How to Make a Macchiato? The Guide For Your Best Brew!


With its name stemming from the Italian word “macchiato,” meaning “stained” or “spotted,” this traditional Italian coffee drink has captured the hearts of many around the world.

In the bustling streets of an Italian town, the sound of an espresso machine brewing and the scent of roast coffee beans fills the air as the barista creates this beloved drink. The macchiato is essentially a coffee stain on milk or vice versa.

Whether it’s a quick stop at a coffee shop or a leisurely sip at home, learning how to make a macchiato is a great experience for every coffee lover.

Have you ever wondered about the real way to make this drink that’s now globally renowned? From the Starbucks macchiato to the classic Italian macchiato, we’ll cover everything you need to know.

Did you know? The macchiato is a shot of espresso with a spot or dollop of foam on top, making it different from a latte or cappuccino. It’s espresso-forward, giving the drinker a stronger flavor of coffee.

  • Origin: Italy
  • Meaning: Stained or Spotted
  • Volume: 50-120 ml
  • Extraction time: 30-40 seconds
  • Main Characteristic: Typically a shot of espresso “stained” or “spotted” with a small amount of milk or foam. It provides a balanced flavor that’s stronger than a latte but less potent than a pure espresso shot.
Table of Contents

The Two Main Types of Macchiato

Two cups of coffee on a dark background.

The journey into the world of macchiato starts by understanding its two primary variations.

Espresso Macchiato

Originating from traditional Italian coffee culture, the Espresso Macchiato is essentially a single or double shot of espresso “stained” or “spotted” with a small amount of milk. Often, a barista will add a dollop of foam on top, which not only adds texture but also balances the strong flavor of the espresso. When you ask for a macchiato or caffè macchiato at a classic Italian coffee shop, this is typically what you’ll receive.

Latte Macchiato

On the other hand, the Latte Macchiato starts with steamed milk. It’s then “stained” with a shot of espresso, creating a layered effect.

This drink, especially popular in coffee chains like Starbucks, can often be served with flavorings such as caramel, leading to variations like the caramel macchiato. A distinguishing feature is the ratio of espresso to milk, which leans heavily towards milk.

Here’s how to make out the difference between a latte and latte macchiato: while both contain milk, it’s the method and amount of milk and espresso that makes them distinct.

Did You Know? The term “macchiato” derives its name from the Italian word for “stain” or “spot.” So, whether it’s the espresso staining the milk in an Espresso Macchiato or the milk being stained by espresso in a Latte Macchiato, the moniker is fitting!

Stay tuned as we delve deeper into the ingredients, techniques, and tools that will make your macchiato experience as fresh and authentic as possible!

Macchiato - Essential Ingredients and Equipment

To craft the perfect macchiato, having the right ingredients and equipment is crucial. Let’s dive into what you’ll need.


  1. Espresso Beans: Choose high-quality beans, preferably freshly roasted, to ensure a robust flavor of coffee. Whether you prefer to grind your coffee beans just before brewing or buy pre-ground, the freshness of the bean significantly impacts the espresso’s taste.

  2. Milk: Whole milk is traditionally used for its creaminess and froth potential. However, alternatives like skim, almond, and oat milk can be used. The milk’s freshness can play a vital role in achieving the perfect milk foam on top.

  3. Optional Syrups or Flavorings: While a classic macchiato focuses on the coffee’s pure taste, flavorings like caramel can be added for variations like the caramel macchiato.


  1. Espresso Machine: This is essential for brewing strong coffee. Use an espresso machine that can pull a double or single espresso shot, depending on your preference.

  2. Grinder: If you’ve opted for whole beans, a good grinder is crucial. The coarseness level will affect the espresso’s extraction.

  3. Tamper: For compressing the coffee grounds in the espresso machine.

  4. Frothing Pitcher: To froth milk to its ideal consistency. Whether you like your milk foamy or with just a bit of espresso on top, this tool is vital.

  5. Steam Wand or Milk Frother: Essential for getting the milk to that desired foamy consistency. If you don’t have an in-built steam wand in your espresso machine, a separate milk frother can do the trick.

  6. Measuring Tools: To ensure the right ratio of espresso to milk.

  7. Cups: Espresso cups for Espresso Macchiato and larger cups for Latte Macchiato.

When you have your ingredients and tools in place, crafting the perfect macchiato becomes an art form. In the subsequent sections, we’ll guide you through the actual process, ensuring that each coffee drink you make is a masterpiece.

Making an Espresso Macchiato

A cup of latte sitting on a saucer.

The Espresso Macchiato, a staple in Italian coffee culture, shines a spotlight on the robustness of espresso, with the milk serving as a gentle companion. Let’s walk through the steps to create this classic brew.

Selecting and Grinding the Beans

  1. Type of Bean: Arabica beans are favored for their nuanced, less acidic flavor. Aim for high-quality beans to achieve the best taste.

  2. Roast Level: Medium to dark roasts are the go-to for espressos, offering a bold flavor profile essential for a classic macchiato.

  3. Grind Size: The grind should be fine, reminiscent of table salt, but avoid going as powdery as confectioner’s sugar.

  4. Freshness Counts: Ideally, beans should be used within a month of their roast date. For the freshest flavor, grind your beans just before brewing.

Preparing the Espresso

  1. Tamping: After adding your ground coffee to the espresso machine’s portafilter, compress it evenly with a tamper. Proper tamping ensures a uniform extraction, critical for the perfect espresso shot.

  2. Brewing: Using your espresso machine, pull a single or double shot based on your preference.

  3. Perfect Timing: The extraction time is crucial. Aim for 25-30 seconds for the quintessential espresso shot, but this might vary based on your machine and grind size.

Steaming the Milk

  1. Milk Choices: Traditionalists swear by whole milk due to its creamy texture and froth-ability. However, almond, oat, and other alternative milks can also be used, though the froth texture might vary.

  2. Watch the Temperature: Milk should be steamed to between 150°F to 155°F (65°C to 68°C). It’s essential to avoid reaching a boil to maintain the milk’s sweetness and texture.

  3. Achieving the Perfect Froth: Whether using a steam wand or a milk frother, the goal is to achieve a velvety microfoam. It should have tiny, uniform bubbles and feel silky to the touch.


  1. Pour with Precision: Start by pouring your freshly extracted espresso shot into an espresso cup.

  2. The Milk Touch: Add a dollop of the prepared milk foam on top of the espresso. Remember, the espresso should dominate, with the milk merely “staining” it.

There you have it! An Espresso Macchiato that carries the rich and bold flavor of the coffee, subtly complemented by the silky texture of the milk. Next, for those seeking a milkier experience, we’ll dive into crafting the Latte Macchiato.

Crafting a Latte Macchiato

Two cups of coffee on a black background.

While the Espresso Macchiato prioritizes espresso with a hint of milk, the Latte Macchiato flips the script. It’s a milk-forward beverage with espresso making its mark subsequently. This section will guide you through creating this creamier coffee delight.

Milk – The Star of the Show

  1. Quantity Matters: A Latte Macchiato typically requires more milk. You’ll want to steam about 6 to 8 ounces for a standard serving.
  2. Temperature Tip: As with the Espresso Macchiato, aim to steam the milk between 150°F to 155°F (65°C to 68°C). This ensures optimal sweetness and texture.
  3. Achieving the Layered Look: The milk should be frothy but not as microfoamed as in the Espresso Macchiato. This will help you achieve the distinct layered appearance, with milk at the bottom, a layer of foam, and then the espresso on top.

Espresso – The ‘Stain’ on Top

  1. Single or Double: Depending on your preference, you can use a single or double shot of espresso. However, to maintain the milk’s prominence, a single shot is often enough.
  2. Brewing: As before, aim for a 25-30 second extraction time for the perfect espresso shot.


Preparing the GlassBegin with a clear glass to showcase the layers. Fill it with the steamed milk, reserving the foam.
Adding EspressoSlowly pour the espresso over the back of a spoon held just above the milk’s surface. This technique helps the espresso to float on top and create the distinct layer.
Finish with FoamTop the glass with the reserved milk foam. The result should be a three-layered beverage: milk, espresso, and foam.


And voilà! You’ve crafted a Latte Macchiato.

Its visual appeal is matched by its delightful taste, where the milk’s creaminess meets the robust kick of espresso. Perfect for those moments when you want something more milk-forward than a classic Espresso Macchiato.

Varieties and Variations of the Macchiato

A man is picking coffee beans from a crate.

The macchiato, with its Italian origin meaning “stained” or “spotted”, has traversed global borders, evolving in its presentation and preparation.

This section delves into the various interpretations of this beloved espresso drink and offers a glimpse into its many avatars.

Traditional Macchiato (Caffè Macchiato)

The traditional macchiato, or caffe macchiato as it’s known in Italy, is an espresso-first drink. It begins with a shot of espresso and is topped with a spot of milk or a spoonful of foam.

This “stained” coffee showcases the strength of espresso with just a hint of milk. The idea is simple: if you like espresso but want a slight softening from milk, this is your go-to.

Latte Macchiato

A flip side to the traditional method, the latte macchiato is all about milk first. In this variant, steamed and foamed milk takes the center stage, and then it’s the espresso that does the “staining”. It’s essentially milk with espresso, and is often adorned with latte art, adding an aesthetic touch to your beverage.

Iced Macchiato

The iced macchiato is perfect for warmer days. Begin with cold milk in a glass, followed by ice cubes. Pour a shot of espresso over the top, creating a beautiful gradient. This espresso drink is refreshing and offers a delightful contrast of temperatures.

Macchiato Using Alternative Brewing Methods

While using an espresso machine is the traditional way, there are other means to achieve a similar profile:

  1. AeroPress: Though not identical to an espresso, the AeroPress can produce a concentrated coffee which can be used as a base. Just top with a dollop of frothed milk.

  2. Moka Pot: Often referred to as the stovetop espresso maker, the Moka Pot brews a strong coffee that pairs beautifully with a spoonful of foam or a spot of milk.

  3. French Press: Not the typical choice, but if you brew your coffee in a French Press with a finer grind and a short brew time, you can achieve a stronger base for your macchiato.

Tips for a Perfect Macchiato

  1. Freshness Matters: Ensure your milk is as fresh as possible. This not only affects the taste but also the quality of the froth.

  2. Frothing Technique: Whether you use a steam wand or a milk frother, the goal is to achieve foam that doubles in size with a velvety texture.

  3. Serving: Always serve immediately. The beauty of a macchiato, especially those with layers, is best appreciated fresh.

In conclusion, the world of the macchiato is expansive. From the traditional caffe macchiato to various adaptations, there’s a version for every coffee lover.

The essence, however, remains the same: a harmonious blend of strong coffee with a spot of milk or foam.

Troubleshooting and Tips for Making Macchiato

Making the perfect macchiato can have its challenges. Here’s a quick guide to help you overcome common hurdles:

1. Espresso isn’t extracting properly:

  • Grind: Adjust to a fine, sandy texture.
  • Tamping: Ensure even pressure (around 30 pounds).
  • Machine: Regularly clean and calibrate.

2. Milk isn’t frothing well:

  • Milk Type: Whole milk froths best; for alternatives, use “barista” versions.
  • Technique: Start the steam wand just below milk’s surface, then adjust as it froths.
  • Pressure: Ensure your machine’s steam is at the recommended level.

3. Clear layer separation in a Latte Macchiato:

  • Pour Slowly: Guide espresso down the glass side using a spoon.
  • Milk Temperature: Aim for steamed milk between 150°F and 155°F.

4. Adjusting flavor and strength:

  • Beans: Try different roasts and origins.
  • Ratios: Modify milk to espresso ratios based on preference.
  • Temperature: Small changes can bring out different flavor notes.

With these quick fixes and tips, you’ll refine your macchiato-making skills in no time.

Serving and Presentation of Macchiato

A cup of coffee is sitting on a saucer on a table.

Presenting a macchiato isn’t just about taste—it’s also an art form. How you serve this drink can elevate the experience for both you and those you’re sharing it with.

1. Traditional Italian way:

  • Glassware: Typically, macchiatos are served in small, clear glasses or espresso cups to highlight the ‘stain’ of milk.
  • Ratio: A traditional macchiato usually has just a spot of milk or foam, keeping the espresso flavor strong and dominant.
  • Spoon: A small spoon may be provided to stir the espresso and milk together if desired.

2. Modern twists:

  • Glassware Variations: Contemporary servings might use taller glasses, especially for iced versions or those with added flavors.
  • Garnishes: Some modern macchiatos might come with a sprinkle of cocoa, a drizzle of caramel, or even a dollop of whipped cream on top.
  • Layering: Especially in drinks like the latte macchiato, the visual layering of milk and espresso is emphasized, showcasing the beautiful gradient of coffee and milk.

3. Pairings:

  • Pastries: A fresh croissant or biscotti can complement the flavors of a macchiato beautifully.
  • Chocolates: Dark or milk chocolates can be a delightful companion to the rich flavors of the espresso.
  • Savories: Believe it or not, a slice of quiche or a savory muffin can offset the macchiato’s strength and provide a balanced coffee break.

In essence, serving and presenting a macchiato is all about enhancing the visual and gustatory experience. Whether you stick to traditional methods or incorporate modern twists, the key is to relish and savor each sip.


What kind of coffee beans should I use to make a macchiato?

Choose high-quality, fresh coffee beans, preferably with a medium to dark roast for a robust espresso flavor.

Can I make a macchiato without an espresso machine?

Yes, alternatives like a Moka pot or AeroPress can be used, though an espresso machine provides authentic results.

How can I froth milk without a steam wand?

Use a manual milk frother, an electric frother, or shake it in a sealed jar. Heating and whisking the milk is also effective.

How do I achieve a clear layer separation in a Latte Macchiato?

Pour the espresso slowly over a spoon above the milk. Properly steamed milk and concentrated espresso can also help maintain layers.

Can I flavor my macchiato without using syrups?

Experiment with alternative milk (like almond or oat), add spices (like cinnamon), or use flavored coffee beans.

Can I make an iced version of a macchiato?

Yes, add ice to the glass first, followed by cold milk, and pour the espresso over the top to maintain layer separation.

Conclusion: How to Make a Macchiato!

Making a macchiato, like many artisanal coffee drinks, is both a science and an art.

By understanding the origins, ingredients, and techniques involved, anyone can master the craft of creating this traditional Italian beverage. Whether you favor the intense kick of an Espresso Macchiato or the delicate layers of a Latte Macchiato, the key lies in using fresh ingredients and experimenting until you find that perfect balance.

Remember, the beauty of making your own coffee at home is the freedom to adapt and tailor each cup to your own taste. So, embrace the journey, refine your technique, and relish each sip of your handcrafted macchiato.

Cheers to many delightful coffee moments ahead!