Photo: McPig, Flickr
Coffee can be confusing: How come when you order a macchiato at a shop adorned with that ubiquitous green mermaid, the drink comes out as a tall, steaming cup of foamed, caramel-latticed milk kissed with just a hint of espresso and vanilla -- while at some other boutique cafes it arrives in a doll-house-sized demitasse?
It's all about vocabulary.
Didn't think you'd actually have to learn Italian in order to order a coffee? Well don't worry -- just one word can unravel the macchiato mystery once and for all.
Read on after the jump to find out more about macchiatos.
Technically, there are a couple of ways to interpret the word "macchiato," which literally means "marked" or "stained" in Italian. A hearty mug of frothy, steamed milk is "marked" when a shot of espresso is dumped into it, creating a latte macchiato (or "stained milk" -- to which one might add caramel sauce and vanilla syrup, creating that popular drink you may have heard of). This is something relatively akin to the American idea of a regular caffè latte, though you might be surprised at how different the beverage can taste depending on what gets added to what: milk to coffee, or vice versa. (Milk plus coffee does taste vastly milkier than when it's constructed the other way around.)
On the other hand, a caffè macchiato or espresso macchiato is born when a short-but-stout shot of espresso is marked with a bit of textured steamed milk. This is the more traditional version, which uses the sweetness from the hint of milk to cut through the coffee's natural bitterness. Like an espresso, it is typically drunk in two or three sips, and is meant to be a potent little pick-me-up, not a guzzle-on-my-commute-to-work cup of instant energy.
Have you ever had a macchiato, and if so, was it an espresso macchiato or a latte macchiato? Which do you prefer? Tell us in the comments!