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What Is an Espresso Macchiato?

This article is all about the espresso macchiato and its preparation. I structured this article to allow you to jump directly to the heading that interests you most. As always on Coffeeness, this article is not about capsule coffee like Nespresso, but about real coffee made from fresh beans.

This article is all about the espresso macchiato and its preparation. I structured this article to allow you to jump directly to the heading that interests you most. As always on Coffeeness, this article is not about capsule coffee like Nespresso, but about real coffee made from fresh beans.

Short Definition:

An espresso macchiato is a single or double espresso topped with a layer of finely frothed milk. To prepare an espresso macchiato properly, you should read this article, of course, as there are some important things to keep in mind.

Table of Contents


What Is an Espresso Macchiato?

Confusion is common in the world of coffee drinks, and this starts with uncertainty as to the ideal portion of espresso. When I order an espresso, I expect a beverage of 20 to 25 milliliters (4 to 5 teaspoons). However, there are often surprises in espresso serving sizes: 30 or 40 milliliters (6 to 8 teaspoons), or even cups of about 100 milliliters (20 teaspoons).

As a barista myself, I know the work that goes on behind the counter and the somewhat disappointed faces you see when customers are given what they ordered: an espresso. Yes, 20 milliliters (4 teaspoons) can look like very little. In this case, I would recommend using a small cup. Of course, for people who don’t work with coffee and espresso day in and day out, it’s difficult to assess what a “real” espresso is – especially when you receive something different from every restaurant.

Thus, an espresso is 20 to 25 milliliters (4 to 5 teaspoons), and a double espresso is 40 to 50 milliliters (8 to 10 teaspoons). The crema sits on top and, depending on the espresso beans, can be variably dense, dark, light, integrated or dispersed. The reasoning simply isn’t true that “if the crema looks good, then the espresso must be good.” Crema looks great, but it doesn’t allow you to draw any conclusions about an espresso’s taste.

However, now you must add the “macchiato” to the espresso: the added layer of milk foam.

Espresso Macchiato Portafilter


From the phrase “latte macchiato,” many people probably already know that the term “macchiato” is Italian and means “stained.” The translation can be taken very literally. Hot milk is poured into the glass first, then the foam, and finally the espresso – this is what stains the milk. This effect looks great in a glass, and that’s why “stained milk” is usually served in glassware.

However, in the case of an espresso macchiato, what then becomes “stained”? The situation is actually reversed. The espresso is poured into the cup first and the milk foam then added on top. In other words, the espresso is stained with the milk. While latte macchiatos have dark espresso streaks through the milk, the espresso macchiatos have white foam streaks through the espresso.

In Italy, though, you should order a caffè macchiato if you want to drink an espresso macchiato because a “caffè” is espresso.

Espresso Macchiato Milk Foam

Espresso Macchiato Ingredients


The required ingredients are very straightforward.

  • Fresh, quality espresso beans
  • Fresh (ideally full-fat) milk

The espresso is best when brewed with a portafilter machine, i.e. a real espresso machine. A well-calibrated super-automatic espresso machine is also an option. A so-called stove-top espresso maker won’t work because it doesn’t actually make real espresso. You can read more about this in the linked article.

You will have to froth the milk, too.

Espresso Macchiato

Espresso Macchiato – The Milk Foam Portion


The problem with making an espresso macchiato is that you only need a small amount of milk foam. However, it’s not possible to froth milk in such small quantities using a steam wand on a portafilter machine. You only need 10 to 50 milliliters (2 to 10 teaspoons) of foam, and you can’t achieve the best milk foam results with less than 200 milliliters (14 tablespoons) of milk. This means you either have to make a lot of espresso macchiatos (which would cause new difficulties with pulling so many espresso shots) or find someone who likes to drink hot frothy milk. That’s because there are two big no-nos:

  1. Pouring out fresh milk
  2. Frothing the same milk twice

Those who froth their milk with the help of super-automatic espresso machines have a similar problem. The first 40 milliliters (3 tablespoons) of milk that makes its way through the automatic milk frothing system are usually the worst quality: watery and not uniform. That’s why, in this case, you should prepare at least 100 milliliters (7 tablespoons) of milk, if not more.

No matter how you produce the milk foam, the milk should not exceed 65 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit), and the froth should be fine but not too firm. The goal is not to produce a foamable to stably hold a biscuit on top, but instead one that is both delicate and supple.

Espresso Macchiato Instructions


Here’s how you make your own espresso macchiatos at home:

  1. Prepare a shot of espresso with the portafilter or super-automatic espresso machine. With a portafilter espresso machine, you will need about 7 grams (one large teaspoon) of fresh, finely ground espresso beans. With a super-automatic espresso machine, the amount of coffee you need will usually be slightly higher. The flow time should be about 25 seconds, and the espresso output quantity about 20 to 25 milliliters (4 to 5 teaspoons). Pay attention because the factory setting regarding espresso portion size is too high on many super-automatic espresso machines and needs to be reduced.
  2. Then add the milk foam – best if prepared before pulling the espresso shot – to the center of the espresso with a teaspoon. Personally, I always try to have the foam at a 1-to-2 ratio with the espresso. So if I have 20 milliliters (4 teaspoons) of espresso, I will add 10 milliliters (2 teaspoons) of milk foam to make my espresso macchiato.

Of course, you also have the option of adding a dash of hot milk with the milk froth. As far as I’m concerned, it is still an espresso macchiato as long as there is still less milk and foam in the cup than espresso. In other words, avoiding the 1-to-1 ratio. Otherwise, at some point it becomes something else: a cortado, café noisette or whatever else is out there.

Please note that frothed milk is lighter, with a larger volume than espresso. So although you may only fill your cup with half the weight of milk foam, the volume of the drink doubles as a whole.

Doppio Espresso Macchiato


The process is similar for a doppio espresso macchiato, of course, just doubling the amounts. A double espresso portion is about 40 to 50 milliliters (8 to 10 teaspoons), and a double milk foam portion is about 20 to 25 milliliters (4 to 5 teaspoons). Of course, you will need somewhat larger cups.

Espresso Macchiato Crema

Espresso Macchiato Flavor and the Right Cup


As you can see in the photos, I use double-walled espresso glasses. I find them practical because they offer a lot of space with their 80-milliliter (16-teaspoon) capacity, even though they usually only hold around 20 milliliters (4 teaspoons). Of course, they are also especially stunning in photographs and enable viewers to better see the structure of my espresso shots. However, glass retains heat much worse than porcelain.

For this reason, I would generally recommend porcelain cups that should be preheated before you pull the shots. You can buy a six-piece set on Amazon.com here.

Espresso Macchiato Arne

There’s a lot you could say about the taste of espresso macchiato, but generalities are difficult. Since espresso is its main component, this is obviously key. Additionally, the fat in the milk foam is a very good carrier of flavor. It brings out many of the aromas in the espresso, but also changes them somewhat.

An espresso macchiato is certainly a very good choice for those who still find espresso a little too intense, but are slowly becoming purists. Besides its taste, there is something else that is really great about an espresso macchiato – it has almost no calories!

One last request: Be cool and go without sugar. It’s bad for the teeth, bad for the figure, and very bad for the espresso flavors. Even if Starbucks and friends tell you otherwise.

I look forward to your comment