Caramel Latte Vs Caramel Macchiato: Revealing The Difference

Caramel latte vs caramel macchiato – aren’t these two drinks pretty much the same thing?

Not exactly.

They’re actually very different drinks and ordering one when you mean the other can be a bummer.

In this article, I’ll explain the similarities and differences between these two caramel drinks and how to customize them to your specific taste.

Let’s get to it!

What is a Caramel Latte?

caramel latte

A caramel latte is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a caffè latte with caramel flavoring.

That flavor usually comes in the form of caramel syrup that is added to the espresso before the steamed milk.

But let’s take a step back to understand what exactly makes a latte.

A latte is one of the larger espresso-based coffee drinks on the menu at almost every coffee shop. The general ratio of espresso to milk in a latte is 1:3.

That means that for a standard double-shot latte you will have 4 oz of espresso and 12 oz of milk for a drink that is 16 oz.

Some coffee shops serve 12 oz lattes, but that’s because they pull their espresso shot slightly smaller. The ratio of 1:3 espresso to milk will always be the same.

Caramel lattes are no different from other flavored lattes like vanilla, peppermint, or even the mocha.

Caramel is added to the espresso and mixed together before the barista pours in the milk.

What is a Caramel Macchiato?

caramel macchiato

A caramel macchiato is a variation on the latte macchiato.

Let’s understand the latte macchiato before we dive into the caramel aspect.

A latte macchiato is the bigger cousin to the espresso macchiato. “Macchiato” in Italian means “spotted” or “marked.” It was a way for waiters to tell the difference between straight espresso and espresso with a touch of milk.

The latte macchiato came later, and instead of marking the espresso with milk, baristas started to mark milk with espresso.

That’s the main difference between lattes and latte macchiatos. Lattes add milk to espresso while macchiatos add espresso shot to milk.

The result in the latte macchiato is a layered effect of milk on the bottom, espresso in the middle, and foam on top.

Adding caramel to a latte macchiato usually happens at the end when caramel sauce is drizzled on top of the foam.

Caramel macchiatos are also made with vanilla syrup as a way to sweeten the drink before adding the caramel drizzle.

Some coffee shops, however, will line the inside of the glass or cup with caramel to help mix the caramel flavor in with the espresso and milk.

The ratio of espresso to milk is still 1:3 in a caramel macchiato. And the drink is usually around 16 oz.

Caramel Latte vs Caramel Macchiato: The Difference?

While the size and ratio of the caramel latte and caramel macchiato are identical, there are plenty of differences.

Ordering one instead of the other will give you two very different experiences.

Let’s dive into the main differences between these drinks.

Brewing

The brewing for these drinks remains mostly the same.

It starts with pulling a double shot of espresso on an espresso machine.

However, the rest of the preparation of these two drinks is very different.

In a caramel latte, the caramel is mixed in with the espresso in the bottom of the cup or glass before the milk is poured.

Once the caramel and espresso are mixed together, the barista adds the steamed milk. Because the drink is made in this order, the barista is able to make art in a caramel latte.

On the other hand, the barista adds foamed milk to a cup or glass before the espresso in a caramel macchiato. That’s why latte art cannot be added to a caramel macchiato.

The barista mixes vanilla syrup in with the espresso before pouring the coffee into the milk and adding caramel drizzle.

The most pleasing part of looking at a caramel macchiato is the layering seen from the side of the drink is served in clear glass.

Milk

barista steaming milk

The milk is another difference between these two drinks.

A caramel latte has the same kind of milk as a standard latte.

The barista steams the milk to around 140 degrees Fahrenheit while adding just a touch of milk foam. 

When adding the milk to a caramel latte, the point is to bond the espresso and caramel with the microfoam of the milk.

The milk for a caramel macchiato is more akin to the milk served in a cappuccino.

In a caramel macchiato, the milk is frothed to about the same temperature as in a caramel latte, but with more milk froth.

The point is to create a layering of steamed milk and foam in the cup for the espresso to sit between.

Flavor

The addition of milk and caramel to these drinks is what makes them taste different.

The caramel in a caramel latte is mixed in with the espresso before the milk is added. And the milk is mixed in with the caramel and espresso to create a bond that makes the drink taste smooth, rich, and creamy.

It is a sweeter coffee drink than the caramel macchiato because all the ingredients are mixed together before you take your first sip.

The caramel macchiato, on the other hand, is served separated. While there is additional sweetener added in the form of vanilla or caramel syrup, it isn’t that much and doesn’t take away from the espresso taste.

The caramel sauce added to the top of a caramel macchiato doesn’t add much sweetness to the drink as a whole.

A caramel macchiato will be more espresso-forward than a caramel latte.

Customization

preparation of caramel coffee

Customization of the caramel latte is harder than a caramel macchiato.

That’s because all the ingredients in a caramel latte are mixed together before it is served to you. Changing the ingredients in the caramel latte would actually make it a different drink.

One way to change things up, however, is to try adding other things to the caramel latte. For less of a caramel taste, try adding half vanilla syrup.

Customizing a caramel macchiato is much easier and, in my opinion, more fun.

Instead of using vanilla syrup as the sweetener in the drink, try adding another kind of syrup.

My personal favorite is hazelnut or peppermint. But there are so many ways to tweak the recipe.

You can also ask your barista to mix a half pump of caramel sauce into the espresso before it is poured into the milk to get even more caramel flavor. If you would like some extra sugar in your drink, you can top it with some whipped cream.

The last way to customize both drinks is to get them iced! Both the caramel macchiato and the caramel latte taste great hot or cold.

FAQ

You might still have some specific questions about these two drinks.

I compiled a few of the more common questions I get about them.

What is the difference between iced caramel latte and iced caramel macchiato?

Caramel is mixed in with the espresso and frothed milk before being poured over ice in an iced caramel latte.

In an iced caramel macchiato, the milk is poured over ice, then the espresso, then caramel sauce is added on top.

Is an upside-down caramel macchiato just a latte?

Not quite. In an upside-down caramel macchiato, the order of preparation is just reversed.

So first the barista adds caramel to the bottom, then the espresso, then milk and foam, and then vanilla syrup is added on top.

Is caramel macchiato stronger than coffee?

The caramel macchiato will have a strong coffee taste. But it will have less caffeine than a standard cup of brewed coffee.

The caffeine count between caramel lattes and caramel macchiatos is the same.

Final Thoughts

So there it is!

Caramel lattes and caramel macchiatos are actually very different drinks.

The caramel latte is a regular latte with caramel mixed into the espresso.

The caramel macchiato is a layered espresso drink sweetened with vanilla and drizzled with caramel sauce on top.

You’ll get a richer and creamier caramel flavor from a caramel latte. But you’ll get a more espresso-forward taste with a hint of caramel from a caramel macchiato.

Try them both, they are each delicious!

Confused about how these two drinks are different when iced? Check out our article on iced macchiatos vs iced lattes!

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Craig Carey
Craig spent a year as a barista in Denver's specialty coffee world. He spends his days rock climbing, cycling, drinking espresso, and hanging around the Rocky Mountains. He still lives in Colorado.