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Macchiato vs Mocha: The Differences Explained

CoffeeAffection_Macchiato VS Mocha_v1_Sep 1 2023

If you’ve been inside a coffee shop, local, or chain, then you’ve probably seen macchiatos and mochas on the menu. Maybe you have ordered them but weren’t sure exactly what you were drinking. Or maybe you stuck with a classic latte because you were not sure what your other options were.

We’re here to walk you through the differences between a macchiato vs mocha. Armed with this information, you can order something delicious next time you go to the coffee shop.

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What is a Macchiato?

The macchiato you order at an American coffee shop is often less authentic and loaded with sugar. The Italians invented macchiatos to highlight the flavor of espresso, not hide it in syrup.

So what is an authentic macchiato? In Italian “macchiato” translates to “stained” or “marked”.

Cafe Macchiato
Image Credit: Polymanu, Pixabay

Macchiatos are cups of espresso marked with a little steamed milk and foam on top. This gives you the bold, strong espresso flavor, rounded out by a splash of milk. This is the original version of the macchiato, often called an espresso macchiato.

There’s also a version called a latte macchiato. This drink has a lot more steamed milk and uses a different technique. Here, a full amount of milk is steamed and the shots are pulled as usual.

This time, however, the espresso marks the milk. The espresso is poured very slowly over the steamed milk, creating layers. This version of a macchiato is similar to a latte, except for the slow pour and the layers created.

SEE ALSO: How to Make a Macchiato (2 Easy Recipes)

  • Highlights the bold, rich flavor of espresso
  • Rounded out by steamed milk and foam
  • Can be an authentic Italian drink
  • May be too intense
  • Less flavor variety

What is a Mocha?

A mocha can’t be a mocha without chocolate! It combines two delicious flavors, coffee and chocolate, into one drink. What could be better?

Mochas start with espresso and chocolate sauce. Then a generous amount of steamed milk is added, typically without foam. Some coffee shops also add whipped cream and/or chocolate shavings on top.

How to make a mocha latte

This is the description of a basic mocha, but there is a multitude of options. White mochas are just as popular as regular mochas at most coffee shops. During the holidays, other versions are available like peppermint mocha or salted caramel mocha.

  • Combines delicious chocolate and coffee flavors
  • Wide variety of flavors available
  • May be too sweet
  • Not as authentic or espresso-forward

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Macchiato vs Mocha: The Key Differences

As you can tell from reading the drink descriptions, these drinks are very different. There are three things that really separate them from each other: flavor, variety, and milk preparation. We will further explain these differences to give you more coffee knowledge.

1. The Flavor Factor

Macchiatos and mochas have very different flavor profiles. Macchiatos have a strong espresso flavor with the addition of creaminess from the milk.

Mochas celebrate the flavors of chocolate and coffee together, making them quite a bit sweeter and toning down the intense flavor of espresso.

Espresso shot and coffee beans

2. Variety, Variety, Variety

Mochas are the winner when it comes to variety. As mentioned before, they have many flavor options beyond regular or white mochas. Seasonal flavors like peppermint are very popular. The wide range of flavored syrups coffee shops offer invites customers to customize their mochas.

On the other hand, macchiatos are simple and focused on the espresso. The two authentic varieties available are an espresso macchiato and a latte macchiato. Some coffee shops have flavored, non-authentic versions like caramel and vanilla.

3. Milk Preparation Methods

Both of these drinks have milk, but they use different techniques, which has different effects on each beverage. An espresso macchiato uses the smallest amount of milk and typically has some foam.

A latte macchiato uses more milk with microfoam to help create layers when espresso is poured over it. Mochas use milk to even out the texture and highlight the real stars: espresso and chocolate.

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Final Thoughts

Macchiatos are bold espresso drinks with added steamed milk and foam. They’re strong, rich, and creamy but don’t offer many flavor options. Mochas are sweet chocolate and espresso drinks with quite a bit of steamed milk. They come in a range of flavors, like caramel and peppermint, and may be topped with whipped cream or chocolate shavings.

Which should you choose? It’s up to you! Next time you’re at a coffee shop, try ordering a macchiato or mocha and see what you think.



Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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