The Key Difference Between Macchiato And Cortado!

cup of macchiato and cortado
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In the world of coffee, few debates are as heated as the one between Macchiato and Cortado. These two espresso-based drinks may look similar initially, but their distinct differences set them apart.

But fear not, coffee lovers, for I will guide you through this caffeinated conundrum. So grab your favorite mug, sit back, and begin brewing.

The Macchiato is an espresso-based drink with a small amount of milk foam. The word “Macchiato” actually means “stained” in Italian, so the milk foam “stains” the espresso. 

On the other hand, the Cortado is a Spanish drink made by combining espresso with an equal amount of steamed milk.

The word “Cortado” means “cut,” referring to the fact that the milk “cuts” the acidity of the espresso.

Both drinks have a similar ratio of espresso to milk, but the Macchiato has more foam, while the Cortado has more steamed milk. The Macchiato is stronger and more bitter, while the Cortado is creamier and sweeter.

Now, the million-dollar question – which one do I like more? Personally, I’m a Cortado all the way. I love how the milk softens the espresso’s acidity, and the creamy texture hits the spot.

As a coffee enthusiast, it’s essential to understand the nuances of each beverage, and that’s where this article comes in.

Join me as we explore the characteristics of Macchiato and Cortado and determine which one may suit your taste buds best.


Macchiato vs. Cortado (At a Glance)

Considerations MacchiatoCortado
Origin Italy Spain 
Name meaning “Stained” in Italian, referring to the milk foam “staining” the espresso“Cut” in Spanish, referring to the milk “cutting” the acidity of the espresso
CompositionEspresso + milk foamEspresso + milk foam
Espresso ratio2:1 or 4:1 depending on single or double shot1:1
Milk TextureA small amount of milk foam on topSmooth and silky steamed milk
Milk content and typeLow amount of foamed milkEqual amount of steamed milk
Serving sizeSmaller, typically a single (2 oz) shot or double shot of espresso (4 oz)Slightly larger, typically a double shot of espresso (4.5 oz) and warm
TasteStrong espresso flavor with a slight hint of creaminessModerate espresso flavor with light sweetness and creaminess
ColorDarker with a dollop of froth on the topBrownish with a distinct head of froth on top
Calories per serving8.9 Kcal22 Kcal
Flavor notesBold, bitter, and acidicCreamy, sweet, and smooth
Best time to drink itMorning or afternoon when you need a strong caffeine kickAnytime when you want a smooth and balanced coffee drink
PairingsBiscotti, croissants, chocolateBiscotti, croissants, chocolate
cup of macchiato and cortado

What is a Macchiato?

The Macchiato is the coffee that confuses everyone but is also delightful. But what exactly is this delicious beverage?

The word “Macchiato” means “stained” in Italian, which makes sense when considering its origin. It is a single espresso “stained” shot with a small amount of milk foam.

The serving size of the drink is smaller than other coffee drinks, usually served in a 1 1/4 ounce (37 ml).

Some might argue that the Macchiato is just a fancy latte or cappuccino, but true coffee aficionados know that’s not true. The Macchiato is a unique and distinct coffee beverage with a punch with its bold, intense espresso flavor.

Related Read: Macchiato vs. Cappuccino (Key Differences And Recipe)

How to Make Macchiato?

Do you want to know how to make a Macchiato? Well, grab your apron, and let’s get started.

There are two types of Macchiatos: traditional and latte. A traditional Macchiato is just an espresso shot with a small amount of steamed milk foam.

A latte Macchiato is steamed milk with a splash of espresso on top. Both are easy to make at home with an espresso machine or a manual espresso maker.


You’ll need the following ingredients to make a Macchiato:

Step-by-step preparation guide

For a traditional Macchiato:

  • Grind about 18 to 21 grams of coffee beans for a double shot of espresso. Use a fine-grind setting on your grinder.
  • Fill the portafilter of your espresso machine or manual espresso maker with ground coffee and tamp it evenly.
  • Brew the espresso shot into a small cup or glass.
  • Steam about 1/4 cup of milk until it’s hot and foamy. You can use an electric milk frother, a steam wand, a microwave, and a mason jar.
  • Spoon some milk foam over the espresso shot, leaving space for the coffee to show through.

Enjoy your traditional Macchiato hot, or add some sugar if you like it sweet.

macchiato in making

For a latte Macchiato

  • Steam about 3/4 cup of milk until it’s hot and foamy. You can use an electric milk frother, a steam wand, a microwave, and a mason jar.
  • Pour the steamed milk into a tall glass, leaving some room at the top for the foam.
  • Grind about 9 to 10 grams of coffee beans for a single shot of espresso. Use a fine-grind setting on your grinder.
  • Fill the portafilter of your espresso machine or manual espresso maker with ground coffee and tamp it evenly.
  • Brew the espresso shot over the steamed milk in the glass, creating layers of color and flavor.

Pro tip: To make your drink more flavorful, you can add some flavored syrup to your milk by steaming it, such as caramel, vanilla, hazelnut, etc. Plus, you can even try some latte art to give your beverage an artistic touch.

Types of Macchiato

Macchiatos come in all shapes and sizes, and if you thought there was only one type of Macchiato, boy, you are in for a treat. Here are some of the most popular types of Macchiatos:

Espresso Macchiato

This is the traditional and simplest form of Macchiato. It consists of a shot of espresso with a small amount of steamed milk foam on top. Plus, it is served in a small cup and usually has one or two teaspoons of foam.

Latte Macchiato

This is a more milky and diluted version of Macchiato. It consists of steamed milk with a shot of espresso poured on top. Finally, it is served in a tall glass and usually has more foam than an espresso Macchiato.

Caramel Macchiato

This popular variation of latte Macchiato adds caramel syrup to the mix. The caramel syrup is drizzled on the foam. This creates a sweet and sticky contrast to the bitter espresso.

Cup of espresso macchiato

What is a Cortado?

Try a Cortado if you love coffee but find espresso too strong or acidic.

A Cortado is a Spanish drink that consists of espresso “cut” with warm milk in a 1:1 ratio. The milk reduces the espresso’s bitterness and creates a smooth and balanced flavor.

Unlike milk-based coffee drinks like lattes or cappuccinos, a Cortado has very little foam on top. This allows the milk and espresso to blend more harmoniously.

A Cortado is usually served in a small glass or metal cup, about the size of two espresso cups. It originated in Spain, most likely Madrid, but has spread to other countries and regions, such as Portugal, Cuba, and Australia.

Unlike the Macchiato, which is all about bold espresso flavor, the Cortado is a milder option with a flavorful punch.

How to Make Cortado?

Ready to make your very own Cortado? Hold on to your hats (or aprons) because it’s about to get real.


  • Fresh coffee beans (preferably dark roast and robusta or robusta blends)
  • A coffee grinder
  • An espresso machine
  • A milk steamer
  • A small cup or glass (about 4 ounces)

Step-by-step Guide

Here are the steps to follow:

  • Grind your coffee beans finely and evenly. You will need about 4 tablespoons of ground coffee for two espresso shots.
  • Fill your espresso machine’s portafilter with ground coffee and tamp it firmly. I used the De’Longhi Dedica Arte Espresso Machine for making my Cortado.
  • Brew two shots of espresso into your cup or glass. This should take about 20 seconds and yield about one ounce of espresso.
  • While the espresso is brewing, steam some whole milk until it’s hot and slightly frothy. You will need about one ounce of milk for each shot of espresso.
  • Gently pour the steamed milk over your cup or glass of espresso. Try to keep it layered to see the contrast between the dark coffee and the light milk.

Enjoy your Cortado. You can add some sugar or sweetener if you like, but be careful not to overpower the natural flavors of the coffee and milk.

Related Read: Cortado Vs Latte: Which One Should You Go For?

cortado in making

Types of Cortado

The Cortado may seem like a simple coffee, but several different types exist. Each variation adds a unique twist to the classic Cortado.

Here are some of the most popular types:

  • Cortado condensada: Espresso with condensed milk, popular in Spain and Latin America.
  • Leche y leche: Espresso with condensed milk and cream on top1.
  • Noisette: Espresso with a dash of hot milk, similar to a French version of Cortado.
  • Piccolo: A single ristretto shot with steamed milk, served in a small glass, common in Australia.
  • Gibraltar: Espresso with steamed milk, served in a Gibraltar glass by Libbey Glass Company, originated in San Francisco.

Note: If you are not familiar with the above names, this is because they are written in Spanish. 

Gibraltar cortado in making

Macchiato vs. Cortado- Key differences


Macchiato and Cortado are made with espresso and milk but have different flavors and textures.

A Macchiato is an espresso with a splash of foamed milk on top. It has a strong and bitter taste with a hint of creaminess. It’s perfect for those who love the pure flavor of the coffee.

A Cortado is an espresso with equal parts of steamed milk. It has a smoother and sweeter taste with less acidity. It’s ideal for those who prefer a milder and silkier drink.


Regarding strength, the Macchiato and Cortado are two different intensity levels.

The Macchiato is a strong espresso drink with a powerful caffeine punch. It’s like a double shot of espresso with a dash of steamed milk to soften the blow.

On the other hand, the Cortado is a bit more mellow and easygoing, with a smooth and balanced flavor that’s perfect for sipping on throughout the day.


The Macchiato and Cortado could not be more different in terms of appearance.

The Macchiato is a tiny, concentrated shot of espresso with just a dollop of foam on top, giving it a rough look. It’s like a scrappy little fighter that packs a punch. 

Meanwhile, the Cortado is more refined and elegant, with a smooth layer of steamed milk that perfectly complements the rich espresso. It is light-colored with less acidity.

cup of macchiato and cortado

Brewing Time

If you’re in a hurry and need a quick caffeine fix, you should order a Macchiato. This drink has one or two shots of espresso (2 oz or 4 oz) and a dollop of frothed milk. It takes less than a minute to brew and has a strong espresso flavor with a slight hint of creaminess.

The Cortado may take longer to prepare than the Macchiato. It requires more milk steaming and careful pouring to achieve the perfect balance between espresso and milk.


Comparing the cost of a Macchiato and Cortado can be tricky, as it can vary depending on factors such as the quality of ingredients and the cafe’s location.

A Macchiato is usually cheaper than a Cortado because it has less milk and less espresso. Therefore, it will typically cost $2.50-$4. In comparison, a Starbucks Macchiato ranges from $3.65 to $4.75.

On the other hand, a Cortado will cost $3.50-$4.50. That’s a difference of $1-$0.50 per cup.

Serving Size

If you want a quick caffeine fix with a touch of milk, you should order a Macchiato.

This drink is an espresso shot “stained” with a spoonful of milk foam. It’s served hot in a small cup with a strong coffee flavor. A single Macchiato is about 2 oz, while a double is 4 oz.

If you prefer a smoother and creamier coffee experience, you might enjoy a Cortado. It’s served warm in a glass cup and has a mild coffee taste with some sweetness from the milk. A Cortado is usually 4.5 oz, but it can vary depending on how many espresso shots are used.

Nutritional Value

Nutritional informationMacchiato (1 fl. Oz.)*Cortado (2.7 fl. Oz. Dolce Gusto Cortado)**
Calories 6.9 kcal22.2 kcal
Total fat0.2 g1 g
Sugar 0.5 g2 g
Cholesterol 0.90 mg0
Caffeine 42.60 mg63-126 mg, depending on espresso shots
Water 28.47 g

*As per USDA guidelines

**According to Calorie-Charts

Ratio of espresso in macchiato and cortado

The Final Verdict – Which one is good?

So, you’ve learned about Macchiato and Cortado, but which is better? That’s like asking which is better: chocolate or vanilla? It’s a matter of personal taste and preference.

Are you in the mood for a bold and intense espresso with a touch of sweetness? Go for the Macchiato. Looking for a smooth and creamy espresso with a balanced flavor? Choose the Cortado.

The bottom line is: don’t let anyone tell you what kind of coffee you should drink. You’re the boss of your own brew. Enjoy!


Can you Customize the Milk Ratio in Macchiato and Cortado?

Yes, the milk ratio can be customized in both Macchiato and Cortado. However, the standard ratio for Macchiato is two parts espresso and one part milk foam. In contrast, the standard ratio for Cortado is one part espresso and one part steamed milk.

Are Macchiato and Cortado Served in the Same Size of Cups?

Macchiato and Cortado are sometimes served in the same-sized cup. Macchiatos are usually 2 or 4 ounces depending on the number of espresso shots, while Cortados are usually 4.5 ounces.

What is the Nutritional Value of Macchiato vs. Cortado?

The nutritional value of Macchiato and Cortado varies depending on the milk used and any added sweeteners. Generally, they are low in calories.

What is a Cortadito, and How Does It Differ from a Cortado?

A Cortado is a Cuban version of a Cortado that is made with sweetened condensed milk instead of regular milk. It is sweeter and richer than a Cortado and is usually served in a smaller cup (about 2 ounces).

Which Coffee Drink is More Suitable for People Who Prefer a Strong or a Mild Coffee Taste?

Cortado is more suitable for people who prefer a mild coffee taste, while Macchiato is more suitable for people who prefer a strong coffee taste.

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