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What is a macchiato coffee?

What is a macchiato and where did it come from? In short and simple terms, it’s a single shot of espresso with a dollop of milk, served in a small cup.

I was as curious as you and that’s why I took the time to find out more about this strong beverage, along with making my own macchiato at home and sharing the recipe with you in this article.

Below is a quick overview of what you can expect to learn:

What is a macchiato?

A macchiato, also known as an espresso macchiato is in simple terms a single shot of espresso with a dollop of milk served in a small cup. Macchiato comes from the Italian word “stained”, because, well, you’re almost leaving a stain on top of the espresso. It’s a strong coffee due to its lack of milk, so if you’re more into something lighter than a cappuccino or latte might be a better option.

There’s a lot of controversy about what a macchiato is. What I explained is the traditional macchiato, and only has a spot of frothed milk on the espresso. In places like North America, they gave it their own twist by adding a lot more milk than is necessary.

Traditional macchiato

The history of the macchiato

Coffee experts and lovers believe it was first created during the ‘80s to distinguish between a classic espresso beverage and a coffee with milk. This is where the name macchiato originates from. The name macchiato translates to stained, spotted, or marked. The name is a perfect fit since it’s nothing more than an espresso with a mark of frothed milk.

There’s a thing going around where there are 2 forms of macchiato available. The traditional Italian macchiato and the latte macchiato. The latte macchiato is where you do things upside down. You add your steamed milk first and then stain it with the espresso, this includes a lot more milk and is usually served in a big glass. Besides that, things like flavored syrups have seen a huge uptrend in the past years for coffee beverages and are widely used on things like the latte macchiato.

How is a macchiato made?

A traditional macchiato is quite easy to make and all lies in the quantities. As I’ve said, it’s nothing more than your regular espresso with a dot of milk on top. Beware, if you add too much milk you may end up with something more like a latte or cappuccino. It’s made by pouring a single shot of espresso into a small espresso cup and then a splash of hot milk is added along with a tiny bit of foam.

Who is a macchiato made for?

Due to its lack of milk, the macchiato is a strong coffee. It’s a very dominant espresso drink but the milk is there to take a bit of the edge off for you. For a lot of people, it’s still too much espresso so they go with a cappuccino or latte instead. But if you fancy a strong espresso taste then this will hit you just right.

In Italy, they are quite against having anything that contains cream after midday. This includes, yes, you guessed it, a macchiato, cappuccino, or latte. If you ever visit Italy then keep this in mind and keep your favorite milk-flavored drink for the morning.

Making a macchiato at home

Luckily you don’t need fancy equipment to make a macchiato at home. All you need is a Moka pot, coffee beans, a grinder and a spoon. A scale and frother could come in handy if you have one but is not required.

  1. Grind your beans with the grinder.

  2. Add the ground beans to the Moka pot with water on the stove.

  3. Once the espresso is ready, fill ¼ of a mug with milk and put it in the microwave for 20 – 30 seconds. Measure the temperature of the milk with a kitchen thermometer and aim for 150°F/65°C. You now have steamy and frothy milk, super easy!

  4. Add your espresso to the mug and add a dot of milk to it.

  5. Enjoy! ☕

The bottom line

A macchiato is a single shot of espresso with a splash of milk, served in a small cup. It’s very strong due to its lack of milk and is the perfect shot for people that prefer the taste of espresso but still have that tiny edge of milk there. The name macchiato comes from the Italian word stained, spotted or marked, hence the name of the coffee.

Not to be confused with today’s popular latte macchiato where steamed milk is poured in first and then the espresso. It all comes down to preference but I do have to admit that the latte macchiato with caramel syrup is a beverage I would take a bath in.

It might require some practice in the beginning since adding too much milk can ruin the traditional macchiato you might be aiming for.

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