Similar to lattes and cappuccinos, macchiatos are made with espresso and milk but still distinct from other coffee flavors. Macchiatos are an Italian coffee staple that were believed to be created in the ’80s. The beverage was originally made as a way for baristas to determine types of espresso for different coffee drinks, with Italian baristas using a dash of milk to stain the top of espresso mixed with milk to differentiate it from the plain one.
The word macchiato is of Italian descent, translating to ‘marked’ or ‘stained’ in reference to the espresso being ‘marked’ with milk. Macchiatos are simply a shot of espresso with a frothed layer of milk along the top. They are the perfect espresso drink for those who want a stronger hit of caffeine. In Italy, macchiatos are often made with one shot of espresso and topped with a small amount of foam; however, here in the United States, most coffee shops will make it with two shots of espresso instead of one.
The taste of a traditional macchiato has a bold and rich undertone mellowed out by the creaminess of the milk. Because macchiatos are topped with steamed milk and foam, the body has a smooth and silky texture. The way milk is foamed in a macchiato has a significant impact on the taste and texture of the drink overall. Ideally, macchiatos should be prepared with a process that is known as “velvet microfoam,” in which tiny air bubbles are added to the milk. Whole milk is used the most, as it makes for the best foam, but non-dairy milk options like almond milk or pea protein milk can be used for less sugary milk. Macchiatos can be served hot or cold and can also have other flavorings added such as cinnamon, cocoa powder, vanilla extract or lemon zest.
The espresso macchiato and the latte macchiato are the two main types of macchiatos. Espresso macchiatos appeal to those who love the depth and strength of an espresso and bitterness of coffee. The small splash of milk slightly dilutes the strength of the espresso on a small level, providing a strong flavor, with a small amount of creaminess. Latte macchiatos are comparable to a reversed espresso macchiato, as it is primarily made of milk. It’s still a ‘stained’ coffee, but instead of the milk traditionally staining the espresso, the espresso stains the milk. The strength of the espresso is heavily diluted by the primary focus on milk, and so does not have the typical richness associated with espresso.
A macchiato is a lighter version of a latte that has a stronger punch than a cappuccino but is gentler than a typical espresso. Even with its simplicity, a macchiato is capable of being the perfect afternoon pick-me-up beverage with a velvety espresso kick.