What is a Macchiato Coffee
The macchiato is a fantastic drink. It’s small and balanced and is able to deliver both the flavor of the espresso and the sweetness and texture of milk. Technically it is just a shot of espresso with a little bit of foam on top. In Italian means ‘marked’, so it’s literally just marked with a dollop of foam.
However in North America and other growing coffee traditions people have used a little bit more milk like one or two ounces instead of just the traditional dollop on top. Even the serving type in North America is different where coffee is usually served in a ceramic cup. In other places such as Australia is normally served in a glass.
In Italy people drink cappuccino usually in the morning, so macchiato would be considered as an alternative for their afternoon coffee. If you can’t stand a strong espresso and simultaneously find a cappuccino too weak and milky macchiato could be an intermediate solution.
Difference between Latte Macchiato and Espresso Macchiato
It should not be confused with latte macchiato which has same ingredients but different view and taste. ‘Latte’ in Italian means ‘milk’ and is included in both espresso macchiato and latte macchiato but the similarities end there. An espresso macchiato, which is also called ‘Cafè Macchiato’, is mostly espresso, marked with a tiny amount of steamed milk and foam for those who enjoy a rich, bold taste. On the contrary a latte macchiato consists mostly of steamed milk, marked with espresso for those who like more a creamier drink.
To make an espresso macchiato you have to fill a small cup or glass with espresso and top it up with a tablespoon of milk foam. To make a latte macchiato you have to pour a generous amount of frothed milk first. Afterwards a small amount of espresso is poured into carefully and you get a nice 3 layer effect. Due to the milk’s foam airy attribute, it stays at top. The more dense espresso settles in the middle and the much heavier milk remains at the bottom.
Other Versions of Café Latte
Café au Lait: The word ‘au Lait’ means ‘milk’ in French and is a variation of the Italian Café Latte. The milk remains at the same ratio of 2 to 1 and some sugar may be added. At home it can be simply prepared with dark coffee and heated milk. Although it is similar to Café Latte, it is served in a bowl to emphasize French tradition.
Café con Leche: The word ‘con Leche’ means also ‘milk’ in Spanish. It has the same composition as ‘Café au Lait’ and usually the sugar is staple.
Café Mocha or Mocha Latte: ‘Mocha’ as a rule applies to Café Latte with dark or milk chocolate added. Some versions can have chocolate syrup too. They are finished with milk froth on top, similar to cappuccino or whipped cream. Often it is topped up with cinnamon or cocoa powder.
How is a Macchiato served
There is always a lot of controversy between baristas concerning the proper way of serving a macchiato. There is not an absolute way of doing it as each barista comes from a different place and has a particular cultural background. For instance a splash of milk would be the optimum amount for Italian culture. That way you get closer to the interpretation of ‘marked’. You just need to give a sense of sweetness and edge out the toughness of pure espresso.
Normally a nice latte macchiato is served in a tall glass and its layers are clearly separated. The milk sits at the bottom, then follows the espresso and tops up with the foam. However, it is advisable to stir before drinking to avoid consuming only the milk. Some coffee chain shops serve it with caramel which is not true macchiato though.
The truth is that espresso has evolved since its inception and numerous versions have appeared through the years. A typical espresso cup of 90 ml was simply too much for a macchiato and just a dash of milk wouldn’t fill it up. So versions of ‘topped up’ milk arised universally. If you would like to stick to the traditional way just pour your espresso in a tiny ceramic cup to feel the crema and aroma.
To finish things up, it’s important to remember that all of the technicalities mentioned here aren’t really all that important. What matters is that you receive a cup of coffee that you enjoy. I would encourage everyone to learn the different types of espresso drinks so there are less people asking for strong or weak lattes. Remember that there are not strong or weak coffee beans, but rather more intense in flavor. If you want to change the coffee strength, simply adjust the ratio of espresso to either milk or water. If you want a stronger or weaker coffee, just dilute with less or more milk respectively.