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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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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Drink comparison: Misto vs Latte

May 13

While looking through the search terms that led people to my site, I noticed an interesting pattern: lots of people are searching for one drink “vs.” another drink, I assume to find out what the differences are so they know which one they want. Since I’ve spent over ten years trying to break down and simplify these things so people understand them more easily, I figured I should do some posts comparing drinks one-on-one. And I’ll start with the comparison that got me by far the most hits last quarter: Misto vs Latte.

Let’s start with the latte. The most “basic” espresso/milk drink, it’s just espresso, steamed milk, and a little bit of milk foam on top. If it’s iced, it’s espresso and milk mixed with ice. It’s not very sweet on its own; many people sweeten it with sugar or some kind of flavored syrup like vanilla or hazelnut. When breaking down the entire espresso drink lineup, this is the drink I start with, because a lot of other drinks can be described by how they differ from the latte.

The misto, however, is not an espresso drink. You may see it referred to more often as a cafe au lait, a “coffee with milk”. This drink is half regular brewed coffee (not espresso) and half steamed milk. Or in its iced form, which is less common, it’s coffee and milk with ice. There are two things that make this different from just getting a regular coffee and adding milk on your own: first, there’s as much milk as there is coffee, instead of being mostly coffee with a little milk added; and second, the milk is steamed, so the drink as a whole stays nice and hot. Like the latte, this drink is not sweet unless you add something sweet to it.

The difference between the latte and the misto/au lait is that the latte uses espresso where the misto uses regular coffee. Espresso is stronger and has a slightly different flavor, so while the actual volume of coffee in a latte is smaller the coffee-ness is just as strong.

Which one should you pick? I’m a latte junkie personally, so it’s usually my first choice. It’s also better if you want to add flavors to your coffee, or if you prefer the taste of espresso. However, if you prefer the taste of regular ol’ joe, or if you really want to savor the taste of the specific coffee being brewed, get the misto. The misto is also lower in calories than the latte, generally, because more of the volume of the drink is low-calorie coffee instead of higher-calorie milk.

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