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What is a Macchiato? (And How to Make One)


A macchiato is a traditional Italian coffee drink that offers a short, sharp caffeine hit with a dash of luxurious milk foam. The cafe macchiato has been around for a long time, and it is easy to see why!

This simple, small and mighty espresso based drink is found in coffee shops across Italy, and is typically served with a side biscuit for good measure. 

But, what exactly is a Macchiato and how can you make one for yourself? Well, let’s find out!  

What is a Macchiato?

A macchiato is a double espresso shot, which is topped with a small amount of milk foam. The dark espresso is ‘dotted’ with light coloured foam, which is formed when milk is intensely steamed. The macchiato originates from Italy, but gets its name from the term ‘stained’, or ‘marked’ coffee.  

A macchiato is a very strong coffee that comes from Italy. 

Why is it Called Macchiato?

The origins of the macchiato, as with many coffee based drinks, hail from Italy. The name of the macchiato stems from traditional Italian baristas showing their apprentices and waiters how to create an espresso with a ‘spot’ of milk foam. According to the Wikipedia page for the macchiato, the brown crema on the surface of the espresso shot was ‘marked’ (hence the name macchiato) with white milk foam, to demonstrate the difference between a standard espresso shot and one with milk. 

How to Make a Macchiato (Step by Step)

Whilst a cafe macchiato is a very simple coffee to prepare, there are a couple of important steps to consider if you want to perfect it from the comfort of your own home! 


Finely ground, Medium roasted espresso coffee beans

1 Tablespoons/ 0.5 oz of milk


Espresso Machine

Milk steaming wand

(Alternatives): Aeropress/French Press/Milk Frother/Moka Pot/Percolator


Here is a simple step by step method to help you make a marvelous macchiato for yourself! 

Step 1: Choose Your Coffee Beans

The first step in making a great Macchiato from the comfort of your own home is to pick the perfect coffee beans

Traditionally, Macchiatos are made using medium roasted, Italian coffee beans. The reason for this is that there is not much milk in a Macchiato, so the espresso flavor has more of a chance to shine through, compared to milkier coffee drinks. 

Therefore, picking a medium roasted coffee bean that is well balanced and has distinctive nutty or chocolaty flavor notes will be ideal for a Macchiato. If you are looking for a well balanced Italian coffee, something like Illy Classico coffee beans will do just fine. 

If you want to take your coffee beans selection to the next level, then going for a blend of both arabica and robusta coffee bean varieties will add even more bite and caffeine to your Macchiato. 

Step 2: Brew Your Espresso

Next, you’ll need to brew your double espresso. 

To do this, grind your coffee beans finely if you have a grinder at home. Alternatively, look out for ground coffee that is labelled as espresso grind, as this will be fine enough to use in your espresso machine. 

Simply add your ground coffee to your portafilter, distribute evenly, tamp and away you go! 

If you don’t have an espresso machine at home, you could also use a moka pot, percolator or aeropress to brew strong espresso. 

If you don’t have a fancy espresso machine at home, check out these 7 alternative ways to make espresso-like coffee!

Step 3: Prepare Your Steamed Milk

Once your espresso is brewed, it’s time to steam your milk. 

If you are using an espresso machine with a built-in milk steaming wand, simply turn the setting on to activate this and your steaming water will automatically heat up through your coffee machine itself. 

Simply pour your 3 tablespoons of milk into a metal steaming pitcher, place the wand into the pitcher and start incorporating some air into your milk.

The aim here is to create pure foam rather than just steamed milk. So, placing the tip of the steaming wand on the surface of the milk will help aerate it more, giving you a perfectly frothy foam to top off your macchiato. 

Top Tip: The milk used for a macchiato is up to you. Typically, whole milk is used as it gives the most velvety and smooth texture when filled with micro air bubbles. However, if you want to reduce the calories, go for a skimmed or semi skimmed milk. If you are lactose intolerant, then using a milk alternative also works well. Just make sure it is a ‘barista’ style milk alternative, so there is enough creaminess to replicate the fat content of whole milk. 

Step 4: Serve and Enjoy! 

To finish this off, simply spoon over your foam on top of your double espresso shot and enjoy! 

Macchiato Compared to Other Coffee Drinks

Whilst Macchiatos are very popular espresso based coffee drinks in Italy, there are also a number of other coffees that use steamed milk and foam.  


A cortado is actually very similar to a Macchiato. Where a Macchiato uses just a dash of foam on the top, a cortado actually uses a 1:1 ratio of espresso to steamed milk. However, because the actual volume of milk used is still pretty low, a cortado has a relatively strong taste, just like a macchiato. 

Flat White

A flat white is often referred to as the ‘baby latte’. This is because it uses a 1:2 ratio of espresso to velvety smooth, steamed milk. A flat white has a higher concentration of coffee to milk when compared to a latte or cappuccino, but it is not nearly as intense as the macchiato. 


The traditional cappuccino combines equal parts espresso, steamed milk and foam to create a smooth, creamy drinking experience. Despite both drinks being traditionally served in Italy, the cappuccino and macchiato are actually polar opposites when it comes to their intensity, texture and taste. 

Where a macchiato is intense, dark and earthy, a cappuccino has to use dark roasted coffee beans to cut through all of that creamy milk and foam! 

If you want to know more about how a macchiato compares to a cappuccino or a latte, check out this article by Home Grounds. 


Overall, a macchiato coffee is an Italian coffee that is popular across the country. This simple but punchy espresso based drink combines strong coffee with a dot teaspoon or two of milk foam, to deliver a delicate blend of rich espresso and heavily steamed dairy. The macchiato lets the natural coffee aromas shine through, whilst the foam manages to take the edge off what would otherwise be quite a bitter taste. 

Related Questions  

Is Macchiato Stronger than Coffee? 

A Macchiato is usually made using a small amount (1-2 teaspoons) of milk foam which sits on top of a double shot of espresso. Therefore, a Macchiato tends to be much stronger than a regular cup of coffee, due to the intense taste and lack of additional water or milk. 

What is the Difference Between a Latte and a Macchiato? 

A latte uses a much higher volume of steamed milk than a macchiato. It is therefore much creamier and thought of as a ‘long’ coffee, as opposed to a macchiato which is a ‘short’ drink. 

Is a Macchiato the Same as a Cortado?

No, a Macchiato uses hardly any milk at all, since it is just topped with a spot or two of foam. This makes a Macchiato stronger, and less textured than a cortado. 

Is a Macchiato 1 or 2 Shots of Espresso?

A Macchiato is made from a double shot of espresso, rather than a single shot. This is what gives it its characteristic strength and flavor. 


Frequently Asked Questions

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