Macchiato Vs. Cortado: What’s The Difference?

Are you confused looking at the menu board in your favorite café? Our macchiato vs. cortado guide will teach you the differences between these espresso drinks.

Macchiato vs. Cortado
Macchiato vs. Cortado

As a writer, I spend a ton of time working in coffee shops. The smell of freshly ground beans and the churning of an espresso machine is exactly what I need to get my creative wheels turning. The hundreds of hours that I’ve logged sitting in a comfy chair with a cup of coffee as I work have given me a chance to explore the world of coffee, one assignment at a time.

From flat whites to Americanos to macchiatos to cortados–I’ve tried them all. If you’re struggling to decipher the fancy-sounding Italian terms that dot seemingly every coffeehouse menu, you’re not alone. It took me a minute to figure things out, too, so this macchiato vs. cortado guide will answer your questions.

When you are done here, check out our history of Italian coffee for some more coffee facts!

What Are Macchiatos And Cortados?

A macchiato is two espresso shots blended with steamed milk and topped with a bit of foam, while a cortado is an espresso cut with milk. 

Many non-enlightened coffee drinkers believe that a macchiato and cortado are the same thing, but this isn’t the case. If you prefer a strong and smoky coffee taste, you’re most likely going to lean toward the macchiato world, while those who prefer a lighter taste will likely be interested in a cortado. 

What A Macchiato And Cortado Have In Common

The basic ingredients for both of these drinks are the same: espresso and milk. While both can be delicious in their own right, the flavor profiles of the drinks are different. Both a macchiato and a cortado lend themselves to delicious customizations.

Whether you want to toss some vanilla, cinnamon, or chocolate flavoring into your drink, you’ll find that both of these simple coffee options allow your additions to shine. You can also make both of these drinks with any type of milk, making them a great fit for anyone who isn’t able to consume dairy. Almond, soy, and oat milk can all make great macchiatos and cortados – just be sure to request your non-dairy preference when you’re ordering. 

Macchiato Vs. Cortado: The Differences 

Macchiato Cortado
Contains a small amount of steamed milk Contains equal amounts of espresso and steamed milk
Stronger coffee taste Weaker coffee taste
Can have a smoky flavor Does not typically have a smoky flavor
Has more foam on top Has less foam on top
Has fewer calories Has more calories

What’s Better About A Macchiato?

Macchiato with foam
To make your macchiato super strong, make it with light foam.

If you’re looking to stay low-calorie or you simply prefer a stronger coffee flavor, you’re better off with a macchiato. With this beverage, the focus stays on the coffee taste. If you want to make your macchiato super strong, ask for light foam.

You might be wondering, do you mix a macchiato?

What’s Better About A Cortado?

A cortado’s half-espresso-half-milk blend offers a lighter flavor and may have less of an acidic taste than a macchiato. If you choose a flavored milk (like vanilla soy or almond milk), you’ll also get more of the flavor essence than you would if you chose a macchiato.

Who Should Get A Macchiato (And Why)?

If you want a strong coffee flavor, it’s wise to go with a macchiato. The lower milk content means that you’ll get more of the coffee taste that you crave. This is also a good option if you’re trying to watch your calorie or fat intake.

You’ll still get to enjoy a creamy texture from the steamed milk, as well as the taste of any add-ins when you choose a macchiato. If you’re looking for a low-volume drink, this can also be a good fit, as the small amount of dairy added does not add much to the volume of the espresso in a macchiato. You might also be interested in learning what is a short macchiato.

Who Should Get A Cortado (And Why)?

Cortado- spanish coffee with milk in a cup
A delicious, creamy, indulgent coffee drink.

If you’re a coffee drinker who isn’t in love with the taste of coffee, a cortado is likely a better fit for you than a macchiato. While both drinks are made with strong espresso, the fact that a cortado is cut with an equal amount of milk to espresso means you’re getting half of the coffee flavor you usually would, allowing you to enjoy your caffeine boost without the acidity that can come with a more straightforward espresso drink. If you’re looking for a delicious, creamy indulgence, this drink may be the right fit for you.


  • Amanda Berkey

    Amanda has an M.S.Ed degree from the University of Pennsylvania in School and Mental Health Counseling and is a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer. She has experience writing magazine articles, newspaper articles, SEO-friendly web copy, and blog posts. Find Amanda on LinkedIn.