Cortado VS. Macchiato: Let’s Not Drown In Confusion Anymore!

In the world of popular espresso drinks both Macchiato and Cortado are not yet crowd favorites. Both of these two drinks are regional specialties. Those who fell in love with them will tell you their unique flavors and austerity have helped them to become more popular than ever in the coffee world. Once you get to know everything from our Cortado VS. Macchiato article, you’ll see that every shot of espresso with steamed milk and foamed milk can make different drinks.

So let’s not wait around anymore and start with the difference between Cortado and Macchiato.

Cortado VS. Macchiato: Key Differences

A Comparison Chart

Espresso To Milk Ratio1:12:1
Espresso ShotDoubleSingle
Milk StyleSteamedFoamed
Size4 oz.1.5 oz.
Regional Variations94
StrengthWeaker than MacchiatoStronger than Cortado
Calories (kcal)68 (for 6 oz.)30 (for 6 oz.)

Cortado VS. Macchiato: Taking A Deep Dive

On The Naked Eye

The easiest way to understand Macchiato vs. Cortado argument is that Macchiato is a strong espresso-based drink and the Cortado is a strong milk-based drink.

A Macchiato is the closest version you can have to an espresso shot; without cutting the milk completely. A Cortado uses so much milk that it alters the temperature and color of the drink.

macchiato vs cortado

Historical Difference

The word Macchiato is an Italian word. It roughly translates to “stained” or “marked”. Keep in mind though, the name “stained” does not mean completely dyed, bleached, or diluted. It simply means that primarily you get 1 element drink with a small dash of the other (milk) and that’s it. Hence, the milk “stains” the drink.

Originating from the Basque region, the word “Cortado” hailed from the Spanish word “cortar”. A verb meaning “to cut.” It’s named so as the milk is meant to cut through the acidity of the espresso. The Cortado turned into a multi-continental drink with the Portuguese and Spanish expansion in Latin America. Later it was popularized by the Cubans in America. The Cortado has little to no foam on it. This is also the main characteristic of most Spanish drinks. Even if you’re a fan of milk foam on your coffee, you won’t be able to resist it as the milk here makes it so creamy and smooth.

Taste Difference Between Macchiato And Cortado

Macchiato traditionally is made with 1-2 tbsp. worth of milk. So, the espresso taste remains strong. But when you use more milk foam than usual, the Macchiato will become less strong and creamier. May even taste more like a Cortado! If you use Arabica beans then the Macchiato will be smoother and less bitter. Careful though, it can also sometimes bring a sour note. If you use Robusta then the espresso will be richer and more bitter.

Cortado is traditionally treated as a shot drink. So, it has its caffeine punch but gets matured by the steamed milk into it. But, if you somehow apply milk foam on it (which is a big no-no), it will be creamier and less strong tasting.  It will turn similar to a cappuccino. Additionally, the Cortado has many other regional variations that impact the taste of the Cortado.

Espresso Macchiato VS. Cortado: Notable Variations


The most popular variation of Macchiato these days is the American iced Macchiato. But there are many other variations available. Such as…

  • Latte Macchiato: The latte Macchiato requires an espresso shot, steamed, and frothed milk. It’s unique because of the amount of milk and the way it’s being made. A large 12 oz. glass or more is standard for it. Steamed milk gets poured into it, filling almost 3/4 of the glass. After that, the espresso shot (sometimes less than a full shot) is poured into the milk slowly. Finally, a small portion of milk foam is put on top. Syrups like pumpkin and caramel are also used sometimes
  • Iced Macchiato: A staple for many American coffee houses. It’s made in the same way as the Latte Macchiato. But of course, they use ice in it. The individual ingredients can be seen through the cup. Caramel is a common syrup that goes on top of it
  • Espresso Macchiato: A single/double espresso shot gets topped off with a dollop of warm foamed milk. It usually gets served in a small cup. In Italy, it’s called Caffe Macchiato. If you prefer an espresso that packs a punch, Espresso Macchiato could be the answer
  • Long Macchiato: Similar to a latte it’s served in a tall glass. Two shots of espresso with some milk foam and the rest of the glass remain empty. Sometimes, also made with water and a little milk
cortado vs macchiato

Unlike the Macchiato, Cortado doesn’t have many names for its variations. The different ways depending on the regions/countries. Please do keep in mind though, the original Cortado is never meant to deviate.

  • Italy: Made as a Macchiato, go figure!
  • Costa Rica: One espresso shot with 1 oz. of cold milk
  • Philippines: 1 oz. of double Ristretto and 2.5 oz. of steamed milk
  • Denmark: A double shot of espresso and minimal foam. No foam art
  • Saudi Arabia: A double shot of espresso with very little steamed milk
  • Cortado Bombon: A Cuban specialty with espresso and condensed milk
  • Cortado Leche Y Leche: Espresso with condensed milk and cream on top
  • Malaysia: A double espresso shot with equal parts of warm heavy cream and milk
  • Japan: Equal parts of warm milk and espresso. But served in a 3 oz. glass or as big as a 32 oz. cup

Cortado Coffee VS. Macchiato: Steamed VS. Foamed Milk

The most obvious difference between them is the amount of milk. But the difference that really impacts the taste, is how the milk is prepared.

Macchiato uses foamed milk. You can use either a frother or a steam wand. Foaming traps the air under the warm milk. Thus, it creates small bubbles. So, you’ll get light and airy milk that tastes delicious. Foamed milk also goes very well in lattes, cappuccinos, and other warm coffees.

Cortado uses steamed milk. First, it’s heated, but no air bubbles are incorporated. So you’ll have a creamy, smooth, and dense texture. Other than a steam wand, you can steam milk on a stove by heating it. Heat the milk until it’s about to boil.

When To Drink…

For Macchiato, this tiny bit of milk foam cuts the edge off the espresso. But it doesn’t take away too much of the coffee flavor also. In Italy, it was a very popular early-morning beverage. Now, Italians use it as an afternoon drink too. But around the world, it’s a casual all-day drink.

Cortado is originally a Spanish late-morning drink. Now, regarded as an evening drink to soothe the nerves and an excuse to stir up a conversation while at it. It’s traditionally always been a double-shot drink. This double shot gets cut in half with the steamed milk. Some baristas like to add even more milk for a creamier and smoother texture.

What Is Macchiato?

difference between cortado and macchiato

Macchiato around the world is viewed as a sneaky way to drink espresso into the afternoon. Unlike, cappuccino, which was exclusively for morning pick-me-ups. The Macchiato offers a nice middle ground between a cappuccino and an espresso. Macchiato uses a 2:1 ratio of espresso to milk. The milk comes as a foamy topping. It’s stronger than a regular cappuccino.

This drink is made by pulling a shot of espresso and then 1-2 teaspoons of steamed milk and foam are poured on top. Macchiatos are served in glass or ceramic demitasse cups. The Latte Macchiato is a layered, milkier, and less espresso-ish drink.

This pouring method for a Macchiato creates its signature layered look. If poured correctly, you should able to see gradients of thicker milk, espresso, and layer of foam.

How To Make Macchiato

  1. Ingredients: 2 oz. of espresso and 1 oz. of steamed milk
  2. Pull a shot of espresso first. Use 16.5 grams of ground coffee. It will give you a 2 oz. shot
  3. Steam the milk to 160°F. Hold your steam wand just below the surface to generate milk foam
  4. Add about half of an ounce of the foamed milk to your espresso to “stain” it

What Is Cortado?

difference between cortado and latte

A Cortado is a Latin American popular smaller-sized hot espresso beverage. It contains warm steamed milk and espresso in a 1:1 ratio. This ratio reduces the acidity of the espresso. It has little or no foam, unlike other Italian coffee beverages. The steamed milk gets blended together with the espresso as smoothly as possible. The result? A delicious concoction of robust espresso with light and creamy milk.

How To Make Cortado

  1. You’ll need an espresso machine for making one. Pick your choice of milk to add to the drink
  2. Measure, tamp, and grind your coffee beans
  3. Place the portafilter with your grounds into the espresso machine. Pull a double shot of espresso
  4. After the extraction, steam the milk of your choice. We recommend whole milk. But you can also use coconut, almond, and oat if you like
  5. Slowly pour the steamed milk over your espresso. The ratio of espresso to milk is 1:1, and that’s it!

A Substitute For Both Cortado And Macchiato

Flat White

The Flat White is the new kid on the block. Originating from Australia or New Zealand, depending on whom you ask, it is now on the menus in coffee shops around the world.

Invented either in Australia or in New Zealand; it’s a slightly stronger latte. Or just like a cappuccino. It gets served in a 5 to 6-oz. ceramic cup. More specifically, 30 – 40 grams of espresso with 180 grams of thinly veneered milk. It has no foam whatsoever.

Flat Whites are generally made with whole milk, but plant-based milks are also acceptable.

If you like to flavor a Flat White, you can use sweet syrups. Also, simple sweeteners like raw sugar sprinkling are also accepted but not the norm.

The Flat White doesn’t cost more to make than other coffees. Yet they are priced more because it requires more skill sets to properly make it.

The milk lays “flatly” across the rim of your cup — hence the name Flat White.

The Flat White is an espresso-based drink with steamed milk and microfoam. This results in silky, textured milk with tiny air bubbles. It is traditionally served in a small size (5 oz. – 6 oz.). It’s smaller than typical lattes and cappuccinos. A perfect Flat White combines quality microfoam and a well-balanced espresso shot.

Americans are familiar with the term Flat White. But most American baristas translate it as a smaller-sized (7 – 8 oz.) latte.

In some parts of Spain, Café con Leche or, Cortado will be served instead. For the majority of Spanish café houses, don’t even think about ordering one.

It’s all about the texture and consistency of the milk. Unlike Cortado, the milk here is textured. Essentially, a Cortado is smoother while the Flat White is thicker and velvety.

Cortado or Macchiato, it doesn’t matter – both are much stronger and smaller-sized than the Flat White.

The Cortado tastes stronger than the Flat White. Against the coffee-to-milk ratio of 1:1 of Cortado, the Flat White is larger and follows a 1:2 coffee-to-milk ratio. The amount difference of milk makes the Cortado taste stronger than the Flat White.


  • Is Cortado Stronger Than Macchiato?

    No, it is not. Because it has more milk than the Macchiato. More milk weakens the strength of the drink.

  • What Does A Cortado Taste Like?

    The flavor of espresso is strong but less acidic. The milk offers a silky-smooth mouthfeel.

  • What’s The Difference Between A Cortado And A Cappuccino?

    Cappuccino is served as a 12 oz. whereas Cortado gets served as a 4 oz. drink. Cortado is a bit acidic but cappuccino is very sweet. Cappuccino fills 1/3 of its cup with foam whereas Cortado has little or no foam.

  • Why Is A Cortado Served With Sparkling Water?

    Because sparkling water helps to cleanse the palate. You can drink sparkling water before and after the Cortado.

  • Can A Cortado Be Iced?

    It can but it’s not the most popular variant, yet.

  • How Much Milk Is In A Macchiato?

    Traditional Macchiato formula consists of 90% espresso and 10% milk.

  • Should You Stir A Macchiato?

    You are allowed to if that’s how you like your Macchiato. But, the general rule is not to stir it.

  • Is A Caramel Macchiato Healthy?

    The Starbucks Caramel Macchiato version is considered to be one of the healthiest drinks around (140 kcal). But do keep in mind though, the milk is non-fat milk used here.


If all this information has left you wondering about the Cortado vs. Espresso Macchiato discussion, then to summarize: A Cortado is simply a milky 1:1 Spanish espresso drink. Its hot steamy milk makes an enjoyable late-morning drink. Macchiato is an Italian 2:1 coffee milk espresso. Traditionally they use foamed milk to strain the coffee. It’s stronger than the Cortado. Now, it’s your time to go and order or better yet make them at home and decide which one you like most!

Enjoy Your Coffee!

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