Learn how you can make the perfect macchiato at home with your espresso machine

How to make the perfect macchiato

We’re all familiar with the coffee shop standards: cappuccino, espresso, latte. You might even have made your first attempt in creating some of the coffee at home recipes we’ve shared of late – but we all have those coffee names that baffle us a bit. A lot of coffee recipes with ‘ato’ and ‘ino’ are thrown around these days, so it can be a bit of a minefield. The humble but brilliant macchiato, however, is a simple but brilliantly authentic drink that we think you should learn more about. You’ve likely heard of it or even seen it on the menu, but have you tried it, or better yet, do you know what goes into it when made authentically? Here’s your chance to expand your repertoire, and enjoy a new cup of coffee while you’re at it (hint: it does not need caramel sauce!).

So, what is a macchiato exactly?

Think of your macchiato (or caffe macchiato, if you’re going authentically Italian) as the best bits of cappuccino and espresso combined; joining espresso with foamed milk to create a drink which is quicker to drink and stronger than a cappuccino, but avoids that immediate espresso buzz due to being tempered by the frothing milk. In a traditional short version of the drink, you are essentially looking at an espresso topped with foamed milk, but the mixture of two drinks means it’s a lot more exciting than that! It’s a classic, but often overlooked, recipe which deserves attention. We love to recommend macchiato as an ideal coffee recipe to transition with if you are dabbling in drinks and want to eventually savour the pure flavour of espresso; but need easing in. You’ll get the full caffeine quantity that you would in a normal espresso, but this is tempered with the addition of foamed milk, which you can have in a variety of stages – super foamy, almost like a coffee float, or added in to ease the espresso hit. Saying this, we think macchiato can also be a fantastic drink to add to your repertoire and taste buds, in its own right!

What does macchiato mean?

The phrase ‘macchiato’ comes from the Italian ‘stained’, referring to the espresso which stains the milk, or the milk which stains the espresso. Macchiato can also vary in strength, though if we’re going with the meaning of the word, the macchiato should be mainly espresso, as opposed to being completely diluted by the milk. If you’re going authentic ordering an ‘espresso macchiato’ ensures you get the traditional recipe we’re adhering to below, while ordering a ‘latte macchiato’ will get you a larger milk ratio. The standard UK coffee drinks order of ‘macchiato’ might serve you up with a syrupy, latte style concoction with various flavourings and nowhere near enough actual coffee – not authentic to what a macchiato really is. To be sure, ask for an ‘espresso macchiato’, or ask to see the cup size they’re going to use. It shouldn’t look much bigger than a double espresso cup! Then again – you don’t really need to know that, as you’re avoiding the queues and making it at home with our step by step guide, and it will be all the better an experience for it!

Pulling an espresso

How to make your macchiatoo

We’re assuming you want to make two, traditional short macchiatos (or macchiati, if you’re going Italian!). Feel free to double up if you’re serving a bigger crowd. You’ll need:

  • An espresso machine, or a Moka Pot (sometimes called the Stove Top)
  • 4 heaped tablespoons of whole coffee beans (whole beans keep it fresh)
  • Your choice of milk. We recommend around 200ml to not overpower the espresso – if you’re going plant based, make it ‘barista style’ as we need the fat content to ensure a good foam.
  • A steam wand (included on most coffee machines, but can be exchanged for a milk frother plus pre-heated milk done on the hob in a pan, see below)
  • Either a metal milk jug or a pan plus frother to prep your milk
  • 2 small mugs – or if you’re particularly fancy, a double espresso size cup would be absolutely perfect for this

  1. Grind your coffee to a very fine consistency as per our ‘how to make an espresso’ article. Whole beans are always the freshest and best way!
  2. If you don’t have an espresso machine, now is the time to follow our ‘What is an espresso’ article, creating enough espresso for 2 people as stated in the recipe. Otherwise, add your ground coffee to your machine and select ‘double espresso’, leaving both cups underneath to collect the delicious nectar.
  3. Time to prepare your milk foam. If you don’t have an espresso machine, measure out 200ml of milk and heat very slowly in a pan. You do not want this to boil. As your milk heats you can test its readiness by periodically trying your milk foamer in the pan. If the milk starts to foam, it’s hot enough! If you have a steam wand fitted with an espresso machine, add your milk to your milk jug and gradually foam your milk as described in our ‘how to make the perfect cappuccino’ article. 
  4. Do you like your coffee frothy? If you do, leave the milk steamed as it is for now. If you prefer it as less frothy drink, once your milk is frothed, give the pan or jug a firm tap to incorporate the steamed milk and the froth that has accumulated on top.
  5. If you like the coffee foamy, spoon the milk foam onto the espresso to get that ‘staining’ effect that we mentioned earlier. If you like it smoother, pour in your milk until it reaches about double the height that the espresso was originally. You’re done! Enjoy!

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