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Macchiato Vs Americano: The Difference And How To Make Them

A regular espresso is too bitter or acidic for your taste?

Then consider some toned-down variants, such as macchiato or Americano.

If you don’t know the difference between these two drinks, no problem. You’ve come to the right place.

Today, we’re going to learn everything about macchiato vs Americano.

Let’s dive straight in.

What is a Macchiato?

macchiato coffee

A macchiato is practically a shot of espresso stained with a small amount of steamed milk on top. In fact, even the word “macchiato” means stained or spotted in Italian.

We don’t know much about the origins of an espresso macchiato. But it’s believed it was created by Italian baristas about 50 years ago, trying to distinguish plain espresso from one with milk.

Nowadays, you will find different variations on this classic Italian drink in a coffee shop.

The most popular one is, hands down, a latte macchiato. This beverage consists of steamed milk, stained with a shot of espresso and topped with foam. In a way, latte macchiato is the exact opposite of what espresso macchiato is. 

Then we have an iced macchiato, a perfect refreshment for piping hot summer days. This cool coffee drink is made with double shots of espresso, cold milk, and ice.

While it’s served as a larger drink, similar to an iced latte, iced macchiato still has that distinctive espresso flavor that sets it apart from other milky coffees.

In case iced macchiato seems too plain for you, a few pumps of flavoring syrups can make a huge difference. One of the popular variations is the iced caramel macchiato, topped with whipped cream and caramel drizzle. 

What is an Americano?

americano coffee

Americano coffee is, simply said, an espresso shot watered down with hot water. While the drink itself resembles regular filter coffee, it still retains the strength and flavor of the espresso shot.

An Americano is sweet and crisp with intense, deep nutty, and earthy notes. It can be slightly acidic, but it’s much less bitter than a regular shot of espresso.

Unlike most espresso drinks offered on the coffee menu, an Americano doesn’t have any added milk in it. This makes it a great option for those who are lactose intolerant or simply don’t want milk in their coffee.

The name of this drink is a clear hint of who invented it. 

In case you don’t know, tea was the drink of choice in Colonial America. But it all changed in 1773, after the notorious Boston Tea Party. 

Paying newly enforced taxes on an essential supply such as tea was something people living in colonies simply wouldn’t put up with.

But caffeine was something they couldn’t go without. After all, the energy boost caffeine provides was something soldiers in the Civil War relied on.

With tea out of the question, Americans naturally turned to another plant that produces an energetic drink – coffee.

Here’s an interesting plot twist. An Americano is named after the people who invented it. But the place of origin is not American soil but European.

The story brings us back to Italy during World War II, where a lot of US troops were stationed.

 Now, these soldiers are used to drinking a bunch of drip coffee back at home. But what they mostly encountered throughout Italy was, you guessed it, espresso.

For American soldiers, espresso was simply too strong and bitter. But these guys found the way for it to work – by adding water until they get a drink similar in consistency to the drip coffee they drank at home.

Well, it turns out that what they created is good enough to become an official drink. It wasn’t long before an Americano made its debut on coffee menus around the world.

Today, you can find different variations of an Americano. One of the most common ones is an iced Americano. As the name suggests, this espresso drink is made with cold water instead of hot. It’s a popular option for hot summer months.

Since there’s no set standard for making an Americano, some coffee shops add their own version of this popular drink.

For instance, Starbucks makes Americano with a ristretto rather than regular espresso. This results in a stronger but sweeter drink.

What’s more, many coffee shops offer variations made with blonde roast.

This type of roast creates a creamier and less acidic espresso. It also contains more caffeine, but the strength is covered by sweet floral notes.

The Difference between Macchiato and Americano

Both macchiato and Americano offer the full impact of espresso while toning down the strength of flavors inside the cup. But they achieve that in different ways. In this section, we’ll point out each difference between these two drinks.

Grind

coffee grind

Since both macchiato and Americano contain espresso, they use the same type of grind.

Ideally, the ground particles for espresso should be around 1/32 of an inch. This is called the fine grind and it’s finer than table salt but coarser than powder.

A standard macchiato is made with a single espresso shot, meaning it uses about 6–8 grams of coffee grounds. 

Now, there’s no actual standard for an Americano. Some coffee shops make it with a single, while others use a double espresso shot. 

Brewing

Own an automatic espresso machine that offers preprogrammed beverages? There’s a pretty good chance both of these drinks will be on the menu. In that case, the machine will take care of brewing.

If there are no premade options available, you need to know the exact measurements for each of the ingredients.

A traditional macchiato consists of a single espresso shot and ¼ ounces of frothed milk. The milk foam is similar to the one on a cappuccino, and it’s easily achieved with any kind of frothing wand. You can also use manual frothers if your machine doesn’t come with one.

Since there’s no real standard for an Americano, different machines may give you different results. In most cases, either a 1:1 or 1:2 espresso to water ratio is used. The same goes for coffee shops around the world.

In fact, Starbucks makes an even more diluted version of an Americano. For an 8-ounce cup, they use a single espresso shot!

Taste

a woman drinking coffee

Both of these drinks offer that distinct espresso flavor, but with a slightly reduced edge. 

An Americano has a body of espresso but without bitterness. The first sip is strong with a slight chocolate note, but the fruity and acidic aftertaste softens the flavor. In a way, an Americano is something between espresso and regular filter coffee.

Macchiato has a dominant espresso flavor, but it’s slightly softened by the addition of foamed milk. It has a bold and rich body with subtly sweet notes. 

Between the two, macchiato will appear to be stronger. But in some cases, an Americano might contain more espresso and still seem weaker due to a larger coffee-to-water ratio.

Serving

As far as serving goes, it’s hard to mistake one drink for another.

Traditionally, a macchiato is served in a small espresso cup. Often, it comes served with a teaspoon, so that you can stir the milk foam and make a more uniform drink. Still, a macchiato is not actually supposed to be stirred.

As for the Americano, this drink is usually served in a large cup or a mug. Usually, you can order it in different sizes ranging from 8 to 20 ounces.

Macchiato Vs Americano: Which One Is Better for You?

There’s no single winner in this battle. Which one of these drinks is better for you depends on what you’re looking for in coffee.

If you want a light espresso-based drink you can sip on for hours, an Americano might be for you. It’s toned down in flavor but strong enough to give you the much-needed energy kick.

However, if you’re looking for a creamy, full-bodied beverage, then macchiato is a better option. This short but intense cup of coffee is a perfect pick-me-up in the afternoon.

And hey, if you realize that neither is good enough for you, you can choose something completely different, for example – a latte.

FAQ

different types of coffee

I’m sure you still have questions regarding either of these coffee drinks. That’s why I’ve created a short FAQ that should solve your doubts.

Is macchiato stronger than Americano? 

This depends on the amount of coffee used for each of these drinks. A standard macchiato consists of a single espresso shot, which contains about 63 milligrams of caffeine. An Americano made with the same amount of coffee, naturally, has the same amount of caffeine.

An Americano made with double shots of espresso might appear weak compared to a macchiato, even though it actually isn’t. That all depends on the amount of water added.

When should I drink macchiato?

In Italy, a macchiato is originally served as an afternoon drink that “picks you up” after a hard day of work. Of course, no one’s to stop you from drinking it any time of the day. Just keep in mind that it gives a strong caffeine high that might make falling asleep at night a tough task.

What is an Americano with milk called?

An Americano Misto is pretty much an Americano topped with steamed milk. It’s different from Caffe Misto, which is made with equal parts espresso and steamed milk, but without added water.

The Final Word

So there you have it – two espresso-based drinks that might seem similar but taste quite different.

An Americano offers a similar flavor and texture to the original espresso. But the added water tones down the otherwise overwhelming strength and bitterness.

A macchiato, on the other hand, is creamier and more concentrated. And thanks to the splash of milk, it cuts the edge off the espresso without taking much of the strength.

Before you decide which one of these drinks is more up your alley, try them both. And if you want to make them on a barista level, check out the best espresso machines for beginners that will make the job easier.

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Viktoria Marks
Viktoria is a writer and a journalist who can't imagine sitting by her computer without a large cup of java in her hand. She loves sampling coffee from all over the world as much as writing about it.