Macchiato vs Cortado: Comparison Table & REAL Photos

There are more coffee drinks in the world than days in a month, and the choice can get overwhelming. Some of them are so similar it’s hard to tell the difference at first glance. One of those dilemmas is the Macchiato vs Cortado.

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Macchiato vs Cortado

Both drinks are espresso-based with added milk but are significantly different. How exactly? Read on to find out.

Topics Explored

  1. What is a Macchiato?
  2. What is a Cortado?
  3. Key Differences Between Both
  4. How Do You Make A Macchiato?
  5. How Do You Make A Cortado?
  6. FAQ

What is a Macchiato?

Macchiato is essentially one or two espresso shots with a small amount of foamed milk on top(1). It’s a strong drink, just a tad milder than the espresso. Traditionally it’s made with two parts espresso and one part milk foam. It’s served warm, in a cup on a saucer.

Macchiato
Macchiato
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Macchiato originated in Italy around the 1980s. The word macchiato means stained, an accurate description of how a macchiato looks like – a stained espresso. It was introduced by baristas who wanted to define a regular espresso order from espresso with milk foam.

What is a Cortado?

Cortado is an espresso drink with frothed milk in a 1:1 ratio. It’s a creamier, milder coffee drink that is served warm in a glass cup. The color is paler than that of the macchiato. The Cortado is not an ordinary espresso drink and still more potent than a latte or cappuccino.

Cortado
Cortado

Cortado originated in the 1960s in Spain’s Basque Country. The name comes from the Spanish word “cortar” which means to cut. It explains how the coffee is made – the milk is added to cut the acidity of the espresso.


What’s the Difference Between Macchiato vs Cortado?

Both drinks are served warm and combine espresso and milk, but the slight variations deliver two distinctive flavors. If you’re not sure what you’d prefer when it comes to Macchiato vs Cortado, let us guide you through their differences.

MacchiatoCortado
Served hotServed hot
Espresso
Spoonful of milk froth
1/2 Espresso
1/2 Steamed milk
Flavor Profile:
Strong espresso flavor
Slight hint of creaminess
Flavor Profile:
Moderate espresso flavor
Lightly sweet
Milky
Darker in color.
Topped with a dollop of froth
Brownish tint.
Distinct head of froth.
Served as single (2 oz) or
double espresso shot (4 oz)
Usually an 4.5 oz serving
Country of Origin:
Italy
Country of Origin:
Spain

Composition

Macchiato is made with one or two shots of espresso (2 oz or 4 oz) and a dollop of frothed milk. It’s predominantly espresso, just a tad milder. Cortado is made with a shot of espresso and equal parts steamed milk. The larger amount of milk used affects the strength, taste, and color.

Taste

The Macchiato’s flavor depends on the type of espresso that is used. It has a pronounced coffee taste with a slight hint of creaminess from the milk foam. On the other hand, the Cortado has a mild coffee taste; it’s silkier and creamier. You can also sense faint sweetness coming from the milk.

Appearance

When it comes to appearance, it’s easy to tell a Macchiato from Cortado when they’re done and served correctly. The Macchiato has a dark color with a dash of milk foam in the center. The Cortado is much lighter, with a significant foam head. The Cortado is served in a see-through glass(2), while the macchiato can come in both a see-through or demitasse cup.

Macchiato vs Cortado Top
Foam top on the Cortado (left) vs Macchiato (right)

Volume

You can get a Macchiato in two sizes, a 2 oz or 4 oz, depending on if it’s made with one or two shots of espresso. The Cortado usually comes in one serving of 4.5 oz. Due to the significant milk content, the Cortado is more calorie-dense in comparison to the Macchiato.


How Do You Make A Macchiato?

It’s not uncommon to get a Latte instead of a Macchiato when ordering at a western coffee shop. However, if you’re willing to put a little effort into experiencing the original Italian Macchiato, we have a guide on how to prepare it yourself.

Instructions

Macchiato Recipe

True Espresso Macchiato

Yield: 1 serving (~ 2 oz)
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

Make an espresso Macchiato the authentic and traditional way. You'll soon come to realize why it has been done this way for ages!

Ingredients

  • Espresso: 2 shots 
  • Milk
  • Water (enough for your espresso machine)

Instructions

    1. For a Macchiato, you'll need an espresso machine and your favorite espresso beans. As we mentioned, you can almost entirely taste the espresso in a Macchiato, so pick good quality beans.Machine and Cup
    2. Pull two shots of espresso. This should yield around 2 oz of strong espresso. Pulling Shot
    3. Next, fill your frothing pitcher about a third full and dip the steam wand just half an inch under the surface.Pour Milk into Pitcher
    4. Froth milk until you notice a thick layer of froth on top. You need nice, textured froth that's airy.Airy Froth
    5. Take your cup with espresso and pour in just a dash of the milk. Splash of Milk
    6. Next, take a spoon and place a dollop of milk froth you just made on top of the coffee.Spoon Froth
    7. Now your cup of Macchiato should resemble an espresso with a stain in the middle. Congrats, you made your own Macchiato! Drink it while it's warm.Macchiato

Notes

Don't know how to froth milk? Learn how in this guide.


How Do You Make A Cortado?

Cortado is not as popular and can be harder to find in any random coffee shop. You don’t have to travel to Spain for a sip of an authentic cortado; we’ve explained the step-by-step process to prepare it at home.

Cortado Recipe

No-Fuss Cortado Recipe

Yield: 1 serving ( 4 oz)
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

Level-up your coffee game with this no-fuss Cortado recipe. This is the simplest and most-straightforward way to make a delicious cup (or glass) of Cortado.

Ingredients

  • Espresso: 2 shots 
  • Milk: 2 oz
  • Water (enough for your machine)

Optional:

  • Gibraltar or Cortado glass

Instructions

    1. Using your espresso machine, brew 2 shots of espresso using good beans. Portafilter
    2. Pour both shots of espresso into a Gibraltar glass. If you don't have one, just use a small glass or regular mug (no judgment!). It should fill up part of the glass. Two Shots Espresso
    3. Leave the espresso aside and get your pitcher. Fill it with milk and dip the steam wand long enough to create silky steamed milk.Lean Wand Against Spout
    4. It's important not to overheat the milk while steaming it, so use a thermometer or touch the sides of the pitcher frequently. Touch Sides
    5. Once it starts getting a little hot to handle or when it reaches between 140°F and 150°F, turn off the steam valve. Surbmerge Wand
    6. Swish the pitcher in your hand, and start pouring the milk over the espresso. Pour it slowly, and as you reach the top, gently withdraw the pitcher.Pour Milk
    7. The final drink needs to have nice layer of foam top and a dark beige color. Voila, your Cortado is done*! Cortado

Notes

*Take the cup in your hand - the right Cortado shouldn't be too hot to handle.


In Summary – Macchiato vs Cortado

Macchiato vs Cortado

Discovering new coffee drinks opens your perspective and is a real challenge for your taste buds. When it comes to the Macchiato vs Cortado debate, both drinks are an excellent choice for those looking to switch their espresso order. The Cortado suits those looking for a lighter, sweeter coffee. The Macchiato is almost as potent as the espresso but less astringent.

Macchiato & Cortado FAQs

Which has less milk, a Cortado or Macchiato?

The Macchiato has far less milk than the Cortado. The Macchiato is simply marked with a dash of milk and a teaspoon of foam. On the other hand, the Cortado is almost 4.5 oz large, half of which is steamed milk. The Cortado is your go-to if you want a more milk-infused drink.

Is a Macchiato stronger than a Cortado?

Both Macchiato and Cortado are espresso-based coffee drinks containing the same amount of caffeine. The difference is in their other ingredient – Macchiato is less diluted, therefore, has a strong coffee kick. The Cortado has a light coffee flavor due to the more significant amount of milk inside.

Verified Sources

Wondering where your info comes from? We totally understand. Hey Joe only obtains our information from reputable sources. Contents from this article are sourced from the following publications:

  1. Seven Districts Coffee: https://sevendistrictscoffee.com/how-to/how-to-make-a-macchiato/
  2. New York Times: https://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/04/ristretto-a-cortado-is-not-a-minivan/
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