What is a Macchiato: Simply Explained!

The macchiato is one of the many coffee beverages that you can order in a coffee shop.

To make it easier for you to tell whether it suits your taste or not, I decided to throw some light on this espresso-based drink. In this article, you will find out what is a macchiato and how its traditional version compares to those of Starbucks’ or Dunkin’.

Macchiato Definition

I decided to start out by giving you the classic definition of this Italian drink.

So here’s what’s a macchiato:

A macchiato is an espresso-based coffee drink made with an espresso shot topped off with 1 to 2 teaspoons of frothed milk. Its name comes from the Italian word ‘macchiato’ which means stained or marked, as the espresso shot appears stained with the textured milk. A traditional caffè macchiato is usually served in a small 2 fl. oz. to 3 fl. oz. (60 ml to 90 ml) demitasse cup.

The frothy milk layer placed on top of the espresso crema adds a bit of sweetness to the shot and makes it more palatable to those who find its taste stronger than desired.

If you order a macchiato at a cafè or a coffee shop other than Starbucks or Dunkin’ you will most likely get the classic macchiato described above.

Here’s a photo of the macchiato I’d often get at a local coffee shop:

If you want your espresso shot to have more milk foam on top of it, you can order a topped up macchiato.

Here’s an illustration of what’s a macchiato that’s topped up:

Overall, this traditional espresso-based drink is quite simple. The dollop of milk froth coming from the pitcher adds just the right amount of sweetness that gently mellows down the espresso’s intense taste, without completely covering it up. It lets you experience and enjoy the flavor profile of the freshly ground coffee your espresso is made of.

A caffè macchiato is definitely one of my go-to coffee drinks when I’m at a cafè and if you haven’t tried its classic version, you definitely should.

Latte macchiato – Explained

If you are at a coffee shop, you can also order a latte macchiato, such as the one seen in the photo below.

A latte macchiato is usually served in an 8 oz to 12 oz (240 ml to 350 ml) glass and consists of 1 to 2 shots of espresso, steamed milk, and a layer of milk microfoam. The milk is added first to the serving glass and the espresso is added on top, staining the top microfoam layer. This is why it’s called a latte macchiato.

Fun Fact: ‘Latte’ actually means milk (Italian). So ‘latte macchiato’ literally means stained or marked milk.

Related Post: Macchiato vs. Mocha Comparison

What about the Macchiato at Starbucks?

The Starbucks’ macchiato is quite different from the traditional version that I previously described. That’s why many Starbucks fans get disappointed with the drink they get after ordering a macchiato at a regular coffee shop.

To clear the confusion, here’s what is a macchiato at Starbucks:
A macchiato at Starbucks is an espresso-based drink made with steamed and frothed milk, 1 to 2 shots of espresso, vanilla or toffee nut syrup, and caramel and/or mocha drizzle. You can also get a Cloud Macchiato that has а stable sweet fluffy foam layer, which is achieved through the use of egg white powder.

Unlike the traditional macchiato, Starbucks macchiatos have iced versions that come in 12, 16 or 24 fl. oz. servings.

Overall, the macchiato at Starbucks (or at Dunkin’ for that matter) contains significantly more milk compared to the classic one. In this type of drink, the espresso flavor is more diluted and gets somewhat overshadowed by the milk and the flavored syrups.

Here you can find a table with all Starbucks Macchiato drinks, what they’re made of, and their caffeine and calorie content:

Drink: Made of: Sizes: Caffeine Content (mg): Calorie Content (kcal):
Caramel Macchiato vanilla syrup, steamed and frothed milk, espresso, caramel drizzle short
tall
grande
venti
75
75
150
150
120
190
250
310
Caramel Cloud Macchiato vanilla syrup, steamed and frothed milk, espresso, caramel drizzle, Cloud Powder (contains eggs) short
tall
grande
venti
75
75
150
150
140
210
280
350
Cocoa Cloud Macchiato toffee nut syrup, steamed and frothed milk, espresso, caramel and mocha drizzle, Cloud Powder (contains eggs) short
tall
grande
venti
75
75
150
150
140
220
300
360
Espresso Macchiato espresso shot topped up with a dollop of textured milk solo
doppio
triple
quad
75
150
225
300
10
15
20
25
Iced Cocoa Cloud Macchiato ice cubes, toffee nut syrup, steamed and frothed milk, espresso, caramel and mocha drizzle, Cloud Powder (contains eggs) tall
grande
venti
75
150
225
130
200
250
Iced Caramel Cloud Macchiato ice, vanilla syrup, steamed and frothed milk, espresso, caramel drizzle, Cloud Powder (contains eggs) tall
grande
venti
75
150
225
120
190
240
Iced Caramel Macchiato ice, vanilla syrup, steamed and frothed milk, espresso, caramel drizzle tall
grande
venti
75
150
225
180
250
350

As you might’ve already noticed, the Starbucks macchiato is more similar to the classic latte macchiato which I previously described. Nevertheless, if you want to order something that’s closer to the original at Starbucks, order an Espresso Macchiato. It’s made with 1 to 4 shots of espresso and it’s topped off with a dollop of milk froth.

You can order a skinny caramel Macchiato to lower your drink’s calorie content. Such skinny drinks are made with nonfat milk and sugar-free syrup instead.

To lower the calories of your drink as much as possible, order a skinny caramel macchiato with almond milk and no caramel drizzle.

The espresso is always added last in a Starbucks macchiato, marking the top milk foam layer with its dark brown color.

Fun Fact: Because of the way this drink is made, some Starbucks baristas wrongly believe that the word ‘macchiato’ means ‘added last’, not ‘marked’ or ‘stained’.

If you want the Starbucks barista to add the espresso into the serving cup first, you have to order an Upside Down Caramel Macchiato instead of a regular one.

If you order a macchiato at Dunkin’, your drink will contain espresso (added on top of the milk), steamed and frothed milk, and flavored syrups or sauces. There’s an iced version of this type of a beverage at Dunkin’ too, so feel free to order one if you feel like having a cold caffeinated drink.

If you want to learn more about different espresso-based drinks, you might be interested in checking out these related Woke Lark articles:

Over to you

Now that you know what ‘macchiato’ means and how this coffee drink is made at different places, you can avoid unpleasant surprises and order the beverage that matches your taste and needs best. I hope that you found this post helpful. Drop me a comment below if you have any questions or simply share your thoughts.

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