When you walk into a modern coffee shop, you’re greeted with a ton of options. You’ll see things like a café Americano or a cappuccino, which most people are familiar with. Then you’ll see some icy beverages called iced macchiatos and iced lattes.
You probably know what a latte is in its non-iced form; it’s espresso and milk. But what’s a macchiato? And what’s the difference between an iced macchiato vs iced latte?
In this post, I’ll explore the differences between the two drinks, what they have in common, how to make each of the popular drinks, and much more. Let’s get started!
What’s the Difference Between an Iced Latte and an Iced Macchiato?
Let’s start with the basics. What makes an iced latte different from an iced macchiato? Here’s a quick look at what they’re made from:
- An iced macchiato is made by starting with cold whole milk, adding ice to the glass, and topping it off with two shots of espresso. The result is a marbling effect as the coffee blends with the milk.
- With an iced latte, you start with one shot of espresso. Then you add low-fat milk, and add the ice last. Because the coffee and the milk have been mixed, the drink has a consistent light brown color.
As you can see, there’s a lot of similarity between the two beverages, so it’s understandable how people can become confused. That said, it’s easy to sum up the differences:
- An iced macchiato has twice the amount of espresso, more milk fat, and a layered appearance.
- An iced latte has half the amount of espresso, less milk fat, and a consistent color throughout.
That’s really all there is to it! Of course, you can add various flavored syrups as well, to further customize your beverage. We’ve put a couple of basic recipes in the next section, so you can make your own at home as well as ordering one at your favorite coffee shop.
What Do an Iced Latte and an Iced Macchiato Have in Common?
That said, it’s pretty obvious that these drinks have a lot in common.
To begin with, they’re both made with espresso, as opposed to ordinary coffee. In addition to that, the only other “required” ingredients are milk and ice, so they’re both easy to make for yourself at home.
Both beverages are also based on corresponding original hot versions. In the case of an iced latte, you’re even using the same amount of milk as a standard latte; it’s just not steamed. In the case of an iced macchiato, you’re using more milk than with a hot macchiato.
As you might imagine, an iced macchiato and an iced latte taste very similar. A macchiato will be bolder, due to the larger quantity of coffee and richer whole milk. A latte will simply be a milder version of the same general flavor.
How Do You Make an Iced Macchiato?
To make an iced macchiato, you need three basic ingredients: two shots of espresso, two ounces of whole milk, and some ice cubes. Pour your milk into a tall glass, and add a few ice cubes. Brew your espresso, pour it over the top, and you’re all done!
At least, you’ve completed the basic recipe. You can dress it up with vanilla syrup, or add a squeeze of caramel to create a caramel macchiato. Top it off with whipped cream, and finish with chocolate syrup if you’re feeling particularly adventurous.
How Do You Make an Iced Latte?
An iced latte also requires only three basic ingredients: one shot of espresso, two ounces of low-fat milk, and a few ice cubes. Pour your milk and espresso into a glass at the same time, so they mix thoroughly. Then, add your ice cubes.
Of course, many people like to sweeten their iced latte. You can add a lot of the same ingredients you can add to an iced macchiato, such as whipped cream and vanilla syrup. You might also consider a simple sweetener, such as palm sugar or honey. Cinnamon is another popular flavoring.
Iced Macchiato Pros & Cons
So, why might you prefer iced macchiatos? And why might you want to choose a different coffee drink? Here’s a quick look at the pros and cons of macchiatos.
- They’re quick and easy to prepare
- Whole milk is rich in nutrients, and provides calories for extra energy
- They’re a perfect drink for relaxing on a summer afternoon
- You can customize the flavor with syrups and other flavorings to make drinks like an iced caramel macchiato
- The high caffeine content makes them a much stronger coffee drink
- Syrups and whipped cream can add a significant number of calories
Iced Latte Pros & Cons
Just like iced macchiatos, iced lattes come with their own costs and benefits, which are slightly different. Here are a few things to take into consideration:
- They’re also quick and easy to prepare, with only three ingredients
- One percent milk has less fat, but it’s also less filling, so iced lattes won’t make you feel as full
- You can cheat and make an iced latte with regular coffee
- There’s less caffeine content, so you won’t get the jitters
- The lighter drink doesn’t have the same bold flavors
- Less caffeine also means less alertness
What Beans Should I Use?
If you’re making iced macchiatos, the answer is simple: use proper espresso beans. You’ll get bold, powerful espresso shots that provide the rich flavor you expect. An espresso shot is also preferable for an iced latte. That said, you can also use ordinary coffee beans, as if you were making a regular iced coffee. This will give you a milder flavor, but also a reduced caffeine content.
If you don’t have an espresso machine, there are plenty of ways to get strong coffee. A pour-over machine or a French press can get you the best results outside of using an actual espresso maker.
As for the type of bean, it depends on what you’re looking for. Obviously, an artisanal bean will give you better quality than the canned, pre-ground stuff from Wal Mart. But even if you’re using a good quality coffee bean, there are some important differences between different types of coffee beans.
The most important thing to consider is the darkness of the roast. If you’re primarily looking for a heavy, espresso-like flavor, opt for a dark roast coffee. If you’d prefer something a little milder, you can switch to a medium roast.
Light roast beans are a poor choice for lattes and macchiatos for a couple of reasons. For one thing, these iced drinks are meant to be bold, and a light roast won’t have enough flavor to compensate for the milk. For another thing, light roasts actually have the highest caffeine content of any coffee. Paradoxically, if you’re trying to moderate your caffeine intake, a darker roast is actually a better choice.
Related: No Crema on Espresso (Here’s What To Do!)
History of the Iced Macchiato
The macchiato, like almost every coffee drink, was first invented in Italy. The original macchiato was first served in the 1950s, and consisted of a single espresso shot topped off with steamed milk, but not foamed milk. Since then, people have started making it with a second espresso shot, which has made the macchiato stronger than most espresso-based beverages.
The first iced macchiatos appeared in the 1970s, but were rarely found outside of bespoke neighborhood coffee shots. This started to change in the early 2000s, with the explosion of Starbucks across the country. Originally, Starbucks called their iced macchiato a “shaken espresso on ice,” but eventually settled for the term “macchiato,” which is Italian for “marked.”
Nowadays, there are many types and varieties of iced macchiato. For example, the iced caramel macchiato has become a phenomenon in its own right. You can also enjoy one with decaf coffee, or even make a vegan iced macchiato with soy milk.
History of the Iced Latte
No one is one hundred percent sure who served the first latte. What we can say for sure is that it first became popular in 1903, about 50 years before the first macchiato was served. From the city of Trieste, Italy, it spread rapidly across continental Europe, and by the beginning of World War I, it was one of Europe’s most popular beverages.
People actually started making iced lattes before the refrigerator was even invented. And it wasn’t a summer beverage; it was a winter one. During wintertime, ice was plentiful, and coffee houses began serving cold, iced beverages while their customers gathered inside around the fire.
Americans first became familiar with lattes during World War II, when hundreds of thousands of GIs were stationed in Italy. These soldiers got a taste for the local cuisine, and many brought espresso back with them on their return home. Incidentally, this is the same time period that gave us the café Americano. Since Americans were not used to the boldness of espresso, Italian coffee shops would water down their espresso when serving to Americans.
The popularity of espresso in the US eventually led to the founding of European-style coffee shops where people could enjoy high-quality coffee based drinks. One of these shops was Starbucks, a Seattle-based coffee shop that eventually went national. The standard latte remained their most popular drink until 1986, which is when they began selling more sugary beverages.
Surprisingly, Starbucks actually didn’t start serving an iced version of their latte until the 1980s. Originally, these drinks were only sold in their Seattle and California locations, but after initial success, they’ve since become available at all Starbucks locations. Nowadays, you can order an iced latte in pretty much any coffee shop, no matter where you are.
Related: Caffe Misto: What is It and Tips to Make It
Iced Macchiato vs Iced Latte: Which is Better?
As with all things culinary, the difference between these two iced coffees is a matter of taste. With its double shot of espresso and higher fat content, the iced macchiato is far richer and bolder. You can enjoy an amazing espresso coffee for its own sake, or add additional flavorings like vanilla flavored syrup.
The iced latte, on the other hand, is better if you want a milder flavor. There’s also less caffeine, thanks to the fact that you’re only using a single espresso shot. And with less fat, the drink feels lighter in your stomach. This can make it a superior choice if you’re trying to cool down on a hot day.
If the flavor doesn’t matter to you, the only other consideration is aesthetic. With its marbled appearance, an iced macchiato puts on more of a show. An iced latte, on the other hand, is more reserved, with an even brownish coffee color.
Related: Cappuccino vs Americano: What’s the Difference
Iced Latte and Iced Macchiato FAQs
Before we wrap up, let’s discuss a few remaining questions about an iced latte vs iced macchiato. Here are some of the most common things people are asking about these two drinks:
How Do I Order a Low-Calorie Iced Coffee?
Look for lower calories. By switching to nonfat milk, you’ll cut your calories nearly in half. If you use sugar-free syrup, you’ll save even more calories, although some people have negative reactions to sugar-free sweeteners.
Finally, try going without whipped cream. Depending on how much you’re using, you could be eating well over 100 calories in toppings alone.
Drinks like an iced caramel macchiato are loaded with sugars that are high in calories.
Should I Stir the Cold Milk Into an Iced Macchiato?
It might be tempting to stir the ice cold milk into your macchiato. Don’t. You’ll blend all the ingredients together, ruining the appearance of the drink. At that point, you may as well have ordered a whole milk iced latte with double espresso.
Is a Latte Macchiato the Same as a Regular Latte?
No. While they taste similar, a hot latte macchiato is not the same as a regular hot latte. To make a latte macchiato, you first pour steamed milk into a cup, and then pour two shots of espresso on the top.
A latte, on the other hand, is only made with a single espresso shot. Then, you add steamed milk, and top it all off with a dollop of milk foam.
Which Is Stronger: a Macchiato or a Latte?
A macchiato is stronger than a latte, because it contains twice as much rich espresso. This means it has a bolder flavor, as well as more caffeine.
What’s in a Regular Starbucks Macchiato?
A regular Starbucks macchiato isn’t actually a proper macchiato. In fact, it’s an ordinary latte, with extra frothed milk and a hazelnut or caramel syrup. It’s certainly a delicious beverage, but it would be better to think of it as a sweetened, flavored latte than an actual macchiato.
What’s the Difference Between an Iced Latte and an Iced Coffee?
Iced lattes and iced coffees are two entirely different beverages. The most important distinction is that lattes, both iced and hot, are traditionally made with espresso beans. This provides a rich, potent flavor, which is far more robust than ordinary coffee beans.
Iced coffee, on the other hand, is made with regular beans. They’re lighter in flavor, and the ratio of coffee to milk is generally higher. Because of this, an unsweetened iced latte is actually sweeter than an unsweetened iced coffee.
If you’re not accustomed to espresso, you’ll probably prefer an iced coffee. If you already enjoy espresso, an iced latte will be more your speed.
What Is an Upside-Down Macchiato?
An upside-down macchiato is the same as a regular macchiato, but it’s built in reverse. So you would first add syrup and espresso, then add your ice, and top off with your milk. The ingredients are all the same, but the coffee ends up on the bottom of the glass instead of on the top.
As you can see, the difference between an iced latte vs an iced macchiato is pretty straightforward. The macchiato is a layered drink, with whole milk and a full two shots of espresso. The latte, on the other hand, is a blended drink, with less fat and only a single shot.
If you prefer a lighter drink with a milder flavor, choose the iced latte. If you want more caffeine and a more robust espresso flavor, try drinking an iced macchiato instead.
Both of these are an excellent choice when you want a flavorful, cooling iced coffee drink. With their delicious taste and creamy feel, they’re ideal ways to energize when it’s hot outside.