Macchiato vs Cortado: What’s the Difference?

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Espresso-based drinks come in different shapes and forms, and there are endless varieties of coffee drinks ending with the letter “o”. Today, we will compare two classic European espresso drinks: the Macchiato vs the Cortado.

Could one of these be your next coffee shop order? Your new favorite coffee drink? Read on to find out more!

Macchiato vs Cortado: Differences

Macchiatos and cortados have the same base ingredients: espresso and warm milk, and they are both originally from Europe. But the similarities between these two brews end there. 

The macchiato comes from Italy, and the cortado is of Spanish origin. The Cortado coffee is a bigger drink typically served in a tumbler glass. In comparison, the smaller macchiato is served in an espresso glass or in a demitasse cup.

These two coffees have different origins, and sizes and are served differently. And yet the biggest difference between a Cortado and a Macchiato is the milk. 

Foamed or Steamed Milk

Macchiato and cortado glasses

The quantity and the texture of milk is the most notable difference between a cortado vs macchiato. 


  • Macchiato use foamed milk
  • Light, airy, frothy milk, full of air bubbles
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons of milk
  • Milk has the same texture as the top layer of a cappuccino


  • Cortado uses steamed milk
  • Smooth & dense milk, with little to no air bubbles
  • Equal parts (1:1 ratio) of milk to the espresso 
  • Milk has the same texture as flat whites and lattes

Which is stronger macchiato or cortado?

A macchiato is stronger and has a more pronounced coffee taste than a cortado. The macchiato is made of a single shot of espresso, and a tiny “stain” of milk on top. It’s as close to a straight espresso drink as it gets.

In comparison, the cortado has a 1:1 ratio of coffee to milk, so it is more balanced. The cortado is less intense due to the extra milk and will taste more like a soft creamy coffee drink.

If you are interested in which beverage has more caffeine, the cortado is the correct answer. The Spanish Brew uses a double shot of espresso vs the single-shot espresso in a macchiato. So the cortado will have more caffeine.

Overview of the Macchiato


The macchiato, also known as caffè macchiato or espresso macchiato, is a classic Italian coffee made of espresso and milk. It’s midway between a single espresso and cappuccino and has the highest espresso-to-milk ratio out of all the Italian coffees that we know.

The word macchiato means “stained” or “marked” in Italian. The barista stains the espresso with a small dash of milk on top. Think of one or two teaspoons only. 

The milk adds a bit of flavor for those who find the straight black too strong or acidic. The resulting brew is not as strong as a straight espresso and significantly less foamy than a cappuccino. If you are looking for a macchiato with vegetarian milk, then the delicious oat milk drinks at Starbucks get you covered.

Making a Macchiato

How to make a traditional espresso macchiato:

  1. First, prepare a demitasse ceramic cup.
  2. Next, pull a single shot of espresso. If possible, use an espresso machine. If you don’t have access to an espresso machine, then a Moka pot can brew you strong espresso-like coffee.
  3. Prepare milk foam by aerating the milk with a steam wand. You could also use a hand frother.
  4. Add 1 or 2 teaspoons of frothed milk on top.
  5. Serve and Enjoy!

Overview of the Cortado


A cortado is a delicious Spanish brew made of equal parts of coffee and milk: Two ounces of espresso (a double shot) and two ounces of milk.

The cortado uses steamed milk, unlike its Italian counterparts that use foamed milk instead. The result is a smooth taste and look and a cup of coffee that is perfectly balanced.

While there is no foam on the traditional cortado, that does not stop baristas in the coffee shop from adding a thin layer of foamed milk on top. 

The microfoam enables baristas to create fancy-looking latte art. With latte art, you tend to get more happy & loyal customers, leading to more happy baristas and coffee shops. A win-win for all!

Making A Cortado

Cortado with a cracker

You can prepare a coffee-shop quality cortado in five easy steps, and it only takes five minutes of your time.

Cortado vs Macchiato: Which’s the Right One for You?

There you have it: cortado vs macchiato with all the differences explained. But which is the right one for you?

If you prefer a balance between the acidity, rich aromas of espresso, and the sweetness of hot milk, then the cortado is the right choice. So if you like your coffee sweeter and more creamy without any bitterness, we would recommend the cortado. 

If you are a coffee lover who enjoys bolder, stronger, and less sweet flavors, then the macchiato is best for you. Made with a dash of foam, the macchiato has greater intensity, making the dark espresso notes more prominent. 

Regardless of how you prefer your espresso shot: “marked” or “cut” with milk. You have made an excellent choice for a classic coffee drink!


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