Macchiato vs. Cappuccino: What is the Difference?

Macchiato vs. Cappuccino

Coffee drinking is a daily ritual that many of us are unable to shrug off and probably don’t want to because that caffeine dose is what gives us the energy to face the hectic day ahead.

But, while everyone seems to have their preferred way of getting a caffeine fix, sometimes it is not always easy to decide which brew to go for, and this is more so when it comes to choosing between similar beverages like macchiato and cappuccino.

The two are both espresso-based milk beverages, but their similarities probably end there as they will differ in everything from the brew size and how they are made to how they are served.

While they are still both highly flavorful and refreshing beverages, each has its good elements and will hence be ideal for a different kind of coffee lover. Below we look at the two in more detail to help you decide which between them suits your preferences and tastes.

Table of Contents

Macchiato Overview


Photo: Starbucks

Macchiato, like many other espresso-based beverages, has its origins in Italy, but it is now one of the most popular espresso-based drinks in the USA and most of Europe.

The macchiato can be best described as an espresso with a dash of milk, and its name translates to marked or stained coffee, and traditional milk foam is only poured in one place to create a distinct spot.

Because there is less milk in the macchiato, it maintains the rich and bold espresso taste and will hence be perfect for those that prefer a stronger coffee taste.

There are two variations of the macchiato which are the espresso macchiato, which is what you are likely to get when you order a macchiato in most cafes, and the other is the latte macchiato.

The latte macchiato is a reverse of the traditional macchiato as it will contain more milk and with a shot of espresso. With this drink, steamed milk is poured to at least half of the glass and a shot of espresso added at the top to create a layer that looks more like the traditional latte.

For many coffee lovers, the most significant shortcoming with a macchiato is that it can be a little too strong, and this is more so when you go for the traditional one with only a spot of milk.


  • Maintains a stronger coffee flavor
  • Fewer calories
  • Straightforward to make


  • Can be a little too strong for some people

Cappuccino Overview



Cappuccinos are the most popular milk-based coffee drink, and this has been so for a long time now. This espresso drink has its origins in Italy but now has a more global presence and is one of the few coffee drinks you can be confident of getting in any coffee shop no matter where you might be in the world.

While the macchiato is made by staining an espresso with milk foam, a cappuccino will be made by adding both steamed milk and milk foam in equal proportions as the espresso to create a multi-layered beverage.

The presence of more milk in the cappuccino makes it smoother and creamier, and it is also relatively milder which means it will be perfect for those that do not like very strong coffee.

Like macchiato, the cappuccino also has several variations with the most common ones being the dry and wet cappuccinos. The wet cappuccino will contain more hot milk while the dry one has more milk froth, which means they are suitable for different kinds of coffee drinkers.

For those checking their weight, it will be better to keep off cappuccinos as the extra milk means they will have higher caloric content.


  • Milder and more bearable for anyone
  • Low-acidic and well-balanced
  • Smoother and creamier


  • Higher caloric content

Comparison Chart



What Is It?

Espresso with very little milk

Very milky espresso drink with a slight/hidden hint of coffee


Espresso and milk foam

Espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam

Components Ratio



How It Is Made

By adding foam over an espresso shot

By adding steamed milk them milk foam over one or 2 espresso shots

Typical Beverage Size

 2 to 3 oz

5 to 6 oz


Rich and bold

Smooth and foamy

How it is Served

In a tall glass

Ceramic cup

Caloric Intake

Under 100 calories

75 to 120 calories

Macchiato vs. Cappuccino

Whether you are making them at home or want to order at your favorite coffee shop, both macchiato and cappuccino will be an amazing beverage option. And the best idea would be to try both out and settle for the flavor you like most. But, if you are not sure which to go for, here are a few points that will make it clear how they differ.

1. What Is It?

Well, before you get to choose between the macchiato and cappuccino, the first step should be to first understand what each is all about as this makes it clear what to expect when you order either.

When you order a macchiato in most coffee shops you will typically get a small espresso-based beverage that usually only has a spot of milk. And this is the case given that macchiato means marked coffee.

Cappuccinos, on the other hand, are creamier coffee beverages that are usually multilayered with both steamed milk and froth, and unlike the macchiato, there are layers of the different ingredients instead of a spot.

2. Ingredients

Because both beverages are milk-based espresso drinks, milk and espresso will be their main ingredients, but things are not always that straightforward.

Macchiato will contain two ingredients only which are the espresso and milk foam. Even when you make the latte macchiato variation, there will still be two key ingredients which are steamed milk and a shot of espresso.

For cappuccino, there are three ingredients, and these are the espresso, steamed milk and the milk foam at the top. However, some baristas will also include some chocolate powder or shavings at the top and create some nice art as you would get on a café latte.

3. Components Ratio

Getting the ratio of the ingredients right is the key to making the best cappuccinos and macchiato, and if you want to make them at home, you need to know the proportions to use.

But, this should be easy as you only need to remember that for a macchiato, the ingredients ratio will be 2:1, and to make this clear, for every 2-ounce shot of espresso, you will need to use an ounce of milk foam.

With cappuccino, the beverage is more balanced, which means there will be an equal quantity of all the three ingredients. The ratio is 1:1:1, which means if you are using 2 ounces of espresso, you will also need 2 ounces of steamed milk and 2 ounces of milk foam.

But, in some instances, the ratio for cappuccino can be 1:2:2, which means that the milk foam and steamed milk will be double the volume of espresso.

And note that like with any other espresso-based beverage, you are free to adjust the quantity of the different ingredients to customize the beverage to your liking.

4. How It Is Made

As you try to differentiate these two coffee-based beverages, it is also important to know how they are made as this will also help you decide which one will give you an easier time. And while the method of making both always starts with an espresso, it is not entirely the same. Here is a breakdown of the steps involved when making macchiato and cappuccino.


Step 1: Brew a shot of espresso into a tall glass

Step 2: Steam milk as you when making cappuccinos

Step 3: Tap the milk steaming jug on a hard surface and then swirl around to eliminate large bubbles

Step 4: Spoon out one to 2 spoons of the milk foam and place it over the espresso

Step 5: Serve and enjoy


Step 1: Start by pulling one or two shots of espresso into a ceramic cup

Step 2: Pour cold milk into a frothing jug and put in the frothing wand to steam and froth it

Step 3: Once frothing is complete, tap the jug on a hard surface and swirl to remove larger bubbles

Step 4: Pour the steamed milk over the espresso while holding back the foam

Step 5: Now scoop out the foam and place it over the steamed milk

Step 6: Finish by sprinkling some chocolate shavings at the top (optional)

5. Typical Beverage Size

Brew size always matters as you need to make sure that the coffee you order will be enough to satisfy your cravings. And the good news is that with both types, you can still customize the size by increasing volume ingredients.

However, in many instances, a typical macchiato will be 2 to 3 ounces in size given that it contains very little milk, and the espresso will hence make up most of the volume.

Cappuccinos, on the other hand, are much bigger beverages with average sizes ranging from 5 to 6 ounces, but in places like the USA where coffee drinks are usually larger, your cappuccino will little be a little more than this when you order from many coffee shops.

6. Flavor

Flavor is one of the most crucial elements of an espresso-based beverage and should hence be one of the key factors to consider when deciding whether to go for macchiato or cappuccino.

How these drinks are made and the proportions of the ingredients affect their taste greatly. Because macchiato has less milk, it will be a generally richer and bolder beverage, and you can clearly feel the strength of the espresso.

Cappuccinos are milder when compared to macchiato and they will generally be smoother and creamier. Also, unless you add too much milk, you should still be able to get some of the strength of espresso on your drink.

7. How it is Served

For many coffee lovers, presentation is almost as important as the quality of beverage, and so if you do not get it right, the beverage will not feel the same.

Ultimately, you can serve your macchiato and cappuccino just how you want, but it is still worth knowing how they are served traditionally.

Traditionally, the macchiato will be served in a tall glass while cappuccinos will be typically served in a small ceramic cup.

Serving mostly depends on the country because in some places even in the USA, it is still possible to get a cappuccino served in a glass while others also serve macchiato in a regular ceramic cup.

8. Caloric Intake

You cannot overlook the total calories you take in your coffee, and this is more so if you are watching your weight. While pure black coffee or espresso will contain almost zero calories, the additives that you use to lighten it such as milk will pack a significant number of calories.

Macchiato has fewer calories than cappuccino given that it contains less milk, and in many instances, it will have less than 100 calories depending on the type of milk you use.

For the cappuccinos, you can get anywhere between 75 and 120 calories or even more per serving also depending on the milk type that you use with dairy milk often packing the highest number of calories.


Both macchiato and cappuccinos are highly flavorful milk-based espresso drinks, and if you like your espresso with milk, it would be a great idea to interchange them depending on your moods.

However, when you get into your favorite coffee shop and are not sure which one to order, understanding the points highlighted above should make the choice an easier one.

All in all, macchiato, is the perfect beverage for those that prefer a milk-based beverage that still maintains a rich and bold espresso taste while cappuccinos are more ideal when you want a smoother and creamier drink.

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