The Difference Between Traditional Macchiatos And Starbucks' Flavorful Versions

Two Starbucks drinks
Two Starbucks drinks - Edfuentesg/Getty

Is there anything more confusing than a café menu filled with coffee variations lacking any kind of description of what they are? Even if you're an avid coffee drinker, the seemingly never-ending list of coffee-related terms and names can be hard to interpret. You're often left wondering, how is a macchiato different from a latte — and where does the word macchiato come from, anyway?

The Starbucks coffee menu features everything from cappuccinos to macchiatos, but many of these offerings are Americanized versions of the real thing, so it's hard to know what you're truly drinking sometimes. In many cases, there are pretty big differences between the traditional versions of drinks like the macchiato and the sugary apple-flavored version you pick up at Starbucks. But the chain does its best to offer both the classics and its own, newer takes on them that appeal to the masses that thirst for new ways to get their caffeine fix.

Read more: Types Of Coffee, Explained

What Is A Traditional Macchiato?

Two latte macchiatos
Two latte macchiatos - New Africa/Shutterstock

Like a latte, a macchiato is an espresso-based drink. Where a macchiato differs from a latte is in the amount of milk used and the form the milk takes. In a macchiato, the espresso is accompanied by a very small amount of either foamed or steamed milk. "Macchiato" is an Italian word and translates to "stained," which makes sense given the drink's makeup — the milk acts as the "stain" to the espresso.

Macchiatos are perfect for true coffee lovers because there isn't much to mask the flavor of the espresso, but there are variations of the drink that are sweeter and milkier if that's more your speed. An espresso macchiato is the drink described above — a single shot of espresso with 1-2 teaspoons of steamed milk. The other kind of macchiato is called a latte macchiato and features much more milk. A latte macchiato is layered, with the shot of espresso being added to a glass already filled with steamed milk — this could be closer to what you're used to seeing when you order a macchiato from Starbucks.

Do The Starbucks Versions Match Up?

Starbucks iced caramel macchiato
Starbucks iced caramel macchiato - Monarexx/Shutterstock

If you're looking to get a macchiato, Starbucks has both sweet and traditional options. The chain has an espresso macchiato on the menu that's simply espresso, steamed milk, and foam — it's what Starbucks calls "a European-style classic." But if you like your coffee sweeter, Starbucks also has flavorful drinks that could technically fall into the latte macchiato category, even though the classic version of the drink doesn't have any extra flavoring.

The coffee you might have already tried is the Caramel Macchiato, a combination of steamed milk, espresso, and caramel syrup that's usually also topped with a caramel drizzle. In the recipe for the drink, it's clear how its Caramel Macchiato lines up with the definition of a latte macchiato — you start with steamed milk and pour the espresso over the top. A TikTok user experimented with adding cold foam and additional pumps of flavoring to their caramel macchiato to make it even more delicious. Starbucks also features more unique, seasonal offerings in the macchiato category, like the Apple Crisp Oatmilk Macchiato which celebrates fall flavors like spiced-apple and brown sugar.

Read the original article on Mashed.