The world of coffee is more complicated and nuanced than most people realize. If you’ve ever found yourself standing in line at your favorite coffee shop and wondering “What’s the difference between a macchiato and a latte, anyway?” you’re definitely not the only one!

The elusive macchiato, which literally means “marked coffee,” gets its name from its lower milk content, as, unlike a latte, this delectable coffee drink only contains a small dollop of steamed milk.

As you may have already guessed, the “latte,” which translates to “milk coffee” in Italian, contains a much more generous portion of milk. Like a macchiato, a latte uses steamed milk, but most baristas will include an additional layer of frothed milk on top of this yummy beverage (which is what “latte art” is made from). A latte also features a touch of cream, which gives it a richer flavor profile than that of a macchiato.

Interestingly, macchiatos are more popular in Italy, while lattes are more popular in France. French lattes are typically made with a double shot of espresso. That’ll certainly wake you up in the morning (as will a macchiato for that matter — they’re especially potent!) Let’s delve into the delectable differences between macchiatos and lattes below.

What is a Macchiato?

A macchiato — also referred to as an espresso macchiato or caffè macchiato — is a delightful coffee beverage that combines the boldness of espresso with just a splash of milk. When a small amount of milk is added to the rich, dark espresso, it creates a distinctive mark or spot (hence the name), which lightens the color of the coffee by piercing through its smooth, black surface. This touch of milk is what gives the macchiato its delicious, subtle creaminess.

When exploring macchiatos, you’ll likely come across terms like “caffè macchiato,” “espresso macchiato,” and “latte macchiato,” all of which are delightfully unique in their own ways. The traditional versions (i.e. the caffè macchiato and the espresso macchiato) consist of a shot of espresso paired with just a little bit of lightly frothed milk. You should definitely give it a try sometime!

What is a Latte?

The majority of people are more familiar with lattes than they are with macchiatos, especially in the United States. A latte is essentially the perfect marriage between coffee and milk. Its texture is smooth and comforting, and it’s the perfect drink for those who don’t want to drink just black coffee (which may be too bitter) or a mocha (which may be too chocolatey and sweet for some).

A genuine latte is comprised of two shots of espresso, skillfully steamed milk, and a delicate, thin layer of frothed milk to top it off. Lattes are very nice to look at, so make sure to take a picture the next time you order one! They’re velvety and smooth in texture, and drinking one is sure to make you feel nice and relaxed (you know, despite the caffeine).

Which is Stronger: A Latte or a Macchiato?

If you’re looking for a coffee drink that’ll wake you up in the morning, you honestly can’t go wrong with either a latte or a macchiato. That said, if we’re talking about which one’s stronger, a macchiato is more likely to give you that extra jolt. This is because macchiatos are more potent in flavor. They’re not super milky like most lattes tend to be.

Because macchiatos are so strong, they’re typically served in a much smaller cup than a latte. Macchiatos can either be made with a single shot or a double shot. It just depends on if you’re trying to enjoy your morning or be up all night long. This is a joke, of course! Sort of.

Should You Order a Macchiato or a Latte?

In the realm of coffee, the lines distinguishing different espresso-based drinks have become incredibly blurred due to some of the more liberal interpretations adopted by coffee chains. Nowadays, it’s become more challenging than ever to figure out the true essence of classic coffee drinks like macchiatos and lattes. If you were to order a macchiato from Starbucks, for example, you would likely be served a syrupy concoction that’s reminiscent of a latte, which deviates pretty drastically from the authentic espresso macchiato you’d get at a coffee shop that cares more about quality. No shade towards Starbucks. Okay, a little bit of shade towards Starbucks.

This phenomenon has presented a serious predicament for coffee connoisseurs who run specialty coffee shops, as the distortion of coffee terminology by chain coffee places has hampered most people’s understanding of the true nature of specialty coffee drinks. As a result, people who are interested in exploring coffee beyond their habitual chain experience might feel a sense of alienation when visiting their local independent café. This might prompt them to retreat to the familiar yet misguided offerings of the chain they know (but don’t particularly love).

The question of whether or not you should order a macchiato or a latte should really be phrased as: “Should you order a macchiato or a latte at a specialty coffee shop?” Otherwise, you’ll probably just get a latte — which isn’t bad, but if you’re expecting to get a macchiato from a chain coffee place, it’s probably going to be rather lacking. So, should you order a macchiato or latte at a specialty coffee shop? The answer will ultimately depend on the type of coffee-drinking experience you want to have.

As previously discussed, macchiatos are bolder in flavor and are usually served in much smaller cups. Lattes have a more subtle flavor to them, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less delightful. If you order a latte, the barista might even top your drink with some latte art, which is always super pretty to look at. A macchiato might give you an extra jolt of energy, but most lattes contain two shots of espresso as well — and that’s nothing to sneeze at. You can always try a macchiato one morning, and default back to lattes the next day if it doesn’t suit your tastes. Who knows, though? You might discover that it’s your new favorite coffee drink!

The Different Types of Macchiatos

That’s right! There are actually two main types of macchiatos, namely espresso macchiatos and latte macchiatos (which is, surprisingly, not the same thing as a latte). Let’s take a closer look at these different but similar coffee drinks below:

Espresso Macchiato

The espresso macchiato is a petite delight typically served in a small demitasse cup, which is quite different from the oversized cups typically found in chain coffee shops. It consists of a shot or two of espresso with a delicate splash of steamed milk and foam gently crowning the surface. However, this is where a divide comes up between coffee enthusiasts and what chain coffee shops have to offer. The true essence of an espresso macchiato, as we stated before, is often misrepresented in chains like Starbucks, so make sure to hit up your favorite local shop if you’re interested in trying a genuine espresso macchiato.

Latte Macchiato

The latte macchiato comes slightly closer to what you might expect to be served at a coffee chain. However, it stands in stark contrast to the espresso macchiato as it’s actually the espresso that “stains” the milk, rather than the other way around. The preparation of a latte macchiato involves a much more intricate process than that of an espresso macchiato. Usually, they will serve it to you in a 12 oz cup, which you can sip on throughout the morning. Like a regular latte, latte macchiatos tend to look really nice. They make for a great photo opportunity, so remember to bring your camera!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1: Should you stir a macchiato?

No one is going to stop you. It’s your coffee drink, after all. That said, in general, you’re not really supposed to stir a macchiato. Macchiatos should ideally be enjoyed “foam first.” It’s a layered experience, to say the least! There’s no harm in stirring your macchiato, though, if you’d like to do so.

Q2: What goes first in a latte macchiato?

Making a latte macchiato is just a little bit different from making a regular latte. The first step involves steaming the milk, then gently adding the espresso on top of the steamed milk. The espresso will then slowly cascade through the milk, creating those perfect layers most people seek out when they order a latte macchiato.

Q3: How do you make a latte?

To make a latte, start by brewing 1-2 shots of espresso. While the espresso is brewing, froth around 8-12 ounces of milk using a milk frother or steam wand (if you have one on hand). Next, pour your delightfully frothed milk into a coffee mug or cup, holding back the foam with a spoon. From there, pour the brewed espresso over the milk, and allow it to mix gently. Finally (here’s the fun part), spoon the foam on top of your latte and enjoy!

And if all this coffee talk is making you thirsty, check out this Pumpkin Spice Latte recipe.

3 from 2 votes

Macchiato vs Latte: What’s the Difference?

Pumpkin Spice Latte in clear glass


  • 8 oz fresh brewed , coffee
  • 1.5 tbsp pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp sugar free sweetner
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla


  • Brew coffee of your choice
  • Add milk and pumpkin puree to a small saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring often, 3-4 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and stir in the syrup, vanilla, nutmeg and pumpkin spice. Use a frother to make the whipped topping or you can try adding to a blender.
  • Spoon the froth on top of the freshly brewed coffee, it may make enough for 2 lattes depending on how much froth you want to use.
Tried this recipe?Mention @drizzlemeskinny or tag #drizzlemeskinny!

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About Drizzle Me Skinny

Kate founded DrizzleMeSkinny in 2014. Since then she has shared nearly 1000 weight watchers friendly recipes with DrizzleMeSkinny's over 500,000 social media followers.

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