Macchiato vs. latte: What's the difference

Have you ever found yourself a bit perplexed by all the drink titles listed on the menus at a coffee shop? It can be hard to tell all your options apart, and the frequent Italian titles don’t help much unless you speak the language. 

Two of the most popular and delicious coffee drinks are the macchiato and the latte. But what sets these beverages apart from one another, and how can you know which one you’d prefer? If you’ve ever wondered, what is a macchiato vs. latte, you’re in the right place. 

In this article, we’ll highlight the similarities and differences between these two famous coffee drink creations. We recommend that you try them both to see which drink pleases your palate more—which is why we’ll also be sharing tips on how to make each one at home.

Macchiato: A bold shot with a touch of milk

Macchiato translates to "marked" or "stained" in Italian.

When you lay eyes on a freshly prepared macchiato, you can see exactly why it earned this name. A dollop of frothed milk sits atop a freshly brewed espresso shot and creates a white mark that catches the light atop rich, brown coffee underneath. 

Typically served in a very small cup, this drink consists of a simple blend of espresso topped with a thick layer of foamed milk. 

How to make a macchiato 

While the beverage is relatively simple to make, the key to crafting a delicious macchiato lies in the quality of your coffee bean and equipment. To create your very own “stained” coffee drink, follow this method:

1. Brew a single or double shot of espresso into a small espresso cup or glass. 

2. Pour milk into a milk jug and foam it up using the frothing wand on your espresso machine. Alternatively, a microwave or stove can be used to heat the milk if you don’t have a steamer. 

3. Pour a dollop of the milk or foamed milk on top of the espresso in your glass, and enjoy. 

You don’t have to throw your caffè macchiato back in one gulp, but don’t wait too long to savor its satisfying flavor, either. The most authentic way to enjoy a macchiato is fresh, right after you’ve dolloped the milk foam on top.

Latte: The perfect balance of espresso and steamed milk

The words “café latte” translate directly to “coffee milk.” Accordingly, this drink consists of espresso shots and steamed milk topped by a thin layer of milk foam. This milk-forward beverage is creamier and frothier than other types of espresso drinks

The caffè latte is a popular and accessible choice because this milky beverage provides the ideal base to add extra flavors to. That’s why you will often see lattes accented with delicious and creative syrups such as: 

● Vanilla

● Caramel

● Lavender

● Mocha

● Peppermint

Compared to other drinks like the macchiato or even a cappuccino, lattes are typically served in taller cups. They are often finished off with beautiful latte art designs that make use of the primary ingredient, milk, to create delicate patterns. Discovering how to make latte art can make enjoying your morning coffee even more satisfying. 

How to make a latte 

Now that you know what a latte is, try your hand at making this decadent drink for yourself. With high-quality equipment, you can craft a delicious and energizing at-home latte. Follow these steps to prepare your coffee drink: 

1. Use an espresso machine to brew a double shot and pour them into your cup of choice (one suitable for hot liquids, if you’ll be enjoying your latte hot). If you’re adding any syrups, now is the time to do so. Simply add them directly into the same cup as your espresso. By adding them now, they’ll mix in more easily before the milk is added.

2. Steam your choice of milk (the best milk for frothing tends to be whole milk, while oat milk is considered the best non-dairy option) using a milk jug and the wand of your espresso machine. Steam your milk to approximately 150°F. 

3. Pour your freshly steamed milk over the espresso shot you’ve already brewed. 

4. If you’re feeling fancy, try using the milk foam to create a latte art design to accent your beverage.

Differences between a machiatto and latte 

You’ve learned what goes into these famous espresso beverages, but how do you know which one you should order or brew next time a craving for caffeine strikes you?

To help you decide, we’ve listed out some of the main aspects that set them apart. But first, it’s important to clear up one area of coffee contention. 

One drink that causes some confusion in the coffee community is the latte macchiato. Although popular mainstream coffee chains have popularized the “caramel macchiato” drink, this title is actually misleading. This American version of a “macchiato” is actually more similar to a latte and does not belong in the same category as the espresso macchiato.

With that common misconception out of the way, let’s take a look at the qualities of a macchiato vs. latte to see what makes these drinks unique. 

#1 Milk ratio and texture 

When it comes to espresso coffee drinks, the main factor that differentiates each type is the ratio of espresso to steamed or foamed milk.

● A macchiato consists of 2 parts espresso and 1 part foam. This drink is known for its somewhat light and thin texture. This is the strongest of all milk beverages with the most coffee-forward profile and perfect for those who love the flavor of coffee and simply want a splash of milk to compliment the flavor without taking away from the nuance of the coffee.

● A latte is made with 1 part espresso, 4 parts milk (or more), and 1 part foam. Its texture is smooth, velvety, and creamy, making it a popular choice among newer coffee enthusiasts. This ratio is the least coffee forward and popular for those who like the flavor of coffee, but prefer it to be in the background.

#2 Flavor profile

In a macchiato, the espresso is showcased front and center. If you want to truly experience the intense undertones of pure coffee flavor, this drink offers a way to indulge in that strong espresso taste while still cutting it with just a little bit of creaminess. 

When you want to enjoy a more subtle espresso flavor accompanied by a creamier milky taste, a latte is the way to go. Expect this beverage to be slightly sweeter in flavor, especially if you add flavors or syrups to the mix. 

#3 Caffeine content

Although the serving sizes vary, the caffeine content in each coffee drink is around the same. 

A small latte can be expected to contain around 80 mg of caffeine, which is roughly the same amount that you’ll find in a small macchiato. 

Craft impeccable lattes and macchiatos with Breville 

The best way to determine which espresso drink suits your fancy is to make both for yourself and sample their intricate flavor profiles. At Breville, we engineer premium coffee equipment so that you can make delicious at-home drinks with the same quality you’d find at your favorite cafe. 

Browse our selection of espresso machines and accessories to craft your delicious coffee drink and settle the latte vs. macchiato debate for yourself. Our innovative appliances comes with all the professional features you need to complete the recipes in this guide and more.


1. Reader’s Digest. What Is a Macchiato, Exactly?

2. A Couple Cooks. How to Make a Latte.

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Macchiato vs. Latte: What’s the Difference