Around the world, espresso-based drinks are appreciated by coffee lovers. Americano and macchiato, in particular, are two popular variants of the well-known drink.
You might wonder though, what sets the Americano and macchiato apart from each other? That’s why you’re here. So let me help with this in-depth comparison of the two drinks where I’ll discuss their origins, ingredients, ratios, and more.
What is an Americano?
During World War II, the Americano coffee was born out of a need for a less potent espresso among American soldiers based in Italy. To imitate their regular black coffee from home, the soldiers diluted the espresso with water, inventing the Americano.
An Americano begins with espresso, brewed with 7g of ground coffee (9g for third-wave coffee) per shot with a brew ratio of 1:2 to 1:3. One part of espresso is then diluted with 2 parts water to turn it into an Americano.
The serving size is 3 oz (90 ml) with 60 to 80mg of caffeine and 2 calories. You can then serve it in a glass or ceramic cup that can hold 120 to 150ml (4 to 5 oz).
You can also try the Long Black, another variation of this drink where the espresso is added to the hot water instead of the other way around. This results in a diluted drink with a more pronounced crema compared to the Americano, but you have to be careful when pouring the espresso over. Be nice and slow, otherwise the crema bubbles burst.
Whichever variation, the drink offers a balance between the intensity of espresso and the delicate notes of black coffee. Its texture is also between the velvety espresso and the smooth drip coffee. This drink is really your best choice if you want a toned-down espresso without compromising on flavors.
Here’s how you can make an Americano:
- Prepare a shot of espresso as usual.
- Pull your espresso shot into your mug.
- Pour hot water over the espresso shot.
For a detailed guide, read my article on how to make an Americano.
Now let’s move on to macchiato.
What is a Macchiato?
Macchiato, which is Italian for the word “marked”, is an espresso shot with a dollop of milk froth. This small amount of milk lends a very slight creaminess to the robust taste of espresso. The amount of milk you get really varies by café, so you may get just a bit, or much more.
This is my macchiato, authentic and Italian at its core:
For the espresso, you use the usual 1:2 to 1:3 brew ratio with 7g of ground coffee for a 1 oz single shot and 14g for a 2 oz double shot. Third-wave coffee uses more, brewing 9g for a single shot and 18g for a double.
The macchiato comes in 1.3 to 2 oz (39 to 60 ml) servings, poured into a demitasse that can hold 2 to 3 oz (60 to 90 ml). Each serving has 8 calories and 60 to 80mg of caffeine.
When you sip a macchiato, you can savor the usual flavors of espresso with the milk dollop adding a touch of creaminess and slightly reducing the intensity of the drink. The consistency is also similar to espresso. It’s a great choice if you want just a bit of milk on your espresso without going overboard with a latte or cappuccino.
Don’t be confused though, there’s a modern macchiato made more popular by Starbucks which has a different composition. Instead of a dollop, it has steamed milk which is just a little less than the latte. Not even a resemblance to a true macchiato, I don’t even know why they call it that.
Here’s an overview of how a macchiato is made:
- Brew a shot of espresso.
- Warm and froth the milk, either with a whisk or a steam wand.
- Add a dollop of milk froth to your espresso.
If you want a more detailed recipe, you can check out my step-by-step guide on how to make the perfect macchiato.
Americano vs Macchiato: A Comparison of The Two Coffee Drinks
To further differentiate the two, here’s an overview of the differences and similarities between the Americano and macchiato:
|Taste and Texture||Mellow and nuanced flavor, smoother and more fluid texture||Strong and rich flavor with a hint of creaminess, dense and syrupy texture|
|Coffee-to-Water Ratio||Standard 1:2 to 1:3 for the espresso||Standard 1:2 to 1:3|
|Ingredient Ratio||1 part single shot of espresso, adding 2 parts water||1 shot of espresso & just a dollop of milk|
|Typical Serving Size||3 oz (90 ml)||1.3 to 2 oz (39-60 ml)|
|Caffeine Content||60-80 mg per 1 oz shot of espresso||60-80 mg per 1 oz shot of espresso used|
|Calories||2 calories per shot||2 calories per shot of espresso, plus 18 calories per 1 oz (30 ml) of whole milk|
|Acidity||Moderate acidity||Moderate acidity|
|Brewing Difficulty||Intermediate||Home barista|
|Bean Roast||Light to medium roasts preferred||Medium roasts are ideal|
Let’s have a closer comparison between the two coffee drinks:
- Ground Coffee Weight & Ratios: Both drinks have an espresso base with 7g of ground coffee for a traditional espresso shot or 9g for third-wave espresso while following the 1:2 to 1:3 standard ratios.
After brewing the espresso, the Americano uses 2 parts water to dilute it while the macchiato adds a spoonful of milk froth, making the resulting drinks different from each other.
- Taste: The Americano is smooth and mild while retaining some of the flavors of espresso. The macchiato maintains more of the espresso’s intensity and rich flavors that are slightly mellowed by the added dollop of steamed milk.
- Volume, Calories, & Caffeine: Because of the added water, the Americano has a larger serving size of 3 oz (90 ml) compared to macchiato’s 1.3 to 2 oz (39 to 60 ml). Both have the same 60 to 80mg of caffeine per shot of espresso used, while the macchiato has 8 calories and the Americano has only 2 calories.
- Bean Roast: I use light to medium roasts for my Americano since these beans’ vibrant acidity and complex flavors are still highlighted even if the espresso is diluted. As for macchiato, I choose medium roasts that provide a balance between the bold espresso and the creamy milk.
- Milk: There’s no milk in an Americano while macchiato uses a little bit of milk froth. You can read my article on how to froth milk for your coffee if you need a detailed guide.
You can also make a modern macchiato and steam your milk, although the amount is not as much as a latte.
- Serving Suggestions: Both coffees offer alternatives for those who know what they want in their coffee. If you want the flavors of espresso but don’t want the full intensity, you can fix an Americano.
If you find lattes and cappuccinos too milky but you still want that added creaminess in your cup, then a macchiato is right for you.
The Americano and macchiato are both espresso-based drinks, but it’s what they add to the espresso that differentiates them. The Americano is combined with water making it milder while the macchiato adds a dollop of milk resulting in a slightly creamier brew.
Don’t forget though, to brew a delicious base of espresso for these coffee drinks, you want to use the best espresso beans you can buy this 2023.
Between the two coffee drinks, I prefer the macchiato over the Americano. It’s rich and bold with a slight touch of creaminess that hits the spot for me.
But hey, that’s just my preference. How about you, which espresso drink do you like better, the Americano or the macchiato? Let me know in the comments below.