COFFEE AWARENESS MONTH, DAY 10: “Macchiato”: The Most Misunderstood Word in Coffeedom
What’s a macchiato? Depends on who you ask.
At Starbucks — and, by extension, coffee shops run by people who base their model on Starbucks’ — that word will likely get you a “Caramel Macchiato,” which is oddly named, since theirs is a vanilla latte with a bit of caramel drizzled on top. And while Starbucks’ success and ubiquity has helped the coffee industry as a whole, the whole “macchiato” thing can still be confusing.
Here’s the definitive word: A Macchiato is a healthy dose of espresso (1-2 oz.), with a smaller portion of steamed milk added to the top. The word itself means “to mark” or “to stain” — hence, the espresso is stained with a bit of milk. Typically, a macchiato is served in a 3.5 oz ceramic cup; an expert barista can pour a pretty heart on top (milk art being a sign that the milk, at least, has been prepared well, since badly textured milk won’t pour into a decent shape). Some shops like to spoon light, foamy milk onto the top of the espresso, but we prefer a more substantial, liquid texture that’s poured in (and hence mixes with the coffee).
The picture above is a macchiatto from Stumptown Coffee in Seattle, one of the specialty coffee world’s benchmarks for quality. The flavor of your macchiato will be dependent on the espresso used; in ours, you’ll note typical chocolate flavors, along with undertones of fruits and nuts (think a dried-fruit trail mix). The milk tones done the acidity and tang of the espresso, but the natural sweetness of the milk provided a compliment to the snappier flavors of the espresso.
It’s a delicious treat: Short and simple, meant for sipping but not meant to last. A reminder that some of the best things in life don’t last too long — and, at its best, a moment in time in which taste is king, and everything else can wait a minute. Cheers!