latte and macchiato

Are you an espresso lover looking to unravel the mysteries of the upside down macchiato and latte? Look no further! Our comprehensive guide breaks down the differences between these two classic espresso drinks, so you can sip with confidence and impress your barista with your newfound knowledge.

Understanding Latte and Macchiato

Popularity and Origin

The latte and macchiato are both popular coffee drinks that originated in Italy. Although they share some similarities, they each have distinct characteristics which make them unique.

Ingredients and Preparation

A latte consists of espresso and steamed milk, resulting in a larger, creamier drink. It is typically made using one part espresso to three parts steamed milk, and is topped with a small amount of milk foam. On the other hand, a macchiato is an espresso-based drink with a small amount of milk foam, usually served in a smaller cup. The traditional macchiato has a higher ratio of espresso and can only be served hot. In the case of an upside-down macchiato, the order of the ingredients is reversed, with the milk foam at the bottom and the espresso poured on top.

Latte Macchiato
Espresso 1 part High ratio
Milk Foam Small amount Small amount
Steamed Milk 3 parts None
Served Hot or Iced Hot only

Flavors and Texture

Lattes have a more balanced and delicate flavor due to the larger amount of milk, which softens the taste of the espresso. This results in a smoother, milder coffee experience. The texture of a latte is creamy and velvety, owing to the steamed milk and milk foam.

Macchiatos, with their higher ratio of espresso, have a richer, bolder coffee flavor. The small amount of milk foam adds a touch of creaminess, but the overall taste is stronger and more robust than a latte. The texture of a macchiato is less creamy compared to a latte, but still has a slight silkiness due to the milk foam.

In an upside-down macchiato, the flavors and textures are similar to a traditional macchiato but with a slight twist from the reversed layering of the ingredients. This creates an interesting visual presentation and a unique drinking experience.

Key Differences between Latte and Macchiato

Appearance and Layers

Lattes and macchiatos have distinct visual differences primarily in their layering. A latte usually comprises a single or double shot of espresso, topped with steamed milk and a small layer of milk foam. The layers in a latte are generally more blended together, giving it a smoother, creamier appearance.

A macchiato, on the other hand, stands apart due to its unique layering. Espresso forms the base, and a small amount of milk foam is spooned on top—forming a well-defined layer. In the case of an upside-down macchiato, which is also known as a latte macchiato, the milk is poured in first, followed by the espresso. This creates distinctive separated layers, visually setting it apart from both the standard macchiato and the latte.

Milk to Espresso Ratio

The milk-to-espresso ratio is another crucial difference between lattes and macchiatos. Lattes have a higher milk-to-espresso ratio, which reduces the espresso's intensity and lends a creamier texture. Typically, a latte consists of one-third espresso, two-thirds steamed milk, and a thin layer of milk foam.

In contrast, macchiatos have a lower milk-to-espresso ratio. Macchiatos are predominantly espresso with a small dollop of milk foam on top. The upside-down macchiato, or latte macchiato, typically has more milk than the traditional macchiato but still retains a stronger espresso flavor compared to a latte.

Serving Size and Style

The serving size of lattes and macchiatos differs significantly. Generally, lattes are served in larger cups, ranging from 8 to 16 ounces, depending on the number of espresso shots and the desired milk quantity.

Macchiatos are typically smaller, served in demitasse cups for the traditional style, and accommodate the concentrated espresso and dollop of foam. The upside-down macchiato, being slightly larger because of the additional milk, may be served in a slightly bigger cup than a traditional macchiato, but it still remains smaller than a typical latte.

Flavor Profile and Intensity

The flavor profiles of lattes and macchiatos also contrast due to the different proportions of espresso and milk. Lattes have a smoother, creamier taste, with the steamed milk and milk foam softening the espresso's intensity. This makes them less bold and more suitable for those who prefer milder coffee drinks.

In understanding the nuances between these two beverages, it's equally vital to consider the equipment used in making them. Much like a skilled barista, the quality of an espresso machine can deeply influence the outcome of your coffee. For establishments seeking to provide patrons with the finest espresso beverages, it's essential to invest in top-notch equipment. If you're in the market to upgrade or start your coffee journey, you might want to buy a commercial grade espresso maker. These machines, designed for commercial purposes, ensure that every espresso shot pulled and every latte or macchiato crafted achieves perfection, enhancing the richness and depth of flavor that discerning coffee lovers seek.

The Art of Macchiato Variations

Espresso Macchiato

An Espresso Macchiato is a rich, bold coffee drink that showcases the strong flavors of espresso. It consists primarily of espresso and is "marked" with just a small amount of steamed milk and foam. This provides a sippable yet full-bodied espresso experience with a hint of creaminess.

Latte Macchiato

The Latte Macchiato, on the other hand, is predominately made of steamed milk that's combined with espresso. The result is a much creamier and softer taste compared to the Espresso Macchiato. The milk-to-coffee ratio in a traditional macchiato generally follows a 1:2 proportion, while a typical latte uses a 2:1 milk-to-coffee ratio.

Caramel Macchiato

The Caramel Macchiato is a delightful, sweet variation of the macchiato family. It is characterized by the addition of caramel syrup, which infuses the drink with a rich, satisfying flavor. The combination of espresso, steamed milk, foam, and caramel creates a velvety, balanced taste that is both soothing and invigorating.

Cloud Macchiato

The Cloud Macchiato is an innovative adaptation that offers a different texture compared to its counterparts. This unique macchiato variation incorporates a cloud-like layer of foam over the espresso, creating an ethereal and visually striking drink. The microfoam adds a subtle hint of texture, making the Cloud Macchiato a delightful option for those who enjoy a different sensory experience.

Starbucks Options and Adaptations

Starbucks has made a significant contribution to the popularity of macchiatos by offering various adaptations tailored to customers' preferences. The iconic coffee chain not only provides the classic Espresso and Latte Macchiatos but also popularized the Caramel and Cloud Macchiatos. Additionally, they offer a range of sweet syrups and customization options, such as the inclusion of sugar substitutes, allowing each customer to create their perfect macchiato.

In summary, the various macchiato variations offer coffee enthusiasts an array of choices, from the bold and strong Espresso Macchiato to the sweet and soothing Caramel Macchiato. With the creative innovations from Starbucks and coffee lovers alike, there's a macchiato option for every taste and preference.

Latte and Macchiato Comparison with Other Coffee Drinks


Cappuccino is a popular coffee drink made with equal parts of espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. It has a strong coffee flavor, with the foam adding a creamy and velvety texture. Compared to an upside-down macchiato, which has a milder taste due to the larger milk proportion, the cappuccino offers a bolder coffee experience. Cappuccinos are often found in coffee shops worldwide and typically feature intricate latte art on the foam surface.

Flat White

A flat white is similar to a cappuccino but has a higher ratio of milk to espresso, with a smaller amount of milk foam. The taste profile falls between an upside-down macchiato and a cappuccino, offering a slightly more intense coffee flavor than a macchiato. Flat whites are popular in countries like Australia and New Zealand and are now gaining widespread recognition in various coffee shops.


Cortado is a coffee drink that consists of an equal mix of espresso and steamed milk. This combination creates a balanced taste between the bold, bitter espresso and the smooth milk. Like the upside-down macchiato, the cortado is less intense than a cappuccino but still offers a strong coffee flavor. Espresso machines are vital when crafting this beverage, which is common in countries like Spain and Portugal.

Café au lait

Café au lait is a French coffee consisting of equal parts brewed coffee and steamed milk. While it contains more coffee than an upside-down macchiato or a latte, it lacks espresso's intensity. It is smoother and less bitter than other coffee drinks, with a less creamy texture due to the absence of milk foam. Some coffee shops even offer café au lait with alternative milk options like almond milk.


A breve is an espresso-based drink made by adding steamed half-and-half cream to espresso rather than milk. This gives the breve a richer, creamier texture compared to standard lattes and macchiatos. Due to the higher fat content in half-and-half, the breve is more indulgent but offers a similarly mild coffee taste as an upside-down macchiato.

Caffè Latte

Caffè latte is a classic coffee drink made with a larger amount of steamed milk than most other espresso-based beverages, topped with a small amount of milk foam. The taste is milder than an upside-down macchiato due to its higher milk-to-espresso ratio, but still highlights the coffee's flavor. Latte art is also common on caffè lattes in many coffee shops, making it visually appealing as well as enjoyable to drink.

Customizing Your Drink

Milk Options

When comparing an upside-down macchiato and a latte, both drinks can be customized to suit specific tastes. One of the main ways to do this is by selecting the type of milk used. Common milk options include whole milk, skim milk, almond milk, and oat milk:

  • Whole Milk: Offers a creamier texture and richer flavor to your drink.
  • Skim Milk: Provides a lighter and less dense alternative for those seeking fewer calories.
  • Almond Milk: A popular dairy-free, nutty-flavored option that provides a nuanced taste.
  • Oat Milk: Another dairy-free choice offering a smooth, mild flavor that doesn't overpower the coffee.

Updating the milk type you prefer can create a noticeable difference in the consistency and flavor of your upside-down macchiato or latte.

Different Sweeteners and Flavors

To further customize an upside-down macchiato or latte, consider experimenting with a variety of sweeteners and flavored syrups. Here are some examples:

  • Simple Syrup: A basic sweetener made from sugar and water that allows the coffee's natural flavors to shine through.
  • Vanilla Syrup: Adds a touch of warmth and sweetness that is complementary to both espresso and milk.
  • Caramel Syrup: Enhances the drink with a rich, buttery taste and a subtle sweetness.
  • Hazelnut Syrup: Offers a nutty flavor profile that pairs well with coffee.

Remember to adjust the sweetness level to suit your preferences, whether that means adding more or less syrup.

Nutritional Variations

The selection of milk, sweeteners, and flavors can also impact the nutritional profile of an upside-down macchiato or latte. For instance, whole milk will contribute more fat, protein, and calories compared to skim milk. Dairy-free options like almond milk and oat milk generally have fewer calories and less protein but are often higher in carbs. Additionally, sweeteners such as simple syrup or flavored syrups can add extra calories and sugar content to your drink.

By considering these factors, you can create a drink that accommodates your specific dietary requirements or preferences.

DIY: Making Your Own Latte and Macchiato

Equipment Needed

  • An espresso machine or moka pot
  • A milk frother or steam wand
  • A thermometer (optional)
  • A cup or glass appropriate for your beverage
  • A spoon (for macchiatos)

Creating the Perfect Steamed and Frothed Milk

Begin with fresh, cold milk for the best frothing results. Depending on your preference, you can use whole, skim, or non-dairy milk options. Using an espresso machine's steam wand or a dedicated milk frother, start frothing the milk by holding the wand just below the milk's surface until it has doubled in size and is very foamy. Lower the steam wand slightly and continue frothing until the milk reaches about 150 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use a thermometer or judge the temperature by the point at which you can't hold the pitcher for more than a few seconds.

Pouring Techniques and Latte Art

For a latte, begin by pouring your espresso shot into your cup. Then, slowly pour your steamed milk into the cup, allowing the microfoam on top to form a smooth, velvety layer. If you'd like to create latte art, pour the milk from a higher point while gently wiggling the pitcher. This will create beautiful designs on the surface of the latte.

For a macchiato, first pour the espresso shot into your cup, top with foam, and place a spoon on top of the foam. The spoon will help to keep the foam from mixing with the espresso, resulting in those distinguishing macchiato layers.

For an upside-down caramel macchiato, pour caramel syrup into your cup first, followed by the espresso, the steamed milk, and finally top with ice. The ice will help to keep the layers separate, giving you that upside-down macchiato effect.

I hope you found this guide helpful in your quest to make the perfect latte and macchiato at home. With the right equipment, techniques, and a little bit of practice, you'll be on your way to barista-level beverages in no time.

Latte information
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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