very specific about your order - either espresso macchiato, or latte macchiato, just so everyone's clear and the barista won't have a chance to misunderstand you.
In fact, we'd better stop and talk about the differences between latte macchiato and espresso macchiato.
Latte macchiato vs espresso macchiato
In essence, both drinks contain espresso and milk. However the ratio and order in which both ingredients are added matter very, very much and will significantly change the drink.
A latte macchiato is primarily milk, with a bit of espresso. The milk is steamed, and should contain microfoam as well as frothed milk. It's basically the milk in a latte, but not as much.
To that milk (could be anywhere from 3 oz/89 ml to 6 oz/177 ml), a shot of espresso (usually s standard, single shot) is added. Sometimes a double shot is used, though that's up to you to ask for.
And that's pretty much it. The latte macchiato is a milk-heavy drink, and you should be able to see a dark, brown-tan spot where the espresso was poured into the milk. Hence the 'macchiato' part.
Espresso macchiato is a shot of espresso (1 oz/33 ml) with just a small dollop of milk foam on top. That's really it. It's a small drink as small as a regular espresso, with he edge taken off by that small amount of frothed milk.
Normally there is no additional milk added to the espresso, though some baristas add just a tiny bit of steamed milk to tone down the espresso.
Another interesting twist some baristas have made, is to add the dollop of foamed milk into the empty cup first, and them pour the espresso on top, thus mixing the drink with the milk a little.
In terms of taste, you can imagine that espresso macchiato is the harsher, stronger, more bitter and earthy drink. There is just a very small amount of milk to offset the espresso, and for some people that's enough.
In Italy at least, espresso macchiato is one of the cornerstones of coffee culture. Along with cappuccino and espresso affogato, it's one of those drinks that are pretty much quintessential to Italian coffee shops.
As for latte macchiato, it's a Western and more recent invention. No one is sure where it came from, exactly, but it's not part of the old school espresso recipes and might confuse some beginner baristas.
It's got all the sweetness and mildness of a latte, and a nice hint of coffee. It's a good coffee drink to start off with, if you can't stand black coffee just yet.
What you'll need to make any sort of macchiato
Whether you're shooting for an espresso macchiato, or a latte macchiato, you will need the same tools. Well actually you'll only need one tool.
What you'll need is the espresso machine. You'll need one to get that perfect espresso, especially if you're going to make espresso macchiato.
And you're definitely going to need it to steam and froth milk the best way possible. There are other methods, of course, but none of them get you the exact texture we're looking for. Sure they can get you close, but you'll taste the difference.
This espresso machine by Breville, the Barista Express Espresso Machine, is going to help you get that perfect espresso I was talking about.
It's a large machine, yes, and it's going to take up some counter space. But it's one of the best espresso machines for home use, without breaking the bank.
This espresso machine has a built-in burr grinder, and it can grind into whatever you place under the grinder - whether it's a cup of the portafilter itself.
You're going to have to tamp the ground coffee yourself, which makes this process a wonderful blend between manual and automatic.
The steam wand is nice a long, and conveniently out of the way so you won't bump in to machine when steaming and frothing milk.
When it comes to pulling the shots, it's button operated, meaning it's got a standard amount of water it used for one shot. You can choose between one shot and and two, though it's not the double shot we're discussing today.
Aside from the machine itself, you also get additional but necessary equipment, such as the metal pitcher for steaming milk, some cleaning items, several spare filters, Allen key, and so on.
You can find the listing on Amazon for this espresso machine here, and read the reviews ad well.
Assuming you've got your espresso machine ready, let's get around to actually making these drinks.
What you'll need to make any sort of macchiato:
- espresso machine, for espresso and frothing milk
- 7-9 grams of ground coffee for one standard espresso shot
- up to 3 oz milk, 2%
- 5 oz/150 ml coffee cup
- pitcher to steam milk in
And really that's it. Any flavorings or sweeteners aren't normally added, but no one is going to stop you if you'd like to do that in the privacy of your own home.
Now let's get to making espresso macchiato and latte macchiato.
How to make espresso macchiato
For espresso macchiato, you'll need to first brew your espresso. More detailed instructions are here.
But in short, you'll need to first turn on your espresso machine, allow it to heat up evenly and thoroughly.
Then in the portafilter you'll need to add 7-9 grams of ground coffee. If your machine grinds the coffee for you, then that's great, you can just select the shot size.
If your machine allows you to tamp the coffee, do so with firm, even pressure so you don't squish the coffee too much to one side.
Lock the portafilter into place, and pull the espresso shot. If you machine does everything automatically, press the corresponding button for one standard espresso shot.
You should have your empty cup ready to catch the espresso. If you keep it on the machine while it heats, the cup should be warm already.
Once the espresso is done, set aside and fill the pitched with cold milk. You're going to want to purge the steam wand a couple of seconds, and wipe it very well on the outside, just to make sure it's all clean.
Then, once your pitcher's got the milk in (should not be full more than ⅓ of the way), submerge the tip of the wand, and keep it close to the bottom of the milk.
The closer it is tot he bottom, the more microfoam you're going to get. The closer it is to the surface, the more froth it will make.
In this case we're interested in froth, so keep your wand closer to the top of the milk, but still submerged. Turn the steam wand on, and move the pitcher around a little to help the milk froth.
This should all be done in under a minute.
Once your milk is done, take a teaspoon and scoop as much froth as you like onto the espresso.
Normally a single teaspoon is enough, and will make a beautiful white spot on the espresso's crema, so you can stop there.
And you're done, you've just made espresso macchiato ! It's really one of the simplest espresso-based drinks possible, and you might just enjoy it very much.
How to make latte macchiato
Making a latte macchiato is going to be easy enough, but you're going to need to spend a little more time with the milk here. Again, go through the exact same steps when preparing your espresso as above.
Except this time you're going to need an extra coffee cup (empty), that you're going to keep warm either by letting it rest on the espresso machine, or heating it with some hot water and throwing that out.
So, brew your espresso in a hot cup, let it sit nicely.
Pour all the milk - up to 3 oz/88 ml into the pitcher, and begin steaming and frothing the milk, as instructed above. Keep the nozzle of the steam wand closer to the lower end of the pitcher, since microfoam is going to be key here.
We're going to make an entire drink out of microfoam and frothed milk - much like a latte, minus the steamed milk. You'll need to move the pitcher up and down the wand a little, while also keeping it at a angle to make the milk spin while in the pitcher, for seamless foam.
Once your foam is done (it should be about double in size), get a spoon and add as much of the microfoam and milk froth as you can fit into the 5 oz/150 ml empty cup, allowing about half an inch for the volume of the espresso.
So leave some room in the cup, as this isn't meant to be a domed drink.
When the milk is in the cup, add in your espresso shot. Pour it slowly, but keep it in one place. You're aiming for a single 'marking' on your latte macchiato, where the espresso went in.
The crema will naturally follow last, and offer a nice, rich brown spot of foam on your latte macchiato.
Meanwhile the espresso itself should've mingled with the microfoam by now, and you should be met by a fairly creamy drink.
What's that, this sounds a lot like a wet cappuccino ? And suspiciously close to a flat white (but with foam) ? You're right, it does.
The thing is, latte macchiato is a bit of a Frankenstein of several drinks, and it's bordering on latte, flat white, and wet cappuccino. Yet somehow, it's none of those.
And if you were to brew your latte macchiato larger - say, a total volume of 12 oz/354 ml - you'd pretty much have a pure latte on your hands. If you're confused, imagine the poor baristas.
If you're aiming for a flavored latte macchiato, now would be the time to add some syrup or flavoring to your drink. Maybe some caramel sauce, to honor the Caramel Latte Macchiato from Starbucks ?
A word on Starbucks' macchiato, and why it's not (completely) wrong
Alright, enough picking on latte macchiato. It's a tasty drink, at least that much can be said. Many people love it.
As a matter of fact, Starbucks isn't exactly wrong here. A macchiato is, basically, a 'spotted' or 'marked' drink.
So they're not exactly wrong in naming their glass of milk with a shot of espresso through it a macchiato, since it is indeed a spotted drink. And it's a latte macchiato, which they do in fact state on their menu.
People have come to know that as the definition of a macchiato simply because this coffee chain is so ridiculously famous and far reaching.
And so, Starbucks twisting the meaning of a macchiato isn't really unheard of, poetic license and such. It might confuse most baristas when they first encounter a customer wanting a latte macchiato when they ask for 'a macchiato, please', but in the end everyone gets used to it.
Personally I think the traditional espresso macchiato is the one, true macchiato. But I also believe that times change and we should go with the flow, if that seems to be the current trend and there's just so many people contributing to this change.
There's no real point arguing over it.
Just, for everyone's sake, when ordering your drink be veeeeery very specific about what you want - either a latte machiato or an espresso macchiato.
Ordering a macchiato was never complicated, but here we are. However, we can have both espresso macchiato and latte macchiato, and still be happy with it.
I hope this guide helped you make both drinks, and answered (most) of your questions.
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 ?