What Is a Short Macchiato?

What is a short macchiato? It is a shot of espresso topped off with splash of milk. Typically served in a small cup where it’s possible to add flavor to it too.

What Is A Short Macchiato
Short macchiato is something you need to be familiar with if you’re dipping your toe in the coffee world

I happen to be a serious caramel macchiato fan. In fact, the macchiato marked one of my first forays into the world of coffee because a friend assured me that the textured milk would smooth out the espresso’s bitterness. As it turns out, something is so soothing about the velvety texture chased by a coffee kick. 

In short—pun intended—a short macchiato is rich, velvety foam marked with a shot of espresso. Aside from adding flavor, like my beloved caramel macchiato, there are several other variations. The short macchiato is something to be familiar with if you’re dipping your toe in the coffee world or just need a little caffeine boost. 

Like most espresso-based beverages, the macchiato most likely has Italian origins. The name, loosely translated from Italian to English, means coffee marked with milk. In this case, the milk is not the primary flavor; it’s usually just enough to alter the coloring and bitterness. 

Macchiatos represent a simplistic coffee drink with only two main ingredients, espresso and steamed milk. More specifically, the macchiato involves a bit of foamy milk topping off one or more espresso shots. 

It’s important to understand that different baristas or coffee chains might prepare macchiatos in unique ways. For example, if I order a macchiato from Starbucks, they mix espresso with steamed milk and then top it with the remaining milk foam. This version is more closely aligned with a latte macchiato. 

What Is a Short Macchiato?

a short macchiato on top of a table
Short macchiato is a single shot of espresso with a splash of textured milk on top

The short macchiato is the perfect coffee for those who want a quick, caffeine-filled pick-me-up. It is simply a single shot of espresso with a splash of textured milk on top. The foamy milk smooths out the espresso’s boldness, which might be more enjoyable for some drinkers.

Ordering a Short Macchiato

Don’t be surprised if you head into a coffeehouse only to find no evidence of a macchiato on the menu. Most baristas know what it is and how to make it properly. Just ask for an espresso macchiato and specify short or long. 

Baristas usually serve macchiatos in a mug, glass, or cup with excess space between the liquid and the rim. However, the milk and espresso ratio can vary depending on where you get the drink, much like how a standard macchiato can vary. 

For instance, some baristas use an espresso cup which gives you a rather full, albeit small, drink. Other baristas use a regular mug, which leaves the cup mostly empty. 

Short Macchiato Variations

Like every other coffee drink, you can choose multiple short macchiato variations. A few small changes can add depth to the traditional version or even a little sweetness.

The Topped-Up Version

Do you want a short macchiato in a full cup without tons of extra room? Simply order a topped-up short macchiato. The amount of espresso remains the same, but the barista fills the rest of the cup with the milk foam. It’s an excellent option for people who need to temper the espresso’s bold taste a little bit. Think of it like a cappuccino, but with less milk and more foam.

Adding Flavors

a cup of short macchiato
Try adding a little vanilla syrup, top it with milk foam, and drizzle a little caramel on top of your espresso shot

As I mentioned, I love caramel macchiatos. I don’t care if it’s the latte style you get at Starbucks or a little caramel added to a traditional shot with milk foam. The touch of sweetness draws out the perfect blend of espresso and milk in a flavor explosion.

Do you want a real treat? Try adding a little vanilla syrup to the espresso shot, top it with milk foam, and then drizzle a little caramel on top. It’s a game-changer that will put any dessert to shame.

Learn more about the long macchiato.


  • 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.