Coffee is about so much more than lattes and cappuccinos. There are numerous ways to enjoy the delicious combination of espresso and steamed milk, two seemingly simple ingredients that are capable of incredible flavor. In this guide, we’ll expand your coffee horizons with three fundamental coffee beverages: the macchiato, the cortado, and the flat white. Each of these beverages plays with the ratio of espresso to milk to create unique and delicious flavor profiles. Jump into the guide below to learn all about these classic espresso drinks.
What’s a Macchiato?
A macchiato, specifically "caffè macchiato" in Italian, translates to "stained" or "marked coffee. It is a popular espresso-based coffee beverage that consists of a shot (or sometimes two) of espresso with a small amount of steamed milk added to it. The key characteristic of a macchiato is the small amount of milk, which distinguishes it from other espresso drinks like lattes or cappuccinos.
A macchiato is a simple shot or two of espresso "marked" with a small amount of steamed milk and milk foam. The milk is usually added to the top of the espresso, giving it a slightly creamier texture and a touch of sweetness without overpowering the intense flavor of the espresso.
Some coffee chains make a “latte macchiato” which is the opposite of the traditional macchiato. It consists of a larger amount of steamed milk topped with a shot or two of espresso. The result is a coffee with more milkiness, a milder espresso taste, and a layered appearance as the espresso floats on top of the milk. In this guide, our focus will be on the traditional espresso macchiato.
Learn more: What is a Macchiato and How Do You Make One?
What’s a Cortado?
A cortado is a popular espresso-based coffee drink that actually originated in Spain. The word "cortado" itself comes from the Spanish word "cortar," which means "to cut" or "cutting." A cortado is made by combining equal parts espresso and steamed milk, resulting in a balanced and smooth coffee beverage.
The preparation of a cortado involves "cutting" the intensity of espresso by adding a small amount of steamed milk poured directly into the espresso. The ratio of espresso to milk is usually 1:1, although some variations might use a slightly higher proportion of espresso. Unlike a macchiato, which has just a "stain" of milk, the cortado has a higher milk content, but it's still not as milk-heavy as a latte or cappuccino.
One of the essential characteristics of a cortado is the serving size. Cortados are typically served in a smaller cup, usually holding around 4 to 5 ounces. The small size allows you to savor the rich espresso flavors while still enjoying the creamy texture of the milk.
The cortado is a popular choice among coffee enthusiasts who prefer a balanced coffee experience, where the espresso's robust taste is complemented by the sweetness and smoothness of the milk. It strikes a nice middle ground between a strong espresso shot and a milk-heavy coffee beverage, making it a delightful option for those seeking a more nuanced coffee experience.
Learn more: What is a Cortado and How do You Make One?
What’s a Flat White?
A flat white is an espresso-based coffee drink that is particularly popular in Australia and New Zealand, though it has gained widespread popularity around the world in recent years. It is somewhat similar to a latte or a cappuccino but has its own unique characteristics that set it apart.
A flat white is made by combining double ristretto espresso shots with steamed milk. The milk used in a flat white is velvety with rich microfoam, meaning it has a fine texture with tiny bubbles, creating a smooth and creamy consistency. The result is a velvety smooth beverage with a mild espresso flavor.
The flat white is beloved for its balance of espresso and milk, making it an ideal choice for those who want a creamy coffee with a bold coffee flavor. The smooth milk texture helps integrate the espresso and milk, creating a harmonious and enjoyable coffee-drinking experience. Like other espresso-based beverages, the flat white can be customized with various milk options, such as dairy milk, almond milk, soy milk, or oat milk, to suit different dietary preferences and tastes.
Learn more: What is a Flat White? And How Do You Make One?
Macchiato vs. Cortado vs. Flat White
Macchiatos, cortados, and flat whites all have unique flavor profiles, mouthfeels, and calorie content even though their ingredients are the same. The construction and ratios play a big part in their different flavors. Let’s take a look at how each beverage compares to the other - note that each beverage is typically served hot.
- Total Size: With espresso and milk combined, a macchiato should be no more than 3 ounces in total.
- Espresso Content: Macchiatos can contain one to two shots of espresso.
- Milk-to-Espresso Ratio: A macchiato typically consists of ⅔ of espresso and ⅓ of steamed milk.
- Flavor: Macchiatos are known for their strong espresso flavor.
- Calorie Content: Depending on the milk you use, a macchiato can have anywhere from 5 to 18 calories.
- Total Size: Cortados are slightly larger than macchiatos, around 4-5 ounces of both espresso and steamed milk.
- Espresso Content: Cortados typically contain two shots of espresso.
- Milk-to-Espresso Ratio: The typical milk-to-espresso ratio for a cortado is 1:1.
- Flavor: Since the espresso and milk are well-balanced, cortados are marked by their strong yet creamy flavor profile with a subtle hint of sweetness.
- Calorie Content: Because of its higher milk content, a cortado can have anywhere from 10 to 37 calories.
- Total Size: The largest beverage of the three, a flat white is about 5-6 ounces of steamed milk and espresso.
- Espresso Content: Flat whites typically contain two ristretto shots of espresso.
- Milk-to-Espresso Ratio: A flat white typically consists of ⅓ espresso and ⅔ steamed milk.
- Flavor: A flat white has a smooth, mild, semi-sweet flavor due to the higher volume of milk and ristretto shots used.
- Calorie Content: Flat whites are the most calorie dense of the three beverages, ranging from 48 to 110 calories.
Try all three
If you’re a coffee lover, you’re sure to enjoy one of these classic espresso drinks. Stop by one of our Greenville locations and request one of these fantastic coffee beverages to try for yourself. Or, if you’re feeling brave, grab some of our coffee beans and try making them at home by following a few of our at-home barista guides:
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