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What is Espresso Macchiato?

Espresso Macchiato is an espresso-based coffee drink. It consists of a single or double shot of espresso served in a demitasse cup and topped with a spoonful of steamed milk. You pronounce it “ess-press-oh mock-e-ah-toe,” but it is known as a Caffe Macchiato in Italy.

Baristas introduced espresso Macchiato in Italy in the late 1980s. One explanation of the drink’s origin is that baristas needed to distinguish between plain espresso and espresso with a dash of milk so that the waiters could tell the difference. They would mark the coffee with milk with a dollop of milk foam, and macchiato is the Italian word for “stained” or “marked.”

Espresso Macchiato

What kind of coffee is Espresso Macchiato?

Espresso Macchiato is an espresso-based coffee drink made with just a hint of milk to keep the flavor of the espresso at the forefront. To prepare an espresso, you use high water pressure to extract finely-ground beans into a small and concentrated dose. It has a heavier body and richer flavor than a strong cup of brewed coffee and contains less milk than many other coffee drink types.

Where does Espresso Macchiato coffee come from?

In the 1980s, the Espresso Macchiato was originally introduced in Italy as a way to differentiate a unique espresso beverage that contains a drop of milk. The name for this espresso-based coffee derives from the Italian word “macchiato,” which means “stain”, “spot”, and or “mark”. The Espresso Macchiato is now considered one of the cornerstones of Italian coffee culture.

How to prepare an Espresso Macchiato


  • 18 grams ground coffee
  • milk
  • water



10 minutes


3-ounce drink

A few extra notes:

  • Special equipment: Espresso machine with steam wand and milk steaming pitcher
  • The coffee should be finely ground, appropriate for preparing espresso. If you don’t have a grinder at home, be sure that you are buying coffee that has been ground for use in an espresso machine.
  • You can use any type of coffee beans you enjoy, but a dark roast blend is the best choice if you want to keep this drink traditionally Italian. This will yield the heavy body, creamy mouthfeel, and chocolatey and nutty flavors expected from a classic espresso.

Step 1: Prepare your supplies

To begin to make a macchiato, turn on the espresso maker and set the timer for 15 minutes. You must adequately preheat it. 

Weigh the ground coffee and add it to the portafilter. Tamp the grounds with approximately 30 pounds of pressure. 

Pour a little hot water into your demitasse cup so that it is also preheated. The volume of the espresso is so tiny that it will cool too quickly if it is extracted into a cold cup.

Add the milk to the milk frothing pitcher.

Pro tip: Most espresso macchiatos you will encounter at a coffee shop are made with a double shot, as in this recipe. But if you prefer a single shot, follow the same procedure with half as much coffee.

Step 2: Ready the espresso and steamed milk

Slot the portafilter into the good espresso maker and pull a double shot of espresso in the pre-warmed espresso cup. 

Depending on your espresso maker, you may be able to froth milk simultaneously, or you may need to wait for the shot to finish and the machine to come to the correct steaming temperature.

First, make sure the steam wand is dry to steam the milk. Add the steam wand to the pitcher quickly, so the milk doesn’t bubble too much on the surface. Angle the pitcher so that the milk is constantly moving in a swirling motion. You want to keep steaming until the milk is around 160 degrees Fahrenheit and has a creamy texture similar to wet paint, which is what frothed milk is.

If your espresso maker doesn’t have a steam wand, you can also use a separate milk frother.

Pro tip: After steaming milk, wipe the steam wand right away. The steam wand is very hot, and if you don’t clean it immediately, the leftover milk will burn to the outside.

Step 3: Combine the milk and espresso

There is no pouring strategy when making a macchiato, unlike drinks like a latte or cappuccino. You have to add about an ounce of the steamed milk to the top of the espresso. And you’re done.

What are the benefits of an Espresso Macchiato?

The benefits of an Espresso Macchiato come from the fact that it contains the caffeine and antioxidants of coffee paired with the vitamins and minerals of milk. 

Milk is rich in calcium, which is good for bone health, and it is also an excellent source of protein. Additionally, milk helps reduce the natural acidity of coffee, so adding milk can make coffee drinks more palatable for those with acid reflux.

The caffeine in the espresso will help with alertness, mental clarity, and reduction of fatigue. Coffee is also known to ward off certain diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, gout, certain cancers, and gallstones.

If you’re on a specific diet, you will be happy to know that espresso macchiato is gluten-free and vegetarian. It can easily be made vegan by substituting plant-based milk. However, it is not keto-friendly as milk is a source of carbohydrates.

What are the side effects when you drink Espresso Macchiato? 

There are pros and cons to drinking Espresso Macchiato. Here are some of the side effects, both good and bad.

  • Protect the heart from a heart attack: When compared to non-coffee users, regular coffee drinking of up to 3 cups per day was associated with a lower risk of mortality from heart disease, stroke, and sudden death from any cause, among adults who had not been diagnosed with heart disease previously.
  • Energy booster: Espresso Macchiato is a stimulant demonstrated to improve energy levels while simultaneously decreasing weariness. It does this by modifying the levels of particular neurotransmitters in the brain.
  • Stomach discomfort: A high caffeine intake may cause the digestive tract to become overstimulated. This can cause an upset stomach, nausea, and diarrhea in some people.
  • Sleep problems: ​​Caffeine consumption daily is associated with insomnia, decreased sleep quality, and an increased tendency to be sleepy during the day.
  • Anxiety: Caffeine has been shown to elevate stress hormone levels. A high caffeine intake could double the blood levels of the stress chemicals cortisol and adrenaline.


No, Espresso Macchiato does not contain added sugar; it consists only of espresso and steamed milk. However, there are naturally occurring sugars in milk, so it tastes sweet. An Espresso Macchiato made from 2% milk contains 15 calories, 1 gram of sugar, and 1 g of protein.

Espresso Macchiato tastes a lot like espresso, but with additional sweetness and a creamier body due to a small amount of steamed milk. Assuming the beans used are high in quality, an Espresso Macchiato can be pretty sweet and with a relatively strong coffee flavor. Typical tasting notes are chocolate, toasted nuts, and caramel. If you want something creamier than an espresso macchiato, we suggest making espresso con panna instead. Or if you want something milkier and sweeter, then the affogato is the drink to go for.

Yes, Espresso Macchiato has coffee in it. A typical Espresso Macchiato has two espresso shots, which equates to roughly 60 to 80 mg of caffeine. This caffeine content is similar to drinking a regular cup of drip coffee.

The difference between a Macchiato and an Espresso is the ingredients used. An espresso contains no milk, even though it can have a creamy mouthfeel, and it is simply a short, strong shot of coffee prepared under pressure using finely ground coffee beans. On the other hand, the macchiato takes an espresso and adds a small amount of foamed or steamed milk.

For more details on the differences between espresso-and-milk drinks, read this article on cappuccino vs latte vs macchiato.

The difference between an Espresso Macchiato and a Latte Macchiato is the ratio of milk to espresso in each drink. An Espresso Macchiato contains espresso with just a dollop of steamed milk. As a result, it has a much more potent flavor. A Latte Macchiato reverses the ratio. It’s mostly steamed milk but with a mark of espresso. This gives it a unique appearance, with the froth on top, espresso beneath the foam, and milk at the bottom. So a proper Latte Macchiato should be served in a tall glass.

Yes, you can order espresso macchiato in Starbucks. Please note that the espresso macchiato is entirely different from a coffee drink that’s been popularized by the coffee company, Starbucks. Read our iced caramel macchiato recipe to make that drink.

Julia Bobak
I love trail running, rock climbing, coffee, food, and my tiny dog — and writing about all of them. I start every morning with a fresh Americano from my home espresso machine, or I don’t start it at all.

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