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Macchiato vs Americano – What’s The Difference?

Rebecca Hanlon
Last Updated: August 18th, 2023

Have you ever stared at a coffee shop menu wondering what the difference is between coffees that all seem to look the same? You are not alone! The Macchiato and Americano seem to be the same at first glance.

However, they have important differences that affect the taste and texture of the beverages. Let’s take a deep dive into the debate between the two tiny, yet big flavored drinks, Macchiato Vs Americano.

Macchiato or Americano?

If you’re wondering how the Americano vs Macchiato compares you’re not alone. The two beverages are similar in size and are often confused.

Americanos were first developed in the 1940s when American soldiers were stationed in Italy. Finding the Italian coffee too strong they diluted it with water, and the resulting beverage was named after them.

Americanos have an intense and robust flavor, often having a nutty or floral note to them. They do typically have a small amount of crema.

Macchiatos derive their name from the “mark” that the coffee leaves on the steamed milk. Macchiatos were developed in the 1980s as a way for baristas to differentiate plain espressos and espresso with milk.

Macchiatos are strong due to their espresso base and may have a bitter taste to them, though they are often sweetened by the addition of steamed milk.

How Are They Made?

how are they made-macchiato or americano

The Americano begins with 1-2 shots of strong espresso. This can be made using an espresso machine or with a stovetop method such as a Moka pot.

The espresso is added to the bottom of a small mug and hot water is added in a 1:1 ratio, meaning you will add the same amount of hot water as coffee used.

The macchiato begins with steamed milk. Steam 1 oz of steamed milk for each shot of espresso that you plan to use. Add the steamed milk to a mug and pour your espresso shots directly into the steamed milk.

What Are They Made of?

Both of these beverages are espresso-based and therefore require a good quality bean. Since in each case the espresso is being diluted, a medium roast espresso is best.

An Americano is made of a 1:1 ratio of espresso and hot water and a Macchiato is made with a ratio of 1 oz of steamed milk to 1 shot of espresso.

How Are They Similar?

comparison-macchiato or americano

Regardless of whether you order a Macchiato or an Americano, you will be enjoying a beverage that has a distinct espresso flavor that has been mellowed by added liquid.

Both of these beverages are traditionally served in a smaller mug, and both are newer to the coffee world having been developed in the last century. Both have iced versions though are typically served hot.

Taste, Size, Caffeine, Cost Comparison


  • Espresso: 1-2 shots
  • Taste: Coffee-forward, creamy, milder
  • Traditional Size: 3 oz
  • Caffeine: 80 mg
  • Cost: $3.75 USD on average


  • Espresso: 1 shot
  • Taste: Intense, nutty, bold, bitter
  • Traditional Size: Around 3 oz but can be larger with more water
  • Caffeine: 94 mg
  • Cost: $2.65 USD on average

Despite both beverages being similar in size, they have many differences. The Macchiato is less bitter due to the addition of milk which results in a creamy and less acidic beverage.

The Macchiato is traditionally served in a 3 oz espresso mug and usually costs around $3.75 USD. You may find variations of the Macchiato, such as the Caramel Macchiato.

The Americano is traditionally also served as a 3 oz beverage but can vary depending on how much water the drinker decides to add. Americanos can be served in larger 8 oz or 10 oz cups as well.

There is usually no cream or milk added to an Americano and it generally costs around $2.65 USD. Americanos do not have as many variations available, though they are still found at most coffee houses.

How To Drink a Macchiato vs Americano


The Macchiato can be enjoyed as it is served with a dollop of steamed milk, or you may find a flavored alternative such as a Caramel or Vanilla Macchiato. A Mocha Macchiato is a fun variation and can be made at home.

how to drink-macchiato

Mocha Macchiato

  • ½ oz Chocolate Syrup
  • 2 shots of espresso
  • 2 oz of steamed milk
  • Chocolate Sauce Sauce

In the bottom of a medium-sized mug, add ½ oz of chocolate syrup and pour 2 oz of steamed milk into the mug. Next, pour your 2 shots of espresso directly into the milk.

Finally, drizzle chocolate sauce in a basket weave pattern across the top (or top with cocoa powder if you prefer a less sweet version).


The Americano has less traditional varieties, as it is typically enjoyed without milk or sweetener added. However, if you’re willing to break tradition, you can have some fun with it.

A great twist is the Iced Brown Sugar Americano topped with Vanilla Cold Foam.

how To drink-americano

Iced Brown Sugar Americano

  • 2 shots of espresso
  • 4 oz cold water
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • Ice
  • Milk
  •  ¼ oz Vanilla Syrup

In a tall glass, add 1 tbsp brown sugar and 2 shots of espresso, and stir until almost frothy. Add cold water to the espresso and ice to fill the glass.

Stir to chill the beverage. In a milk frother add milk and Vanilla Syrup and set to “cold foam.” Pour foam over the top of the beverage. Enjoy!


While the Macchiato is a classic, there are alternatives you may enjoy as well. A Latte is a great alternative as it will give you the same luxurious steamed milk and coffee combination but a more mild flavor overall.

A Flat White is another great option. It is similar to a Macchiato but has higher milk to espresso ratio, 1 part espresso to 4 parts milk.

alternatives-macchiato vs americano

The Americano also has some great alternatives. Instant coffee has come a long way in a short time and can give you the same taste profile as an Americano without the hassle of making an espresso shot.

Simply add the concentrate to the bottom of a mug and pour hot water over it to taste. Another great option is French Press coffee. While it is a bit more caffeinated, it will have the same bitterness and floral notes as the Americano.

Macchiato Vs Americano – FAQs

Which came first?

The Americano was developed in the 1940s when American Soldiers stationed in Italy wanted coffee that reminded them more of their percolated coffee from home. They added water to espresso and the result was the Americano.

The Macchiato came later when a barista in the 1980s was attempting to find a way to differentiate an espresso with milk from an espresso without, the name Macchiato stuck as a way to separate them.

Which is stronger?

The Americano has a more bitter taste than the Macchiato, while the Macchiato retains more of the boldness of the espresso. The Americano has more caffeine, though this can vary depending on how much espresso is used.

Which is the most popular?

Despite being newer, the Macchiato has become extremely popular in recent years, fueled in part by the development of the Caramel Macchiato by Starbucks in the 1990s.

While both beverages are available at most coffee shops, the Macchiato is popular with a wider age range, from new coffee drinkers to seasoned aficionados.

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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