Macchiato vs Espresso

8 min read MAY 05, 2022

When it comes to coffee, there are so many options to choose from that it can feel totally overwhelming. Here, we’ll break down two of the most basic coffee drinks, and establish the differences between a macchiato vs an espresso. 

When you’re standing in line and looking a the menu, it’s normal to feel totally lost and end up choosing something at random. But learning about coffee is easy and fun.

Most coffee drinks start with an espresso base, so it’s important to understand espresso before you try to learn all the variations.

Because when it comes down to it, a macchiato is just a variation of an espresso. So let’s get into the basics. 

What this article covers:

What is an Espresso?

espresso vs macchiato

An espresso is a small amount of concentrated coffee made using a special extraction technique.

The beans are ground extra fine, and then hot water is forced through them at high pressure. This is referred to as extraction and not as brewing, which you would say about drip coffee. 

This results in an intense coffee. Some people enjoy an espresso on its own, but it also makes the base for a variety of coffee beverages.

If you like bold flavors and don’t mind a little bitterness, then give a straight espresso a try. 

While an espresso is a small drink, with most being just over 1 oz., it packs a punch. A standard espresso has about 68 mg of caffeine.

This makes it a great drink for when you need a pick-me-up but don’t want a whole cup of coffee.

Some people drink their espressos in one gulp, whereas others like to savor them slowly. They can be a bit of an acquired taste but they open up a whole new world of flavors if you’re willing to take the leap


The espresso was invented in Italy in the early 1900s, by a man called Luigi Bezzera. He was experimenting with coffee to see if he could brew it faster. 

He discovered that using the pressure of steam really sped up the brewing process and created a strong drink. 

In fact, ‘espresso’ in Italian translates to ‘fast,’ referring to the fact extraction process.

This brewing method also draws out the intense flavors of the coffee beans in a different way than brewed coffee, quickly making it popular worldwide. 

what's difference between espresso and macchiato

It’s important to choose dark roasted beans to get the rich flavor, and something like Lifeboost’s Espresso Lovers’ beans are perfect for making a delicious treat. 


Two of the most basic variations of the espresso are the latte and the americano. These are both simple coffee drinks where something is added to the espresso.

The espresso then becomes the base for a delicious coffee beverage. For a latte, steamed milk is added to the espresso, and for the americano, hot water is added.

There is often some confusion between a cappuccino vs a latte vs an americano. 

A classic americano is simply hot water added to espresso, and it is traditionally served black. If you want milk in your americano, what you actually want is a white americano.

A cappuccino and a latter both contain milk, but in different ratios. A cappuccino consists of a shot of espresso topped with one part steamed milk and one part frothed milk. This gives it its classic frothy appearance.

A latte, on the other hand, is a much milkier coffee. On top of your espresso, you add two parts of steamed milk with a layer of frothed milk on top. The heating of the milk brings out the natural sugars in the milk and makes for a tasty treat. 

What is a Macchiato?

A macchiato is an espresso topped with one to two teaspoons of milk foam. The amount of milk foam varies depending on the barista, but you can usually tell them your preferences.

The milk softens the intensity of the espresso, which allows the bold flavors to come through. Because you’re adding foam rather than steamed milk, it cuts through the bitterness without changing the taste. 

difference between macchiato and espresso

A macchiato is ideal if you like espresso, but find it slightly too strong for your taste. This drink has a light and frothy texture.

It’s also much easier to sip than plain espresso. A macchiato is a lovely drink, milder than an espresso but not too milky. 

You can also use it to work your way up to drinking a straight shot of espresso. But there’s also nothing wrong with enjoying a little (or a lot) of milk in your coffee. 


The macchiato is properly called the ‘caffè macchiato’ and the name was coined in Italy in the 1980s.

Macchiato’ in Italian translates to ‘spotted’ or ‘stained,’ referring to how the espresso is stained with a small amount of milk. 

There’s also a convention in Italy to avoid drinking milk in the afternoons so the macchiato was a nice compromise for those who found the espresso too overpowering. 

The name came about because waiters needed a way to distinguish between a plain espresso and one that had a bit of milk in it. 


Sometimes, people mix up a cortado and a macchiato. The difference between a macchiato vs a cortado is that a macchiato has only a small amount of milk added, whereas a cortado contains equal parts espresso and steamed milk. 

This makes for a smoother, sweeter drink, although it’s still stronger than a latte, which has two parts steamed milk. 

The difference between a macchiato vs a latte is in the amount of milk added to the espresso. 

difference between espresso and macchiato

We’ve been talking about caffè macchiato, but there’s another drink called the latte macchiato. As latte means milk in Italian, this refers to milk that has been ‘stained’ with espresso. 

For a latte macchiato, the espresso is added to the milk. It’s often served unmixed as a layered drink. It has a more forward espresso taste than a caffè latte. 

Macchiato vs Espresso

When it comes to deciding between a macchiato vs an espresso, there’s no simple answer. They are both delicious drinks that will help keep you happy and caffeinated. 

If you want to go intense and strong, espresso might be the choice for you.

For espresso, you want to go with espresso beans, or at least dark roast coffee beans.

If you want something still bold, but also a bit delicate, then a macchiato might be right up your alley.

You can even opt for caramel macchiato coffee beans if you want an extra special flavor. 

what's difference between macchiato and espresso

Other Delicious Options

But those aren’t your only options. There’s a whole world of coffee beverages out there. We’ll look at a few to help you understand the differences. 

When it comes to foamy coffee drinks, a cappuccino might be the first thing that comes to mind. So what's the difference between a cappuccino and a macchiato

Cappuccino consists of a shot of espresso topped with one part steamed milk and one part foamed milk. This means there is a much higher amount of milk in a cappuccino than in a macchiato.

The difference between flat white and latte macchiato is larger. A flat white is made with equal parts espresso and foamed milk, making it more similar to a cortado than a macchiato. 

Then you get a variety of cold coffee beverages. Firstly, you get cold brew, which is made using cold water and brewed over a long time. This pretty much makes it the opposite of an espresso.

Cold brew coffee is milder with less acidity, as there’s no hot water to bring that out. So the difference between cold brew vs macchiato is pretty big.

Then you get iced beverages, which are different from a cold brew. These are made with hot coffee and ice. Let’s look at two of the most popular. The main difference between an iced vanilla latte vs. an iced caramel macchiato is the flavoring used.

Beyond that, as we mentioned above, a latte consists of two parts milk and comes mixed together for a smooth and mild taste. The milk is added to the espresso, helping it mix.

An iced caramel macchiato is a form of latte macchiato, where espresso is added to milk. This is a less blended drink and has a more espresso-forward flavor. 

Choosing the Best Beans

By far the most important part of any coffee beverage is the beans you choose. After all, your coffee is only as good as your beans. 

One of the major issues that a lot of coffee connoisseurs face is that coffee upsets their stomachs. This is mostly because coffee tends to be acidic. 

Luckily, there are options like Lifeboost’s low acid coffee that allow you to enjoy your delicious coffee beverage with no stomach issues. 

the difference between espresso and macchiato

And when it comes to choosing your beans, there are plenty to choose from. There’s a wide range of flavored coffee beans if you want some extra flavor without the added sugar that comes in coffee flavor syrups. 

And if this article is making you crave a cup of coffee, but you can't handle the caffeine, don’t worry. Lifeboost also offers decaf coffee

At the end of the day, there are no wrong choices when it comes to your cup of coffee. It’s all just a matter of preference. The best way to get to enjoy coffee is to try a bunch of different types and see what your favorite is. 

Maybe it will be a macchiato.

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