What is a macchiato, exactly?
Menus in coffee shops have become vast over the years, with a seemingly endless rotation of options.
The macchiato first sprang into being as a workaround for Italians who wanted to drink espresso in the afternoon. Until then, cappuccino was the main espresso-based option, but this was and still is considered a drink for the mornings only.
A macchiato, then, occupies the middle ground between espresso and cappuccino when it comes to strength. Macchiatos are less of an eye-opener than a short shot of espresso, but more robust than a cappuccino.
Learning how to make macchiato involves first familiarizing yourself with some terminology, and we’ll break that down for you in plain English. Next, you’ll need to decide which type of macchiato you prefer, and we’ll guide you through that, too.
I. Macchiato 101
Macchiato means “marked” or “stained” in Italian.
There are two main varieties of macchiato:
- Espresso macchiato
- Latte macchiato
Each of these versions of macchiato involves the staining of one element (milk) with another (espresso).
Before you get started foaming milk, though, you’ll need a shot of espresso as the base for all macchiatos.
II. Espresso 101
Espresso is a brewing method that sends off-boiling water through a puck of fine coffee grinds at high pressure. 9 bars of pressure is recommended for authentic espresso.
The resulting concentrated shot of coffee is thick with some dissolved solids visible. The pressure involved during the brewing process helps to intensify both the flavor and aroma.
Great espresso is characterized by its crema, a foam with a light, creamy consistency.
The caffeine content of espresso is higher ounce-per-ounce than that of regular drip coffee. The small shot glasses means you will get more caffeine in a mug of brewed coffee than in a shot of espresso.
You have multiple options for making espresso at home. You could opt for a hands-on experience with semi-automatic espresso machine or a lever espresso machine. For a push-button ease, little beats a Nespresso machine, while for bean-to-cup convenience, a fully-automatic espresso machine is a great option. For a stovetop espresso experience – even if you don’t get quite the pressure you need – a moka pot is worth exploring.
So, assuming you have a suitable method for making espresso, you have the most important part of your macchiato taken care of.
Next, you’ll need to decide which kind of macchiato you would like.
III. Different Types of Macchiato
The original version of the macchiato is the espresso macchiato. In Italy, this classic drink is called caffé macchiato.
The goal of an espresso macchiato is to slightly subdue a shot of espresso with a faint splash of milk. Of all espresso-based drinks, the macchiato is closest to pure espresso, with the dilution only slight.
To make espresso macchiato – full instructions below – you pull a shot of espresso then pour a teaspoon or two of steamed milk along with some foam on top. You serve macchiato in a glass or ceramic cup.
For a more involved drink, you could try a latte macchiato. This iteration sees the steamed milk stained by your shot of espresso.
A layered drink, you have less espresso and more milk than with an espresso macchiato. Milk is the star of the show here.
Served in a glass to showcase the layering, you start with the glass half-filled with steamed milk. Pouring a shot of espresso very slowly over the milk created the trademark stain in the center and gives you the perfect latte macchiato.
- Choose an espresso macchiato if you find espresso too strong but cappuccino too milky
- Choose a latte macchiato if you’re looking for just a trace of espresso and a predominantly milky coffee
Increasingly, syrups are added to macchiato – the caramel macchiato, for instance, a drink invented in the 1990s in the United States rather than an Italian classic like espresso macchiato, but delicious nevertheless.
So, with that background in place, it’s time to show you how to make macchiato like a barista. As outlined, that starts with a great shot of authentic espresso.
IV. Making Espresso Barista Style
Here’s how to make an espresso in your home espresso machine:
- Use a scale to weigh out 7g to 9g of fresh coffee beans. Use 14g to 18g of coffee beans for a double espresso
- Grind the beans finely to the consistency of table salt
- Fill your machine’s water tank with bottled or filtered water
- Pop the ground coffee into the portafilter. Tamp the coffee to compact the grinds
- Fire up your espresso machine
- With the water between 195F and 205F and a pressure of 9 bars, pour your shot for between 25 and 30 seconds for the perfect espresso the easy way
V. Making Espresso Macchiato Barista Style
If you want a classic espresso macchiato – what most people think of when they hear the word macchiato – here’s all you need to do.
- Make your espresso shot as above
- Fill a container with cold milk
- Hold the container angled at 45 degrees to the steam wand on your espresso machine
- Keep steaming the milk until you see it grow in volume
- Ladle in a teaspoon of foam on top of your espresso shot and you’ve got a traditional macchiato just the way you would get it from an Italian barista
VI. Making Latte Macchiato Barista Style
To make a latte macchiato, you need a single shot of espresso which you poured over some steamed milk. You add a dash of milk foam to complete the creamy and layered look of a latte macchiato.
Here’s what you need to do to make yourself one:
- Make your espresso shot as above
- Heat some cold milk in a milk frother. You’re looking for a creamy and rich froth
- Decant the froth into a tall glass. The milk and the foam will separate
- Add the shot of espresso slowly and it will gently flow down, giving you the layers that characterize this milky espresso-based drink
- Serve in a tall glass to best appreciate the layered effect
Well, you should now be clear on how to make a first-class macchiato at home.
To get a drink that’s closer to pure espresso, opt for an espresso macchiato, but for a milkier experience with just a hint of espresso, treat yourself to a latte macchiato instead. Making either hinges on pulling yourself a great shot of espresso as the base for either drink.
Before you head off, bookmark Madiba. We have a very busy content calendar for the holiday season, and we’ll be bringing you more recipes and how-to guides over the coming weeks, so come back soon and don’t miss out!