Macchiato vs Ristretto

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An espresso machine pouring coffee into a cup, highlighting the difference between Macchiato and Ristretto.
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An espresso machine pouring coffee into a cup, highlighting the difference between Macchiato and Ristretto.

You’re at your favorite coffee shop, staring at the menu and wondering: “What’s the difference between a Macchiato and a Ristretto?” Both of these are popular espresso-based beverages but each has its unique vibe.

This article promises to demystify these two types of coffees, helping you finally decide your coffee order. Journey with us into the world of java as we explore what separates a Macchiato from a Ristretto!

Macchiato vs Ristretto

The difference between a Macchiato and a Ristretto is found in their espresso-to-milk ratio and the intensity of their flavors. A Macchiato consists of a shot of espresso “marked” with a small amount of steamed milk or foam.

This drink provides a middle ground between the strong intensity of a pure espresso shot and the creaminess of milk-based coffee beverages, leaning more towards the espresso end of the spectrum.

In contrast, a Ristretto is an even more concentrated version of espresso, made by using less water during the extraction process. It is intense, robust, and offers a burst of flavors without the dilution of milk or foam.

When deciding between a Macchiato and a Ristretto, your choice will hinge on whether you prefer a touch of milk to soften your coffee or an unfiltered, potent espresso experience.

Key Takeaways

  • Macchiato is a type of coffee that consists of espresso, steamed milk, and foam on top, while ristretto is a shorter and more concentrated shot of espresso.
  • Macchiatos originated in Italy as a way to soften the strong taste of espresso with a small amount of milk on top. Ristrettos also have Italian origins and were traditionally made by using less water during the extraction process.
  • The brewing process for macchiatos and ristrettos involves balancing the water and coffee ratio, controlling extraction time, and maintaining the right pressure and temperature. Macchiatos have a bolder flavor with hints of caramel and chocolate, while ristrettos are more intense with notes of dark chocolate and roasted nuts.
  • Macchiatos generally contain more caffeine than ristrettos due to the addition of steamed milk. Both drinks can be used as bases for various popular coffee beverages.


Macchiato is a type of coffee that consists of a shot of espresso with a small amount of steamed milk and foam on top, while ristretto is an even shorter and more concentrated shot of espresso.

Macchiato Definition

A macchiato is a type of coffee drink. It is made by marking or spotting an espresso with milk. The word “macchiato” comes from Italy and means “marked”. In this drink, a small bit of steamed milk and foam are added to the top of the espresso.

This makes the strong taste less harsh. So, in simple words, a macchiato is an espresso that has been softened with a little bit of milk on top.

Ristretto Definition

Ristretto is a special type of coffee. It is more like a shot of espresso but with less water. In Italian, “ristretto” means “restricted”. This name fits because the barista uses half the amount of water for making it.

What you get is strong but mellowed coffee flavors.

This coffee drink has no milk or sweeteners added to it. But don’t think this makes Ristretto plain! The less water used results in a higher concentration of coffee. So, ristretto gives you an intense flavor that’s different from other types of coffee drinks.

Historical Origins

Macchiato Origins: The macchiato has its roots in Italy, with the word “macchiato” meaning “stained” or “spotted.” It is believed to have originated in the early 20th century as a way to serve espresso with a dollop of steamed milk on top.

Ristretto Origins: The ristretto also has Italian origins and is derived from the word “ristringere,” which means “to restrict” or “narrow.” It was traditionally made by restricting the flow of water during the extraction process, resulting in a smaller, more concentrated shot of espresso.

Macchiato Origins

The macchiato began its journey in Italy. It came about during the 1980s. It was made to be a drink different from regular espresso. The word “macchiato” is Italian, and it means “marked.” This points to the way milk marks the espresso in this drink.

The goal was to keep the hard-hitting taste of an espresso but add a bit of milk. With just enough milk, you can still enjoy strong coffee flavors clearly noticeable in every sip. Macchiatos also help baristas tell one type of espresso mug from another on busy days at the café!

Ristretto Origins

Ristretto has its origins in Italy, dating back to the time when espresso machines were first introduced. It is a machine-brewed black coffee that is similar to espresso but with a shorter extraction time of only 12-15 seconds.

The name “ristretto” is said to have originated during World War II when Americans ordered coffee in Italian cafes and wanted a drink that resembled what they had back home. So, the history of ristretto goes hand in hand with the development and innovation of espresso in Italy.

Brewing Process

The brewing process for both macchiatos and ristrettos involves carefully balancing the water and coffee ratio, controlling extraction time, and maintaining the right pressure and temperature to create their distinct flavors.

Water and Coffee Ratio

In making both macchiatos and ristrettos, the water-to-coffee ratio plays a crucial role in determining the flavor and strength of the coffee. A ristretto has a coffee to water ratio of 1:1, which means equal amounts of coffee grounds and water are used.

This results in a more concentrated and intense flavor. On the other hand, an espresso typically has a higher coffee to water ratio of 1:1.5 or even 1:2, resulting in a slightly milder taste compared to a ristretto.

The different ratios between ristretto and espresso shots have an impact on the extraction process, leading to variations in flavors and strengths between these two popular types of coffee drinks.

Extraction Time

The extraction time for different types of coffee can vary. For a ristretto shot, it typically takes about 15 to 20 seconds to extract the flavors from the coffee beans. A long shot, on the other hand, has an extraction time of around 35 to 40 seconds.

The perfect extraction time for an espresso is generally between 20 to 25 seconds. And if you’re making a lungo, which is a longer version of espresso, it can take more than 30 seconds to brew.

So depending on what type of coffee you prefer, the extraction time plays a role in creating that perfect cup of joe.

Pressure and Temperature

The pressure and temperature during the brewing process of macchiatos and ristrettos are crucial for producing the flavors and strength that make these drinks unique. The extraction temperature, which can be affected by just a few degrees Fahrenheit, plays a significant role in determining the taste of the coffee.

Consistency is key, as maintaining a steady temperature throughout the process ensures the quality and flavor of both macchiatos and ristrettos. Alongside temperature, pressure also has an important role in extracting flavors and aromas from coffee grounds.

This combination of pressure and temperature allows for a concentrated yet mellowed taste in both macchiatos and ristrettos.

Flavor and Aroma Differences

The flavor of a macchiato is bold and intense, with a slightly sweet taste. Its aroma is rich and aromatic, with hints of caramel and chocolate. On the other hand, a ristretto has a concentrated and strong flavor, with a bittersweet taste.

Its aroma is robust and earthy, with notes of dark chocolate and roasted nuts.


Macchiato is a type of espresso coffee that is topped with a small amount of foamed or steamed milk. The word “macchiato” means “marked” in Italian, which refers to the espresso being marked with milk.

There are two different types of macchiatos: espresso macchiato and latte macchiato. Espresso macchiatos are small and strong drinks compared to lattes and cappuccinos. They have a stronger flavor because they use less milk than lattes do.


Ristretto is a short shot of espresso that is brewed with a shorter extraction time and less water than regular espresso. It has the same amount of ground coffee but with less water, resulting in a more concentrated flavor and aroma.

Some people prefer ristretto for its intense and strong taste, making it perfect for those who enjoy a bolder coffee experience. The aroma of ristretto may also differ from that of regular espresso, adding to its unique appeal.

Caffeine Content

The macchiato has a higher caffeine content than the ristretto due to the additional dollop of steamed milk.

Macchiato Caffeine Content

A macchiato has more caffeine than a latte. On average, a macchiato contains about 136mg of caffeine per serving, while a latte only has around 68mg. This is because macchiatos have more espresso and less milk compared to lattes.

If you’re looking for a stronger coffee kick, go for the macchiato. It will give you more energy to start your day or keep you awake in the afternoon.

Ristretto Caffeine Content

Ristretto is a concentrated shot of espresso that has slightly less caffeine than a regular espresso shot. However, the difference in caffeine content between the two may be minimal or even non-existent.

This means that if you’re looking for a strong caffeine kick, ristretto and regular espresso shots will provide similar amounts of caffeine. It’s important to note that cappuccinos, which include ristretto shots along with steamed milk and foam on top, have more caffeine compared to just drinking ristretto shots alone.

So if you prefer a stronger coffee flavor and higher caffeine content, opting for cappuccinos might be the way to go.

Uses in Popular Drinks

Macchiato in Popular Drinks

The macchiato is a popular coffee drink that is used in various popular drinks. Here are some examples:

  1. Caramel Macchiato: This drink combines the rich flavor of caramel with the bold taste of espresso and a dollop of steamed milk.
  2. Vanilla Macchiato: This variation includes vanilla syrup for a touch of sweetness, along with steamed milk and a shot of espresso.
  3. Hazelnut Macchiato: For those who enjoy nutty flavors, this drink features hazelnut syrup combined with the strong taste of espresso and steamed milk.
  4. Mocha Macchiato: This indulgent treat combines chocolate syrup, espresso, steamed milk, and a drizzle of chocolate on top.
  5. Coconut Macchiato: A tropical twist on the classic macchiato, this drink includes coconut syrup, espresso, steamed milk, and sometimes even shredded coconut sprinkled on top.

Ristretto in Popular Drinks

Ristretto is a strong and intense coffee shot that is popular in various drinks. Here are some popular drinks that feature ristretto:

  • Espresso: Ristretto is the base for an espresso shot, which is a small concentrated coffee drink enjoyed on its own or used as a base for other coffee beverages.
  • Cappuccino: A classic cappuccino consists of equal parts ristretto, steamed milk, and milk foam. The strong flavor of the ristretto balances well with the creamy milk.
  • Latte: In a latte, ristretto serves as the foundation, with steamed milk added to create a smooth and milky drink. It’s often topped with a small amount of foam.
  • Macchiato: A caramel macchiato or vanilla macchiato typically contains ristretto at its core. This creates a bold base for the flavors to shine through.
  • Americano: An americano is made by adding hot water to ristretto. The result is a milder and smoother version of black coffee.
  • Mocha: A mocha combines ristretto with chocolate syrup or powder and steamed milk for a rich and indulgent treat.

Choosing Between Macchiato and Ristretto

Consider your personal preferences and the appropriate occasion when deciding between a macchiato or ristretto.

Considering personal preferences

Choosing between macchiato and ristretto ultimately comes down to your personal preferences. Both drinks have their own distinct flavors and characteristics, so it’s important to consider what you enjoy most in a coffee.

If you prefer a bolder and more intense flavor with less milk, then ristrettos might be the perfect choice for you. On the other hand, if you enjoy a balanced combination of espresso and steamed milk with a hint of sweetness, macchiatos could be more to your liking.

Take into account how strong or mild you want your coffee to be, as well as whether you prefer a smaller or larger volume of liquid. By considering these factors, you’ll be able to make an informed decision based on your taste preferences when choosing between macchiatos and ristrettos.

Determine the appropriate occasion

Macchiato and ristretto can be enjoyed on various occasions, such as breakfast, afternoon coffee breaks, or after a meal. Both of these coffee drinks are strong and flavorful, so they can provide a nice pick-me-up in the morning or during an afternoon slump.

If you prefer a smaller and more concentrated drink, ristretto might be perfect for you. It has a rich flavor that is great for savoring on special occasions or when you want to treat yourself.

Macchiato can be enjoyed anytime as it is versatile and pairs well with different flavors. So whether you’re enjoying your coffee at home or at a café, macchiato and ristretto can both be suitable options for various occasions throughout the day.


Understanding the differences between Macchiato and Ristretto can help you choose the right espresso-based drink for your taste preferences. If you enjoy a small amount of steamed milk with your espresso, then Macchiato is the way to go.

If you prefer a stronger and more concentrated coffee flavor, Ristretto is the perfect choice. So next time you’re at a café or ordering from your local coffee shop, remember to consider whether you want a touch of milk or a bolder coffee experience.


What is a Macchiato?

A Macchiato is an espresso-based drink made with a layer of milk on top. It’s similar to a latte, but has less foam and can sometimes be sweeter.

How is Ristretto different from Macchiato?

Ristretto uses the same amount of finely ground coffee beans as in regular espresso but it has half the water making it concentrated and darker unlike macchiato which combines hot milk and espresso.

Can I order these drinks at any local cafe or Starbucks?

Yes! Both Macchiatos and Ristrettos are popular choices at coffee shops like your local cafe or Starbucks because they offer unique flavors for coffee lovers.

Is an Italian Espresso similar to a macchiato?

While both are espresso-based drinks, Italian espressos don’t generally have milk added, whereas macchiatos do have that creamier topping due to the steamed milk placed on top.

How does a double shot affect my drink’s taste?

By adding more coffee flavor with two shots of finely ground espresso used in drinks like Doppio; you’ll get stronger taste than single-shot drinks like Caffè Latte or flat white.

Are drip coffees similar to these kinds of beverages?

Drip coffees, such as Long Black or Americano might look similar since they also contain hot water poured over fresh grounds; However their brewing process differs from the method used in crafting concentrated espresso-based drinks such as Macchiatos or Ristrettis alluding distinct flavour profiles within each cup served!

About the Author:
Sophia Lewis, a travel blogger with a focus on global coffee cultures, explores coffee traditions from Colombia to Turkey. Her expertise lies in understanding the cultivation, brewing, and enjoyment of coffee in different cultures. Through articles, travel vlogs, and tastings, Sophia brings a global perspective to coffee, emphasizing ethical and sustainable practices, and invites readers to join her community of global coffee enthusiasts.