Here’s how to make a macchiato…the real way! This coffee drink features a shot of espresso topped with a layer of frothy foam.

Making Espresso Drinks

Here’s a coffee drink that’s one part espresso, one part foam, and equal parts delicious: the Macchiato! This espresso drink is like a lighter version of a latte, ideal for when you want a jolt of caffeine without all the extra calories. There’s a certain coffee shop that’s tarnished the macchiato’s name by causing some confusion about what it really is. Here we’ll clear up those murky waters and show you how to make a macchiato…the classic way.

What is a macchiato?

caffè macchiato or espresso macchiato is a shot of espresso topped with frothed milk. The word “macchiato” means “stained” in Italian, meaning that the dark espresso is stained by the milk foam on top. Some sources say the macchiato was invented as a way to drink espresso into the afternoon.

The other type of macchiato is called a latte macchiato. A latte macchiato is essentially steamed milk that’s stained by a bit of espresso on top. It tastes like an espresso-forward version of a cafe latte. The difference between a latte macchiato and a latte? A latte macchiato has espresso added to milk, whereas for a latte steamed milk is added to espresso. The macchiato version also has a little more foam. (How’s that for complicated?)

Why is the Starbucks macchiato different?

Wait: so a macchiato isn’t caramel flavored? That’s what I asked Alex when we started making all types of espresso drinks. If you’re a Starbucks person, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

What is a Starbucks macchiato? The macchiato you can order at Starbucks is a latte macchiato with caramel or hazelnut-flavored syrup on top. You’ve got layers of steamed milk, foam, and espresso, and then the sweet drizzle on top. It’s almost nothing like a caffè macchiato at all!

Now, let’s talk espresso

Now that we know what a classic macchiato is, let’s get to making it! It’s one of our favorite espresso drinks because we love that you get the bitter flavor of coffee without loads of milk. (Honestly, the richness of whole milk in lattes sometimes does a number on my stomach, so the macchiato is a great option.) You’ll need to make espresso for a macchiato: simply strong coffee will not do! This means you’ll need the following:

  • Espresso roast coffee: This is important to get the right dark, bitter flavor. Espresso roast is coffee beans that have a very dark roast. Make sure to use a find grind on your espresso when you grind it.
  • Espresso machine, manual espresso maker, or Aeropress: There are several ways of how to make espresso. We use an espresso machine, which sits on a countertop. Or you can use a small manual espresso maker: it’s cheaper and portable! For the cheapest option, you can use an Aeropress, though the flavor is not nearly as good. Go to our Aeropress Espresso recipe.

Milk to use for a macchiato

The best milk to use for a macchiato is whole milk. Why? Whole milk froths the best because it has the highest milk fat. You can get away with 2% milk here too: especially if you have a handheld milk frother (keep reading for that). Here’s the important part: make sure the milk is as fresh as possible! Milk that’s getting closer to its expiration date does not foam as well.

For the rest of this article please see the authors Sonja & Alex The Two Cooks