Every coffee lover tried a macchiato – or at least some version of it. Also, the Frappuccino has been one of the most popular coffee-based beverages in the world since its introduction. Although there are glaring differences between them, a lot of people think they are the same thing. So, what are the differences between a macchiato and a Frappuccino?
A macchiato is a type of coffee that’s very simple to make, adding a small amount of steamed milk or milk foam to espresso. A Frappuccino is a Starbucks trademark that consists of many ingredients, including coffee, milk, flavored syrup, and sugar.
Many people think it’s the same thing because coffee shops use the term macchiato for drinks that aren’t real, traditional macchiatos. For instance, an iced espresso with milk and vanilla syrup is called latte macchiato in Starbucks, but that drink has nothing to do with the real macchiato.
Keep reading to learn the differences between these two types of drink, what ingredients are used, and how you can make both at home.
What Is a Macchiato?
The influence of American coffee shops turned macchiato into some crazy beverage based on sweet syrup, sugar, a whole lot of milk, and a shot of espresso. I can’t stress this enough – that isn’t a real macchiato.
I don’t know why it’s named like that, but the real, traditional cafe macchiato is nothing like the sugary, watery bomb you’re used to drinking in western coffee shops. A real macchiato is also espresso-based, but a lot stronger, simple, and doesn’t contain any syrup.
As a coffee lover, you might be able to recognize a nice espresso, a cappuccino, or a cafe latte. But the term macchiato is so misused, most folks don’t know what a traditional Italian macchiato is and how it got its name.
In Italian, “macchiato” means stained or marked, which explains the distinct look of a traditional macchiato. There are two versions – cafe macchiato (or espresso macchiato) and latte macchiato. Both have a signature “stain” or a dot at the top as a result of pouring espresso over milk, or vice versa.
The first version of a macchiato was the espresso macchiato. You’ll get this beverage if you simply order a macchiato in Italy. It’s the perfect middle ground between an espresso and a cappuccino. Remember how I told you that there’s a “stain” in the middle of a macchiato (from which it got its name)? Well, in this case, it’s the milk that makes the stain.
You make a regular espresso and then add just a bit of milk foam or steamed milk on the top. If it’s steamed milk, you pour it slowly in the middle of the drink, creating the signature white mark on the drink.
Baristas used to make that mark to know which espresso contains milk and which doesn’t, depending on what the customers ordered. So it’s closer to an espresso than a cappuccino, unlike the latte macchiato, which is the other way around.
A latte macchiato is a larger type of coffee (meaning, one serving has a lot more liquid in it). So instead of “marking” espresso with milk, you do the opposite.
To make a latte macchiato, you start with a glass (it has to be a glass mug so you can see the specific layered nature of the drink). You fill it with steamed milk first, and then slowly pour a shot of espresso on the top, making sure it doesn’t mix with the milk completely but rather stays on top.
Finally, the milk foam is added on top to complete the latte macchiato (the foam is optional, though). If you do it properly, you’ll get a mild, milky beverage on the bottom and a stronger coffee taste on the top. The mark in latte macchiato is dark, while it’s white in the espresso macchiato.
Simply put, the espresso macchiato is milk on top of espresso (usually in a 2:1 espresso-to-milk ratio), while latte macchiato is espresso on top of the milk (usually in a 3:1 or 4:1 milk-to-espresso ratio).
There are no syrups, sugar, whipped cream, ice, and other shenanigans put in drinks called a macchiato like Starbucks, and other big coffee chains do. Don’t get me wrong, though, I love that stuff – but it simply isn’t macchiato.
What Is a Frappuccino?
A Frappuccino is what you probably thought a macchiato was. The drink contains flavored syrups, sugar, a lot more milk, and sometimes, other toppings are included, such as whipped cream, spices, etc. So, what is a Frappuccino, and how did it come to life?
A Frappuccino is a trademarked beverage from Starbucks, meaning they are the only brand that can sell it under that name. Other coffee shops recreate the world-famous Frappuccino, but only Starbucks makes “the real deal.”
Unlike the macchiato, a Frappuccino is a cold drink that needs to be blended. You need a coffee base (it is best to use espresso to get enough coffee flavor without too much fluid), ice, flavored syrup, some sugar, and toppings. Spices like cinnamon or chocolate chips are quite common, but the syrup flavor determines the Frappuccino type.
Also, you might need another food additive such as xanthan gum to provide a smooth texture (something between a coffee and a milkshake) and to connect all the ingredients and prevent them from separating.
As for the drink’s history, the first brand to make it was The Coffee Connection, a Massachusetts-based brand that Starbucks bought in 1994. With the brand, they got exclusive rights to produce and sell the beverage they later named “Frappuccino.”
Currently, there are several types of Frappuccino available. The most common version is the Creme Frappuccino. It’s a version of a drink made without coffee. Therefore, there’s little to no caffeine, so even children can have it. The most common flavors are Caramel, Mocha, Chocolate, Vanilla, and Strawberry.
You can also choose a coffee-based Frappuccino, which contains a shot of espresso in the base. You can make it a double shot, too, meaning you’ll get two shots of espresso for extra coffee flavor.
The best part about the Frappuccino is that you can modify it any way you want. For example, you can make it decaffeinated, add more ice for a more watery texture, more syrup, sugar, chocolate chips, additional spices, etc. Also, if you can’t tolerate dairy products, you can make your Frappuccino with soy, coconut, almond, or oat milk.
So, how do they make it? First, you need the base – a chilled mixture of espresso, milk, sugar, and flavored syrup (vanilla, caramel, chocolate, or any other flavor you want). Then they add ice to the base and an additive such as xanthan gum for the perfect texture. After it’s blended thoroughly, you can choose what toppings you’d like.
Macchiato vs Frappuccino: What Are the Differences?
Now that we have a deep understanding of what both macchiato and Frappuccino are, it’s clear what their differences are. While Starbucks’ Iced Caramel Macchiato and Caramel Frappuccino appear to be quite similar, the former isn’t a real macchiato.
Traditional macchiato vs Frappuccino
A traditional macchiato is a short coffee drink, usually served in a 60 to 90 ml dose. On the other hand, a Frappuccino has many more ingredients, and it’s served in cups going from 250 to 700 ml. Therefore, it’s easy to conclude that a macchiato is a strong coffee, while the Frappuccino is more of a sweet, dessert-like beverage.
Also, a macchiato is always served hot, while the Frappuccino has to be blended with ice (or ice cream) and thoroughly chilled to give you the taste you’re familiar with. Furthermore, a macchiato always includes espresso as the main ingredient. While it’s quite common for a Frappuccino, too, it’s not necessary to use espresso.
You can only buy a Frappuccino in Starbucks (it’s a trademarked beverage, although other coffee shops try to copy it and sell it under a different name). In contrast, every respectable coffee shop serves macchiato.
To simplify, a macchiato is a short, hot, espresso-based coffee containing only milk and coffee. On the other hand, a Frappuccino is an icy, blended beverage that may or may not contain espresso but always contains some form of milk and sweeteners, such as flavored syrup, sugar, whipped cream, chocolate chips, etc.
Starbucks’ Iced Macchiato vs Frappuccino
The confusion between macchiato and Frappuccino lies in the misinterpretation of what a macchiato is. Starbucks calls an iced coffee with a lot of milk and sweeteners a macchiato, even though it’s closer to a cafe latte or a mocha. It is quite similar to the Frappuccino, so it’s easy to understand why there’s some confusion about the difference between them.
The biggest difference between Starbucks’ Iced Macchiato and Frappuccino is not in the taste but rather in the texture. They both contain flavored syrups and other sweeteners, but the Iced Macchiato isn’t blended, while a Frappuccino has to be blended to get its specific texture.
Also, the Iced Macchiato is always made with espresso, while the Frappuccino doesn’t have to be. The Frappuccino commonly contains the Frappuccino Roast instead of espresso, a trademarked base that Starbucks uses to make most of their Frappuccinos.
Therefore, the ingredients might be similar, but the way they are prepared is different. The macchiato is a lot more watery, while the Frappuccino has a much thicker texture and a sweeter flavor.
There are other types of macchiato in Starbucks, but they are even more different than the Frappuccino. For instance, their Espresso Macchiato is as close to the traditional macchiato you can get. You can choose the Quad Espresso Macchiato to get four espresso shots with a bit of milk foam, making it extra strong and caffeinated.
How to Make a Macchiato atHome?
Since the term macchiato is interpreted differently depending on who you ask, I’ll give you three different recipes for three different types of macchiato. All three are great but totally different, so you should choose which one you want (or need) wisely.
How to make traditional macchiato?
As you now know, the traditional (espresso) macchiato is espresso “marked” with milk foam at a 2:1 espresso-to-milk ratio. This is the strongest out of all three recipes I’ll provide and the closest to an espresso you can get. It’s a great morning pick-me-up or an energy-booster during a long shift at work.
I like to make my espresso macchiato with two espresso shots as a base. I drink a lot of caffeine, so I need the extra kick to lift me in the morning. Also, it’s easier to dose the milk that way.
Make two espresso shots and add one teaspoon of milk foam. If you can’t make milk foam, steamed milk works fine, too. Make sure not to stir, but rather place the milk on the top slowly.
How to make latte macchiato?
Like the traditional macchiato, you only need two ingredients, but you make it the other way around this time. The milk goes first, and the ratio is 3:1 milk-to-espresso to get the best taste. I do 90 ml of steamed milk and 30 ml of espresso on top.
Use the back of a spoon to pour the espresso very slowly and gently on top of the milk to avoid getting mixed. You’ll get a layered drink that’s milder than a traditional macchiato but still incredibly energizing and tasty.
How to make an Iced Caramel Macchiato?
If you made the Iced Macchiato to an Italian and told them it’s a macchiato, they’d most likely get mad at you. Still, it’s quite a tasty drink regardless of the taste. So, for my “tastiest Iced Caramel Macchiato ever” recipe, you’ll need:
- Caramel syrup
Start like you’re making a latte macchiato: 90 ml of milk and 30 ml of espresso. Slowly add two tablespoons of caramel syrup and put it in the refrigerator to cool it down. Once it’s chilled, add a couple of ice cubes to keep it cold, but not too many to water it down.
Add a tablespoon of foam milk on the top and sprinkle with a pinch of cinnamon. Serve in a tall glass to see the beautiful layers, and voila. This beverage will impress everybody, even your barista friends.
How to Make a Frappuccino at Home?
If you ever tried copying everything they do at Starbucks and making a Frappuccino at home, you probably realized it’s not as easy as it looks. My Frappuccinos were always too watery, the ingredients separated, or it just didn’t taste like it’s supposed to. I eventually found the perfect recipe through trial and error, and now, you don’t have to repeat my mistakes.
In Starbucks, the Frappuccinos are so smooth and thick, but it’s very hard to get that texture at home without some tricks. You need thickening additives and a couple more tricks to get everything right. I’ll show you how to make the perfect vanilla Frappuccino, for which you’ll need:
The main problem you’ll have when making your Frappuccino is getting the right texture. Time and time again, mine turned out too watery until I found the secret ingredient – xanthan gum. It’s an additive commonly used for cooking. It enhances the viscosity of a fluid, but it also homogenizes the mixture, keeping the ingredients from separating.
Still, it might not be enough to get the right texture (if you put too much xanthan gum inside your drink, it’ll change the texture and the taste too much). Therefore, you should aim to use as little liquid as possible and have it all chilled to perfection.
I suggest adding less milk than you think it’d take – it’s easier to add some more to make it less dense than the other way around.
Also, I never put hot espresso inside, as it destroys the texture as well. I’ll guide you step-by-step to make the perfect vanilla Frappuccino every time. Every ingredient I chose has a purpose, creating a spectacular beverage I love to make almost every day, even if it requires extra time.
I mix the ingredients directly in the blender but make sure you cool them down before making the Frappuccino.
Add cold milk, espresso ice cubes (if you don’t have an espresso maker, use strong instant coffee instead), and vanilla ice cream in the blender. The more espresso ice cubes you use, the stronger the coffee taste will be, but you’ll have to put less milk and more xanthan gum in to balance out the texture.
I use espresso ice cubes and vanilla ice cream to avoid putting more ice inside, as more ice means more liquid, and more liquid means watery texture. Also, the vanilla ice cream further enhances the taste.
Next, add honey (you can use sugar, too, but honey provides a better texture) and a tablespoon of vanilla syrup (two if you want the Frappuccino to be extra sweet). If you use all these ingredients, you’ll need only a tiny bit of xanthan gum – the drink will already have the texture, but the xanthan gum will keep everything from separating.
Blend it all at high speed for at least 45 seconds. If it turns out too watery, add a bit more xanthan gum. If it’s too thick, add a bit of milk, and blend again. Serve in a tall glass.
You can add toppings such as whipped cream on top, but I prefer my Frappuccino without it. All that’s left to do is enjoy your drink.
If you want to know the differences between a mocha and frappuccino, you can read this other article which I wrote.