Love the creamy silky mouth feel of the first sip of a Latte? Or is a Macchiato more your cuppa Joe? Both these specialty coffee drinks essentially start with a shot of perfectly brewed espresso.
I don’t mind drinking either lattes or macchiatos – it just depends on my mood and what I am feeling like having. However, there are slight differences between the two types of coffees. Even though they are both based on espressos, the key difference lies in the milk: how much there is and how it has been foamed.
Just the same way a latte and flat white are different, lattes and macchiatos are different, too. The way milk has been foamed makes all the difference in the world when it comes to flavor and texture.
Milk can be foamed to just have what’s called “velvet microfoam” – which are small bubbles of air trapped in the milk, giving it a very smooth and velvety texture.
There can also be what’s called “dry foam” – which is the heavy, thick foam on top of cappuccinos – it would be rather hard to drink an entire cup of dry foam since there is more air than milk, giving it that “dry” feeling in your mouth.
Latte vs Macchiato
The easiest way to tell the difference between a latte and a macchiato is to just see it! The images below will help clarify things even more.
The picture above is of a latte preparation. Notice how the coffee has blended very well with the milk(becoming much lighter) and there is some light foam at the top of the cup.
The picture above is of a macchiato. Notice how the coffee is very strong and black(almost like a straight shot of espresso) and there is a layer of thick milk foam at the top which has not fully mixed with the coffee.
Lattes are generally much more milkier, and macchiatos have a much stronger kick to them.
How to make a cup of Latte
Latte(pronounced la tei) is an Italian word meaning milk. So if you’re ordering a Latte at your favourite café, you’re going to get coffee with steamed milk. Traditionally a latte is 8 ounces to 12 ounces, but some people serve them in larger sizes, too.
Start with brewing your espresso shot. Use a very good brand for best results. Illy Espresso Medium Roast Finely Ground has a rich super smooth taste. Brooklyn Roasting company Iris espresso has a delicious combination of spicy and sweet notes. Lavazza Super Crema Espresso Whole Bean Coffee is very popular amongst coffee connoisseurs.
Intelligentsia, Death Wish Coffee company, Kicking Horse, Nespresso, Stone Street, Ritual and Starbucks are some other popular brands. Grinding your own beans gives you ultimate control over your masterpiece brew. You will need about 2 ounces of espresso in the eight ounce cup.
While the espresso is brewing, steam the milk holding the jug steady under the steam spout. Make sure you let out a burst of steam from the spout first so that you don’t get any water in the milk. The milk should not get too foamy or too thin. Try to get a nice sheen and fine microfoam and make sure it sticks to the sides of the jug when you swirl it. This will tell you the milk is done.
Pour the steamed milk into the espresso shot with a circular motion. You can finish pouring by making a swirly pattern on the surface with the movement of your milk jug. Enjoy!
How to make a macchiato
Macchiato, (pronounced maki’a teu), simply means “marked”. So essentially, it’s a shot of espresso “marked” with foamy milk.
Macchiatos are of two variants, it seems – there is the original macchiato, which is a very strong coffee drink, since it’s mostly espresso with a tiny bit of “marking” milk foam at the top.
Then there is the Starbucks version of a macchiato(I’m guilty of being a sucker for their caramel macchiatos) – which is milk at the bottom, espresso in between, and foam at the top.
Either way, the macchiato is a very strong drink – and you may want to give it a quick stir before enjoying it, otherwise the first few sips may be highly bitter.
Using high quality espresso beans in the macchiato is very important, as this is the primary flavor in the drink. It has a bolder flavor than many other coffee drinks, as it is only a small amount of milk that marks a cup of espresso.
Once your cup is ready give it a quick stir to make sure you don’t get a very bitter taste in your first sip, pour in about one or two ounces of steamed foamy milk directly into the center of the cup. To get a nice foam on your milk gently draw the milk jug lower as you steam. Don’t forget to make your mark on your macchiato!
The proper way to serve a macchiato is usually in a tall, clear glass in which the distinct layers can easily be seen. Coffee is as much a visual experience as it is an experience for your nose and taste buds!
The original macchiato is fairly straightforward to make – just prepare your espresso shot, mark it with some steamed milk foam, and you’re good to go.
How to make American(Starbucks style) macchiatos
American macchiatos are a little more complicated in the sense that they require a bit more prep. Let’s get into it!
This recipe is from Eugenie Kitchen. It’s not the exact Starbucks recipe but it is a fairly close and equally delightful variant.
- One shot of espresso
- One tablespoon vanilla syrup
- 2/3 cup(160 ml) of milk
- Caramel sauce
Add vanilla syrup into a warmed up glass, and froth the milk and pour most of it into the glass.
Now pour in the espresso shot, and top the drink off with some milk foam.
Things you’ll need to make lattes and espresso
For steaming the milk, you can use your espresso machine’s built in steamer/frother, or get a separate milk frother.
Finally, you’ll want some really nice demitasse cups to enjoy the coffee in!