Are you a coffee lover who wants to know the key differences between three classic coffee drinks - macchiato, latte, and flat white? In this in-depth comparison guide, we're breaking down the milk, espresso, and foam used, the brewing methods, and the taste profiles of these three drinks. Get ready to discover your new favorite coffee drink!

Overview of Macchiato, Latte, and Flat White

Origins and History

The Macchiato originated in Italy, where the word means "stained" or "spotted". Historically, it was created by adding a small amount of milk to a shot of espresso. This was done to soften the harsh taste of the espresso without diluting its strong flavor. Over the years, the macchiato has evolved, with different variations emerging in different regions, but the core essence of the drink remains the same.

Latte is another Italian invention, with the term "caffe latte" translating to "milk coffee". It is believed to have originated in the 17th-century Italian coffeehouses, where patrons would drink large quantities of milk with a shot of coffee. Latte has evolved over the years to become a popular drink with a balance of espresso and steamed milk, topped with a small layer of milk froth.

The Flat White has a more ambiguous history. While some credit its origins to Australia during the 1980s, others claim that it emerged in New Zealand around the same time. The flat white has gained popularity for its smooth, velvety texture which showcases its key ingredient - microfoamed milk. It offers a delicate balance of rich coffee and creamy milk, providing a harmonious experience for the palate.

Key Ingredients

  • Espresso: At the core of all three drinks lies the bold, rich flavor of espresso. It provides the foundation upon which the macchiato, latte, and flat white are built. While the macchiato has a more intense espresso taste due to its smaller size, both the latte and flat white aim to maintain a balance between the coffee and milk components.

  • Milk: The primary difference between these three drinks stems from the type and quantity of milk used. Macchiatos have the least amount of milk, with just a few teaspoons of frothed milk added to the espresso. Lattes, on the other hand, use a larger volume of steamed milk combined with a thin layer of froth on top. Flat whites utilize microfoamed milk, a technique where the milk is steamed in a way that creates a smooth, velvety texture, resulting in a creamy and more delicate flavor.

Drink Espresso Milk Milk Foam
Macchiato Bold A few teaspoons of frothed milk Minimal
Latte Balanced Steamed Thin layer
Flat White Balanced Microfoamed Velvety

These three espresso-based drinks offer distinct experiences for coffee enthusiasts, catering to different preferences and palates. Depending on individual tastes, one may opt for the bolder macchiato with minimal milk, the harmoniously balanced latte, or the creamy, smooth flat white with its velvety texture.

Differences Between the Three

In this section, we will explore the differences among macchiato, latte, and flat white coffee drinks, focusing on various aspects such as flavor and taste, ratio and ingredients, texture and milk foam, caffeine content, and preparation and presentation.

Flavor and Taste

A macchiato is a stronger-tasting coffee that allows the espresso's bold flavor to shine through, with undertones of the foamed milk. Lattes have a milder flavor, as they contain a higher proportion of steamed milk that creates a creamier and sweeter taste. Flat whites, made with microfoamed milk, provide a balanced flavor that is richer than a latte but smoother than a macchiato.

Ratio and Ingredients

Macchiatos consist of a small amount of steamed or foamed milk atop a single or double espresso shot. Lattes typically include 1/6 espresso, 4/6 steamed milk, and 1/6 foamed milk. Flat whites have a stronger coffee base, with a 2/3 espresso and 1/3 microfoam milk ratio. Although they share common ingredients, the ratios in each drink make for distinct flavor profiles.

Texture and Milk Foam

Macchiatos have a dense texture, primarily dominated by the espresso, with a small layer of frothed milk providing some creaminess. Lattes contain foamed milk and are therefore creamier and smoother. Flat whites have the unique characteristic of microfoamed milk, creating a velvety texture that's thicker than a latte and smoother than a macchiato.

Caffeine Content

The caffeine content of these coffee drinks varies due to their espresso-to-milk ratios. Macchiatos have the smallest serving size but pack a punch with around 85 mg of caffeine in a 2-ounce (60-gram) serving. Lattes and flat whites contain approximately 173 mg of caffeine per 16-ounce (480-gram) serving, with the flat white having a stronger coffee presence due to its higher espresso content.

Preparation and Presentation

Macchiatos are prepared by pouring espresso over a small amount of steamed or frothed milk, while lattes involve pouring steamed milk over espresso and adding a layer of foamed milk on top. Flat whites require frothing milk to create a microfoam texture before combining with the espresso. When it comes to presentation, macchiatos may have a small dollop of milk foam atop the espresso, lattes often have latte art or a simple layer of foamed milk on top, and flat whites feature a seamless blend of coffee and microfoam with a consistent, glossy surface. If you're passionate about crafting any of these beverages at a professional level or for a bustling cafe setting, consider investing in a quality espresso machine. Check out our curated collection of commercial espresso machines to find the perfect fit. Whether you're looking to buy a commercial grade espresso maker or seeking other options, our selection ensures reliability and superior performance.By understanding these differences in flavor, ingredients, texture, caffeine content, and preparation, coffee lovers can make informed decisions based on their preferences and taste profiles. It's important to note that variations may exist among coffee shops and regions, as well as when alternative milk types (oat, almond, and coconut) or flavored syrups are used in the preparation process.

Popular Variations

When it comes to exploring the world of espresso-based beverages, there are numerous variations of lattes, macchiatos, and flat whites that cater to different taste preferences.

Latte Variations

Lattes are known for their balance of espresso and steamed milk, topped with a small layer of microfoam. Some popular latte variations include:

  • Caffè Latte: Traditional latte made with espresso and steamed milk.
  • Milchkaffee: A German variation using a mellower coffee base and more milk.
  • Pumpkin Spice Latte: A seasonal favorite, combining espresso and milk with pumpkin spice flavors and sweet syrup.
  • Chocolate Latte: Blending chocolate syrup into the milk and espresso mixture for a sweet twist.

Macchiato Variations

Macchiatos are small, strong drinks made with an espresso shot and a dollop of steamed milk or milk foam. Notable variations include:

  • Espresso Macchiato: The classic form, with one espresso shot topped with a spoonful of milk foam.
  • Cafe Macchiato: A term used interchangeably with Espresso Macchiato.
  • Latte Macchiato: It features steamed milk "stained" with a small amount of espresso, enhancing the milk flavor without overpowering it.
  • Caramel Macchiato: A popular variation that adds caramel syrup to the Latte Macchiato.
  • Cloud Macchiato: A recent trend that includes an additional velvety and frothy layer of cold milk foam, highlighting the lightness and smoothness of the drink.

Flat White Variations

Flat whites are the perfect combination of bold espresso and microfoam steamed milk but involve less milk overall, leading to a stronger taste. Some variations include:

  • Ristretto Shot Flat White: Uses a ristretto shot (short, concentrated espresso) for an even bolder flavor.
  • Breve Flat White: Replaces regular steamed milk with half-and-half, resulting in richer and creamier taste.

Each of these variations offers a unique coffee experience to cater to individual tastes and preferences. Explore the different takes on lattes, macchiatos, and flat whites to discover the perfect espresso-based beverage for you.

How to Make Each Coffee Drink at Home


To make a macchiato, latte, and flat white at home, you'll need the following equipment:

  • Espresso machine or stovetop Moka pot
  • Coffee grinder (for whole bean espresso roast coffee)
  • Milk frother or steam wand (for frothing milk)



  1. Grind enough espresso roast coffee for a single shot.
  2. Prepare the espresso using your espresso machine, and pour the shot into a small cup.
  3. Froth a small amount of milk, and carefully pour a dollop of foam onto the espresso, creating a "spot" on top.


  1. Grind enough espresso roast coffee for a double shot.
  2. Prepare the espresso using your espresso machine, and pour the shots into a larger cup.
  3. Fill a separate cup with milk and froth it using a milk frother or steam wand.
  4. Gently pour the frothed milk into the cup with the espresso, allowing the milk to mix with the coffee. The ratio of milk to espresso should be roughly 3:1.

Flat White

  1. Grind enough espresso roast coffee for a ristretto shot (a shorter, more concentrated espresso shot).
  2. Prepare the ristretto shot using your espresso machine, and pour it into a cup.
  3. Fill a separate cup with milk and froth it using a milk frother or steam wand, aiming for a smoother and creamier texture than a latte.
  4. Gently pour the frothed milk over the ristretto shot, maintaining a smaller layer of foam compared to a latte. The ratio of milk to coffee should be about 2:1.

The table below showcases the differences in ratios:

Coffee Drink Coffee to Milk Ratio
Macchiato 1:1 (spot of milk foam)
Latte 1:3
Flat White 1:2

Remember, practice makes perfect, and the more you try these recipes at home, the better you will become at crafting these delicious coffee drinks. Enjoy experimenting with the equipment and recipes, and don't be afraid to customize the ratios and flavors to your liking.

Customizing Your Drink

Milk Alternatives

When it comes to customizing your espresso-based drinks like macchiato, latte, or flat white, there are various milk alternatives available to cater to different preferences and dietary restrictions. Popular milk substitutes include almond milk, oat milk, and coconut milk. These alternatives not only provide a unique flavor profile but also cater to those who may be lactose intolerant or seeking plant-based options. Additionally, you can opt for low-fat milk if you prefer a lighter and less calorie-dense drink.

Syrups and Flavorings

To further enhance and personalize your macchiato, latte, or flat white, there is a wide array of syrups and flavorings available. Starbucks, for example, offers a variety of options such as caramel, mocha, and the seasonal favorite, pumpkin spice. Chocolate syrup or cocoa powder can be added to create a rich and indulgent experience for chocolate lovers.

To customize your drink, consider the following options:

  • Milk Alternatives: almond, oat, coconut, or low-fat milk
  • Syrups: caramel, mocha, chocolate, pumpkin spice
  • Flavorings: cocoa powder, chocolate syrup

Remember, to keep it brief, the choice of milk alternatives and syrups or flavorings may vary depending on your preference or the espresso drink you're enjoying. Experimenting with different combinations can lead to discovering your perfect personalized cup of coffee.

Comparing Nutritional Values

When comparing the nutritional values of a macchiato, latte, and flat white, there are a few differences to consider in terms of calories, fat, protein, and overall nutritional value. Below is a breakdown of these nutritional elements.


Each of these espresso-based drinks has a different calorie content. A macchiato contains the fewest calories due to its small size and minimal milk content, with approximately 85 grams of caffeine in a 2-ounce (60-gram) serving. Lattes and cappuccinos, on the other hand, have more calories due to the addition of frothy or steamed milk. Both lattes and cappuccinos contain around 173 mg of caffeine per 16-ounce (480-gram) serving.

Fat and Protein

The fat and protein content in these drinks will also vary depending on the type of milk used. Typically, whole milk contains more fat and protein than skim or plant-based milk options. When comparing a latte to a flat white, the latte will have a slightly lower fat and protein content as it contains more milk, while the flat white has a stronger espresso flavor and less milk, giving it a bolder taste.

Nutritional Value

The overall nutritional value of these drinks is primarily influenced by the type of milk used and any additional flavorings or sweeteners that may be added. Macchiatos, with their minimal milk content, will have the lowest nutritional value compared to lattes and flat whites. Lattes offer a modest nutritional value, as they contain more milk, while flat whites provide a balance between nutritional value and espresso flavor, considering they contain equal parts steamed milk and microfoam.

When selecting an espresso-based drink, it is essential to consider your taste preferences and nutritional needs. Macchiatos provide a concentrated espresso flavor with limited calories, while lattes and flat whites offer slightly more nutritional value due to their increased milk content. By understanding the differences in nutritional values among these popular beverages, individuals can make an informed decision when choosing their next coffee drink.

Famous Coffee Shops and their Signature Offerings

When it comes to famous coffee shops around the world, each has its unique take on espresso-based drinks, including the macchiato, latte, and flat white. These popular beverages differ in taste, milk content, and presentation, providing a diverse range of choices for coffee enthusiasts.

In Italy, the birthplace of espresso, the traditional macchiato is a strong and bold coffee choice. It's typically made with a single shot of espresso and a small amount of foamed milk on top, resulting in a richer and more intense flavor. Italian coffee shops, such as Sant'Eustachio Il Caffè in Rome, take great pride in presenting their espresso creations.

Heading down under to Australia, where the flat white originated, this beverage offers a creamy and velvety consistency. Coffee shops like Market Lane Coffee in Melbourne showcase the flat white's perfect harmony between espresso and steamed milk. This drink is characterized by its even blend of 60% steamed milk, 20% espresso, and 20% milk foam, making it a popular choice among those who prefer a milder coffee experience.

Starbucks, the world-renowned coffee chain originating in Seattle, USA, has made the macchiato, latte, and flat white accessible to the masses. At Starbucks, the Latte Macchiato and Flat White are two distinct espresso creations that use simple ingredients, with the difference being in the way they're crafted. The Latte Macchiato features bold, rich espresso, while the Flat White showcases the very best of steamed milk.

In Spain, many coffee shops offer cortados, macchiatos, lattes, and even flat whites—but with a Spanish twist. Cafés like Satan's Coffee Corner in Barcelona serve a cortado made with equal amounts of espresso and steamed milk, resulting in a well-balanced and strong coffee beverage that appeals to a wide array of palates.

Famous coffee shops, like Panther Coffee in Miami, Florida, are well-known for their Latin American influence. Due to their easy access to countries like Guatemala, they can develop direct relationships with coffee producers, ensuring high-quality beans for their espresso-based offerings.

In summary, the macchiato, latte, and flat white represent different espresso art forms celebrated by coffee aficionados across the globe. From the intensity of the traditional Italian macchiato to the smoothness of an Australian flat white, coffee shops everywhere put their unique spin on these beloved beverages.

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Tony Barlow

Tony Barlow

Majesty Coffee Technical Sales Expert - Meet the Team

Tony Barlow, with over a decade of experience in the coffee industry, is the go-to technical sales expert at Majesty Coffee. He's passionate about helping businesses find the right espresso equipment for their needs.

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