Macchiato vs Cortado

Ah, the age-old debate of macchiato vs cortado. It’s like deciding between two delicious desserts – do you go for the rich and decadent chocolate cake or the creamy and tangy cheesecake?

Both are equally delicious in their own right, but which one reigns supreme? In the world of coffee, macchiato and cortado are two similar yet distinct drinks that can leave coffee lovers scratching their heads in confusion. 

Both macchiato and cortado are espresso-based drinks, but they differ in the ratio of milk to espresso and the way the milk is added. A macchiato is a shot of espresso with a small amount of milk added on top, while a cortado is a shot of espresso with an equal amount of steamed milk, resulting in a smooth and creamier taste.

Let’s dive in and see what sets these two drinks apart.

What is Macchiato?

In Italian, “macchiato” means “stained” or “marked,” which gives you a decent indication of what to anticipate. A macchiato is just a shot of espresso with a dollop of steamed milk on top. 

It’s similar to a tiny cappuccino only with less milk and more espresso. The goal is to have 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 robust taste of the espresso.

Try the macchiato if you’re searching for a fast and delectable pick-me-up.


How’s Macchiato Made?

According to Healthline:

“Traditionally, the macchiato is made by combining a shot of espresso with a small splash of milk.”

Making a macchiato is a bit like creating a tiny masterpiece. Here’s how it’s done:

  • Start by pulling a shot of espresso. This is the foundation of the drink, so make sure it’s a good one!
  • 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!

Read a detailed guide and recipe of Espresso Macchiato

What is Cortado?

Cortado coffee has Spanish Origins and 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.

The term “cortado” is derived from the Spanish word “cortar,” which means “to cut,” and this drink is called after the milk, which “cuts” the harshness of the espresso.

This drink comes from Spain and Latin America, and it’s gaining popularity in other parts of the world too.

If you’re looking for a smooth and flavorful coffee drink that’s not as strong as a straight espresso shot, you might want to try a cortado.

Cortado coffee

How’s Cortado Made?

The barista starts by making a shot of espresso. Then they heat up a little bit of milk until it’s smooth and creamy, then pour it into the espresso. The warm milk helps to overcome the bitterness of the espresso and gives the drink a creamy, smooth taste.

Cortado is usually made with a double shot of Espresso with an equal amount of steamed milk added to the top.

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

So next time you’re in the mood for a delectable and subtle coffee beverage, give the cortado a try. It’s a small but exquisite drink that’s sure to satisfy your coffee cravings.

Read a detailed guide and recipe of Cortado

Difference between Cortado and Macchiato

While both Cortado and Macchiato are prepared by adding a small amount of milk on top of Espresso shots yet there are some differences between them. Let’s dive in!

Macchiato vs Cortado

Is cortado stronger than macchiato?

As both cortado and macchiato are typically prepared with double shots of espresso, they are essentially equal in terms of caffeine content.

However, The flavor of a macchiato is more intense as it contains less milk compared to a cortado, resulting in a stronger, espresso-forward taste.

On the other hand, a cortado has a well-balanced flavor due to the use of equal parts espresso and milk.

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 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.

Compared to steam milk, frothed milk’s air bubbles are significantly bigger, have a larger volume, and feel lighter. On the tongue, it seems to dissolve. Because frothed milk includes more air and less water than steamed milk, baristas frequently describe it as being “drier” than steamed milk.

Taste and the flavor profiles 

The macchiato has a bold and robust flavor with a slightly sweet taste due to the dollop of foamed milk on top, which creates a silky texture and mellows the bitterness of the concentrated Espresso shots.

On the other hand, the cortado is a smooth and well-balanced coffee drink with an equal ratio of espresso and steamed milk, creating a creamy mouthfeel and a mild sweetness of steamed milk that complements the espresso shots.

While both drinks have the same base ingredients, the macchiato has a stronger espresso-forward taste, while the cortado offers a creamier texture with a smooth taste.

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 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.

If you’re limiting your calorie consumption, these drinks can be a smart choice without compromising the taste of milky Espresso drinks.

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

Americano Macchiato: The small amount of frothed milk added to the Americano gives it a slightly smoother taste without adding too much creaminess.

The Variations of Cortado

Cortado Condensada: In some parts of Spain, a cortado is made with a touch of condensed milk instead of simple 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

There is no definitive answer to whether macchiato or cortado is the best, I have done my part by making a detailed comparison between these two delicious beverages. Now it’s your turn to decide which one suits you.

As a coffee lover, I enjoy trying out different espresso-based drinks, and both cortado and macchiato are among my favorites. When I want a quick pick-me-up, I usually go for a macchiato as its bold and intense flavor never fails to energize me.

On the other hand, when I’m in the mood for a more indulgent treat, I opt for a cortado as its smooth and creamy texture satisfies my cravings.

As a coffee lover, I recommend trying out both cortado and macchiato to experience their unique flavors and textures. Whether you prefer a stronger and bolder coffee flavor or a smoother and creamier texture, both drinks offer a delicious and satisfying coffee experience.

Read Related Comparisons


Is A Cortado The Same As A Flat White?

Cortado and flat white are both espresso-based drinks with steamed milk, but they differ in milk texture and the ratio of espresso to milk.
In Flat Whites, steamed milk and foamed milk are both layered on top of Espresso. They are usually larger than Cortados.
Related Guide: Flat White vs Latte

Which One Is A Healthier Choice Cortado Or Macchiato?

When considering the health benefits of cortado and macchiato, both drinks are relatively low in calories and sugar, making them an excellent alternative to heavy Cappuccinos and Lattes.

Johny Morrisson is a passionate coffee enthusiast and an avid blogger dedicated to exploring the world of coffee.

Whether it's repairing or troubleshooting coffee equipment, reviewing cutting-edge brewing machines, or delving into the latest coffee trends, Johny's writing captivates readers and invites them on a flavorful journey.

When he's not writing, Johny enjoys traveling, seeking inspiration from different cultures and coffee traditions worldwide.