Latte vs Cappuccino vs Macchiato: The Main Differences Explained

Updated on: April 26, 2023
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latte vs cappuccino vs macchiato

Okay, we know why you're here... There are too many drinks to keep track of and now you're wondering what are the differences really between these three drinks: Latte vs Cappuccino vs Macchiato!

You see, coffee is one of the world’s most popular hot drinks - and for good reason. With such a large variety of flavors, strengths, and ways to serve coffee, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

The first thing any budding barista needs to know is the differences between different types of coffee.


There are literally dozens of different ways to serve a coffee, from mochas to espressos to flat whites.

People take their coffee seriously, so it’s important to know the differences, and sometimes these differences can be minute.

That's where we come in...

The best way to learn the differences between types of coffee is by starting with the basics, so that’s why we’ve created this handy guide to explain the differences between the 3 most popular coffee drinks at coffee shops - cappuccino vs latte vs macchiato.

So whether you’re an aspiring barista, looking for a new way to drink coffee, or simply want to know what the menu at your local coffee shop means, read on - we’ve got everything you need to know right here!

Latte vs Cappuccino vs Macchiato - What Are They?

Cappuccino, Latte, And Macchiato - What Actually Are They

Before we can start looking at the differences between these three types of coffee, first we need to cover what they actually are.

As we mentioned earlier, these are some of the most common espresso drinks, and you’ll find them on the menu of pretty much every coffee shop that owns an espresso machine.

Part of the reason that they’re so popular is their simplicity - all three of these drinks use just two ingredients. Yet they taste so delicious...

But despite these similarities, there are many differences that set them apart.

So to help you get your head around things, here’s a quick breakdown of each espresso drink.

What Is A Cappuccino?

The traditional cappuccino is one of the most popular coffee drinks and it is made up of three layers: a shot of espresso, a layer of steamed milk, and a layer of milk foam.

While those last two sound practically identical, there’s an important difference between them - steamed milk is heated and lightly aerated milk, while milk foam is incredibly frothy and has a lot more volume.

They also have different densities, which is crucial to making a proper cappuccino.

Making a cappuccino is as simple as its ingredient list. You simply need to make three layers with the espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam, evenly divided into ⅓ layers each.

The ingredients have to go in this order due to the differing densities of the liquids: First the espresso shot, then the steamed hot milk, and finally the milk froth.

The espresso shot is the densest, which is why it goes on the bottom. The slightly-less-dense steamed milk is then delicately poured on top, creating the layered effect. Finally, the frothed milk (which is by far the least dense) goes on top to finish.

This might sound incredibly simple, and it is!

Making a cappuccino is easy and it's the perfect espresso coffee drink to have in the morning, just like the Italians do.

Try adding some cocoa powder or cinnamon sprinkles on top for a nice change!

Cappuccino vs latte

Bone Dry Cappuccino vs Wet Cappuccino

Now things get a little more complicated when customization is involved. Over the years, people have chosen to alter this classic drink to suit their taste buds.

There's nothing wrong with that! You do you, boo!

And because of that, two new variations of the cappuccino have emerged: the bone dry cappuccino and the wet cappuccino!

Just as they sound, the bone dry cappuccino has more frothed milk and less steamed milk than a regular cappuccino. While the wet cappuccino is the opposite.

Some might argue that a wet cappuccino is actually a caffe latte, which brings us to our next drink...

What Is A Latte?

Here’s where the confusion tends to start. A latte is another incredibly common type of coffee to have and has a lot in common with cappuccinos aside from its popularity.

First, a caffe latte has the same ingredients as a cappuccino (we told you this is where it gets complicated!). The main difference between them is the proportions of the ingredients - not the ingredients themselves.

A latte still follows the same shot of espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk order as a cappuccino, but the proportions of these are different. Here you have ⅓ espresso, 50% made up of steamed milk, and the last small fraction remaining is made up of a thin layer of milk foam.

The increased proportion of milk makes lattes a weaker type of milky coffee, but one that is much more approachable to beginner coffee drinkers.

When you compare the taste of a cappuccino vs latte, you will find that the latte tastes milkier and smoother.

Latte vs Macchiato

And since there's more milk in a latte vs cappuccino, this makes it more versatile. That's why it has become quite popular to add flavored syrup, such as chocolate syrup to this drink.

We are sure you have heard of the Pumpkin Spice Latte that was made famous by Starbucks, as well as other coffee drinks like Vanilla Lattes, Caffe Mochas, etc...

What Is A Macchiato?

A Caffe Macchiato is the dark horse of the three, with the most unique factors that set it apart from the others.

First, the ingredients have had a much larger shift; the steamed milk is gone entirely, with only the foamed milk and espresso remaining. These are now divided into a 50/50 split, with half espresso and half foamed milk. 

The ratio of ingredients isn’t the only thing that makes a macchiato special. To make up for the loss of drink by getting rid of the steamed milk, a macchiato makes up for this by swapping out the espresso for a double shot, making macchiatos far stronger than most other types of coffee.

Macchiatos might not be to everyone’s taste, but a well-made macchiato is hard to beat.

Caffe Macchiato

Espresso Macchiato

Macchiato means "marked" in Italian because the espresso is marked with a dollop of milk foam on top. This is the traditional macchiato.

However, most people might recognize the latte macchiato, which was made popular by Starbucks with the Caramel Macchiato.

Caramel Macchiato
Caramel Macchiato

Latte Macchiato

The latte macchiato is pretty much a regular latte, but the espresso shot goes in last so create a velvety layer through the milk and mark the frothed milk with the espresso shot.

In other words, the latte macchiato is the reverse of the espresso macchiato!

These are just the basics, and cappuccinos, lattes, and macchiatos might have some things in common, but there is a lot that goes into making them different too.

What Are These Coffees Made With?

What Are These Coffees Made With

As we’ve already covered, these coffees are made out of espresso coffee, steamed milk, and foamed milk (or in the case of macchiatos, just espresso, and frothed milk).

But just because they only use coffee and milk it doesn’t mean that these ingredients can’t be different between these drinks. If you’re wondering what type of milk and coffee to use when making these drinks, here’s what you need to know.

What Milk To Use

At the end of the day, the milk you use will come down to your personal preference. With that said, however, there are definitely some kinds of milk that work best for each coffee and are what you’ll typically find in a usual recipe.

Both cappuccinos and macchiatos use whole milk. The extra fat content in whole milk makes it far better at creating a thick foam, as well as making it easier to create the layered effect due to the foam’s density.

This makes it the prime choice for cappuccinos, where the foam needs to be dense enough to support its own weight without sinking into the steamed milk. 

Lattes, on the other hand, typically use either whole milk or 2% milk (although 2% fat is the preferred choice). Because the foam layer in a latte is much thinner than on a cappuccino, it doesn’t need as much integrity.

Of course, any non-dairy alternative will work just fine if that’s what you prefer.

The only issue you might face is that milk substitutes don’t foam as well as dairy, so creating distinct layers can be difficult. A great alternative that has gained much popularity recently is oat milk, which makes for a great dairy substitute.

But apart from that, you shouldn’t have any issues.

What Coffee To Use

The coffee you use for your espresso doesn’t matter as much as the milk, but it’s still important to think about the coffee you’re using.

The main important thing to do when making any of these types of coffee is to use an espresso machine.

Having an espresso maker will make sure your coffee is rich and smooth and is what really sets these drinks apart from a regular drip coffee.

As we’ve already mentioned, the amount of espresso you’ll need changes depending on what drink you’re making. A cappuccino and a latte both use a single shot of espresso, which is around 30ml or 1oz of coffee.

However, macchiatos double that to 60ml (or 2oz). This is an important detail to remember, otherwise, your macchiato won’t have much in it!

Double Shots of Espresso

What Other Differences Are There?

With their main differences out of the way, there are still a couple of things to think about when it comes to telling the difference between a cappuccino, a latte, and a macchiato.

It isn’t just the ingredients themselves or the way that they’re prepared that changes - there are a couple of other factors that don’t stay the same.

Caffeine Content

As you might expect from the different amounts of espresso in each drink, the caffeine content of these drinks will change depending on how many shots of espresso are in each drink.

Luckily, coffee lovers can rejoice because it is easy to keep track of how much caffeine is in these drinks.

Cappuccinos and lattes both have one shot of espresso; this is typically around 68 mg of caffeine, which is how much these two drinks contain.

For a macchiato, all you need to do is double this amount for a double shot of espresso. This leaves a macchiato with 136 mg of caffeine.

Nutritional Value

You might also be wondering about the nutritional value of these coffees. Once again, these are all different. The coffee itself has practically no calories, so it’s all down to the milk. 

Lattes are by far the most decadent, with a regular cup of latte containing around 100 calories on average. This is due to the increased amount of milk and can be higher or lower depending on whether you’ve used 2% or whole milk.

Cappuccinos have around 34 calories on average. And macchiatos have by far the lowest amount of calories because it is mostly espresso with a dollop of frothed milk.

cappuccino vs latte

Which of These Drinks Should I Have? 

So now that you’ve learned the differences between cappuccinos, lattes, and macchiatos, you might be wondering - which type of coffee is right for you?

Well, this will mostly come down to your personal preference and the type of things you look for in your coffee.

If you like a well-rounded coffee with a mix of rich espresso and creamy milk, then a cappuccino’s balanced ratio is right up your alley.

If you’re a beginner coffee drinker (or simply want something lighter), then lattes are more approachable and easier for sensitive palates. 

Finally, macchiatos are best for coffee lovers and avid coffee drinkers looking for a strong cup of coffee. Nothing more, nothing less.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is Stronger Cappuccino or Latte Macchiato?

The simple answer is that the cappuccino will be stronger if they both have the same amount of espresso shots. This is because the cappuccino has more foam than a latte macchiato and therefore less steamed milk.

This is not to be confused with an espresso macchiato, which is quite different than the latte macchiato. In this case, the espresso macchiato would be stronger than a cappuccino because it is mostly 2 shots of espresso with a dollop of milk foam.

Is a Macchiato Stronger than a Latte?

Similar to the question before, an espresso macchiato is certainly stronger than a latte, but a latte macchiato will be the same strength as a regular latte.

Is a Flat White a Macchiato?

No, a flat white is not a macchiato. They are actually quite different in flavor and preparation.

What is the Difference between a Latte and a Latte Macchiato?

The main difference between a latte and a latte macchiato is the order in which the ingredients are added. In a latte, the espresso goes in first, then the steamed milk, and finally the milk foam. In a latte macchiato, it is the steamed milk first, then the milk foam, and finally the espresso shot to mark the drink.

Which Coffee Drink has the Most Milk?

The caffe latte will have the most milk compared to the cappuccino and the macchiato.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it - now you know the differences between a latte vs cappuccino vs macchiato!

We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about these different ways to serve coffee, and let us know which one is your favorite once you try them all.

So whether you like a balanced cappuccino, a milky latte, or a strong macchiato, there’s a type of coffee for everyone; all you have to do now is pick the right one for you. Enjoy!

Felipe is a tea expert with an engineering background! He loves to drink and learn all about tea and coffee. His love for tea was discovered while living in Japan and his favorites are Sencha & Pu'er!
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