What’s the Difference Between a Macchiato and a Latte


So you think you’re a new coffee connoisseur and want to be able to define the difference between a macchiato and a latte. Whether you’re a coffee shop frequenter or are starting to make your own specialty coffee at home, it’s good to know how these drinks are different. It will help you make the drinks better and appreciate them, even more, the next time you order.

The Similarity

First of all, both of these are coffee. There is no debating that. More so, these are what you call specialty coffee or according to coffee enthusiasts, gourmet coffee. Basically, they are made from premium Arabica beans. To know more about gourmet coffee and the components that make a great cup of joe, take a look at this gourmet coffee tastes defined. They both have espresso as the base and both have milk. Now you know the similarity so what’s the difference between a macchiato and a latte?

To give you a clue before we further explore this topic, most of it has to do with foam.


Proper specialty coffee like macchiatos and lattes require microfoam. It is the milk that foams using a steam wand on an espresso machine for making espresso base coffee drinks. Microfoam is also used to make latte art. Here is a short and easy guide on how to do latte art. To give you more insights, you should know that there are different types of espresso makers and here is the best semiautomatic espresso machine.

So this foam is controlled during the steaming process. There are two processes in creating microfoam.

  • Frothing

    The first phase is introducing air into the milk that you are steaming known as frothing. This is by having the steam wand’s tip near the top of the milk. There will be a slightly audible hissing sound as you froth when the air enters the milk.

  • Texturing

    The second phase is mixing the air throughout the milk. You will now have the steam wand’s tip immerse more deeply to create a flow or a whirlpool in the milk.

During this steaming process, the foam phase forms at the top and then naturally separates from the liquid phase. It will now rise to the surface. As the mixing ends, you will continue the mixing by swirling your milk pitcher in a smooth circular motion until the mixture of foam and warm milk becomes homogenous. That’s when you add it to your specialty drink. And the way you incorporate this foam to the drink is part of what defines the difference between a macchiato and a latte.

What’s the Difference Between a Macchiato and a Latte?

The microfoam is just one of the things that matter when looking at the difference between a macchiato and a latte. So how exactly are they different?

  • Latte

    Let us first look at latte and how it came to be. Latte is an Italian word for milk and naturally, café latte describes coffee mix with milk in Italy. Soon other countries have adopted it and use it to describe a certain kind of coffee. So if you order the only latte in Italy and not café latte, the server will most likely give you a cup or pitcher of milk and no coffee.

    Today, a latte is a consistent part of coffee shop menus all over the world. The lattes that you order from coffee shops and restaurants these days are of a specific procedure that comes from Americans.

    It seems that we can trace it back to an Italian in the California bay area with the name of Lino Meiorin. He thinks that Italian cappuccinos were so strong so he made adjustments to the drink with larger portions of milk to lessen the strength. It is then known as café latte. Customers liked it and it became popular in the state.

  • Macchiato

    To be more knowledgeable about the difference between a macchiato and a latte, let us now take a closer look at macchiato. It is also an Italian word which means A marked coffee. Waiters use this to determine espresso with milk. But macchiato is actually an American invention. It involves foam just like latte so it can be confusing. What makes the difference between a macchiato and a latte is the manner of preparation.

  • Preparation

    To make a latte, the espresso goes in first then they pour the steam milk on top. Optionally, they stir it and add a foam on top.

    To make macchiato, on the other hand, you pour the steam milk first and then the espresso second. It also has an optional foam on top.

To make it even simpler and easier to remember, a latte is basically coffee and milk. Macchiato is coffee WITH milk but this milk is a visible mark. Latte refers to the ingredient of the drink which includes milk and macchiato indicates the appearance of the drink.

You should also remember that for a latte, the milk is on top of the espresso and for a macchiato, the espresso is on top of the milk.

Differences in Flavor

Now that you know the technical difference between a macchiato and a latte, let us take a closer look at how they are different in terms of flavor.

  • Macchiato Flavor

    The difference between a macchiato and a latte is that a macchiato has a bold first sip flavor. Since the espresso is put in last, it creates a robust first sip.

    Also, steam milk is used for a macchiato and the creaminess of the whole milk stands up to the roastiness of the hot espresso shot.

  • Latte Flavor

    The latte has a more balanced flavor. The milk and espresso evenly mix so it creates a consistent flavor. This is great for those who find drinks like cappuccinos to be too strong and want a lighter alternative. The foam creates a delicate first sip.

    Unlike the macchiato, the difference between a macchiato and a latte is that a latte uses only 2% milk. This combines perfectly with the roasty espresso.

So go ahead and enjoy your latte or macchiato now that you know more about the difference between a macchiato and a latte, whichever drink you prefer more.