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Latte vs. Macchiato: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 26, 2023
A latte is primarily steamed milk with a shot of espresso, while a macchiato is espresso "stained" or "marked" with a small amount of milk.

Key Differences

Latte and macchiato are both espresso-based drinks, but they differ significantly in their composition and presentation. A latte typically contains more steamed milk, which dilutes the strong flavor of the espresso. On the contrary, a macchiato allows the boldness of espresso to stand out by using just a splash or dollop of milk or foam.
The word "latte" originates from the Italian "caffè latte," translating to "milk coffee." True to its name, a latte is characterized by its creamy texture and light coffee flavor, achieved by blending a shot of espresso with a generous amount of steamed milk and topped with a small amount of foam. In contrast, "macchiato" means "stained" or "spotted" in Italian, indicating the method of preparation where the espresso is "marked" with milk.
Serving sizes also differ between a latte and a macchiato. Lattes are usually served in larger cups or glasses, reflecting the higher milk content. Macchiatos, being more concentrated, are often presented in smaller cups, emphasizing the robustness of the espresso.
When ordering a latte, expect a milder coffee flavor, which can be ideal for those who prefer a creamier, less intense drink. In contrast, ordering a macchiato means anticipating a stronger coffee experience, with the espresso's potency being the highlight, subtly softened by the touch of milk.
It's also worth noting the visual differences. A well-prepared latte will often have a layer of foam on the top, while a traditional macchiato will show clear separation, with the milk or foam just touching the surface of the espresso, showcasing its "stained" appearance.

Comparison Chart


"Milk coffee" in Italian
"Stained" or "marked" in Italian


Espresso with a lot of steamed milk and a bit of foam
Espresso with a small amount of milk or foam

Flavor Intensity

Milder due to more milk
Stronger due to dominant espresso flavor

Serving Size

Typically larger cups or glasses
Often served in smaller cups

Visual Appearance

Creamy with a layer of foam on top
Clear separation with milk or foam just marking the top

Latte and Macchiato Definitions


An espresso-based beverage with a high proportion of milk.
The latte had a beautiful foam art on top.


Espresso "marked" with a dollop of frothy milk.
He liked his macchiato with just a touch of foam.


Espresso diluted and enriched with steamed milk and foam.
On cold mornings, a warm latte was her go-to drink.


A strong coffee drink with a splash of milk or foam.
The macchiato offered a bolder flavor compared to other coffees.


A coffee drink made with espresso and steamed milk.
She ordered a vanilla latte to start her morning.


A coffee that showcases espresso's strength, lightly softened by milk.
After dinner, a macchiato was his preferred choice.


A creamy coffee concoction, lighter in flavor due to added milk.
After trying many coffees, he found the latte to be the smoothest.


An espresso-based drink with minimal milk interference.
She ordered a macchiato for a quick caffeine boost.


A popular coffee variant known for its milky consistency and mild flavor.
The café's bestseller was their caramel latte.


A "stained" coffee drink highlighting the potency of espresso.
The caramel macchiato had a sweet twist to the strong coffee.


A caffe latte.


Espresso coffee topped with a small amount of steamed milk.


A serving of this beverage.


Espresso topped with steamed milk.


Can both lattes and macchiatos be flavored?

Yes, both lattes and macchiatos can be flavored with syrups like vanilla or caramel.

Which has more milk: a latte or a macchiato?

A latte has more milk compared to a macchiato.

Which drink is typically larger in serving size?

Lattes are typically served in larger sizes than macchiatos.

Is the milk frothed differently for lattes and macchiatos?

Yes, lattes often have a creamier milk texture, while macchiatos might have just a dollop of frothy milk.

Is a macchiato stronger in flavor than a latte?

Yes, a macchiato offers a stronger coffee flavor than a latte.

Is there a difference in the foam consistency between the two drinks?

Lattes usually have a smoother foam, while macchiatos might have a drier, frothier dollop.

Can you make a latte or macchiato without an espresso machine?

While an espresso machine is ideal, strong brewed coffee can be a substitute in homemade versions.

How important is the quality of espresso in these drinks?

The quality of espresso is vital, especially for a macchiato, where the coffee flavor is more pronounced.

Are there variations within the macchiato family?

Yes, there are variations like the espresso macchiato and latte macchiato, differing in milk quantity.

Is a flat white similar to a latte or macchiato?

A flat white is closer to a latte but with microfoam and no foam layer on top.

Can alternative milk be used for lattes and macchiatos?

Yes, alternatives like almond, soy, and oat milk can be used in both drinks.

Which drink is more popular in Italian coffee culture?

While both are Italian in origin, the macchiato has a deeper-rooted history in traditional Italian coffee culture.

Which coffee drink showcases the coffee art better?

Lattes, due to their larger milk surface, often display coffee art more prominently.

Can a macchiato be made without any milk?

Traditionally, a macchiato has a small amount of milk, but personal preferences vary.

Which is creamier: latte or macchiato?

The latte is creamier due to its higher milk content.

Do lattes and macchiatos have the same caffeine content?

The caffeine content depends on the espresso shots used, but a macchiato's flavor is more potent.

Which is the better option for someone new to coffee?

A latte might be more approachable for newcomers due to its milder flavor.

Are iced versions available for both latte and macchiato?

Yes, both latte and macchiato can be served iced.

Can you add whipped cream to a latte or macchiato?

While not traditional, you can add whipped cream to either based on personal preference.

How does a caramel macchiato differ from a regular latte?

A caramel macchiato is a type of macchiato with added caramel syrup and is stronger than a regular latte.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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