Americano vs Macchiato

Was the americano really the US troops' secret weapon in Italy during World War II? Probably not but that's no reason not to try it. What about a macchiato though? Is it only beautiful on the outside, or is it also delicious? Let's look into it.

What Is an Americano Coffee?

If you want to know what's the difference between a macchiato and an americano, you will probably first want to know what makes a coffee an americano.

Café americano, as this type of brew is also known, is a coffee based beverage made with espresso (or any other type of strong coffee) and hot water. The two are mixed with a one to one ratio and what you're left with is an americano coffee. It doesn't have such an intense flavor like espresso but is still just as strong.

An americano is perfect for you if you want to have a decent kick out of your cup of coffee, but don't like the intense flavor of espresso. What most people usually do is they add milk, but if you're not into that, you can simply add some hot water and have an americano.

There are a few main reasons why you'd want to give americanos a try, especially if you're not big on espresso.

  • It's easy to make. This is one of the most straightforward types of coffee. You only need to make some espresso and add water.
  • Americanos are easier on the stomach. If you have a sensitive stomach and espresso gets it going, you might want to try this coffee. As it's not nearly as intense as espresso, you should feel fine after drinking it.
  • The golden middle between drip coffee and espresso. If regular drip coffee isn't strong enough for you and an espresso is too much, you will probably love the americano.

Just like americanos have multiple pros, they have some features that might not be to every coffee drinker's taste.

  • Some of the espresso texture is lost. If that's what made you leave your normal coffee behind, and go for espresso you'll be disappointed. By adding water to your coffee, you make it lose a significant part of its texture.
  • The lack of milk might mean it's still too strong. If you used to add milk to your espresso, an americano might still be too strong for you.

How Was Americano Invented?

According to a 2013 article in the New York Times, americanos were first made during World War II. American soldiers stationed in Italy wanted coffee but as the Italian espresso and latte are different from the drip coffee they had at home, they didn't like it.

That's why they started mixing an espresso (or Moka pot coffee) with hot water. That's how the first americano came to be - a delicious but simple cup of coffee.

As a lot of time has passed since World War II (thankfully), there have been a few variations of this coffee drink.

  • Lungo: this variation of the coffee drink is made with a double shot of espresso. This drink is significantly stronger but if you feel you really need that extra caffeine energy, go for it.
  • Caffè crema: to make a caffè crema americano coffee you will need to add more hot water than espresso. This is the opposite of the lungo and gives you a weaker cup of coffee with a sweeter flavor.
  • Short in the dark: this one's for the hardcore coffee drinkers. This type of americano is made by adding drip coffee to your espresso. What you're left with is a cup of very strong coffee, also known as red-eye.
  • Iced americano: this coffee is pretty straightforward. Instead of adding hot water you add cold, and you're left with a delicious cold cup of coffee.

What Coffee Is Best for Americano?

As you already know americanos are based on espresso. This is what gives it the high amount of caffeine and the reason why americano even exists. An espresso maker is very expensive, can be hard to use, and a pain to clean, so you might want to try a Moka pot.

The Moka pot gives you a very intense cup of coffee, that's extracted using the same brewing method as for espresso. For this reason, a Moka pot is also known as a stovetop espresso maker.

When it comes to the grind, the best coffee for an espresso machine is finely ground. As a Moka pot doesn't generate as much pressure, though, you will want to go for a medium ground, to get the best flavor. 

The roast you're using depends on your coffee preferences. A light roast is the strongest. As the coffee is not roasted for that long, less caffeine is lost, more of it goes into your cup of coffee. It comes with a more fruity taste, though, so if more caffeine is not an issue for you, it might be worth a shot.

Then you have the medium roast. To have a medium roast coffee, your beans are left in the roaster for longer. This takes out most of the fruity notes and some of the caffeine but is still going to give you a rather strong cup of coffee.

The best roast for your americano is the dark roast. It has a slightly burnt taste and significantly less caffeine than the light roast. It is also going to give your espresso or Moka coffee more crema.

 

What Is a Macchiato Coffee?

 

Similarly to an americano, a macchiato coffee is made with espresso and steamed milk. The name comes from the Italian word for stained, and the coffee is called so because of the beautiful "stains" the espresso gives to the milk.

Even though a macchiato is similar to a latte or a cappuccino, it's still a different coffee drink. Despite the fact that many people use latte and macchiato as synonyms, a macchiato is not only stained but also has less espresso than a latte.

A macchiato is known for its rich flavor and soft creamy texture. This would make it the perfect cup of coffee for you if you're looking for something sweet but don't want to significantly increase your sugar intake. This sweeter taste is another key difference to a latte.

There are more good news though. Even though a traditional macchiato is served hot, you can have a cup of ice cold coffee made that way. To have that summer coffee drink, you need to add a few ice cubes and voilà.

There are multiple reasons why you might want to choose a macchiato, other than the fact that it's one of Italy's favorite types of coffee.

  • A macchiato has a smooth, creamy texture. This is achieved by having more milk than some other coffee drinks.
  • A macchiato is strong but not bitter. A macchiato coffee is based on an espresso, so you can expect a lot of caffeine per cup. It's not bitter, though. Even if you're using a dark roast for your brew, the added milk is going to make your coffee less bitter.
  • A macchiato is delicious. There's nothing better than strong coffee with milk, right? Well, a macchiato is just that and it's made the way Italians do it.

Not unlike an americano, a macchiato is probably not everyone's favorite coffee and there are two main reasons.

  • A macchiato is harder to make. You need to be very precise with your amounts of coffee and milk and there is some preparation required before you can start.
  • A macchiato may be too strong for some people. Even though a macchiato is watered down with milk, it's still an espresso based coffee drink, so it might be too strong for your taste.

How Was Macchiato Invented?

While there's no specific date when macchiatos first came around, it was probably in the 1980s in, you guessed it, Italy. It all probably started when someone working in a coffee shop decided to distinguish an order of plain espresso from a regular espresso. 

An interesting fact is that there's a similar coffee drink in Portugal. It's called the café pingado which means "dripped coffee", probably coming from the fact that you drip your coffee into the milk.

What Is the Best Coffee for a Macchiato?

Similar to an americano, there are a few variables when it comes to the best coffee for a macchiato. Also, like the americano, you start your macchiato by brewing a round of espresso.

We tried the traditional espresso approach and while it was strong and delicious, it was still too much for our taste. That's why we tried to brew a round of stovetop espresso in a Moka pot and it was one of the best cups of coffee we ever tried. While the coffee was still strong, and had a rich taste, it wasn't bitter.

 

To make the perfect cup of coffee in a Moka pot, you will need to start by grinding your coffee beans medium to coarsely. This will let your Moka pot extract the best tasting coffee drink out of your grounds.

Here, we believe that a medium roast is the way to go. It's the middle ground between the fruity and delicious but strong light roast and the bitter dark roast. 

What Is a Latte Macchiato?

There can be some variety in the macchiato world. You've probably come across a latte macchiato but do you know what it actually is?

It's another coffee and milk based drink that is actually closer to being a latte than a macchiato. It is also often called an inverted macchiato, since instead of adding milk to espresso, in a latte macchiato, you add some espresso to milk. 

This is also literally what the name means. Latte is the Italian word for milk, and as you already know, macchiato means stained. Literally translated, the name of the drink means stained milk. Many coffee enthusiasts preferred the beverage as it still has some coffee in it, but is mainly milk, which makes it significantly weaker than a regular macchiato.

Americano vs. Macchiato. Which Should You Choose?

Both coffee types are delicious and there are plenty of reasons why each could be your preferred cup in the morning. There are a few differences that you should consider though.

 

A macchiato is sweeter than americano and is made with milk, so, depending on the coffee beans and the recipes you're following, your beverage is going to be weaker. However, it's significantly harder to make and if you're buying in a coffee shop (Starbucks for example), it's going to cost you more.

An americano, on the other hand, is much easier to make, as it's only half water and half espresso. Its taste is closer to a regular espresso though, only weaker.

Frequently Asked Questions 

What Is the Better Coffee?

There's no yes or no answer. The better coffee is different for everyone. If you like your coffee sweet and with milk, you should probably go for a macchiato. If you don't insist on it being sweet, an americano would be perfect.

What you should know is that they are both based on espresso, which means they're both very strong so you should keep that in mind, if you're not used to drinking strong coffee.

What Is the Difference Between a Cappuccino, a Latte and a Macchiato?

A cappuccino is one of the most widely spread types of coffee out there. It's made by adding one part coffee and two parts milk. There are two layers of milk: steamed milk and foamed milk. It's only served hot and comes in a large cup to be able to fit all that milk.

A "caffè latte" as it's called in Italy, literally translates to "coffee milk". Even though there's a wide variety of recipes for the perfect latte, this coffee is usually made by adding steamed milk to a single shot of espresso. In some coffee shops it's often topped with a layer of foam or sugars, or both in some cases. 

Compared to the cappuccino and the macchiato, the latte has a more mild, slightly sweet flavor. It also contains a lot more steamed milk than a macchiato.

In general, a macchiato is made by a shot of espresso (or any other strong coffee as we saw), and a splash of milk. You shouldn't mix it, though, to give it that stained (macchiato) look. The taste is stronger than a latte or a cappuccino, as the amount of coffee is roughly the same but there's significantly less milk.

Which One Is Harder to Make?

A macchiato is harder to make than an americano. It's still not that difficult though, as instead of adding water and mixing it, you add a few drops of milk.

The hard part to both these types of coffee is that you should start with an espresso, which can be difficult. Moreover it takes forever to clean your espresso maker when you're done.

What you should do to make it easier, is try a Moka pot. The coffee is nearly as strong as espresso, but it takes less time, it's easier to clean and you can easily make it just the way you like it.

Final Thoughts

Both the americano and the macchiato are watered down versions of espresso. The americano is made less intense with water, and the macchiato with a few drops of milk. While they're both rather strong and easy to make, you can make the whole process even easier by switching the espresso machine for a Moka pot. Get your high quality Moka pot now.