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Caramel Macchiato vs Latte – What’s The Difference?

Rebecca Hanlon
Last Updated: August 18th, 2023

The first stip. Coffee foam, steamed milk, and espresso come together in one glorious luxurious gulp. Only certain beverages contain all three ingredients leading to this experience.

The Caramel Macchiato and the Latte are both espresso beverages made with luscious steamed milk and foam. We’ll go through the Caramel Macchiato Vs Latte debate and compare the two so that you can ultimately order the perfect coffee to start your day.

Caramel Macchiato or Latte?

caramel macchiato or latte

If the two beverages seem so similar, it’s because they are, and you may be wondering how a latte vs caramel macchiato compares.

The word “macchiato” means stained, referring to the “coffee stain” that the espresso makes when dropped into the milk. A macchiato is an espresso-based beverage made with steamed milk, a caramel macchiato also contains vanilla syrup. It is sweet but has a coffee-forward flavor.

“Latte” means milk and refers to the large milk ratio used to create this beverage. A latte is a milk-forward espresso-based beverage that has a creamy foam and natural sweetness.

If you order a Caramel Latte, it also contains caramel syrup. It is silkier and milder in flavor than a macchiato.

How Are They Made?

how they made-caramel macchiato and latte

Each of these beverages starts with a shot of espresso. To get the best-tasting espresso, freshly ground coffee is important.

A medium roast coffee is best for both macchiatos and lattes as it will stand up against the sweetness, but not overpower the flavor. Grind the coffee beans finely and then use an espresso machine (if you have one) or an alternative such as an Aeropress or Moka pot to brew your coffee.

The macchiato has more than one preparation, most coffee shops, add the milk first and pour the espresso shot over the top.

To make the caramel macchiato, add 1-2 pumps of vanilla syrup to your cup before adding the espresso. Once you have added the steamed milk, drizzle caramel sauce over the top.

To make a latte, again start with the espresso poured into a cup. The general rule of thumb is to use 8 oz of milk for every 1-2 shots of espresso.

Steam your milk before pouring the warm milk over the espresso. Next, spoon the milk foam over the top to create the layered effect that lattes are known for.

What Are They Made of?

Each of these beverages is made with espresso and steamed milk, though the ratios and order vary. They are typically made from a medium roasted coffee and although whole milk is the default, many different kinds of milk and milk alternatives may be used.

what are they made of

The Caramel Macchiato also contains vanilla syrup, which can surprise some people as they often assume the beverage is all caramel. The “caramel” in the name comes from the caramel sauce that is drizzled over the top.

How Are They Similar?

The Caramel Macchiato and Latte both have a smooth and luxurious texture. They both have a balanced coffee flavor and a hint of sweetness and both contain silky steamed milk.

Both beverages are extremely popular worldwide and can be found in almost every coffee shop both local and international chains.

comparison-caramel macchiato vs latte

Taste, Milk Ratio, Caffeine, and Sweetener Comparison

Caramel Macchiato

  • Espresso: 1 shot
  • Taste: Coffee-forward, bold, slightly sweet
  • Milk ratio: 1-2 oz per 1 shot of espresso
  • Caffeine: 80 mg
  • Sweeteners: Vanilla syrup, caramel sauce


  • Espresso: 1-2 shots
  • Taste: Milk-forward, smooth, creamy, sweet
  • Milk ratio: 8 oz per 1-2 shots of espresso
  • Caffeine: 80 mg
  • Sweeteners: Caramel syrup, caramel sauce

Although they start from the same ingredients, these two beverages are different in preparation, serving, and taste. The Caramel Macchiato is a bolder beverage that is more coffee-forward.

It contains less milk and is traditionally served in a smaller cup. The caramel flavor is derived not from caramel syrup, but the caramel sauce on top.

Vanilla syrup is used in the beverage to sweeten it. In modern preparation, the coffee is poured into the steamed milk leaving the namesake, “stain.” Although caffeine ratios are similar to a latte, macchiatos tend to be lower in calories as they use less milk.

Lattes are milder and milk-forward. They have been in existence longer than the macchiato and are available in a wider variety of flavor combinations.

Lattes are made with a larger milk ratio, which creates a smooth and creamy texture. Milk foam is used to create layers to the beverage and as such, it is served in a larger mug.

How To Drink A Caramel Macchiato vs Latte

Caramel Macchiato

The Caramel Macchiato is ready to be consumed just as the barista has prepared it for you. The caramel sauce drizzled on top is meant to be part of each sip to give it a rich caramel flavor.

If you would prefer a stronger caramel flavor, ask the barista to substitute the vanilla syrup for caramel. This will give you a much sweeter drink. If you want to prepare a Caramel Macchiato at home, it’s quite simple!

how to drink caramel macchiato

Caramel Macchiato

  • 1-2 oz espresso
  • ½ oz Vanilla syrup
  • 2-4 oz steamed milk
  • Caramel Sauce

In a small mug add ½-1 oz of vanilla simple syrup. Steam 2 oz of milk for each espresso shot you intend to use and pour the steamed milk into the mug.

Next, prepare 1-2 shots of espresso and pour them directly into the steamed milk. It should leave a “stain” on the top of the milk.

Finally, drizzle caramel sauce first from left to right, and then top to bottom to create a basket weave across the top of the beverage. This will give you caramel flavor in each sip.


Lattes are extremely versatile. Many people enjoy just the taste of the coffee and milk combination and some powder (cocoa or cinnamon) sprinkled across the top. Others like to add sweetener and even flavored syrups to their lattes. The combinations are endless!

If you are looking to make a traditional Caramel Latte, it is easy to do at home.

how to drink latte

Caramel Latte

  • 1-2 shots of espresso
  • 8 oz steamed milk
  • Caramel Syrup
  • Caramel Sauce

In the bottom of your mug, add 1-2 pumps of caramel syrup (about ½ oz). Prepare your espresso directly into the mug if possible. If not, add your shots after pulling them. Swirl the mug to mix the syrup and coffee.

Steam your milk and pour it over the espresso, using a spoon to hold back the milk foam. Spoon the milk foam over the top of the latte and drizzle caramel sauce to taste over the top.


If you love the sweetness of the Caramel Macchiato, but caramel and vanilla aren’t your desired flavors, consider a traditional, Cuban Coffee.

This delicious beverage features brown sugar whipped into some espresso and then added to the espresso shot, creating a sweet and creamy drink that retains the coffee-forward flavor.

If you enjoy the Caramel Macchiato but want to try it prepared a different way, you may also want to consider it prepared as an iced beverage.

The beverage is prepared with cold milk and whipped cream replaces milk foam, but it is a delicious treat for a warm afternoon.

alternatives-caramel macchiato or latte

Lattes have many great alternatives as well. If you want a milder coffee flavor without all of the milk, consider ordering an Americano.

This beverage uses hot water, not milk to dilute the coffee flavor. This will also reduce the calories that are found in a latte due mostly to the amount of milk used.

Many people also enjoy flavored steamed milk without the coffee at al. This can be a great alternative for those who need to reduce their caffeine intake and children enjoy them too.

They are sometimes referred to as “Vanilla Crème” if you are ordering at a coffee house.

Caramel Macchiato Vs Latte – FAQs

Which came first?

Macchiatos are a relatively newer development in the coffee world. Coffee historians believe the drink was first popularized in Italy in the 1980s when baristas were looking for a way to distinguish a plain expresso from one with milk.

The Caramel Macchiato was developed in the fall of 1996 by a barista at Starbucks in honor of its 25th anniversary.

The Latte has been around in some form since the 1600s but has become a popular coffee shop staple worldwide since the 1900s. The modern iteration as we know it today, latte art and all, seems to have emerged in the 1950s out of California.

Which is stronger?

The Caramel Macchiato has a stronger, bolder, coffee-forward taste when compared with the Latte. Though both do start with the same amount of espresso, both have similar amounts of caffeine.

The Latte’s milder flavor comes from the additional milk added in.

Which is the most popular?

The Latte is more popular worldwide, in part because it has been around longer, and also is more versatile, there are many flavor combinations. Macchiatos are a stronger beverage and therefore do not appeal to the variety of coffee drinkers in the same way.

However, the Caramel Macchiato has become increasingly popular in the United States, especially at national coffee chains where it remains a favorite.

About The Author

Rebecca Hanlon

Rebecca has been a blogger for over 5 years, before that enjoying a number of jobs to fund her passion for travel. She's taught English as a foreign language, a part-time Barista, a waitress, and a tour guide.

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