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The macchiato is a classic Italian drink that you'll find in just about any cafe worth its salt. Though its origins are somewhat mysterious, said to have come about sometime in the 80s somewhere in Italy, it's a clear favorite among espresso lovers who like a little sweetness. But, because of those mysterious origins, it can be difficult to know what a macchiato is or how to make one.
The word "macchiato" translates to spotted, stained, or marked. An espresso macchiato is an espresso marked with milk. In classic preparation, an espresso is prepared and a dollop of milk foam is placed on top. But of course there are variations; a common espresso macchiato is prepared using half espresso and half steamed and frothed milk. The key is that espresso is added first, and then milk is second so that the espresso is marked by milk.
For a latte macchiato, on the other hand, a generous portion of frothed milk goes into the glass first, and then a much smaller amount of espresso is carefully poured in the center of the frothed milk, which leaves a mark on top of the froth. The milk froth is typically airy and dry. The milk then settles in the glass, so when the espresso is gently poured, the results are a 3 layered drink with the espresso settling between the milk layers.
Of course, both lattes and macchiatos use espresso and milk to make a delicious and traditional beverage. However, the difference comes down to a few delicate details. First, when discussing a macchiato, the drink that's most likely in consideration is an espresso macchiato. That said, if you're trying to decide between a latte and a latte macchiato, you might be curious about the difference if you don't know already.
As described above, a latte macchiato is a milk based drink with a spot of espresso to add some character. A latte, on the other hand, starts with a double shot of espresso, combined with a layer of steamed milk, topped with a layer of foam.