Drink comparison: Mocha vs Macchiato

Jun 08

A glance through the search terms bringing people to my site tells me that people hunting for a comparison of Mocha vs. Macchiato. These are very different drinks, so let me straighten this out for you guys. You definitely don’t want to grab the wrong one.

A mocha is chocolate, espresso, steamed milk and usually whipped cream on top. Depending on how you look at it, it’s either a latte with chocolate and whipped cream, or a hot chocolate with espresso. It’s chocolatey and often not super-sweet. It can be ordered “on the rocks” aka iced.

An espresso macchiato on the other hand is a cup of milk foam with espresso shots poured into it, “marking” the foam with the espresso. It’s not sweet at all, and is ordered by the number of shots rather than the cup size.

However, as far as Starbucks drinks, when people ask about a macchiato they’re often asking about the caramel macchiato. This is a sweeter drink consisting of vanilla syrup, steamed milk, milk foam, espresso shots poured through the foam, and caramel drizzled on top. It’s more like a vanilla/caramel latte than an espresso macchiato or a mocha. If you order it iced you can see the layers of ingredients through the side of the cup — unless of course you order it “upside down”, with the shots going in first.

Which one should you pick? If you want something chocolatey, get the mocha. If you want the dark taste of the espresso, only toned down slightly by the milk foam, get the espresso macchiato. If you want something pretty sweet and you like caramel, get the caramel macchiato.

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Review: Hazelnut Macchiato (Starbucks)

May 30

Last week I talked about the caramel macchiato’s younger sibling, the vanilla macchiato. Today the drink in the spotlight is another younger sibling in Starbucks’s macchiato family — the Hazelnut Macchiato.

Like the vanilla macch and the caramel macch, this drink starts with vanilla syrup, steamed milk, foam, and espresso shots, in that order. What makes this one different is the sauce on top: not caramel, not vanilla, but hazelnut sauce. Which is apparently a thing now?

A grande Hazelnut Macchiato

A grande Hazelnut Macchiato

The result of replacing the caramel sauce with hazelnut sauce is a sweet, hazelnutty, delicious drink. What makes it different from a regular old hazelnut latte? Not only does the sauce give it a richer, slightly darker hazelnut flavor than the regular hazelnut syrup usually does, but the additional vanilla syrup bumps up the sweetness a notch and tones down the nuttiness a little. As with the caramel version of this drink, I recommend giving it a good stir before drinking, to make sure the hazelnut syrup has dissolved in the milk.

It’s a regular espresso drink, so the usual options apply — hot/iced, regular/decaf, choice of milk. It can also be ordered “upside-down”, meaning the sauce and the espresso go in the cup first instead of last so everything mixes together better.

Little personal anecdote here — when I first saw this drink appear on the menu, I thought it was an officialization of one of my favorite custom drinks. For several years now, I’ve frequently ordered a caramel macchiato with hazelnut syrup instead of vanilla. I spotted it on a “your barista recommends” board at some point, gave it a shot, and have been hooked ever since. In fact, the hazelnut macchiato is kind of the reverse of mine; instead of swapping out the vanilla for hazelnut and leaving the caramel, it swaps out the caramel and leaves the vanilla. Personally, I think hazelnut + caramel is a more interesting combo than hazelnut + vanilla. If you find yourself between ordering a caramel macchiato and a hazelnut macchiato, try this version instead and you’ll basically have both!

Bullet-pointed summary:

  • What: Hazelnut Macchiato
  • Where: Starbucks
  • Options: hot or iced, decaf or regular, your choice of milk
  • Verdict: A sweeter take on the hazelnut latte, or possibly a hazelnuttier take on the caramel macchiato
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Drink Comparison: Latte vs Macchiato

May 23

Looking at the search terms people use to find my side gives me a pretty good idea about the puzzlements that puzzle the great wide coffee-drinking internet. Today I’ll elucidate what appears to be a common quandry among the search engine-using populace: Latte vs. Macchiato.

The latte, as I’ve said elsewhere, is the “baseline” espresso drink. It consists of espresso, steamed milk, and foam. If you order it “on the rocks”, that’s espresso, cold milk, and ice. If you want it sweet, you have to add something to make it sweet. Nice and simple.

The (espresso) macchiato is simpler ingredient-wise but a little more complicated to make: it consists of a cup full of milk foam with espresso poured in afterward, leaving a brown “mark” on top of the foam where the shots came through. I say it’s more complicated because not only do you put the ingredients in “backwards” from most drinks, but making good milk foam can take practice. Making a whole cup of good foam definitely takes practice. As with the latte, there’s no sweeteners here. It’s usually ordered by the number of shots (single, double, triple, etc) rather than the cup size.

You can order an espresso macchiato iced, but it’s not very common. Usually that’s a cup of ice, with warm milk foam on top, and espresso shots poured over the top. The combination of the warm foam and the ice will get you some weird looks, but if that’s what strikes your fancy then rock your drink however you like.

There’s a third member to this comparison, however, and it’s the much more commonly-ordered macchiato at Starbucks: the caramel macchiato. This is closer to a vanilla/caramel latte than to an espresso macchiato. It’s vanilla flavoring syrup, steamed milk, milk foam, espresso shots poured through the foam, and then a drizzle of caramel sauce poured on top. It’s a macchiato because you’re still “marking” the foam with the espresso (or vice versa), but it’s mostly milk rather than foam. Unlike both the latte and the espresso macchiato, it’s quite sweet. It can also be made “on the rocks”. If you order a caramel macchiato, I highly recommend you stir it well before drinking it so more of the caramel dissolves in the milk.

Which one should you pick? The latte is a solid standby for those who don’t want their drink too sweet but aren’t keen on the taste of nearly-full-strength espresso. The espresso macchiato gives you much more of the full taste of the espresso, with much less milk to water it down (this also makes it the lowest-calorie of the three). The caramel macchiato is a favorite of people who prefer sweet drinks and love the taste of caramel.

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Review: Vanilla Macchiato (Starbucks)

May 16

The caramel macchiato has long been a popular drink on Starbucks’s menu. It’s sweet, it’s caramelly, it’s foamy, it’s hard to pronounce. Most people don’t make any changes to it other than ordering it “upside-down”. So it’s a little surprising that it took so long for them to create some new drinks along the same line. All right, so I’m several months behind the curve on reviewing these, but the caramel macch was an only child for over a decade.

Today I’m talking about the Vanilla Macchiato, the younger sibling of the CM. In many ways, this drink is identical to its older sibling — it has vanilla flavoring syrup, steamed milk, foam, and espresso shots dropped through the foam near the end instead of going in the cup first (this is what makes it a “macchiato”). The key difference is that instead of caramel sauce drizzled on top of the foam, the Vanilla Macchiato has vanilla sauce.

So if it’s basically espresso, milk, and vanilla, what makes this different from a plain ol’ vanilla latte? The secret’s in the sauce. It gives the drink a deeper, sweeter, “realler” vanilla taste that’s a little more complex than the basic vanilla flavoring syrup. According to the Starbucks website, there’s brown sugar and butter in the sauce — and you can taste this difference. It’s definitely a bigger and more interesting flavor. And unlike the Vanilla Spice Latte, nothing distracts from the basic vanilla essence.

A tall vanilla macch.

A tall vanilla macch.

This drink is pretty sweet, especially if (as I advise with the caramel macchiato) you give it a good stir before drinking it to mix the sauce into the milk. As an espresso beverage, it can be ordered hot or iced, decaf or regular, with extra shots if you need more caffeine, and with any kind of milk. I’ll give one caveat here though, if the vanilla sauce does have butter in it that means this cannot be made dairy-free. You’ll need to stick to soy vanilla lattes if you have concerns about dairy products.

You can also, like with the CM, order this drink “upside-down”. What that means is that the vanilla sauce and the espresso go in first instead of last. This helps the ingredients mix better as the drink is made, especially if you’re ordering it iced.

Overall, it’s a tasty drink that I hope has gained a permanent spot on the Starbucks menu. If you normally drink vanilla lattes or vanilla frappuccinos, give the Vanilla Macchiato a try.

Bullet-pointed summary:

  • What: Vanilla Macchiato
  • Where: Starbucks
  • Options: hot or iced, decaf or regular, your choice of milk
  • Verdict: A sweeter and more vanilla-y alternative to the vanilla latte
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Reader Q&A (courtesy of search engines)

Nov 01

Since I haven’t worked for Starbucks in, oh, a decade or so, I don’t get as many questions about their drinks as I used to. Or questions about coffee in general, for that matter. But the unrelenting flow of people to this little corner of the internet shows that people are still curious, confused, and otherwise question-filled when it comes to the big green leviathan. And I’m here to answer whatever questions y’all have.

Now, people don’t actually¬†ask me things through this blog. Possibly because I have the spam protection turned up to 11, and possibly because I’ve hidden the associated email address and never, ever check it. But thanks to the magic of search engines, I can look into the things people have in their mind when they come here. Some of these things are already answered on the main drinks-explaining page, but some of them aren’t.

So here, in a hopefully-recurring feature, is …¬†Reader Q&A! Where I sift through the search terms that brought people to my site and answer them directly.

Q: is iced caramel macchiato sweet
Yes, it is. You’ll have to stir the everloving hell out of it before drinking it, though, if you want the caramel to mix with the rest of the drink. Caramel sauce doesn’t dissolve very well in cold milk.

Q: can you get an iced cafe misto
Technically, yes. However, this is basically an iced coffee with milk in it, so you’d be better off getting an iced coffee with extra room for cream and just putting the milk in yourself.

Q: caffe misto with soymilk starbucks?
Huh, people actually use punctuation on Google sometimes. Yes, you can get a misto with soy milk.

Q: how to remember how to make starbucks drinks
This is the biggest question I used to get from people applying to Starbucks. It can seem overwhelming at first, looking at that menu full of drinks, but there is logic behind it. Most espresso drinks are basically based around the latte (espresso with milk). For example, a mocha is a latte with chocolate. A caramel macchiato is a vanilla latte with a little less vanilla, the shots dropped in last, and caramel syrup. An americano is a latte with hot water instead of milk, and an extra shot. Frappuccinos are based around the coffee frappuccino — and if my recent visits to Starbucks are any indication, there’s usually stickers on the wall to help you remember the recipe. Shaken drinks are (I think) based around the shaken iced tea. The amount of syrup in any given drink size usually follows a pattern too. Don’t worry, you’ll pick it up pretty quick.

Q: what is a quad macchiato
Four shots poured into a cup full of milk foam.

Q: what’s a normal coffee at starbucks
It’s called a “coffee”. I know, right? You’d never guess that you can walk up to the counter and order a “large coffee”. It’s also sometimes called a “drip”. Cups are rarely marked when someone orders a coffee, since the barista usually just turns around and pours it, but when I was working there, on the rare occasion we marked a coffee it was “COD”, for Coffee Of the Day.

Q: what is an upside down coffee?
Uh … a reason to grab a mop? Caramel macchiatos can be made upside down (with the shots first), but coffee is just coffee. There’s no way to make it upside down.

Q: chocolate macchiato upside down breve
Espresso shots and chocolate with steamed half-and-half and extra foam. Basically a breve mocha with no whipped cream. Okay, so that’s not a question … but it sounds like a tasty drink.

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