What is the difference between cortado and macchiato coffee Drinks?

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Johny Morrisson

The main difference between a macchiato and a cortado is the ratio of milk to espresso and how the milk is prepared. A macchiato is made with a shot of espresso and a small amount of foamed milk layered on top, while a cortado is made with an equal amount of steamed milk and espresso, which gives a creamy flavor.

If you prefer just a touch of milk in your espresso drink, go for a macchiato and if you want something more milky and mellowed out, then you’ll love cortado.

Macchiato vs Cortado

What is Macchiato?

Espresso macchiato is made by adding a small amount of milk foam over an Espresso shot. The Italian word “macchiato” means “marked” or “stained,” which refers to Espresso stained with milk foam.

It’s similar to a tiny cappuccino only with less milk and more espresso.

Espresso Macchiato has just enough milk to take the edge off the bitterness of the espresso and create a creamy texture, but not so much that it dilutes the intense taste of the espresso.


How’s Macchiato Made?

Traditionally, the Espresso Macchiato is made by combining a single or double shot of Espresso with 1 oz of foamed milk.

Here’s how it’s done:

  • Start by pulling a shot of espresso. Use dark roasted beans for a strong flavor profile.
  • Froth a small amount of milk (2-3 tbsps), just enough to create a dollop or two. You want the milk to be nice and frothy, but not too hot.
  • Add the Frothed milk on top of the espresso, using a spoon to create a small mark or “stain” on the surface. This is where the name “macchiato” comes from – the milk “marks” the espresso.
  • Serve and enjoy! Some people like to add a touch of sweetness with a sprinkle of cinnamon or a drizzle of caramel syrup, but that’s totally up to you.

And there you have it, a delicious and beautifully crafted macchiato. It may be small in size, but it packs a big punch of flavor. Give it a try and see for yourself!

What is Cortado?

Cortado coffee is a popular milky espresso-based drink that originated in Spain. The word “Cortado” means “to cut” in Spanish which essentially means to cut the bitterness of Espresso with the addition of a small amount of milk. It is made by mixing equal parts of espresso and steamed milk.

The milk is not frothed but steamed to give a velvety texture that complements the espresso. It’s a small, creamy, and strong coffee that you can savor slowly in a small glass.

Cortado is the perfect choice if you want a coffee drink that’s more balanced than espresso and less milky than a latte.

Cortado coffee

How’s Cortado Made?

Cortado is made with a 2 oz double shot of Espresso and 2 oz of steamed milk on top.

Cortados are typically 4 ounces in size and are often served in small glasses or cups. They make a great pick-me-up in the afternoon or any time of day when you want a delicious and sophisticated coffee drink.

Which is stronger macchiato or cortado?

Macchiatos have a stronger coffee taste than Cortados because they contain less milk. The espresso flavors are in the front – bold, rich, and relatively undiluted by milk.

Flavor-wise, a cortado is still plenty bold and coffee-forward, but it has a smoother, more approachable mouthfeel compared to a macchiato.

Personally, I love them both! I go for the macchiato if I’m in the mood for a real espresso jolt. And I pick Cortado when I want something a bit more mellow yet still showcasing great espresso.

As both cortado and macchiato are typically prepared with double shots of espresso, they are essentially equal in terms of caffeine content which is around 120-133 mg.

Macchiato Vs Cortado

The Difference in type and amount of Milk

One of the main differences between cortado and macchiato is the type and amount of milk used.

There is a 1:1 ratio of espresso to milk in a cortado.

On the other hand, a macchiato is made by adding only 2 or 3 tablespoons of milk foam on top of the espresso to add a hint of sweetness.

Macchiatos are made with frothed milk, while Cortados are made with steamed milk.

In case you are wondering what’s the difference between these milks.

Steamed milk is dense and velvety, and has minimal air incorporated while Foamed milk gets vigorously aerated so it takes on a light and frothy texture.

The difference in the Calories 

Espresso has very few calories on its own. A double shot of espresso has only 5-6 calories.

So it’s actually the amount of milk that adds calories to the drink.

There are about 20-25 calories in a Macchiato since it contains only two to three tablespoons of milk. On the other hand, Cortado contains about 2 ounces of milk, which adds around 40-50 calories.

Note: These numbers are without any addition of sugar or sweetener. A tbsp of sugar will add an extra 15-20 calories to the drink.

Macchiato and cortado are ideal low-calorie alternatives to lattes, cappuccinos, and sweetened condensed milk-based drinks for individuals on a diet.

Variations of Machhiato and Cortado

Both cortado and macchiato have various variations based on the region and personal preferences.

The Variations of Espresso Macchiato

Caramel Macchiato: A variation of macchiato with caramel syrup and sometimes whipped cream on top.

Hazelnut Macchiato: It is made by adding Hazelnut Syrup to the Macchiato. The hazelnut syrup adds a rich, nutty flavor to the latte macchiato, complementing the espresso shot nicely.

Mocha Macchiato: It is a favorite among chocolate lovers and is made by adding chocolate syrup to the Macchiato.

The Variations of Cortado

Cortado Condensada: In some parts of Spain, a cortado is made with condensed milk instead of simple whole milk which makes the drink even sweeter.

Cortadito: It is a Cuban version of Cortado. It is made by blending the Espresso shot with the Cuban sugar and adding equal parts of condensed milk at the top.

Macchiato vs Cortado? What’s the best

And there you have it—all the key differences between Macchiatos and Cortados broken down.

While I can appreciate the purity of a macchiato, I’m definitely more of a cortado person. I just love how the additional steamed milk smooths out the espresso’s strength.

But what about you – are you Team Macchiato or Team Cortado? Let me know in the comments which one you prefer and why!

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Johny Morrison is a founder and content creator at Coffee About. He knows everything there is to know about coffee and loves sharing his passion with others.

You can often find him sipping a single-origin pour-over, rich French press, or pulling espresso shots at home. Johny loves full-bodied dark roasts – the bolder, the better!

As a former barista, he takes coffee equipment seriously and enjoys experimenting with the latest gear. When he’s not brewing or blogging, Johny is scouting local cafes for his next coffee fix.

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