macchiato sitting on coffee bar counter

What is a Macchiato? And How Do You Make One?

A macchiato is an espresso coffee "stained" or "marked" with a small amount of steamed milk or milk foam. Learn more about this classic espresso drink and how to make the perfect macchiato at home.

When you need a jolt of caffeine but don’t have time for a latte, nor do you enjoy the taste of straight espresso, an espresso macchiato is the perfect coffee beverage. Rich espresso layered with creamy, frothy milk creates a beautifully balanced beverage you can enjoy on the go or at your own pace. Read our guide about macchiatos and level up your at-home barista skills by learning how to make this classic espresso beverage.

What is a Macchiato?

A macchiato is an espresso coffee "stained" or "marked" with a small amount of steamed milk or milk foam. The completed beverage is usually around 3-4 ounces total. The key characteristic of a macchiato is the balance between the strong coffee flavor of the espresso and the subtle addition of steamed milk. It's a popular choice for those who enjoy the boldness of espresso but also appreciate a touch of creaminess.

Types of Macchiato

There are two main types of macchiato. Though the ingredients are the same, the difference in techniques makes these beverages taste unique from one another.

Espresso Macchiato

In this version, a shot of espresso is pulled into a small cup (sometimes called a demitasse cup), and then an equal portion of milk foam is added on top. This results in a strong coffee flavor with just a hint of milkiness. Since the espresso macchiato is the most traditional, we’ll focus on how to make an espresso macchiato in this guide.

Latte Macchiato

A latte macchiato involves more milk than an espresso macchiato. A latte macchiato is made by adding a single or double shot of espresso to a larger amount of steamed milk, usually around six ounces. This creates a layered effect, with the milk at the bottom, a shot of espresso in the middle, and a small amount of milk foam on top. Some coffee shops add flavors and toppings to their latte macchiatos, though modern, third-wave cafes commonly serve a more traditional macchiato.

The Origin of the Macchiato

The macchiato originates from Italy. The word "macchiato" is Italian and translates to "stained" or "spotted" in English. The drink itself has its roots in Italian coffee culture, where it has been enjoyed for many years. Italy is known for its rich coffee tradition, and the macchiato is just one of the many coffee variations that have been developed and perfected there.

What You Need to Make a Macchiato at Home

Making an espresso macchiato in general is fairly simple, which means you can definitely learn to make one at home. Here are the ingredients and equipment you need to make your own macchiatos.

Macchiato Ingredients

A classic macchiato requires only two ingredients: milk and espresso.

To yield a truly delicious macchiato, make sure to choose high-quality milk, whether whole milk or a barista series version of non-dairy milk. The heightened fat content in these milks significantly enhances both the texture and flavor of your macchiato.

Next, you’ll want to choose a great espresso. Darker roast coffees typically stand up better in milk than lightly roasted coffees, but we believe a balanced medium roast makes the best espresso for macchiatos. Medium roast coffee tends to be more well-rounded and complex than dark roast espresso, which is especially important in a macchiato.

Macchiato Equipment

To make a macchiato, you’ll need the following equipment.

Espresso machines are traditional to use when making a macchiato. However, you can simulate the flavor of espresso by using an alternative brewing method, which we’ll get into in a later section. Likewise, you can steam milk without an espresso machine using a few different techniques.

How to Make an Espresso Macchiato With an Espresso Machine

Making a macchiato with an espresso machine is very quick and easy. Follow the steps below to craft your own espresso macchiato that you can enjoy any time.

1. Pull the Espresso Shot

Grind your coffee of choice to a fine consistency and tamp it into the portafilter basket. Insert the portafilter into your espresso machine and start pulling your espresso shot.

Learn more: How to Pull a Shot of Espresso

2. Steam the Milk

While the espresso shot is pulling, steam a few ounces of milk in your steaming pitcher. You only need a small amount of steamed milk and milk foam so as not to overpower the espresso flavor.

Learn more: How to Steam Milk for a Latte

3. Pour the Macchiato

Once your milk and espresso are ready, carefully pour a small amount of the steamed milk over the top of the espresso. The milk should "stain" or "mark" the espresso, giving it a subtle creaminess without overwhelming the coffee flavor.

How to Make an Espresso Macchiato Without an Espresso Machine

As mentioned earlier, you can make a macchiato without an espresso machine. Though it won’t taste 100% like a macchiato from a cafe, you’ll still end up with a delicious beverage.

1. Make the Espresso

No espresso machine? No problem. You can approximate the taste of traditional espresso by brewing concentrated coffee using a French press coffee maker, an Aeropress, or a Moka pot. Just make sure to follow the 2:1 ratio of coffee to water which is standard for espresso.

Learn more: How to Make French Press Espresso

2. Steam the Milk

You can steam milk without an espresso machine. You can use a milk frothing pitcher, an electric whisk, or even a French press coffee maker to make steamy foamed milk.

If you use a French press or electric whisk, we recommend warming about 3oz of milk in a pot on the stove beforehand. Aim for a temperature around 140F. Warming the milk before frothing ensures you’ll get velvety microfoam. You’ll need to froth the steamed milk for several seconds to get enough foam for your macchiato.

3. Pour the Macchiato

Once you’ve got your concentrated coffee and steamed milk ready, add the coffee to a small cup and pour a small amount of milk on top. Serve and enjoy!

Which Milk Makes the Best Macchiato?

The choice of milk for an espresso macchiato depends on your personal preferences and dietary considerations. There are a few milk options that yield better results than others, both dairy and non-dairy alike.

Whole Milk

Whole milk sourced from a local dairy is popular among baristas because of its creamy texture and natural sweetness. The higher fat content in whole milk provides a rich mouthfeel and helps balance the intensity of the espresso. It blends well with the coffee, adding a pleasant and smooth flavor to a macchiato.

2% Milk

If you're looking for a slightly lighter option while still maintaining a creamy texture, 2% milk is a great choice for a macchiato. It has less fat than whole milk but still offers a decent amount of creaminess and good flavor.

Oat Milk

For a non-dairy milk option, you really can’t go wrong with oat milk. Some oat milk brands offer specialized "barista series" versions that are formulated to froth well and maintain stability in espresso-based drinks. If you want to make a great macchiato or any other espresso beverage, barista-grade oat milk is the way to go.

Other Milk Options

You can use other non-dairy options to make a passable macchiato, like soy or almond milk. However, nonfat milk and coconut milk don’t have a high enough fat content to make the right kind of foam, so these will end up mixing in with the espresso instead of layering. You’ll likely get the same result with heavy cream and half-and-half; these milk options are too dense to make microfoam, which means they’ll end up mixing in with your espresso instead of layering.

Enjoy Your Macchiato

Remember that the key to a great espresso macchiato lies in using high-quality ingredients, proper brewing techniques, and achieving the right balance between espresso and milk. It might take a bit of practice to master, but with time, you can create a delicious espresso macchiato that suits your taste preferences. We hope you enjoy making this wonderful pocket-sized espresso beverage.

If you’re looking for the right roast to level up your espresso macchiato, we’ve got you covered with a wide selection of blends and single-origin coffees that are delicious no matter how you brew them.

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