Here’s how to make a macchiato…the real way! This coffee drink features a shot of espresso topped with a layer of frothy foam.

How to make a macchiato

Here’s a coffee drink that’s one part espresso, one part foam, and equal parts delicious: the Macchiato! This espresso drink is like a lighter version of a latte, ideal for when you want a jolt of caffeine without all the extra calories. There’s a certain coffee shop that’s tarnished the macchiato’s name by causing some confusion about what it really is. Here we’ll clear up those murky waters and show you how to make a macchiato…the classic way.

What is a macchiato?

A caffè macchiato or espresso macchiato is a shot of espresso topped with frothed milk. The word “macchiato” means “stained” in Italian, meaning that the dark espresso is stained by the milk foam on top. Some sources say the macchiato was invented as a way to drink espresso into the afternoon.

The other type of macchiato is called a latte macchiato. A latte macchiato is essentially steamed milk that’s stained by a bit of espresso on top. It tastes like an espresso-forward version of a cafe latte. The difference between a latte macchiato and a latte? A latte macchiato has espresso added to milk, whereas for a latte steamed milk is added to espresso. The macchiato version also has a little more foam. (How’s that for complicated?)

Caffe macchiato

Why is the Starbucks macchiato different?

Wait: so a macchiato isn’t caramel flavored? That’s what I asked Alex when we started making all types of espresso drinks. If you’re a Starbucks person, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

What is a Starbucks macchiato? The macchiato you can order at Starbucks is a latte macchiato with caramel or hazelnut-flavored syrup on top. You’ve got layers of steamed milk, foam, and espresso, and then the sweet drizzle on top. It’s almost nothing like a caffè macchiato at all!

Now, let’s talk espresso

Now that we know what a classic macchiato is, let’s get to making it! It’s one of our favorite espresso drinks because we love that you get the bitter flavor of coffee without loads of milk. (Honestly, the richness of whole milk in lattes sometimes does a number on my stomach, so the macchiato is a great option.) You’ll need to make espresso for a macchiato: simply strong coffee will not do! This means you’ll need the following:

  • Espresso roast coffee: This is important to get the right dark, bitter flavor. Espresso roast is coffee beans that have a very dark roast. Make sure to use a find grind on your espresso when you grind it.
  • Espresso machine, manual espresso maker, or Aeropress: There are several ways of how to make espresso. We use an espresso machine, which sits on a countertop. Or you can use a small manual espresso maker: it’s cheaper and portable! For the cheapest option, you can use an Aeropress, though the flavor is not nearly as good. Go to our Aeropress Espresso recipe.
Espresso

Milk to use for a macchiato

The best milk to use for a macchiato is whole milk. Why? Whole milk froths the best because it has the highest milk fat. You can get away with 2% milk here too: especially if you have a handheld milk frother (keep reading for that). Here’s the important part: make sure the milk is as fresh as possible! Milk that’s getting closer to its expiration date does not foam as well.

Can you make a vegan macchiato? Yes! The best non-dairy milk for a vegan macchiato is oat milk: it froths up the best and has great flavor. Go to How to Froth Milk for more about working with non-dairy milk!

How to froth milk for a macchiato: with an espresso machine

The part of how to make a macchiato that requires the most technique is frothing the milk. But here’s some good news: making the froth for a macchiato is not nearly as intense as for a latte. With a macchiato you want “dry foam” — that’s the frothy light bubbly foam that’s pretty easy to achieve. (For a cafe latte you want steamed milk that makes micro-foam, a wet-paint like texture. Don’t worry about it: we don’t need to do it here!)

If you have a countertop espresso machine, you can use the steaming wand to froth the milk for a macchiato. Here’s the espresso machine we use: it’s middle of the road price-wise and works great. You can do it by simply frothing milk with a whisk: see below! Here’s how to use an espresso machine to froth milk for a macchiato:

  • Hold the steaming wand just below the surface of the milk until it doubles in size and is very foamy.
  • Lower the steaming wand slightly until the milk reaches 150 degrees Fahrenheit: use a thermometer or judge by when your hand can’t hold the pitcher for more than a few seconds.

Tools for frothing milk for a macchiato

You don’t need an espresso maker with steamer to make a great macchiato! You can simply heat and froth the milk, which makes it nearly as good. There are a few different tools you can use to froth milk for a latte (read more about them in How to Froth Milk). Here are a few great tools for the home barista for frothing milk:

  • Handheld milk frother. A milk frother works very well and gets the milk extremely frothy! This is perfect for a macchiato.
  • French press. If you have a French press for making coffee, it’s great for making foam! It makes a nice frothy foam with bubbles a little larger than the frother.
  • Whisk. A whisk works too! This handy tool whips up the milk pretty well: it also has a bit larger bubbles and generates a little less foam than the other methods.
How to froth milk with a milk frother

How to make a macchiato

We made it to the good part! Once you’ve got your espresso roast coffee, milk and special tools, you’re ready to go. Again, we recommend reading How to Froth Milk if you’re a beginner in the frothing territory. Here’s how to make a latte at home:

  • Make the espresso using your favorite method: espresso machine, manual espresso maker or Aeropress.
  • Heat the milk on the stovetop before frothing (or steam the milk with the espresso machine). 150 degrees Fahrenheit is perfect: that’s where the milk is hot to the touch but not yet simmering.
  • Froth using your desired method. Use a milk frotherFrench press or whisk to froth the milk. You’re looking for “dry foam” which is light and fluffy.
  • Use a spoon to remove the top of the foam only (dry foam) and place it on the top of the espresso. It will float right on top: not incorporate into the espresso below like in a latte.

And that’s it! We hope you enjoy your macchiato: let us know in the comments below (or tag us on Instagram at @acouplecooks).

How to make a macchiato

This caffe macchiato recipe is…

Vegetarian and gluten-free. For vegan, plant-based, and dairy-free, use the oat milk variation in the recipe below.

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How to Make a Macchiato


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

Here’s how to make a macchiato…the real way! This coffee drink features a shot of espresso topped with a layer of frothy foam.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 espresso shots (2 ounces)
  • 2 ounces (¼ cup) whole milk foam*

Instructions

  1. Make the espresso: Use an espresso machine or manual espresso maker to make one shot of espresso* and pour it into a mug (or try our Aeropress Espresso).
  2. Steam the milk (espresso machine) or heat the milk to scalding: Start with ½ cup milk (you’ll only use ¼ cup foam.) Heat the milk to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot to the touch but not simmering. Measure with a food thermometer, or you can approximate by testing with your finger.
  3. Froth the milk: Use the espresso machine or a milk frother, French press or whisk to froth milk into small, even bubbles. You’ll want lots of “dry foam” for a macchiato: the fluffy stuff! The milk frother is great for this type of foam. We highly recommend reading How to Froth Milk if this is your first time frothing.
  4. Spoon the foam on top: Use a spoon to remove the top of the foam (dry foam) and gently place it on top of the espresso. You should use about ¼ cup foam for one drink. 

Notes

*Whole milk works best; milk that is a few weeks old may not froth. You can also use oat milk for a vegan macchiato. The milk frother works well for dairy-free milk. If using the French press, pump vigorously until frothy, about 25 times. Do not overwhip, as the foam will deflate!

  • Category: Coffee
  • Method: Frothed
  • Cuisine: Coffee

Keywords: How to make a macchiato, caffe macchiato, What is macchiato

More coffee drinks & tea lattes

This is another post in our Barista Series: how to make all your favorite coffee house drinks at home! Here are a few espresso drinks and tea lattes to master:

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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1 Comment

  1. Espressi with reduced milk amounts (vs a latte or cappuccino) are methods Italians have devised to skirt the “11AM rule,” which is that they traditionally don’t partake in those heavy-milk drinks after mid-morning. The macchiato is only one of these. Puglia’s variant, for example, is the “espressino,” which literally means “little espresso” but is really a mini latte – more milk than a macchiato but not as much as normal morning coffee/milk drinks. The point of these drinks is not as a method to be able to drink espresso itself further into the afternoon but as a way for those who really want a latte to drink it in the afternoon.