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Macchiato Coffee: What is it exactly?

Feb 21, 2023 (Updated on Apr 4, 2023)

If you’ve ever stepped foot in a coffee shop, chances are you’ve heard of a macchiato. You may have also heard a *friendly* debate on the accuracy of the beloved drink. A macchiato is traditionally a small espresso with a small amount of steamed milk and foam on top. However, some coffee shops and chains in the United States serve a "macchiato" that is more similar to a latte, with more milk and flavorings added. This has led to confusion and debate among coffee enthusiasts about what constitutes a true macchiato. So what exactly is a macchiato? It’s time to break it down.

History

Italy has proven to be one of the most influential countries in the world. The country’s cultural impact has shaped the coffee community. The macchiato is an Italian coffee drink that was established in the 80’s, when baristas needed a way to differentiate between espresso drinks that were just plain espresso, or ‘marked’ with milk. The word "macchiato" means "marked" or "stained" in Italian, referring to the small amount of milk that "marks'' the espresso. The macchiato was a popular drink among working-class people. It was originally served in a small glass and was considered a "poor man's" alternative to the more expensive cappuccino.

In the 1980s and 1990s, specialty coffee shops and chains began to emerge in the United States, and with them came a new interpretation of the macchiato. These Americanized macchiatos often included more milk and flavorings, and were served in larger cups. This led to a lot of confusion and debate about what constitutes a true macchiato. In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in traditional Italian coffee drinks, and many specialty coffee shops are now offering a more authentic macchiato.

The Great Debate

If your Starbucks order consists of a macchiato, you are likely in for a surprise when you discover what a macchiato actually is. Let’s take a look at some of the controversy of this drink in the coffee community.

A traditional macchiato is a small espresso drink made with a shot of espresso and a small amount of steamed milk, topped with a dollop of foam. A Starbucks macchiato is similar, but it is made with steamed milk and flavored syrups, with a drizzle of caramel or cinnamon dolce on top. The traditional macchiato is more simple and strong in taste, while the Starbucks version is sweeter and has more flavors.

The Macchiato is a versatile drink that can be customized to suit different tastes. Some variations include adding caramel, chocolate, or vanilla syrups, or even different types of milk such as almond, soy, or oat milk. Some people prefer iced macchiato, while others enjoy it hot.

Traditional Macchiato

A traditional macchiato is made with a shot of espresso and a small amount of steamed milk, with a dollop of foam on top. The steamed milk is usually added in a ratio of about 1:1 with the espresso, and the foam is added to give the drink a creamy texture. The foam is also used to create a latte art on the surface of the drink, which is a popular way to make a macchiato look more attractive.

The espresso and milk are carefully layered to create a balance of flavors, with the bold, rich taste of the espresso being tempered by the smooth, creamy milk. The foam adds an additional layer of texture to the drink, making it even more enjoyable to sip. The macchiato is typically served in a small glass or cup, which is perfect for those who are looking for a quick and satisfying coffee fix.

A macchiato is a popular drink in many coffee shops and is generally considered a morning drink. It's often paired with sweet pastry or croissant. It can be enjoyed as is, but some people also like to add flavors such as vanilla, caramel or hazelnut to enhance the overall taste. Macchiatos are a good choice for those who are looking to experiment with different coffee flavors. The small amount of milk and foam used in the drink allows the full flavor of the espresso to come through, making it a great base for experimenting with different syrups and flavors.

Macchiato vs. Cortado

People commonly confuse traditional macchiatos with cortados, but they are not the same. A macchiato is a coffee drink that typically consists of espresso with a small amount of steamed milk and foam on top. A cortado, on the other hand, is a coffee drink that consists of equal parts of espresso and steamed milk, with no foam. The cortado is sometimes referred to as a "cut" coffee, and is popular in Spanish-speaking countries. Both are small and strong coffee drinks.

Macchiato vs Cappuccino

The macchiato is similar to other espresso-based drinks like the cappuccino, but is generally considered to be a stronger and more intense coffee experience. The small amount of milk used in the drink is meant to cut the bitter taste of the espresso and add a touch of sweetness, without overwhelming the flavor of the coffee. This makes it a good choice for coffee enthusiasts who want to enjoy the full flavor of the espresso, but with a little bit of added creaminess.

Starbucks Macchiato

A Starbucks macchiato is quite the contrary. It is in fact *drumroll*… a latte. That’s right. A Starbucks macchiato is an espresso shot poured on top of a large amount of milk. The espresso is added on top which creates a layered look but with a more prominent sweet taste. It also typically has flavored syrup added, resulting in a much sweeter, flavored drink.

Which is Correct?

When it comes to debating which version of the drink is “correct”, things can get heated amongst coffee drinkers. Ultimately, there is no “correct” version of a macchiato. Even amongst traditional macchiatos, they are subject to change based on the region. There are actually several more variations of a macchiato.

Latte Macchiato

A latte macchiato is most similar to the Starbucks variation. It is made with steamed milk and a small amount of espresso poured on top. As with the smaller, traditional macchiato, the shot of espresso creates a mark on the milk. The latte macchiato is known for its creamy, smooth texture and rich coffee flavor.

Caramel Macchiato

This is a variation of the latte macchiato, made with steamed milk, vanilla syrup, and a shot of espresso, topped with a drizzle of caramel sauce. Most are surprised to learn that caramel macchiatos are flavored with vanilla syrup, and only topped with caramel sauce. The caramel sauce adds a touch of sweetness to the drink, making it a popular choice for those who prefer a sweeter coffee experience.

Mocha Macchiato

A variation of the caramel macchiato, made with steamed milk, chocolate syrup, and a shot of espresso, topped with a drizzle of caramel sauce. This is an excellent option for a chocolate lover, as the chocolate syrup adds a richer, more intense chocolate flavor to the drink, making it perfect for chocolate lovers.

Iced Macchiato

The age old question, “hot or iced?” If you find yourself wanting to try a macchiato but you’re not quite ready to give up your iced coffee, have no fear. That’s right! You can enjoy this classic drink iced. An iced macchiato is a chilled version of the traditional macchiato, made with a shot of espresso, cold milk, and ice, topped with a dollop of foam. It is a refreshing and delicious alternative to a hot macchiato.

Reverse Macchiato

A reverse macchiato may sound complex, but it is actually very simple. Just a small change is made to contrast it to a traditional macchiato. It is a variation of the traditional macchiato, where the espresso is poured over a layer of foam rather than the foam being added to the espresso. This version has a stronger espresso flavor and a creamier texture.

Americano Macchiato

An Americano typically consists of espresso and hot water. However, an Americano Macchiato is made by adding a shot of espresso to a cup of foamed or micro-foam milk. This version has a stronger espresso flavor and more milk than the traditional macchiato.

Which is Best?

In conclusion, the macchiato is a versatile and delicious coffee drink that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Whether you prefer a traditional macchiato or a more modern variation, there is a macchiato out there for everyone. The Macchiato is a versatile drink that can be customized to suit different tastes. Some variations include adding caramel, chocolate, or vanilla syrups, or even different types of milk such as almond, soy, or oat milk. Some people prefer iced macchiato, while others enjoy it hot. So next time you're at your favorite coffee shop, consider trying a macchiato and discover your new favorite coffee drink.

Overall, a macchiato is a strong, bold coffee that packs a punch of flavor. The small amount of milk and foam used in the drink is meant to balance out the intensity of the espresso, making it a perfect choice for coffee lovers who want to enjoy the full flavor of their coffee without overwhelming sweetness.

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