Macchiatos and cortados are two delicious espresso-based drinks. While these drinks both consist of espresso and milk they offer different drinking experiences.
Before we get into the differences, you should know that a macchiato has a bolder, richer flavor, while a cortado is milder and sweeter.
Both drinks have a vibrant espresso flavor and are perfect for those who love the strong taste of espresso.
There are also many variations and ways to spice up your drink once you know the basics.
We’re going to break down the differences between a macchiato and a cortado so you can choose which one to try next.
What This Article Covers:
What Is a Macchiato?
A macchiato is a shot of espresso with one to two teaspoons of warm frothed milk added on top, which will float on top of the espresso.
The macchiato is an Italian espresso drink that’s notable for the tiny amount of foam on top, making it very close to a plain espresso.
The macchiato originated as a way to soften the bitterness and acidity of the espresso and make it more palatable to people who don’t like more astringent drinks.
The use of foamed milk creates a light and airy texture and you end up with an espresso that’s smooth and easy to sip.
While the milk has an impact on the flavor and texture of the espresso, coffee is still the dominant taste, and choosing excellent beans is a priority.
Adding milk helps to combat excess acidity, but opting for low acid coffee will help make this drink even better for your stomach, and healthier overall.
You end up with a drink that has the intensity of espresso with a slightly mellower flavor.
History of the Macchiato
The name roughly translates to ‘stained’ or ‘marked.’ This references the way a tiny bit of milk is added, getting ‘stained’ by the espresso.
In Italy, it’s traditional to avoid drinking milk in the afternoon or after meals. The macchiato arose as an alternative to straight espresso for those who found the taste too overwhelming.
The tiny bit of milk foam softens the espresso without creating a milky coffee and is a perfect middle ground.
Variations of the Macchiato
While a macchiato is traditionally made with plain espresso, there is no reason not to experiment with different roasts and flavors.
There is even coffee specifically designed for making macchiatos, like the Lifeboost Caramel Macchiato beans.
Another drink with a similar name is the latte macchiato which reverses the proportions of a true macchiato. It is one part milk lightly ‘stained’ with espresso.
Another very popular variation is the kind of iced caramel macchiato that you can get at Starbucks. This isn’t similar to a traditional macchiato, due to a much higher amount of milk, but is still delicious. You can even make this refreshing drink at home.
What Is a Cortado?
Whereas a macchiato is mostly espresso with a hint of milk, a cortado is equal parts espresso and steamed milk.
The cortado is often made with a double shot of espresso, compared to the macchiato’s single shot.
The higher ratio of milk to coffee creates a smooth and creamy drink. The extra warm milk also adds a natural sweetness.
The use of steamed milk rather than frothed milk gives this drink a rich texture and rich flavor.
Steaming the milk allows it to better retain its taste and texture, making this drink delightful to sip on. If you’re making a cortado yourself, just be careful not to burn the milk as this will make your drink bitter.
A cortado is perfect for someone who wants the taste of espresso without any bitterness.
History of the Cortado
The cortado originated in Spain, and its name comes from the Spanish verb ‘cotar’ meaning ‘to cut.’
This is because the espresso is ‘cut’ with milk, resulting in an easier-drinking coffee.
Spanish coffee is traditionally slightly more bitter. This is due to the torrefacto method, which involved coating the coffee beans in sugar prior to roasting.
While this method is no longer dominant, the strong and bitter flavor preference has remained.
Therefore slightly milkier coffees like the cortado make the drinking experience more pleasant if you don’t like how strong other espresso-based drinks can be.
Variations of the Cortado
One of the most common variations of the cortado is the Cuban cortadito, a drink made with equal parts espresso and steamed condensed milk for added sweetness.
A cortadito is perfect if you are craving a sweet treat in the mornings.
You can also play around with the kind of beans you use to make your cortado, like our pumpkin-spice beans.
Other Similar Coffees
There are many other espresso-based drinks that also use either steamed or frothed milk, and here is how they are different from macchiatos and cortados.
The difference between a cappuccino vs a macchiato lies in the amount of milk used in each drink.
A cappuccino uses a shot of espresso topped with one part steamed milk and one part frothed milk on top. This creates a much milder and milkier drink with layers of textured milk.
The difference between a flat white and a macchiato is quite large. In fact, a flat white is more similar to a cortado than anything else.
A flat white uses equal parts milk and espresso, but it uses foamed milk instead of steamed milk.
A latte is a milky coffee, consisting of one shot of espresso, two parts steamed milk and a layer of frothy milk on top.
If you’re trying to choose between a macchiato or a latte, ask yourself how strong you like your coffee, and how much milk you prefer.
Like the rest of the drinks mentioned, an americano is an espresso-based drink. However, instead of adding milk, you add hot water.
Milk can then be added, according to preference.
When deciding between an americano vs a macchiato, know that an americano will be weaker than an espresso, due to the dilution.
It is also often a larger drink, due to the volume of water added.
If you’re still wondering about what the difference between an espresso and a macchiato is, the key is to remember that espresso is traditionally served black.
Macchiato vs Cortado FAQs
Can I Make a Decaf Version At Home?
You can easily make a decaf cortado or macchiato at home. Just make sure that you are using organic decaf coffee for the best results.
Can I Make It With Flavored Coffee?
What Kind Of Milk Do I Need To Use?
You can use any kind of milk, including milk alternatives such as almond or coconut milk, to make a delicious coffee drink. You may need to froth or steam the milk slightly differently to get the best results.
Can I Add Sugar?
Traditionally, both macchiatos and cortados are made without sugar, relying on the natural sweetness of the sugars in the milk.
However, this is your cup of coffee and you can make it however you would like to.
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