I love coffee, no matter how it’s made.
While the classic espresso is might favorite coffee drink, but I can’t deny that I crave the occasional coffee and milk drink. But when I first started branching out with my coffee orders, I had no idea what made all the different coffee and milk drinks unique, especially cappuccinos, lattes, and macchiatos.
Basically, the only difference between these three drinks is the amount of steamed or frothed milk and the caffeine content. However, things get a bit more complicated when you dive into the details.
So, let me try to explain all the differences between a cappuccino, a latte, and a macchiato. That way, it will be much easier for you to order the right drink whenever you’re at your favorite coffee shop.
Read on to learn more.
Cappuccino vs Latte vs Macchiato – Differences Explained
These three drinks might look similar. In fact, they can even taste the same for the uninitiated. That said, there are quite a few differences between these different beverages that I recommend learning before ordering one for yourself.
So, let’s start with the first difference, which is how they’re made.
How They’re Made
The biggest difference between these three drinks is the amount of milk added when making the beverage. While all three drinks start off with a basic espresso shot, a cappuccino has the most steamed milk, while a macchiato has the least. To give you a better idea, let’s take a closer look at how these drinks are made.
Out of the three major milk and coffee drinks, the cappuccino is my favorite. One of the main reasons for this is that cappuccinos have the most milk. After your barista pulls an espresso shot, they add an equal amount of steamed milk and milk foam. This creates a very balanced and creamy flavor that’s a really nice break from the intense flavor profile of a classic espresso shot.
So, whenever you order a cappuccino, you can expect it to have 33% espresso, 33% steamed milk, and 33% milk foam. The result is a very smooth texture and balanced, creamy flavor.
The best way to understand what a latte is is by translating the name. In Italian, the term “cafe latte” literally means “coffee milk”. There are many ways to make a latte, but most cafes and baristas simply add steamed milk and espresso to the make the drink.
I personally like to top my lattes with a touch of milk foam, but that’s all because of personal preference. The result of this recipe is a milder drink with the same rich espresso flavors that the creamy milk balances out. Most lattes have a lot of milk, which is what makes it great for people that don’t want a super intense espresso taste.
Out of the three drinks, a macchiato has the least amount of milk. I’ve found that the amount of milk that baristas add to a macchiato can vary from cafe to cafe. However, most people simply add a splash of steamed milk to their macchiato. That way, the espresso flavor is balanced out, without overpowering the coffee taste.
While a traditional macchiato contains a splash of milk, there are modern variations that you may find at your local cafe. One of these variations is the latte macchiato, which I make by pouring an espresso shot into a glass of hot milk.
Expect a strong kick and flavor whenever you order a macchiato at a cafe. This is what makes macchiatos special. If you want a strong drink but a milder experience than a straight espresso shot, a macchiato might be right for you.
I always consider caffeine content when I order coffee. After all, you never want to feel too wired or drink a coffee drink that doesn’t have enough of a kick. So, let’s look at the caffeine content of all three of these drinks to make it easier to choose when to order one yourself.
One of the things I learned quickly when studying these drinks is that the caffeine content is usually the same, regardless of which one you order. This is because cappuccinos, lattes, and macchiatos all use a single espresso shot. So, you can expect the same caffeine kick as an Americano or single espresso whenever you order one of these drinks.
That said, the caffeine content can vary greatly depending on the extraction method, roast, and type of coffee bean at your local cafe. This is why it’s best to speak to your barista about the strength of their coffee before ordering any drink. When you do this, it will be much easier to gauge how much energy you’ll get from the beverage.
While the base ingredient of all these drinks is the same, they contain varying amounts of milk. This is why each drink offers a different nutritional value. Generally, cappuccinos contain the most milk per serving, while macchiatos contain the least. This is why a macchiato will have significantly fewer calories and fat than a cappuccino or latte.
Below, I’ll give you estimates on the nutritional content of each drink. For cappuccinos and lattes, I used a 16-ounce serving as the baseline. Since macchiatos are typically smaller than cappuccinos and lattes, I chose a 2-ounce serving as my baseline.
A typical latte serving has the most calories out of the three drinks. A 16-ounce latte has an average of 206 calories. This is because aside from the steamed milk and milk foam, most lattes are drizzled with sweeteners and other ingredients on top.
A 16-ounce cappuccino comes in second in terms of calorie count with 130. And as expected, the macchiato has the least average calories, with a single 2-ounce serving only having 13 calories.
A 16-ounce latte offers an estimated 13 grams of protein. A cappuccino of the same size only offers 8 grams of protein. Lastly, a small 2-ounce cup of macchiato only offers 0.7 grams of protein, which makes the macchiato the best option for those looking to consume less.
Lattes come with steamed milk, milk foam, and sweeteners on top. This is why a single 16-ounce serving can have as much as 20.5 grams of carbs. This is a lot compared to a cappuccino which only has around 13 grams of carbs. Macchiattos remain the beverage with the least carbs, as these drinks only come with around 1.6 grams of carbs.
Since a latte contains the most milk and sweeteners, it also has the highest total fat content. A single latte can have as much as 8 grams of fat for a 16-ounce serving. A cappuccino of the same size only comes with 5 grams of fat. As you might expect, the macchiato also has the lowest total fat content of these three beverages, offering only 0.5 grams of total fat per 2-ounce serving.
Now, just because lattes have the most calories, carbs, and fat doesn’t mean that they are unhealthy. Of course, you shouldn’t have too many lattes as any food or drink is bad for you in excess. But if you have the occasional latte to start your day, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
Not all of us have the time to read up on the nutritional value of each drink. So, for a quicker break down, check out this table:
|Type of Drink||Protein||Total Fat||Carbs||Total Calories|
|2-ounce Macchiatto||0.7 grams||0.5 grams||1.6 grams||13 calories|
|16-ounce Latte||13 grams||8 grams||20.5 grams||206 calories|
|16-ounce Cappuccino||8 grams||5 grams||13 grams||130 calories|
The Bottom Line
I believe that there’s a time and place for all of the drinks mentioned above. There are days I want a cappuccino, but I also order lattes and macchiattos pretty often. These drinks are very similar, with the main difference being the amount of milk in each one. So, all that’s left for you to do is look at what these drinks have to offer and choose the right one for you!