Macchiato: Overview, Steps to Make It, and How to Order It at Starbucks

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Here’s everything you need to know about macchiatos, from how to make it at home to how to order it at Starbucks.

Espresso macchiato in a glass cup.

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What is a Macchiato?

  • A macchiato, also called an espresso macchiato, is a coffee drink made with 2 shots of espresso and a small amount of milk, about an ounce.
  • It’s a small drink—about 3 ounces.
  • “Macchiato” means “stained” or “spotted” in Italian, which refers to the way the milk is placed on top of the espresso.
  • The milk is steamed light and foamy, then either scooped onto the espresso or poured.
  • Starbucks has two different types of macchiato drinks. The espresso macchiato is the traditional macchiato and the Caramel Macchiato is basically a flavored latte with caramel and vanilla.
  • It’s pronounced MAKI-AH-TOE.

Interested in more espresso and coffee drinks? Check out americanos, cappuccinos, lattes, cortatos, flat whites and cafe au laits.

Difference Between Macchiato and Flat White

Macchiatos and flat whites both have the same 2 shots of espresso.

Macchiatos use a very small amount of frothy milk, about 1 ounce, while flat whites are made with 4 ounces of silky, less textured milk.

Drink size
At 3 ounces, macchiatos are a smaller sized drink than flat whites, which are 6 ounces.

Difference Between Macchiato and Latte

Macchiatos have 2 shots and lattes have just 1-2 shots of espresso.

A macchiato is made with a very small amount (about an ounce) of steamed milk. A latte is a larger drink, made with 8 ounces or more of milk.  

The milk for a macchiato is steamed similarly to the milk for a cappuccino, with some foam. The milk for a latte is not as frothy and is more silky, making it easier to pour latte art. 

Macchiatos are “stained” with milk, so the dominant flavor is espresso. A latte has much more milk than a macchiato, and does not have the same dominant espresso flavor. 

Drink size
Macchiatos are served in tiny 3 ounce cups and lattes are in bigger, 8-12 ounce cups.

Difference Between Macchiato and Cappuccino

Macchiatos have 2 shots and cappuccinos have 1-2 shots of espresso.

A macchiato has an ounce of steamed milk whereas a cappuccino contains 5 ounces of steamed milk. 

Milk for cappuccinos are poured into the espresso but for macchiatos, it can be spooned or poured.

Drink size
Macchiatos are served in 3 ounce cups and standard cappuccinos are served in 6 ounce cups.

Macchiatos at Starbucks

Macchiatos are a little confusing at Starbucks since two different drinks are given the same name.

The traditional, small-sized macchiato is called an espresso macchiato. It’s made 2 shots of espresso and a dollop of 2% steamed milk and foam.

The other macchiato at Starbucks is a Caramel Macchiato, and it’s basically a latte but it’s constructed a little differently in that the espresso gets added to the drink last, leaving a dot or a mark on top of the frothed milk. It’s made with 2 shots of espresso, 2% milk, vanilla syrup, and topped with a caramel drizzle. You can get this drink in all sizes.

What You’ll Need

  • Espresso machine: My review and setup of the machine I recommend and use at home.
  • Coffee grinder: If your espresso machine doesn’t come with one.
  • Whole coffee beans: The dominant flavor in a macchiato is espresso so go with a high-quality coffee since that’ll be the flavor you taste the most. 
  • Milk: You can use any type of milk, but whole milk is traditionally used.

For full ingredients and detailed instructions, please see the recipe card at the bottom of the post.

My Espresso Machine Pick
This Breville espresso machine the one I have and use almost every morning to make lattes. Highly recommend!

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Pull 2 espresso shots.
    Grind coffee and use an espresso machine to extract 2 shots of espresso.
  2. Steam milk.
    Froth 4 ounces of milk. You’re frothing 4 ounces but you’re only going to use about 1 ounce.
  3. Pour or spoon steamed milk into espresso.
    Use a spoon to scoop or pour 2 tablespoons of milk into the espresso.

BARISTA’S TIP: It’s difficult to steam just 1 ounce of milk without scorching it, which is why you should froth 4 ounces.

Expert Tips 

  • Macchiatos are a great drink for someone who wants a strong coffee drink.
  • The quality of coffee is important for a macchiato. It’s important to grind fresh, pull a good shot, and use quality coffee.
  • Most coffee shops know what traditional macchiatos are, but if you go into a chain coffee shop, saying “espresso macchiato” ensures you get the correct order.
  • Because macchiatos are so small, they cool down quickly so drink this one fast.
  • A espresso macchiato is not the same thing as a latte macchiato. In a latte macchiato, milk is steamed and then the espresso is poured on top. The espresso is “staining” the milk, which is where the word “macchiato” fits in. 

Questions You May Have 

How much caffeine is in a macchiato?

A standard macchiato has 2 shots of espresso, which is about 60-80 mg of caffeine. It’s about the same amount of caffeine that’s in a cup of drip coffee.

Do you stir a macchiato?

You can, but you don’t have to. Macchiatos are usually served with a small spoon. You’ll get a more uniform flavor if you stir your macchiato by incorporating the milk and espresso together.

What kind of macchiatos does Starbucks have?

Starbucks serves both caramel macchiatos and standard macchiatos. If you want a standard macchiato, order an espresso macchiato.

Can you get iced macchiatos?

It depends on how strict you are on your definition of “macchiato.” Some people would consider the foam on a macchiato a defining trait of the drink, so an Iced macchiato wouldn’t work. Because of health and safety concerns, most cafes won’t serve a cold drink with steamed milk. However, you can order a drink with the same milk to espresso ratio on ice and some places might call that an iced macchiato. When in doubt, ask the barista. 

How do you order a macchiato?

Most shops dedicated to serving specialty coffee will know what a macchiato is. You can simply order the drink by asking for a macchiato or an espresso macchiato. Your barista might ask if that’s for here or to go. If you’re in a non-specialty coffee shop, you might need to clarify the difference between a caramel macchiato and a traditional macchiato. Saying “espresso macchiato” will usually get you the drink described above. 

Can a macchiato be made with almond milk?

Yes. You can make a macchiato with your choice of milk. Although whole milk is usually standard, the type of milk used does not define the drink. 

How can I make a macchiato with a Nespresso or Keurig?

Make 2 shots (2 ounces) of espresso in a Nespresso or Keurig and top off with 2 tablespoons of steamed milk.

Spooning milk foam onto a cup of espresso.


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How to Make a Macchiato

Author: Jee Choe
A caffeinated drink made of espresso and a tiny bit of milk.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 4 minutes
Total Time 4 minutes
Course Drinks
Yield1 serving



  • Pull 2 espresso shots.
    Grind coffee and use an espresso machine to extract 2 shots of espresso into a cup that holds 3 ounces.
  • Steam milk.
    Froth 4 ounces of milk. You're frothing 4 ounces but you're only going to use 1 ounce. It’s difficult to steam less than 4 ounces of milk without scorching it.
  • Pour or spoon steamed milk into espresso.
    Use a spoon to scoop or pour 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) of milk into the espresso.


Calories: 23 | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 3mg | Sodium: 21mg | Potassium: 106mg | Sugar: 1g | Calcium: 32mg

2 thoughts on “Macchiato: Overview, Steps to Make It, and How to Order It at Starbucks”

    • Hi Ella, kcal is the unit used for food calories but I can see why it’s confusing. I updated the nutrition info so it’s a little more clear it’s 23 calories and not 2300.


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