What is a Macchiato?

How To Make A Macchiato

The popular espresso-based specialty coffee drink called a Macchiato (or “Latte Macchiato”) is a favorite beverage ordered at many fine coffee houses across the world. But what is it? Well Macchiato means “stained milk” and the drink got this name because it literally takes on the appearance of milk “stained” with espresso.

While another popular espresso coffee drink, the Caffe Latte, is similar, it differs in the fact that a Caffe Latte putting the espresso in first and then the milk, while a Latte Macchiato is made by first putting the steamed milk in the glass and then adding the espresso.

Another difference is that the Latte Macchiato has more foam on top than a Caffe Latte and is served as a layered drink while a Caffe Latte is mixed together already upon serving.

The distinguishing mark of a Latte Macchiato is the “macchia” or mark on top that shows that espresso has been added. Because a Caffe Latte is blended there is no mark of espresso on top.

The converse of a Latte Macchiato is the Caffe Macchiato which is mainly espresso but is “stained” with just a small amount of milk.

Macchiato vs. Latte vs. Cappuccino?

While a Latte Macchiato is made by adding espresso to the steamed milk, the Latte is made by adding the steamed milk to the espresso. A Cappuccino uses less steamed milk than a Caffe Latte, and much more foam.

The macchiato also has a “macchia” or mark of espresso on the top of the Coffee Beverage.

If the Caffe Latte is served in a glass then it is often served along with a napkin so the customer can use it to hold the hot glass.

How To Make A Latte Macchiato

To make a Latte Macchiato you begin by steaming and frothing milk and foam. When done properly this process will produce a very creamy and velvety milk and a pourable and shapeable foam that will blend with the specialty coffee drink creating a harmony of flavors.

Once you have properly steamed the milk then pour it onto a glass with a generous amount of foam on top. Then very slowly and carefully pour in the freshly brewed shot or shots of espresso. It is best to actually pour the espresso slowly over the back of spoon and let it flow into the cup, creating a layered drink rather than letting the espresso mix with the milk.

The perfectly poured Latte Macchiato will allow the espresso to sit perfectly between the denser substance of the steamed milk below and the lighter foam above. The Latte Macchiato is best served in a clear glass so the layering can be appreciated visually.

Make sure the glass is pre-heated by running it under very hot water so that it does not extract all of the heat from the milk and espresso when the specialty coffee drink is poured. You should also pre-warm the demitasse being used during the espresso brewing as well as the spoon used during pouring.

How to Make a Caramel Macchiato

Caramel Macchiato follows all the same directions as a regular Macchiato, except that vanilla flavoring is added to the milk when steaming, and the drink is topped with a drizzle of caramel sauce. The name is slightly misleading, as Caramel Macchiatos typically have more vanilla flavor than caramel, with the caramel simply being more visually noticeable because it sits on top.

Preparing a Caffe Macchiato Instead of a Latte Macchiato

When you make a Caffe Macchiato the emphasis is on the espresso while only a relatively small amount of milk is used. While the term “macchiato” means marked or stained, in this case of the caffe macchiato it is espresso marked or stained with milk.

Typically one shot of espresso is used and then the stain of milk is added. However while the traditional drink used milk, the drink more commonly now is “stained” with foam, which serves as an indicator that the drink has a small amount (e.g., a teaspoon) of milk in it.

History of the Macchiato

In restaurants and coffee shops it came to be that the barista needed a way to indicate to the waiters which particular drinks they had made contained milk and which did not (e.g, and not just straight espresso). The macchiato, or mark, of milk (or foam) was an effective way to accomplish this.

Despite the common use of foam in macchiatos in the U.S., a Latte Macchiato does not require foam. Indeed the name predates any use of foam by many centuries.

However with the advent of the modern tasteful, fine foam produced by the master Barista with the steaming wand and fine milk or cream, foam on a Latte Macchiato had become quite popular.

What Kind of Milk Should I Use for My Latte Macchiato

While some people prefer cold milk when making their Macchiato, more typically it is steamed and frothed hot milk that is used. Technically the name Macchiato Freddo (“Marked Cold”) is used for the cold Macchiato while Macchiato Caldo (“Marked Hot”) is used for the hot Macchiato.

The modern Latte Macchiato in an American coffee shop is often made with equal parts espresso and milk which bears some resemblance to a Caffe Latte. However, a Latte Macchiato traditionally has much less steamed milk in it than a Caffe Latte.

The Joys of Espresso Cuisine

Traditional foods served with specialty coffee drinks such as the Latte Macchiato include biscotti and brioche, or maybe a croissant if you prefer. For dessert enjoy a sorbetto, gelato or affogato. See Espresso Cuisine for great recipes.

Espresso Barista Guide to the World’s Finest Coffees

Learn about optimal espresso brewing to create a great Latte Macchiato. See Pulling A Perfect Espresso Shot as well as Steaming and Frothing Milk.

The How to make Lattes and Cappuccinos will also help you prepare fabulous Espresso Drink Recipes.

Also check out the most comprehensive Coffee and Espresso Glossary ever written, and also the World’s Best History of Coffee.

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