Macchiato Vs Frappuccino: What’s The Big Difference?

Macchiato vs frappuccino – are these two drinks really that different from each other?

Yes. They are actually very different.

In this article, I’ll explain what each drink is, offer an idea on how to make them, and go in-depth on the differences between them.

Let’s jump straight in!

What is a Macchiato?

macchiato coffee

The macchiato is a traditional espresso drink. Granted, Starbucks has its own version of the macchiato. 

But if you walk into any specialty coffee shop, you’ll find yourself with the traditional or cafe macchiato.

So what is the macchiato?

It’s a small espresso-based drink served in a demitasse glass with a volume of 2-4 oz. It’s generally the same cup you will get if you order a straight espresso.

The difference is that the espresso is topped with a spoonful of milk foam in a macchiato.

“Macchiato” means spotted or marked in Italian. The top of the espresso is spotted with a spoonful of milk foam. 

Baristas used this serving style as a way to tell which espresso had a little bit of milk in it.

There is also the latte macchiato. The easiest way to think of a latte macchiato is to picture an upside-down latte. 

The foamed milk is added to the glass first in a latte macchiato. Then the espresso is poured into the foam.

The result is a layered and unmixed drink that has the same 3:1 milk to espresso ratio as a standard latte.

Starbucks’ default when you ask for a macchiato is the latte macchiato.

How to make a Macchiato?

Making a macchiato is simple. It only has two ingredients after all. 

But you will need two things: a good espresso, and a way to froth milk.

Once you have a good espresso and frothed milk, the rest is easy.

  • Start by grinding 16-18 grams of coffee
  • Fill and tamp your portafilter
  • Pull either a single or double shot of espresso
  • Forth a little bit of milk to around 140 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Spoon a little foam onto your espresso
  • Enjoy

It really is that simple. When making this at home, you can stir the foam into the espresso right away.

What is a Frappuccino?

frappuccino

The Frappuccino is unique to Starbucks. The name is actually trademarked, so you can’t find a Frappuccino anywhere else.

At its core, the Frappuccino is a blended drink made with ice. The base is either coffee or cream blended with ice and other ingredients such as flavored syrup.

So yes, the Frappuccino doesn’t actually have to have coffee.

I used to order Frappuccinos back before I started drinking coffee. That was when I was really young and didn’t even like the taste. That’s because it tasted like a milkshake.

But if that sounds familiar, you might also have your coffee-loving habit rooted in the Frappuccino.

It’s a great option for someone who wants a little coffee (or no coffee) and a little sweetness in their drink.

The Frappuccino is often topped with whipped cream.

Be careful not to confuse Frappuccino and frappe. They are slightly different drinks, even though both are cold and sweet coffee drinks.

How to make a Frappuccino?

Making a Frappuccino can be super easy. Especially easy if you don’t want to use any coffee.

But even if you do want to use coffee in your Frappuccino, it can still be relatively simple.

For a coffee-based Frappuccino, you’ll need a blender to do it right.

You’ll need:

  • One cup of brewed coffee
  • One cup of milk
  • Two cups of ice
  • 3 tablespoons of your favorite syrup

The process is easy:

  • Pour all the ingredients into a blender
  • Blend on high until the drink is smooth
  • Pour into a glass and enjoy!

As a bonus, you can top it with whipped cream.

Go deeper: How To Make A Coffee Frappuccino

The Difference between Macchiato and Frappuccino

These two drinks are very different from each other.

Don’t get me wrong, they are both delicious. But they are two of the most different drinks on a coffee shop’s menu.

Let’s dive into those differences.

Ingredients

The macchiato is a much simpler drink in terms of ingredients.

That’s because it only has two: espresso and milk.

Traditional or espresso macchiatos will only ever have those two ingredients.

Latte macchiatos, or the popular Starbucks caramel macchiato, can have other ingredients. Popular additions to latte macchiatos are vanilla, chocolate, or caramel.

A Frappuccino, on the other hand, is a little more complicated. There are more ingredients standard in a Frappuccino than in a macchiato.

The Frappuccino uses ice as a base. Either coffee, cream, or both go on top of the ice. The last few ingredients vary by which Frappuccino you order.

Starbucks has a lot of Frappucino flavors. You can get mocha, white mocha, caramel, or plain vanilla.

Brewing

pouring coffee

The brewing of these two drinks is quite different. That is to say that the Frappuccino doesn’t really have much brewing at all.

Starbucks uses the Frap Roast as a base for their coffee Frappuccinos. The Frap Roast is essentially instant coffee powder mixed with cold water.

That cold coffee is then added with the other ingredients and blended. It adds the coffee flavor without sacrificing the temperature of the drink itself.

You actually do need to brew when making a macchiato.

That’s because the macchiato has an espresso base. It is also espresso-forward. That means the espresso taste comes across pretty strong. 

So, a good espresso is essential to a good macchiato.

The milk foam is then added to the espresso to finish off the macchiato.

Taste

It would be difficult to find two drinks on the menu that taste more different than the macchiato and the Frappucino.

That’s because the macchiato is espresso-forward while the Frappuccino doesn’t even have espresso.

In a macchiato, the espresso taste is paramount to the final drink. It dominates the taste.

The foam added to a macchiato is meant to dilute just a tiny bit of the espresso. It leaves you with a slightly smoother experience than if you just had a straight espresso.

In a Frappuccino, the dominating taste is the additions. Usually, Frappuccinos are sugary drinks that taste mostly sweet.

For example, a mocha Frappuccino will taste mostly like chocolate with a little bit of coffee aftertaste.

A caramel Frappuccino will taste mostly like cream and caramel with a subtle coffee flavor underneath.

See a pattern?

The goal of a Frappuccino is to be a refreshing and sweet cold drink and not a coffee-forward one.

Serving

frappuccino in a clear glass

These drinks are served very differently from each other.

A macchiato is served in a demitasse cup. It’s the same cup you would get if you ordered a straight espresso.

Specialty shops usually serve macchiatos with a spoon for mixing and a cup of sparkling water as a palette cleanser.

If you order a latte macchiato, it will usually come in a clear glass to show off the layered nature of the bigger variation on the macchiato.

A Frappuccino is served in a clear cup to show off the texture of the drink. It is also served cold, so you don’t need to worry about burning your hand.

The lid is domed so that the barista can fit the whipped cream topping.

Frappuccino vs Macchiato: Which is Better for You?

There are two ways to think about which drink is better for you.

The first is caffeine.

Let’s look at the caramel Frappuccino as a standard.

A caramel Frappuccino has only 90 mg of caffeine. That’s about the same as one cup of brewed coffee.

A macchiato made with a double shot of espresso will have about 120 mg of caffeine.

The second way to think about which one is better is by sugar content.

The caramel Frappuccino has 54 grams of sugar in the grande size. Most of that sugar comes from the syrup used.

That means that each Frappuccino will have slightly different sugar counts. But the reality is that all Frappuccinos have a lot more sugar than a macchiato.

A macchiato only has as much sugar as the milk used. Even using heavy cream for your macchiato, you will have less than a gram of sugar.

FAQ

Let’s answer some last-minute burning questions about macchiatos and Frappuccinos.

Is macchiato stronger than frappuccino?

Yes. The macchiato will have a coffee-forward taste and be quite strong.

A double-shot macchiato will have more caffeine than a coffee Frappuccino.

Is there a caramel macchiato frappuccino?

There isn’t a caramel macchiato Frappuccino. There is, however, a caramel Frappuccino.

If you want your caramel Frappuccino to taste like a caramel macchiato, ask for two pumps of vanilla syrup added to your drink.

What is the best macchiato at Starbucks?

This is a subjective question, but my personal favorite is the Mocha Frappuccino. I love the taste of chocolate and coffee blended together.

Final Words

That’s all the differences between macchiatos and Frappuccinos.

The macchiato is a small espresso drink with a spoonful of milk foam added on top.

The Frappuccino is a cold blended Starbucks drink with coffee, ice, cream, and syrup.

The macchiato packs a coffee punch and is generally an afternoon drink. The Frappuccino is a sweet drink perfect for warm summer days.

Hopefully, this answered all your questions about these two drinks!

Wondering why Frappuccino sounds like cappuccino? Take a look at our article on the differences between a Frappuccino and a cappuccino!

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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.