Difference between Latte and Macchiato

Updated on February 23, 2018

A cup of café latte and a cup of café macchiato may look exactly alike from the top, but they are made in a different way. In this article, we will explore the differences between the two types of popular coffee drinks.


Imaginative latte art

A café latte, or, simply, latte, is a coffee drink that originated in Italy. Literally translated as “coffee milk” from Italian, the drink is a combination of espresso and milk. Considered a “morning drink” in Italy, café latte gained popularity in the United States and became part of the menu of any restaurant serving coffee, any time of day.

Preparing café latte takes almost as much time as preparing simple café Americano, that is, very little:

Make a shot of espresso, steam milk, add milk to the espresso and on top add milk foam. Your cup of café latte is ready. A coffee/ milk ratio should be approximately 1/3 coffee to 2/3 milk.

café macchiato
A cup of Espresso Macchiato as being served in Oslo, Norway

A café macchiato is a coffee drink made with espresso and a little bit of milk foam on top. In Italian, “macchiato” means “marked.” A cup of espresso is literally marked by foam art on top. In the North American tradition, baristas use a little bit of milk for the macchiato, instead of just putting a little foam dot on top, as they do elsewhere.

A simple way to make a cup of coffee macchiato.

  1. Make a shot of espresso. Stir the shot a little bit with a spoon. This way you spread all the bitterness of the espresso throughout, so when you taste it, it will be a much smoother drink.
  2. Make steamy, foamy milk.
  3. Slowly pour one ounce of foamy milk into the espresso shot, while slightly shaking the milk jar with your hand in a circular way.
  4. Make art foam on top any way you like.

Your cup of coffee macchiato is ready.

Comparison chart

Latte”(Italian) means “milk” and refers to the necessary ingredient of a drinkMacchiato” (Italian) means “marked” and refers to an appearance of a drink
Essentially an espresso plus milkEssentially an espresso with milk as a decoration

Latte vs Macchiato

What is the difference between latte and macchiato?

In this article we do not explore a blend of café latte and café macchiato known as a latte macchiato, which is usually prepared by pouring espresso into frozen milk.

  • Latte” (Italian) means “milk” and refers to milk as a fundamental element of café latte. On the other hand, “macchiato” (Italian) means “marked” and refers rather to an appearance of a drink.
  • The two types of coffee drinks differ in how milk is used in preparing a drink. Café latte is essentially an espresso plus milk. On the other hand, café macchiato is essentially an espresso with milk just as a decoration.
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