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Macchiato Vs Mocha: The Key Differences And How To Make Them

Macchiato vs mocha – just how exactly are these two drinks different from each other?

These two coffee shop staples are actually very different.

One adds chocolate, the other one adds just a spoonful of milk.

In this article, I’ll give you a rundown of each drink, how they are made, and a few variations on the classics you should try.

Let’s get to it!

What is a Macchiato?

macchiato coffee

Macchiato is an espresso drink familiar to every coffee lover.

There are two main types of Macchiatos out there these days. One that is more similar to a mocha than the other.

Let’s take a quick look at each one.

Traditional Macchiato

The traditional macchiato is more similar to a cortado or just a shot of espresso.

It is a single or double shot of espresso with a few small spoonfuls of milk foam added to the top.

It comes from the Italian “marked” or “spotted.” It was a way for waiters to tell the difference between straight espresso and espresso with just a touch of milk.

The traditional espresso macchiato is more popular in specialty coffee shops. It bears little resemblance to a latte macchiato.

Latte Macchiato

The latte macchiato looks more like a standard latte than a traditional macchiato.

In this drink, the milk is added to the cup before the espresso. The espresso is then poured on top of the milk and foam.

The milk in a latte macchiato has more milk foam than in a standard latte. Because of this, when the espresso is poured over the milk, it creates a layered drink.

The most common variation on the latte macchiato is by adding caramel. Starbucks created this drink and it has since taken off in popularity.

Related Reading: Macchiato Vs Cortado: Which Espresso Suits You Best?

What is a Mocha?

macchiato coffee

Chances are if you like coffee you’ve had a latte at some point. That’s a good starting point for understanding what a café mocha is.

Picture a latte: a double shot of espresso with nicely textured and micro foamed milk added, and sometimes some art.

Now add melted chocolate, chocolate syrup, or chocolate powder and you have a mocha.

There are some variations on the classic mocha, like adding white or milk chocolate instead of dark chocolate. Or using brewed coffee as a base instead of espresso. 

You can also top it with some whipped cream and additional flavored syrup.

But in the end, a mocha is always frothed milk, coffee, and chocolate.

The Differences Between Macchiato and Mocha

Macchiato and mocha are two staples in most coffee shops these days. But they are very different drinks.

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how these drinks are different from each other.

Ingredients

coffee with foam milk

The ingredients for macchiato and mochas are actually pretty similar. Each one contains espresso and milk.

But it’s what added after those two things that make a difference.

In traditional macchiatos, there isn’t anything else added and the drink is made with steamed milk and espresso.

It’s a very small amount of milk foam that goes into a macchiato. A macchiato ends up with more espresso than milk.

A mocha, on the other hand, uses about a 3:1 ratio of milk to espresso. But the differences in ingredients don’t end there.

A mocha adds chocolate to espresso and steamed milk.

Some shops make their mochas different from others, but the ingredients for a mocha are always espresso, steamed milk, and chocolate.

Brewing Method

The brewing method is slightly different for these two drinks.

You start with pulling an espresso on an espresso machine. That much is the same.

Some shops add their chocolate to their espresso as it pulls, which creates a more integrated and balanced chocolate taste.

Usually, the chocolate is added to the bottom of the cup in mocha. The espresso is then poured on top and mixed before the milk is added.

For a macchiato, the espresso is pulled into a standard espresso cup. Then a dollop of foam is added by spoon to the espresso. The milk is not mixed into the drink.

A macchiato is more akin to an espresso. A mocha is more akin to a latte.

Milk Preparation

milk frothing

The milk in these two drinks is another difference between them. It is a small difference but matters a lot in the final drink.

The milk in mocha coffee is identical to the milk in a standard caffe latte. It is lightly frothed to around 140 degrees Fahrenheit with a small layer of foam on top.

Because the milk froth texture is the same as a latte, baristas are still able to add latte art to your mochas.

The milk in a macchiato is more similar to that of a cappuccino. However, it is important to note that it is usually only foam that is added to a macchiato and not textured milk.

Some shops might do this a little differently, but traditionally only foam is added to a macchiato.

Flavor

The flavor is maybe the biggest difference between the mocha and macchiato.

A mocha will always taste like chocolate. It doesn’t matter what variation or additions a shop might put in the mocha. A mocha by definition will taste like chocolate.

A good way to think of mocha is to think of a hot chocolate with a shot of espresso.

A macchiato, on the other hand, tastes very much like espresso. The foam will dilute to a strong coffee taste a little bit.

If you don’t like the full taste of straight espresso but don’t want to lose the flavor entirely, a macchiato is a great drink.

Related Reading: The Best Coffee Syrup

Serving

cup of macchiato coffee

There aren’t traditional standards for serving these drinks. Each shop will have a slightly different way of presenting its mochas and macchiatos.

Macchiatos are served just like espresso shots. They come in a little glass on a saucer and are usually served with sparkling water and a small spoon.

The spoon can be used to mix the foam with the espresso coffee.

You can sometimes tell how good a macchiato is by the appearance of the foam in the espresso.

A good barista will create almost a perfect circle of foam on top of the espresso. A better circle sometimes means the barista knows what they are doing.

A mocha is generally presented like a latte. The chocolate mixes in with the espresso before the milk is added. And the milk is textured like a latte. So baristas are able to make latte art in a mocha.

Whatever your barista usually pours, like hearts, rosettas, or stacks, you can find in mochas.

Macchiato vs Mocha: Which is better?

Coffee drinks are always personal taste. So take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt and give both a try to see if you like one better!

Let’s start with the calories in these drinks.

You’ll get more calories in a mocha than you will in a latte macchiato. That’s because of the chocolate and the amount of milk.

A macchiato doesn’t have any other ingredients that will add calories to your cup. It also doesn’t use much milk, saving calories there.

On a personal note, I prefer mochas to macchiatos. I tend to enjoy the mix of espresso, milk, and chocolate. 

I like my espresso and milk integrated as I believe it creates a more balanced and smoother experience.

That being said, there is a place for macchiatos. While I might be partial to straight espresso, I understand that someimtes adding a little milk can be enjoyable.

FAQ

Let’s get into some common questions I get about these two drinks.

Which is stronger mocha or macchiato?

These drinks will have the same caffeine content because they are both made with espresso shots.

A mocha will taste less like coffee and more like hot chocolate. A macchiato will have a stronger coffee taste because there aren’t any additions.

What kind of macchiatos are at Starbucks?

On the Starbucks menu, there is a caramel macchiato and an espresso macchiato. But that shouldn’t stop you from ordering a macchiato without caramel.

Starbucks baristas will usually make a macchiato without caramel on request.

What coffee drink is similar to a macchiato?

A cappuccino is similar to a latte macchiato in texture and taste. And a cortado is most similar to espresso or traditional macchiato.

Final Words

That’s everything you need to know about macchiato vs mocha!

A macchiato is an espresso shot with a spoonful of foam added on top. And a mocha is espresso, chocolate, and milk, quite similar to a latte.

They are both great drinks and are staples in almost every coffee shop.

Mochas don’t have many variations other than white chocolate or using brewed coffee instead of espresso.

Macchiatos have a ton of variation. The most popular variations are the latte macchiato and the caramel macchiato.

Interested in having an iced mocha? Check out our article on how to make an iced mocha at home!

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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.