macchiato vs cortado

Cortado vs Macchiato: Difference & Which is best

Coffee is a staple in many people’s lives. Whether it’s home-brewed or purchased at a coffee shop, they just can’t live without it.

With so many options to choose from, you may wonder how anyone makes heads or tails of a coffee shop menu.

From your Frappuccinos to your lattes to your americanos, your head might just be spinning with all the choices.

To help with some of the confusion, we’re going to deep dive into two of the most confused types of drinks, the cortado and the macchiato.

These drinks are often mistaken for each other because of their ingredients but, in fact, are almost nothing alike.

What they have in common is their ingredients of milk and espresso but that’s where the similarities stop. 

If you’ve seen these two drinks on the menu at your favorite coffee spot but had no idea what they were, you’re in for a treat.

We’re going to explore everything from their histories to their health benefits to the way they’re made.

You’ll be an expert on both these drinks in no time.

Read on to find out exactly what makes these two drinks so different and so delicious.

What is a Cortado?

An espresso drink made of equal parts espresso and steamed milk, the cortado is Spanish in origin with its name meaning “cut” as in it’s a drink cut with milk.

Unlike other coffee drinks, the cortado is always the same size and is made of two shots of espresso and two ounces of milk. 

Because its milk is steamed, it doesn’t have the amount of froth or foam that’s common in Italian coffees.

However, you will find that some baristas will add some foam just to jazz up the presentation of your drink but this is not a common practice for this specific coffee.

The cortado has gained widespread popularity due to its simplicity. It’s typically served in 4.5-ounce glasses made of metal or glass.

You won’t typically find this drink decorated with any foam art as its focus is not on presentation but rather the harmony of the flavors.

The cortado is a common afternoon drink in Spain, Portugal, and Latin America.

It should not be confused with the American drink cafe au lait as this drink is made with regular coffee and warm milk.

This is completely different from the espresso and steamed milk of the cortado. 

This drink can be easily made in your home if you own an espresso maker.

You can easily skip the overpriced coffee shop drinks and enjoy your drink without all the hassle of going out and waiting in line. 

What is a Macchiato Coffee?

The name macchiato is an Italian word that means spotted, marked, or stained and it refers to the mark that the milk makes when it hits the rich, dark color of the espresso.

A macchiato coffee is an espresso with just a dash of milk added, just enough to lighten the color of the espresso, piercing through the dark surface. It is then topped with a light amount of foam. 

If you’re looking for an alternative to the full flavor of an espresso, you might consider a macchiato with its robust flavor combined with just a touch of creaminess.

Macchiato coffees come in two options, including espresso macchiato and latte macchiato.

Regardless of which type you choose, you’ll end up with a beautiful, layered coffee drink with amazing flavor. 

Starbucks has even jumped on the bandwagon, creating a caramel macchiato for its customers.

This drink was created in the 1990s and consists of steamed milk, a small amount of espresso, and a caramel topping.

Unlike traditional macchiatos, this should be considered a treat and not something to be enjoyed regularly due to the sugary addition of the caramel topping. 

In fact, it’s not abnormal to find that everywhere you go the macchiato recipe is slightly different.

Everyone’s ideal macchiato is not the same with some drinkers preferring straight foam to milk.

Additionally, the milk content varies from region to region.

Regardless of preference, those who want a macchiato choose it for the strong, robust espresso flavor.

Espresso Macchiato vs Latte Macchiato 

If you’re looking for the original and traditional form of a macchiato coffee, you’ll want the espresso macchiato, which is also known as a caffe macchiato.

This type begins with either a single or double shot of espresso that is typically brewed straight into the serving cup.

Next, steamed milk is added in a very small amount to the espresso.

This is followed by just a dollop of foam on top.

Its main goal is to provide the drinker with the same caffeine effect as drinking straight espresso but without the bitterness or acidity through the addition of the milk.

You might find this drink to be enjoyable if you like brewed coffee but find straight espresso to be just a little too much for you.

A latte macchiato, on the other hand, begins with steamed milk instead of espresso.

A shot of espresso is then poured into the center of the milk.

The espresso is poured gently enough that it will not mix with the milk and will instead rest on top.

The foam from the milk will then separate to the top, creating a gorgeous, layered drink. 

The taste of the latte macchiato will vary vastly from beginning to end if you do not stir it.

The majority of the espresso will remain toward the top of the drink with only a small amount sinking toward the bottom.

This will cause the flavor of the espresso to be stronger at the beginning of the drink and the milky flavor to be stronger at the end.

Whether you stir it or not, the strong espresso flavor becomes dampened by the addition of the milk, making it more palatable for those who cannot tolerate the drink straight.

Different coffee shops will use different amounts of espresso to make each drink so you will want to ensure you specify how much espresso you want regardless of which drink you order. 

What is the difference between a Cortado and Macchiato?

While cortados and macchiatos are both drinks made with espresso and steamed milk, they are actually very different from each other.

The main differences come from their ingredients, origins, tastes, and appearance.


The cortado originated in the 1960s in Spain in the Basque Country.

It quickly spread to Portugal and Cuba, as well as other parts of Spain as it became widely popular.

On the other hand, the macchiato has suspected origins in Italy in the 1980s.

Many coffee experts believe it was created to distinguish an espresso beverage containing only a drop of milk from a regular espresso containing no milk at all.


Because it uses significantly much less milk, the macchiato has a much stronger and more robust, espresso flavor.

Its flavor is very intense and geared toward those who love the flavor of espresso.

The cortado is much creamier due to the equal parts of milk and espresso used.

It offers a slightly sweet flavor. Because of its rounder taste, the cortado is the least strong option between the two.


One of the major differences between these two drinks is their ingredients.

While they are both espresso-based drinks, the ratio of espresso to milk is quite different between the two.

The cortado uses steamed milk in a 1:1 ratio with espresso to create the ultimate in creaminess.

The espresso macchiato instead uses steamed and frothed milk in a very small amount which comes out to be about the size of a dollop. 


The cortado makes a perfectly blended cup of espresso and milk with a light brown color.

On the other hand, the macchiato makes a beautiful, layered drink that is almost too pretty to consume. 

Cortado vs Macchiato: Caffeine

Because a cortado is made with a double shot of espresso, it has a higher caffeine content than a lot of coffee drinks.

It comes in at an average of 150 mg per serving; however, this can be affected by which type of espresso beans you choose as some can contain more caffeine than others. 

Macchiatos come in different sizes and therefore different caffeine contents.

A small to medium macchiato has a caffeine content of 80 to 100 mg while a large macchiato has a caffeine content of approximately 120 to 130 mg.

Cortado vs Macchiato: Health

There are several benefits to consuming espresso, whether you choose a cortado or a macchiato.

These include increased long-term memory, improved concentration, increased physical activity, lower risk of stroke, reduced chance of diabetes, and improved mood.

Cortados and macchiatos also provide an excellent source of antioxidants, aid in weight loss, and improve digestion.

Both cortados and macchiatos offer these benefits as well as being low-fat options.

They don’t have all the added sugars that many popular coffee drinks today are loaded down with, keeping them a much healthier option for you.

When it comes to your health, both these options are equally good for you.

Cortado vs Macchiato: Calories

An espresso macchiato is actually a very healthy option.

It is only 10 calories per 2 fluid ounces and has less than 1 gram each of carbohydrates and fat.

The cortado is an equally safe option as it is only 15 calories per 4 fluid ounces with less than 1 gram each of carbohydrates and fat.

Regardless of which option you choose, you simply can’t go wrong.

How to make Cortado Coffee

To make a cortado, you’ll need around 16 ounces of espresso beans for a single serving.

Because you’re going to cut the espresso with milk, you are not going to experience the robust flavor of the espresso.

This can be a great way to tame a more acidic coffee bean or you can even highlight the flavor of your milk with a nuttier or sweeter espresso. 

Follow these steps to make a perfect cortado:

1.Start by measuring out two shots of milk into a pitcher or a pan.

It’s OK to err on the side of caution and add a little bit more milk than you think you’ll need. Oftentimes, a little more milk is added to offset the 1:1 ratio. 

2. Brew your espresso. If you want more than the traditional two shots, make sure you increase your milk accordingly.

4.Steam the milk with a steaming wand, ensuring that you submerge it all the way into the milk to prevent the formation of bubbles.

Roll the milk to the edge of the pitcher or pan to increase the creaminess.

5.Pour the shot of brewed espresso into your serving glass or mug.

6.Gently cut the espresso with the milk. Some of the milk will naturally rise to the top of the espresso while the rest will mix throughout the drink.

Sit back and enjoy your cortado.

Conclusion on Cortado vs Macchiato

Now you’ve learned the basic differences between the cortado and the macchiato.

With the extra creaminess of the cortado, there’s no way you can confuse it with the macchiato that only has a dollop of milk.

Their appearances are vastly different with the cortado having a more blended look to the macchiato’s layered design. 

If you prefer a more robust flavor, then you’ll definitely want to choose the macchiato every time over the subtler, sweeter flavor of the cortado.

While both drinks offer a gamut of health benefits, they offer different levels of caffeine with the cortado having the most to offer.

Both have excellent calorie, fat, and carbohydrate levels. 

A cortado comes pretty much the same every time while you can order a macchiato as an espresso macchiato or a latte macchiato.

The differences in structure in the macchiato types offer varying levels of espresso and milk flavor. 

The next time you are out and about, you can experiment with one of these drinks.

It’s a great way to expand your tastes and be more adventurous.

You’ll get to taste flavors from around the world while getting a decent kick of caffeine.

Cortado vs Macchiato: Differences in taste, appearance and more.

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