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What is a Macchiato? An Introduction to the Beloved Espresso Drink

Have you ever walked into a coffee shop and felt overwhelmed by the menu options? Flat whites, cappuccinos, lattes, and more - it can be hard to keep track of all the different types of coffee drinks out there. One drink that often gets overlooked is the macchiato. Despite its simple appearance, a macchiato is a delicious and versatile espresso-based drink that deserves more attention.

So, what is a macchiato? Simply put, a macchiato is a shot of espresso with a small amount of steamed milk added to it.

After 15 years of drinking coffee all over the world, trust me when I say the Macchiato is the one coffee drink that is the most misunderstood.

Everywhere I travel and ask for a Macchiato it always comes over different! The only place that I can trust with my order is the Italians and my local coffee shop – They always get it right!

In this article we will go into why the Macchiato is so misunderstood and how you can re-create this classic in the comfort of your home.

The Origins of the Macchiato

While the exact origin of the macchiato is unclear, it is believed to have originated in Italy in the early 20th century. The Macchiato was created by Italian waiters who needed to easily identify espresso shots and espresso shots with milk.

The word “macchiato” comes from the Italian word “macchiare,” which means “to stain” or “to mark.” In this case, the milk “stains” the espresso, giving it a slightly lighter color and a unique flavor.

How to Make a Macchiato

With a few simple ingredients and some practice, you can make a fantastic macchiato right in the comfort of your own home. Here’s how:


Image of What is a Macchiato
  • Freshly brewed espresso shot
  • Steamed milk
  • Optional: sugar or flavored syrup


  1. Start by brewing a shot of espresso using your preferred method. Make sure it’s a fresh shot, as stale espresso can negatively impact the taste of your macchiato.
  2. Steam a small amount of milk until it’s frothy and has a velvety texture. Aim for around 2-3 tablespoons of milk.
  3. Pour the frothy milk over the espresso shot, using a spoon to hold back the foam. You should see a small dot or “mark” of milk on the surface of the espresso shot.
  4. Optional: add a touch of sugar or flavored syrup to sweeten your macchiato to your desired taste.
  5. Serve your homemade macchiato immediately and enjoy!

Pro tips:

  • For the perfect macchiato, aim for a ratio of 0.5:1 of espresso to milk. However, the ratio can be adjusted to suit your personal preference.
  • Use a small demitasse cup to serve your macchiato. This will not only enhance the presentation of your drink, but it will also keep the drink at the optimal temperature.
  • If you don’t have an espresso machine, you can use a stovetop Moka pot to brew a strong coffee that can be used as a substitute for espresso.

With these simple steps and tips, you’ll be well on your way to making a delicious macchiato right at home. Experiment with different ratios and flavorings to find your perfect macchiato recipe.

Why is the Macchiato so Popular?

First and foremost, the macchiato’s taste is what sets it apart from other espresso-based drinks. With just a small amount of milk added to the espresso, the macchiato has a bold and robust flavor that’s not too overwhelming.

The steamed milk also adds a silky texture that creates a delightful contrast to the espresso’s bitterness.

In addition to its delicious taste, the macchiato has cultural significance in various countries. In Italy, where the drink originated, the macchiato is often enjoyed as a mid-day pick-me-up.

It’s a popular drink in cafés and coffee shops, where locals stop in for a quick espresso boost before continuing with their day. 

In other countries like the United States, the macchiato has taken on a slightly different meaning. It’s often seen as a more indulgent drink, with added flavors and syrups to sweeten it up.

The popularity of the macchiato is also evident in specialty coffee shops and cafes around the world. These establishments often pride themselves on their unique and innovative coffee drinks, and the macchiato fits right in. Whether it’s a classic macchiato or a creative twist on the original, these coffee shops have helped to spread the popularity of the drink beyond its Italian origins.

How to Enjoy a Macchiato

Now that you know what a macchiato is and why it’s so popular, it’s time to learn how to enjoy one properly. Here are some best practices for enjoying a macchiato:

  1. Savor the flavor: A macchiato is a small but mighty coffee drink, so take your time to savor the unique taste and texture. The espresso shot is rich and bold, while the steamed milk adds a touch of sweetness and creaminess.
  2. Pair it with a pastry: Macchiatos pair well with pastries, particularly those with a slightly sweet or buttery flavor. Try a croissant, biscotti, or a buttery scone for the perfect pairing.
  3. Order with confidence: When ordering a macchiato at a coffee shop, it’s important to know what you want. If you prefer a stronger espresso flavor, ask for a “ristretto macchiato.” If you want a sweeter drink, ask for a “latte macchiato” which has more steamed milk.
  4. Be mindful of the ratio: A traditional macchiato has a 0:5 – 1:1 ratio of espresso to steamed milk. However, some coffee shops may offer different ratios, so don’t be afraid to ask if you’re not sure.
  5. Enjoy at the right temperature: A macchiato is best enjoyed hot, so make sure to drink it while it’s still warm. If it’s too hot to drink right away, let it cool for a few minutes before taking a sip.


The macchiato is a simple yet delicious espresso-based drink that has gained popularity all over the world. Its unique taste and texture, cultural significance and popularity in specialty coffee shops and cafes make it a must-try for any coffee lover.

Now that you know what a macchiato is and how to make and enjoy it, it’s time to give it a try. Whether you make one at home or order one at a coffee shop, be sure to savor every sip and appreciate the beauty of this beloved espresso drink.

So, the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by the multitude of coffee options, don’t forget about the humble macchiato. With its rich history, unique taste, and versatility, it’s no wonder why so many coffee drinkers have fallen in love with this simple yet satisfying drink.


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