What is a cappuccino vs macchiato?

Answered by Jeremy Urbaniak

Cappuccinos and macchiatos are both popular espresso-based drinks, but they differ in their ingredients and preparation methods. Let’s dive into the details of each:

A cappuccino is a classic Italian coffee beverage that consists of equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. The name “cappuccino” actually comes from the Capuchin monks’ hooded robes, which resemble the color of the drink.

To make a cappuccino, a barista starts by extracting a shot of espresso, which is a concentrated form of coffee made by forcing hot water through finely ground coffee beans. The espresso is then poured into a cup, and an equal amount of steamed milk is added. Steamed milk is created by heating milk and introducing steam into it, creating a velvety texture. Finally, a layer of milk foam, which is created by aerating the milk, is spooned on top of the drink to complete the cappuccino.

The result is a beautifully layered drink with the dark espresso at the bottom, followed by the creamy steamed milk, and topped with a frothy layer of milk foam. The balance between the espresso, steamed milk, and foam creates a harmonious combination of flavors and textures.

Macchiato, on the other hand, means “stained” or “marked” in Italian. It is an espresso-based drink that involves adding a small amount of milk to a shot of espresso. This drink is often referred to as an espresso macchiato to differentiate it from other variations, such as the caramel macchiato, which is a popular Starbucks beverage.

To make an espresso macchiato, a shot of espresso is first extracted. Then, a small amount of milk, usually steamed but sometimes just cold, is added to the espresso. The milk is only added in a small quantity, just enough to “stain” or “mark” the espresso. As a result, the flavors of the espresso remain prominent, with just a hint of milk to soften the intensity.

The macchiato is a bolder and more concentrated drink compared to the cappuccino. It showcases the rich and robust flavors of the espresso, with a touch of milk to balance the intensity.

A cappuccino is made by combining equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam, while a macchiato involves adding a splash of milk to a shot of espresso. The cappuccino offers a balanced and layered experience, while the macchiato highlights the strong flavors of the espresso with just a hint of milk.

Personal experience:
I remember my first cappuccino experience during a trip to Italy. The barista skillfully poured the espresso into the cup, followed by the precise addition of steamed milk and milk foam. The resulting cappuccino was a work of art, with the layers beautifully defined. The combination of the rich espresso, creamy steamed milk, and frothy foam created a delightful sensory experience. It was the perfect way to start the morning and immerse myself in Italian coffee culture.

As for macchiatos, I often enjoy them when I’m in the mood for a stronger and more concentrated coffee experience. The bold flavors of the espresso, with just a touch of milk, provide a quick pick-me-up. The simplicity of the macchiato allows the quality and characteristics of the espresso to shine through, making it a favorite choice for coffee purists.

Cappuccinos and macchiatos offer distinct flavors, textures, and experiences. Whether you prefer the balanced and layered cappuccino or the bold and intense macchiato, both drinks showcase the versatility and artistry of espresso-based beverages.