Diarising and trying to figure out the menu at your local coffee shop can tend to be a bit of a challenge unless of course, you are fluent in Italian or Barista language.
Unfortunately, even for the biggest coffee connoisseurs, understanding exactly how coffee drinks like lattes, macchiatos and cappuccinos are different from each other in terms of ingredients can tend to be overwhelming.
Now the reality is that these coffee drinks differ not only in ingredients but caffeine content and nutritional value as well.
And in the following article, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the differences as well as the similarities in cappuccinos, lattes and macchiatos.
What is the difference between a latte and a macchiato?
What is a Latte?
The key to deciphering what a latte is is in the meaning of “café latte” which basically means coffee milk.
The latte is a highly globalized milk drink just like the cappuccino and has endless variations of the recipe.
In fact, there is no single way to make a latte; however, there are some incredible machines that can help you make really good ones. In most coffee shops outside Italy, the latte is typically a single espresso topped with steamed milk. So as long as it contains milk, it can be a latte even if it’s not made with coffee.
Other café drinks like Matcha latte and Chai latte fulfil the only criteria of being a latte as they contain milk. So consequently ordering a latte in Italy will simply get you a glass of milk.
Lots of people in Italy make a latte for breakfast simply by brewing coffee in a Bialetti Moka pot, heating milk on the stovetop and combining the two. The seems to be a common style, and lots of Italians don’t even bother foaming the milk.
Simply because the latte doesn’t have one specific recipe, it’s a bit difficult to find out who actually invented it. Over the late 19th and early 20th centuries, milk coffee became popular across Europe.
With the regional variations such as Frances cafe, au lait and Germany’s Milchkaffee made by pouring heated milk and strong coffee out of two separate pitchers and mixed to the coffee drinkers preference.
The latte came to be widely used, paradoxically in the English-speaking world since the word latte is not a part of Italian café culture.
A common recipe for making it evolved including espresso, steamed milk and sweeteners.
So in an average Italian coffee bar, you may order a macchiato or cappuccino, but the café latte is seen as a breakfast drink to be made at home instead.
What is Macchiato?
The word macchiato literally means “marked”. It’s an espresso “marked” with a spoonful of foamed milk on top.
There are countless variations of the macchiato nowadays including the caramelly Starbucks one and a “tall macc” with so much milk that it’s basically a latte.
However, if you want to get technical, then a macchiato is simply an espresso with a tiny dash of milk. To make sure you get a macchiato outside Italy, you need to stress that you want an “espresso macchiato”.
Nowadays, there are many drinks called macchiato, and they usually have nothing to do with the original recipe. Starbucks, for example, offers a zebra macchiato or an iced marble mocha macchiato with a white mocha at the bottom and an espresso shot on the top.
This might please those with a sweet tooth; however, it’s far from the traditional macchiato. A common variation is the latte macchiato which is an inverse macchiato. So it’s basically hot milk topped with espresso.
It is usually larger and served in a taller glass. If you want an espresso drink with more milk than a macchiato, then you may enjoy a cortado, which is Latin America’s delicious contribution to milk-based espresso drinks.
Is a macchiato stronger than a latte?
The main difference between a macchiato and latte is perhaps the milk content.
The macchiato and latte are both made of espresso and steamed milk, but the two drinks differ the most in their espresso to milk ratio.
Macchiato literally translates to “stained” in Italian, and in this case, the steamed milk is staining the espresso shot.
To make a macchiato, you need to pull a shot of espresso and add a dash of steamed milk. Ensure that you aim for about 90% coffee and 10% milk. So if you’re asking the question, what is a macchiato vs. latte?
Remember that a macchiato is an espresso finished off with a dash of steamed milk, while a latte prides itself in an abundance of foam. So to answer the question, is a macchiato stronger than a latte, then the answer is a resounding yes.
Espresso macchiato vs latte macchiato vs cappuccino
The cappuccino was made popular and perfected during both world wars.
It starts off with a bottom layer of one or two shots of espresso, and if you’re in the United States, it is usually two shots of espresso.
The second layer is made up of steamed milk, which is added on top, followed by a thick and airy layer of foam to get the rich and velvety texture.
Cappuccinos also typically have a much stronger espresso flavor than a latte due to having less milk and more foam than a latte. The best cappuccinos contain one to one, liquid ratios to foam.
Latte also begins with the same base, which is either a single or double shot of espresso.
The espresso is then combined with several ounces of steamed milk to create a rich and creamy texture. Latte has a more subtle espresso taste. The typical ratio of espresso to steamed milk is about 1 to 2. The latte is then also topped with a layer of foam.
The preparation of lattes varies widely since their popularity exploded in the last 20 years. Latte can also be tweaked and made into a sweet version by adding flavors vanilla and hazelnut.
Macchiatos are actually very simple coffee beverages that you can even make in the comfort of your own home.
It takes just 7 to 8 minutes, and the ingredients include 1 to 2 shots of espresso and a dollop of foamed milk containing the texture of melted ice cream. If you have a good espresso machine, then you can make the milk foam quickly and easily.
Alternatively, you can simply invest in a separate milk frother. Start by taking a macchiato cup or any small cup of 4 fluid ounces.
Pour the steamed and frothed milk into the cup and then prepare the espresso shots and add them to the steamed milk. The concoction can be served and enjoyed immediately after making it.
Cappuccino vs Macchiato vs Latte - Ingredients and Ratio
Cappuccino: A shot espresso with steamed milk and foam.
- Ratio: 1:2:2
- Outside Italy:1:1:1
Macchiato: A shot of espresso with a dollop of milk
- Ratio: 90% coffee and 10% milk
Latte: In Italy, it is coffee with heated milk.
- Outside Italy: Espresso with plenty of steamed milk
- Ratio: 15% coffee, 85% milk
Now that you have a better understanding of the main differences between cappuccinos, lattes, and macchiatos, you never have to ask yourself what’s the difference again.
However, the good news is that by knowing the difference between these delicious coffee drinks, you can make them as often as you want from the comfort of your own home.
Furthermore, the next time you walk into a fancy coffee shop, you’ll know exactly what to order, just by looking at the menu.