The Espresso Triangle Macchiato vs Latte vs Cappuccino

Written by: Georgina El Morshdy

macchiato vs latte vs cappuccino

If you've ever found yourself standing in line at a coffee shop, unsure of the difference between a macchiato, a latte, and a cappuccino, you're not alone. These popular espresso-based drinks may seem similar at first glance, but they each have their own unique characteristics that set them apart. From the milk to espresso ratio to the origin and history of each drink, there's a lot to consider when deciding which one to choose. In this article, we'll break down the main differences between a macchiato, a latte, and a cappuccino, so you can make an informed decision next time you're craving a caffeine fix.

What Is the Espresso Triangle?

The Espresso Triangle is a concept in Italian coffee culture that encompasses the interconnected relationship between espresso, brewing methods, and the art of coffee preparation.

In Italy, the art of brewing espresso is deeply rooted in tradition, with techniques that require precision and practice. Baristas are skilled in crafting the perfect shot of espresso, often using quality beans sourced from specific regions. The balance of factors such as grind size, water temperature, and extraction time plays a crucial role in achieving the desired flavor profile. The rich crema that tops a well-prepared espresso is a sign of expertise and attention to detail, capturing the essence of Italian coffee culture.

Read: The Secret Life of Baristas Tales from Behind the Espresso Machine

What Are the Main Differences Between Macchiato, Latte, and Cappuccino?

Understanding the distinctions among Macchiato, Latte, and Cappuccino involves exploring their unique combinations of espresso, milk, and froth, resulting in varied taste profiles and beverage experiences.

  1. Macchiato, known for its bold espresso flavor, features a higher coffee to milk ratio with just a dollop of foam, offering a strong and intense taste.

  2. On the other hand, a Latte provides a smoother and creamier experience, balancing equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and a light layer of foam, resulting in a milder flavor profile.

  3. Cappuccino stands out with its balanced mix of espresso, steamed milk, and rich, velvety foam, creating a harmonious blend of flavors and textures in each satisfying sip.

Milk to Espresso Ratio

milk to espresso ratio

The milk to espresso ratio in coffee beverages plays a crucial role in determining the overall flavor balance and strength of espresso-based drinks.

Finding the perfect harmony between milk and espresso is an art that can greatly influence the taste experience. For a classic cappuccino, a balanced ratio of 1:1 is preferred, where the creamy microfoam complements the rich espresso shot. In contrast, a latte typically has a higher milk content, creating a smoother and milder flavor profile.

Read: A Basic Guide To Common Espresso And Milk Drinks

Skilled baristas pay close attention to the milf frothing techniques, as the texture of the foam can change the mouthfeel and enhance the overall aroma of the coffee. It's fascinating how slight variations in ratios can lead to a diverse range of beverage choices, from the bold macchiato to the indulgent flat white.

Read: Flat White Explained What Makes This Coffee So Unique

Milk Foam

The quality of milk foam, whether frothy or velvety microfoam, significantly influences the texture and mouthfeel of espresso-based beverages.

When it comes to frothing techniques, achieving the perfect milk foam consistency is key in creating a visually appealing and satisfying coffee experience. The frothiness of the foam can vary from light and airy to dense and creamy, each providing a distinct sensory experience.

Velvety microfoam, with its fine texture and silky smooth consistency, enhances the overall taste profile of the coffee by balancing the bitterness of the espresso with a creamy sweetness. The aesthetic appeal of a well-crafted latte art design atop a cup of coffee is often highlighted by the contrast between the rich espresso and the velvety foam.

Serving Size

The serving size of coffee beverages like Macchiato, Latte, and Cappuccino varies depending on the proportions of espresso, milk, and foam, offering diverse choices on a coffee menu.

For espresso-based drinks, serving sizes play a crucial role in adapting to customer preferences and enhancing the overall coffeehouse experience. Whether someone enjoys a strong shot of espresso in a Macchiato or prefers a creamier texture in a Latte, the size of the drink can significantly impact the flavor profile and satisfaction. Varying sizes cater to different needs, from a quick pick-me-up to a leisurely indulgence, reflecting the versatility and customization that make coffee culture so rich and diverse.

Origin and History

The origin and history of Macchiato, Latte, and Cappuccino can be traced back to Italy, where espresso culture flourished and influenced global coffee trends.

Many believe that the macchiato, a shot of espresso 'stained' with a small amount of steamed milk, originated in Italy as a way to dilute the strong taste of espresso. This simple yet flavorful beverage reflects the Italian preference for strong, concentrated coffee flavors.

The latte, on the other hand, evolved from the Caffe latte, a drink made with one-third espresso and two-thirds steamed milk. This milder, creamier option gained popularity not only in Italy but also internationally for its smooth and comforting taste.

The cappuccino, with its equal parts of espresso, steamed milk, and frothy milk foam, has a more elaborate history.

What Is a Macchiato?


A Macchiato is a delightful espresso-based drink featuring a shot of espresso 'stained' with a small amount of steamed milk, often served with artistic foam designs on top.

The intensity of the espresso in a Macchiato is crucial, as it adds a robust flavor that complements the creamy texture of the milk. Achieving the perfect balance of espresso and milk requires skillful frothing techniques to create velvety microfoam that enhances the overall sensory experience.

Baristas take pride in the artistry involved in pouring the steamed milk, aiming to create intricate and captivating foam patterns on top of the drink. This attention to detail not only enhances the visual appeal of a Macchiato but also reflects the dedication and passion behind the craft of espresso art and milk frothing.


A Macchiato is defined as an espresso-based specialty drink where a shot of espresso is 'marked' or 'stained' with a small amount of steamed milk, creating a unique flavor profile.

The addition of just a touch of milk to the robust espresso shot in a Macchiato results in a delightful balance of flavors, where the rich, bold notes of the espresso are subtly softened by the creamy texture and slight sweetness of the milk. This delicate touch of milk not only enhances the overall taste experience but also adds a layer of complexity to the drink, making it a popular choice among espresso enthusiasts looking for a harmonious blend of espresso intensity and milk accents in their coffee beverages.


A classic Macchiato consists of a single shot of espresso and a dollop of velvety steamed milk, providing a harmonious balance of rich coffee flavor and creamy texture.

The quality of espresso in a Macchiato is crucial, as it forms the base of the drink. A well-pulled shot should showcase a robust flavor profile with a perfect balance of sweetness and bitterness.

When it comes to milk steaming, achieving microfoam is key. The milk should be steamed to a silky texture with small, velvety bubbles, creating a smooth and creamy consistency.

The ideal milk-to-coffee ratio in a Macchiato is crucial for achieving the right balance. It should enhance the espresso's flavor without overpowering it, allowing both elements to shine in every sip.

How It's Made

A Macchiato is expertly crafted by a skilled barista using an espresso machine to pull a shot of espresso and delicately top it with a dollop of steamed milk, showcasing precision in coffee preparation.

The barista begins by carefully grinding fresh espresso beans to achieve the perfect consistency before tamping the grounds into the portafilter. The espresso machine then extracts the coffee under high pressure, producing a rich and aromatic shot. Meanwhile, the barista skillfully froths the milk to create velvety microfoam, a crucial element that enhances the texture and taste of the Macchiato. The final touch involves delicately spooning the milk foam onto the espresso, creating a harmonious blend of flavors and textures in this classic coffee beverage.

Flavor Profile

The flavor profile of a Macchiato is characterized by the bold intensity of espresso tempered with a touch of creamy sweetness from the steamed milk, creating a balanced and invigorating taste experience.

This delicate balance between the robust espresso and the velvety milk results in a beverage that is not too overpowering in its coffee taste, yet still rich in flavor. The caffeine content in a Macchiato is moderate compared to other espresso-based drinks, making it a perfect choice when you want a pick-me-up without going overboard on caffeine. The layers of flavors in a Macchiato, from the nutty undertones of the espresso to the smooth texture of the milk foam, come together to offer a truly delightful sensory experience.

What Is a Latte?


A Latte is a popular espresso-based beverage known for its smooth and creamy texture, created by blending espresso with steamed milk and a light layer of microfoam.

The balance of espresso's robust flavor with the sweetness of milk makes the Latte a beloved choice among coffee enthusiasts. When preparing a Latte, the key lies in frothing the milk to achieve the ideal velvety consistency that complements the rich espresso shot. This frothing process involves texturing the milk to create that signature creamy top layer, providing a delightful contrast to the bold notes of the espresso. With just the right amount of caffeine, a Latte offers a satisfying pick-me-up without being overwhelmingly strong.


A Latte is defined as a coffee beverage made by combining a single or double shot of espresso with steamed milk and a small amount of foam, creating a creamy and flavorful drink.

The espresso base of a Latte forms the strong and aromatic foundation of the drink, providing a rich and bold flavor profile. The steamed milk, which is crucial in Latte preparation, contributes to the creamy texture and balances the intensity of the espresso. The foam atop the Latte acts as a finishing touch, enhancing the overall mouthfeel and adding a light frothy element that complements the velvety smoothness of the milk and espresso blend.


A traditional Latte consists of espresso, steamed milk, and a layer of frothy microfoam, harmoniously blended to create a rich and creamy coffee experience.

The quality of milk froth in a Latte significantly impacts its taste and texture. The velvety microfoam, achieved by properly frothing whole milk to a creamy consistency, should delicately float atop the espresso to ensure a smooth mouthfeel.

Maintaining the ideal milk-to-coffee ratio is crucial; a well-balanced Latte requires the perfect harmony between the strong yet mellow flavor of espresso and the sweetness of steamed milk. The espresso not only provides a robust base but also plays a vital role in balancing the overall flavor profile of the drink, creating a delightful fusion of coffee and creamy goodness.

How It's Made

A Latte is meticulously prepared by combining a shot of espresso with steamed milk, poured in a way that creates a layered effect and topped with artistic foam designs, showcasing the artistry of coffee making.

The process of making a perfect Latte starts with the careful frothing of the milk. Skilled baristas use a steam wand to heat and texture the milk, creating velvety microfoam that is essential for Latte art.

Meanwhile, a shot of espresso is freshly brewed, ensuring a robust base for the drink. The steamed milk is then poured over the espresso, creating a harmonious combination of flavors. The final touch lies in the intricate foam art, where baristas skillfully pour and sculpt designs like hearts, rosettas, or even intricate patterns, making each Latte a work of art.

Flavor Profile

The flavor profile of a Latte is characterized by a balanced blend of espresso richness, creamy milk sweetness, and a light foam finish, offering a mellow and comforting taste sensation.

When you take the first sip of a well-crafted Latte, the initial notes of the robust espresso greet your palate, imparting a deep, toasty flavor that grounds the entire experience.

As the velvety milk intermingles with the coffee, it adds a luxurious creaminess that smooths out any potential bitterness, resulting in a harmonious blend of flavors.

The gentle touch of foam on top not only enhances the visual appeal but also provides a delicate, airy texture that balances out the richness of the drink, culminating in a truly enjoyable drinking experience.

What Is a Cappuccino?


A Cappuccino is a beloved espresso beverage renowned for its equal parts of espresso, steamed milk, and fluffy milk foam, delivering a harmonious blend of flavors and textures.

Its signature feature lies in the perfect balance it strikes between coffee intensity, velvety microfoam, and creamy steamed milk. The milk's airy texture, when skillfully frothed, creates a luxurious blanket atop the robust espresso, creating a sip that is both rich and smooth. This meticulous milk-to-espresso ratio is a key factor behind the Cappuccino's enduring popularity among coffee aficionados who savor the interplay of flavors and the artful presentation of this classic espresso-based beverage.


A Cappuccino is defined as an espresso-based beverage comprising equal parts of espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam, topped with a luscious layer of crema, creating a rich and indulgent coffee treat.

The art of pulling the perfect shot of espresso plays a vital role in the creation of a cappuccino. The crema layer, a golden-hued froth that rests atop the espresso, is formed during the extraction process when the pressurized hot water meets finely-ground coffee, releasing aromatic oils and creating a creamy consistency.

Achieving the ideal foam-to-milk ratio requires expert steaming of the milk, resulting in a velvety texture that complements the bold flavor of the espresso. This meticulous balance of flavors and textures is what distinguishes a well-crafted cappuccino."


The ingredients of a classic Cappuccino include a balanced combination of espresso, steamed milk, and velvety foam, meticulously layered to create a visually appealing and delicious coffee delight.

The quality of the espresso shots plays a crucial role in the overall flavor profile of a well-made Cappuccino. A rich, aromatic espresso base sets the foundation for the drink, providing a bold and robust coffee taste.

The milk steaming process is equally vital, as it involves heating and texturing the milk to achieve a creamy consistency. Proper milk frothing is an art form in itself, requiring skill and precision to create that signature lush foam atop the Cappuccino. This velvety foam not only adds aesthetic appeal but also enhances the creamy texture and flavor of the beverage.

How It's Made

Preparing a Cappuccino involves skillfully combining a shot of espresso with steamed milk and an airy milk foam layer, intricately crafted using precise techniques on an espresso machine, showcasing the art of coffee making.

  1. The first step in the process is extracting a shot of espresso, which requires finely-ground coffee beans and hot water forced through under pressure, producing a strong and flavorful base.
  2. Next, the milk frothing procedure is key, where the steam wand of the espresso machine is used to heat and texture the milk, creating a velvety microfoam. Achieving the perfect foam consistency is a delicate balance between incorporating air into the milk without creating large bubbles, resulting in a silky smooth texture that complements the rich espresso harmoniously.

Flavor Profile

The flavor profile of a Cappuccino is distinguished by the bold espresso base, the velvety smoothness of steamed milk, and the airy lightness of foam, culminating in a delightful coffee experience that balances richness and creaminess.

The interplay of these elements creates a harmonious blend of flavors, with the robust espresso providing a strong, intense kick that is mellowed by the creamy milk, resulting in a well-rounded taste. The frothy foam on top adds a textural contrast, enhancing the overall sensory experience of the drink.

Coffee enthusiasts often appreciate the nuanced balance between the bitter notes of espresso, the sweetness of milk, and the frothy lightness of foam in a well-crafted Cappuccino.

Which One Should You Choose?

what to choose between macchiato, latte and cappuccino

When deciding between Macchiato, Latte, and Cappuccino, consider your preference for espresso intensity, milk texture, and foam level to choose the perfect beverage that suits your taste as a discerning espresso lover in your favorite coffee shop.

If you lean towards a strong espresso flavor with just a dash of milk and a velvety texture, a Macchiato might be the right choice for you.

Those who enjoy a more balanced ratio of espresso to steamed milk, topped with a slight foam layer, may find the Latte to be their go-to option.

On the other hand, if you prefer a bolder espresso kick with a generous amount of foam, the Cappuccino could be your ideal pick.

Understanding these distinctions can help enhance your coffee experience and elevate your enjoyment of every sip.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is The Espresso Triangle and how does it relate to macchiato, latte, and cappuccino?

The Espresso Triangle refers to the three popular espresso-based drinks: macchiato, latte, and cappuccino. These drinks are made with espresso shots and steamed milk, but in varying ratios and techniques, resulting in different flavor profiles.

What is a macchiato and how is it different from a latte and cappuccino?

A macchiato is an espresso-based drink that typically consists of a single or double shot of espresso with a small amount of steamed milk on top. It has a strong espresso flavor and a layer of foamed milk, making it smaller and more intense than a latte or cappuccino.

What makes a latte unique compared to a macchiato and cappuccino?

Latte, short for caffè latte, is an espresso-based drink that is made with a single or double shot of espresso and steamed milk. Unlike a macchiato or cappuccino, a latte has a higher milk to espresso ratio, resulting in a creamier and less intense flavor.

How is a cappuccino different from a macchiato and latte?

Cappuccino is an espresso-based drink that is made with equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and foam. It has a stronger coffee flavor than a latte, but not as strong as a macchiato. The foam gives it a lighter and airier texture.

Can the ratios of espresso and milk be customized in a macchiato, latte, and cappuccino?

Yes, the ratios of espresso and milk can be customized in all three drinks. For example, you can request a double shot of espresso in a latte for a stronger flavor, or ask for more foam in your cappuccino for a lighter texture. However, the traditional ratios and techniques for making these drinks are still used as a base.

Are there any other variations of the espresso triangle besides macchiato, latte, and cappuccino?

Yes, there are other variations of the espresso triangle, such as flat white, cortado, and mocha. Flat white is similar to a latte, but with a stronger coffee flavor and less foam. Cortado is a half espresso and half steamed milk drink, while mocha is a latte with added chocolate syrup.