Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Café Latte, Latte Macchiato, Cappuccino…..why am I so confused?!

Does anyone have the slightest idea what the difference between a Café Latte, Latte Macchiato and a Cappuccino is? Of course not, because they are all basically the same drink! The only real difference is not the ingredients but the amounts of espresso-to milk used to make them. If you are a true coffee fiend, like me, then you may have a grasp on this 3-drink conundrum. If not you may be one of the unfortunate souls who got caught in the “tall, half-caff, double-nonfat, soy-whip” slang they have going on at Starbucks, and you are basically just too afraid to ask the “barrista” what the heck he just said. I mean heck, who wants to look like an idiot with a horde of early morning New Yorkers ready to run you down for a sip of the Morning Joe. But fear not, I am here to help you through this crisis and shed some knowledge on this topic for you. 

To be honest, there is not much of a difference between these coffee beverages in that they all contain espresso, milk and foam. The difference comes in the method and the amounts in each.

Cappuccino: 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk and 1/3 foam (frothed milk).

To put it together you need to pour the espresso into the glass first, hot milk is poured on top of the espresso and then the foam is heaped on top of that...seemed easy? That’s because it was!
To make the froth you will need an espresso machine with a frothing attachment or a handheld milk frother (for sale at Bed Bath and Beyond for $19)

Café Latte: 1/3 espresso, 2/3 steamed milk.
This translates into “Coffee with Milk” in Italian. To put it together you pour the espresso in the cup first and then pour the frothed milk over it…ridiculously simple! This one is not as theatrical as the other two espresso beverages so there is no need to be gentle while pouring the milk and espresso together.

Latte Macchiato: is the same as the Café Latte except that you use only about one third of the shot of espresso (where you would use a whole shot of espresso for the Café Latte and the Cappuccino).
  To put it together, you pour in your steamed milk first, then dollop a few tablespoons of froth from the steamed milk and then the espresso. The trick here is when you are pouring in the espresso you want to pour the espresso in slowly…again, this is easy, it just takes a little more patience.
BTW; Macchiato actually means “marked” or “stained,” which is the look it has when it is done (like stained milk).

Each one of these three coffees typically gets a little sugar added to the milk while you are steaming it but I add mine later to have more control over the sweetness.

That’s it, you now the difference between all three of these luscious pick-me-ups. Yes I know, it sounds like rocket science to make any of these three coffees, right? Well actually, it really isn’t, so why aren’t you making it at home and saving $6.75, as opposed to making the daily painstaking pilgrimage to the “pretentious coffee capital of the world” (aka Starbucks)?

First off, sip for sip these drinks all taste the same. One is a little stronger then the next, true, but otherwise there is no difference unless you are adding caramel or chocolate to yours. That’s why when I am home I prefer just to make the Café Latte. This way I don’t have to worry about how pretty my Cappuccino or my Macchiato looks. I am only going to stir the darn thing up anyway, so why even bother with the aesthetics.

Don’t have an espresso maker with a frothing attachment? Fear not! This task is easily accomplished with the use of a “Moka” and a small stainless steel pot. Of course, a Moka will never produce the flavor espresso you get in a restaurant because a Moka cannot generate the powerful steam and pressure a restaurant quality machine can. But, for at home use and at a cost of less than 30 bucks to buy a Moka, it is great alternative to the $500 espresso machine.

Here is how to make one of these step-by-step at home:
• First off, make your espresso in your Moka. Make sure to use the best possible espresso you can find and also that you grind your own beans (I cannot stress this enough!)...I prefer Columbian Supremo Italian Roast that I buy at Empire Coffee in NYC
• While the espresso is brewing make the hot milk. In a stainless steel pot, add the amount of milk desired for the amount of cups you are going to make and add half a teaspoon of sugar for each cup.
• Put the heat on medium, bring the milk up to heat and when the milk starts to get hot begin whisking the milk. While whisking you will start to see small bubbles and after a minute of whisking the bubbles will become smaller and start to swell.
• Now just pour your espresso in your cup followed by your steamed milk (1/3 espresso, 2/3 steamed milk). Top it off with a little of the extra foam if you like and enjoy.
The above was describing how to make a Café Latte.

Did You Know?: the Moka was first patented by Alfonso Bialetti in 1933. His company, Bialetti, still makes the same model Moka to this day but it is now known as the "Moka Express."

Resources: http://www.empirecoffeetea.com/contactF.htm

For your picture viewing, here is a Latte Macchiato I made….BTW, it was delicious!


  1. Ok now I want coffee!!!

  2. Lol thanks ...standing in Starbucks now.....I was confused...now I'm not lol

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. An even easier way to prepare the milk: Pour a couple tablespoons in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake it vigorously for about 30-45 seconds. Remove the lid and microwave for about 20-30 seconds. Warm milk and big head of foam. I like to squirt in a few drops of vanilla extract and liquid stevia before shaking.

  5. An even easier way to prepare the milk: Pour a couple tablespoons in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake it vigorously for about 30-45 seconds. Remove the lid and microwave for about 20-30 seconds. Warm milk and big head of foam. I like to squirt in a few drops of vanilla extract and liquid stevia before shaking.

  6. My home version of the above: prepare coffee using the Bialetti Moka Express as mentioned.....microwave for 20 seconds about 1/3 of a ceramic coffee cup filled with CoffeeMate NaturalBliss creamer...I use the SweetCream flavor which is not overly sweet like their other flavorsd...froth it up with the Aerolatte frothing wand (avlbl Amazon)...pour your coffee through it...couple of dollops of caramel or hazelnut syrup if you want (I like the Amoretti brand)....serve with a Nonnis brand biscotti...atsa nice...

  7. Thanks for the tips. I have a Tassimo machine here in the U.K. Have been putting milk in first as I have seen the barrista do at our Costa Coffee. Will try the other way round. Won't be buying the Macchiato as is weaker.