Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Difference Between a Caramel Macchiato and a Caramel Latte

Okay, so this question has come up a bunch in my semesters working at a coffee shop. I'm sure you are all familiar with the concept of coffee shops/stands/cafes and know what espresso tastes like whether you drink it regularly or loath even the smell. Correct?

Show of hands?

That's what I thought.

So now the question is, how well do you know your coffee? There are different kinds of drinks. We know this. Especially if the baristas at your local Starbucks know you by name, ask you if you want the usual and can correctly decipher your groggy pre-caffeine grunts.

There is the mocha, the latte, the breve, the macchiato, the americano, the solo and the dopio. If you don't know what a solo and a dopio are, don't worry. They're simply straight shots of espresso, but even some baristas don't know what they're called. *ahem*

So we know a mocha has chocolate. A breve is a latte made with half and half. Americanos are simply shots and really ridiculously hot water. A latte is shots and steamed milk. But what the hey is a macchiato?

Let me tell you something. They call it a macchiato because of how you make the drink. A macchiato is layered differently than a mocha, latte, breve, etc. But not many college students know this, and they only order a caramel macchiato because it is loaded with caffeine and sugar.

But plenty of times I have made them a caramel macchiato only to have them tell me that their drink is not mixed up. I'm sorry, what? This is what you ordered.

So for all you college students out there who have trouble telling their elbow from their kneecap, let me help you understand what a caramel macchiato is.

Because you've ordered a caramel macchiato, here is how I am going to layer it in 5 easy steps:

1. drizzle caramel sauce on sides and bottom of cup
2. add vanilla syrup
3. pour in steamed milk
4. pour in shots
5. drizzle more caramel sauce on top

This is different from what you're expecting because what you wanted was for me to make your macchiato upside down. All that means is that instead of a macchiato, I'm making you a latte.

When making a latte or a mocha you put the shot in first, to give it flavor. If you pour the milk in first, you are flavoring the milk. The steamed milk is used to mix everything together because that's what the majority of your drink is - milk.

I worked with a barista who just made the caramel macchiato by putting in the vanilla syrup, pouring in the shots and then the milk and caramel sauce on top. When I asked her why she made it that way, she answered by telling me that most people don't really want a macchiato, they just like all the sugar that's in the drink.

Well, no more!

Now you can make an educated decision on the type of drink that you would like to order. And if you order a caramel macchiato from me, I'm going to make you a caramel macchiato. And you can talk to Zelda about my supreme caramel macchiato making skills.

She's unsatisfied with other baristas' attempts on campus, but today she stated that the one I made for her was simply fabulous. And I really am modest, I swear...


  1. Lols, love this post! I love your writing style.

    And this is good to know.


  2. "Touche Jedidiah, it is a dumb dance." As Belle and I would say. :)

    But so true, yo. You make rockin' Caramel Macchiatos. :) And you're more modest than I am about my job. :D

  3. nicole.huddleston@vandals.uidaho.eduDecember 7, 2011 at 11:20 AM

    I am a law student that definitely doesn't know my knee from my elbow during finals. Today I ordered a macchiato, like I always do, and then began questioning. Maybe it's my intensely perplexed brain set to question everything, an undesirable effect of the cramming. But anyhow, I googled the question, came across your answer and learned! You answered my question with the clarity I have been craving since the beginning of my law school career. I am also newly aware how undedicated to macchiatos some local baristas are. If I was where you are, we would be friends. So, from a wondering soul to an all-knowing barista, thank you.

  4. I have a question, what difference does the order you put the ingredients in make? doesn't it all mix up the same in the end? I am totally confused by this!

    1. the way that you layer a drink determines what you call it. a latte or a mocha will end up all being mixed together, but a macchiato is a specific layering order. so if you stir it all up then it is no longer a macchiato, but instead it's a latte. Does that help clear things up?

  5. I have never liked caramel lattes. So not knowing what a caramel macchiato was I tried my first one today. It was delish. So I googled the difference and found your explaination. It may all be in the layering but it does make a difference in the taste. Or at least that's my perception.

  6. I am opening up a coffee shop and trying to decide if I should offer a macchiato like you described or the traditional macchiato which is simply espresso "marked" with foam? I really don't want to be another Starbucks!


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