Macchiato Vs Cortado: The Ultimate Guide For True Coffee Lovers

Macchiato vs cortado: Discover the key differences between these popular coffee drinks.

Macchiato vs. Cortado
Macchiato vs. Cortado

We will take you on a delicious journey where we unravel the origin of the two popular espresso-based drinks, their differences, and how to make macchiato and cortado from scratch and enjoy every sip.

Macchiato is a famous Italian espresso drink with a strong taste and a dash of foamed milk. In contrast, cortado is a Spanish coffee beverage made from equal amounts of espresso and steamed milk, so it has a more balanced and milder taste.

You may have noticed these two coffee drinks, both mixtures of espresso and milk, on a menu and wondered what the difference could be. We bring you a guide that every coffee lover would cherish – the differences between macchiato and cortado, their origin, and how to master the art of crafting them like a true barista.

What is the Difference Between Macchiato and Cortado

Many coffee drinkers think these two coffee beverages are the same, just a mix of espresso and milk, but that is untrue. While macchiato is an Italian coffee beverage made with a single or a double shot of espresso blended with steamed milk and foam on top, a cortado is a Spanish brew that consists of equal amounts of espresso (usually two shots) and steamed milk. So, now you know it’s all about proportion and the type of milk, but those are just basic differences.

Let’s dive more into this coffeelicious battle between macchiato and cortado.

What is Macchiato and How to Make It

Barista man making cortado coffee at coffee machine pouring milk in espresso cup at cafe
Pour two shots of steamed milk directly into the cortado and use a gentle motion to avoid splashing

Macchiato is an Italian coffee usually drunk in the morning. Depending on your taste, this bold coffee consists of one or two espresso shots, a little steamed milk, and a dash of foam. The taste is strong, as the milk only dilutes a little of the espresso flavor.

It is perfect for those who prefer intense coffee flavors or pay attention to their calorie count. The milk used in macchiato is foamed and can be made with a milk frother or a steamed wand. The whole process of making this type of milk creates tiny bubbles and offers light and airy beverages to coffee lovers.

Here are a few tips for making macchiato at home to enjoy delicious Italian sips or impress your guests with your impeccable coffee-making knowledge. You can use dark beans since macchiato is associated with a strong flavor. You will need about 8 grams of beans for a single macchiato.

Brew espresso as you usually do, with the machine, on the stove, or with the press. If you are using a steam wand, the milk will heat and froth simultaneously. If you don’t, you have to heat the milk lightly and remove it from the stove before boiling.

Then, use the milk frother and make the fluffiest foam you can with as many bubbles as possible.

And it’s time for the magic of coffee flavors to happen. Pour the brew into a small cup and add a spoonful of delicious fluffy foam. If you are impressed with the original macchiato, check out this coffee gem – A Cloud Macchiato.

What is Cortado and How to Make it

Cortado is a Spanish coffee drink with a more elegant milky taste than its Italian opponent, macchiato.

Cortado is served in a small cup (about 4.6 ounces) or a smaller mug. It is made with an equal amount of coffee and milk, and in this case, the milk is steamed rather than foamed like in a macchiato. This Spanish beverage is perfect for those who don’t prefer a strong coffee taste but still enjoy a little caffeine boost.

You can start making cortado by brewing the espresso the usual way. In this case, you don’t have to use dark beans, but it’s all a matter of preference. A cup of cortado contains a double shot of espresso, which is about 16 grams of beans.

Now goes the part where Cortado confronts the macchiato – the milk part. Use the steam wand in the pitcher, but you don’t need as many bubbles as the macchiato requires. Pour two espresso shots into the mug and add the same amount of steamed milk and voila – you just made a cup of a legendary Spanish coffee.

If you love cortado, you may also fall in love with cortadito. It’s a Cuban version of cortado made with sweetened condensed milk instead of regular. Like in cortado, the condensed milk is steamed and added to espresso.

If you want to know more about Cuban coffee culture, check out the guide to Cuban coffee history.

Macchiato Vs Cortado: And the Winner is…

Espresso machine pouring espresso coffee
Order your perfect espresso confidently at the bar with the right amount and type of milk to enjoy your favorite beverage

Well, it all depends on your taste. If you like the strong coffee taste in the early morning, go for a macchiato, and if you prefer a prolonged coffee experience with more milk, choose cortado.

If you choose macchiato, you’ll probably find this article helpful – Do you mix a macchiato?

We explained the basics, and it’s up to you to give a personal twist to these Italian and Spanish beverages. You can make them with soy or almond milk, add a dash of vanilla, cinnamon, or chocolate, try different types of beans, just use your imagination and enjoy your perfect sip.

However, if you prefer drinking coffee at bars, at least now you have the knowledge and confidence to go through the menu and order your favorite espresso with just the right amount and type of milk.

Macchiato-Cortado comparison
Macchiato vs Cortado


  • Aisling O'Connor

    Aisling is an Irish food and drinks writer and journalist fueled by coffee and herbal tea. She followed up her journalism degree with nutrition studies. Find Aisling on LinkedIn.