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Macchiato vs Latte: Similarities & Differences In Your Favorite Coffee Drinks

You’re sitting at the counter at your favorite coffee shop, looking at all of your options for what coffee drink to order. With words like a flat white, macchiato, and latte, it’s easy to get confused and overwhelmed, ultimately defaulting to your traditional order. For the most part, milk-based coffee drinks share many similarities. The main difference between each drink is the ratio of milk to espresso. When comparing a macchiato vs. latte, here’s the main difference: a macchiato is simply just espresso and steamed milk. A latte is espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk.  Sure, sounds simple enough right? Let’s go into more detail.


What's a macchiato?

A macchiato is a much stronger coffee drink than a latte, offering more bold flavors and caffeine.  In Italian, macchiato means “spotted.” This refers to the typical spot on the top of the drink, caused by a barista pouring espresso directly into a small amount of steamed milk, leaving a spot of espresso on top of the milk. This drink is traditionally served in a smaller espresso cup, usually 2-3 oz.  Outside of Italy, macchiatos can be a lot of things. From a tall, milk-forward drink (that’s basically a latte) to something packed with tons of caramel, today’s macchiato doesn’t usually resemble the delizioso spotted espresso of Rome.  But when you order a macchiato at a traditional coffee shop like The Roasterie, expect to get what Leonardo Da Vinci may have ordered at his local shop back in the day: a delicious, rich espresso paired with just a spot of milk.

Macchiato ingredients:

  • Single or double-shot of espresso
  • A dollop of steamed milk

What does a macchiato taste like?

It tastes a whole lot like espresso, meaning the higher quality of beans used, the better flavor profile.

How much caffeine is in a macchiato?

Small/medium macchiatos typically have around 80mg of caffeine, while large ones pack in about 120mg. 

What's a latte?

A latte, or a Caffe Latte (meaning “milk coffee”) in Italian, is a more creamy coffee drink than a traditional macchiato. It is espresso topped with steamed milk and then usually topped again with frothed or foamed milk. While traditional macchiatos are espresso-forward in flavor, lattes often taste more like milk than anything else, which is why there are many different types of lattes available at coffee shops.  From flavors like caramel and chocolate to alternative milks like oat and almond, there’s no end to options when it comes to types of lattes! Check out our full menu to see what creative flavors we are brewing this month. And technically, pretty much any beverage that is mostly steamed milk can be called a latte, even if it doesn’t include coffee. Like a chai latte or matcha latte, for example. 

How do you make a latte?

  • Single or double-shot of espresso
  • Steamed milk (accounting for ⅔ of the total beverage)
  • Foamed milk for the top
  • Optional flavor additives (vanilla, caramel, etc.)
Check out this blog to learn how to make the best latte at home using The Roasterie coffee!

How much caffeine is in a latte?

Small/medium lattes typically have around 80mg of caffeine, while large ones pack in about 120mg. While this is the same for a macchiato, it’s important to remember that your latte will be a much larger drink with a lot more milk in it.

Macchiato vs Latte: Which should I order?

Trying to figure out which is right for you in the macchiato vs. latte debate? Well, that depends on what kind of flavor you want (and where you’re located).  In America, there isn’t much difference between a macchiato and a latte. An American macchiato may have just a little bit less flavoring to it, but still have the same amount of milk as a latte because it is poured into the same size cup. These are more considered a “latte macchiato” than a traditional macchiato because of the amount of milk.  In Europe, that might look a little different. If you order a latte in Italy, you’ll likely just receive a glass of milk. No coffee, no espresso. Not even steamed. It’s just simply milk. A Caffe Latte will have warm milk and espresso, but it will not be foamy like it is here in the States. The bottom line? If you like a flavor-forward drink (think vanilla or caramel) a latte is usually the best option. If you want to enjoy a delicious espresso at its fullest potential, but want to cut the bitterness just slightly, you should try a macchiato instead.Visit one of our Roasterie Cafes to find your new favorite drink and let our baristas help decide the winner of the macchiato vs. latte.