Flat White Vs Macchiato - A Detailed Analysis!

Flat White Vs Macchiato – A Detailed Analysis!

Last updated on October 25th, 2023 at 13:22

In the brew battle of a Flat white Vs Macchiato, one that is hotly debated, one key aspect that is often left out of the debate is there are two distinctly different types of macchiato to consider.

In this article we discuss and cover both types of macchiato to give you a clear picture of what a macchiato is. I will go into full detail and comprehensively talk about a flat white too. By the time you have finished reading, you will know all about a flat white Vs macchiato and be fully clued-up on everything.

What are the two types of macchiato?

Keep reading to find out!

Flat White Vs Macchiato – An Overview

Let’s have a look at the constituents of these coffee beverages to help you understand their similarities and differences.

Before I get started I’ll talk about both versions of a latte as Americans are more familiar with a latte macchiato, they type served at Starbucks and what a European would know as a macchiato (espresso macchiato on the Starbucks menu).

  • Flat White: A strong espresso based drink made with a double shot of a ristretto and steamed milk using a ristretto to milk ratio of 1:2. has a fine cap of milk foam. May have latte art.
  • Espresso macchiato: A single shot of espresso with a splash of steamed milk, typically a teaspoon. A dollop of milk foam may be added.
  • Latte Macchiato: A layered espresso based drink made with a double espresso and steamed milk using an espresso to milk ratio of 1:1.5. An additional equal amount, equal to the steamed milk content, of milk foam is added.

We are clearly talking about three very different drinks. A flat white is similar to a latte but has a more dominant coffee flavor due to the robust and strong double shot of ristretto breaking through the creaminess of the milk with greater ease.

An espresso macchiato is strong tasting coffee with the bitter edges and acidity of a raw espresso shot chopped down by the splash of milk.

A latte macchiato is a layered drink and is enjoyed while sipping and getting all three layers in your mouth with airy bubbles, the creaminess of milk and the espresso shot.

Flat White Vs Macchiato
A Flat White And A Latte

Read: Macchiato Vs Mocha

What Is A Flat White?

A flat white is a coffee drink that is made with a much stronger espresso shot, a ristretto, concretely a double ristretto.

A ristretto is made using the same brewing process as an espresso but has a coffee to water ratio of 1:1 compared to 1:1.5 of an espresso. It’s also smaller, being only ⅔ rd’s of an ounce (20 ml), as a result it is stronger tasting and has more caffeine per ounce (per 30 ml) than an espresso.

The remainder of the drink is steamed milk with whole milk being traditionally used. The amount of steamed milk is twice as much as the ristretto content. A fine thin layer of frothed milk is added to the top and may or may not have latte art.

The result is the drink is very similar to a caffe latte in how it is made and how it looks but has a much stronger flavor and is slightly smaller.

What Is A Macchiato?

As I have mentioned above, to truly understand a macchiato it is best that I talk about both a traditional macchiato and a latte macchiato.

It avoids confusion and gives you greater clarity no matter what side of the Atlantic you are on or from.

Let’s start by clearing up the naming problem. An espresso macchiato, traditional macchiato and Italian macchiato and the one and same beverage with a different name.

It’s simply a shot of espresso with a dash of milk. Typically, only a teaspoon of whole milk is added. A dollop of milk foam may be added; it depends on the coffee shop that you visit.

A latte macchiato, also known as an American macchiato, is a layered coffee drink made with a double espresso and steamed milk in an espresso to milk ratio of 1:3, with half of the total milk content being a large layer of microfoam.

For clarification, the ratios are 1 part espresso and 1.5 parts steamed whole milk and 1.5 parts milk froth.

A latte macchiato is not a drink that you should stir as each of the three layers are to be enjoyed together, layered as you sip it.

Flat White Vs Latte
A Latte Macchiato

Read: Americano Vs Macchiato

Flat White Vs Macchiato

Let’s have a deeper look at the important factors that differentiate a flat white coffee from a macchiato.


The strength of these drinks are different as each has a different level and potency of coffee flavor.

An espresso macchiato is the strongest with the coffee flavor dominating the drink due to only having a dash of milk added.

A flat white, even though it has a high ratio of milk, is also a strong coffee drink due to the strong and robust ristretto used. Is it neither here nor there in terms of strength of a latte macchiato and a flat white. Both are about the same due to the espresso content only being “cool down” to use a term with steamed milk that is used in a 1:1.5 ratio.

Even though there is a large amount of milk in a latte macchiato, half of it is milk foam.

Flavor Profile

A flat white has an intense taste due to the drink being a blended coffee beverage. It’s slightly less creamy than a caffe latte with a more prominent taste. The distribution of flavor and blending is due to the way the steamed milk is poured by the barista.

An espresso macchiato is bold, strong and with the sharp acidity and bitter notes calmed with the splash of milk.

A latte macchiato is a fun and tasty drink that is layered with the bubbly microfoam, creaminess of the milk and strong, bold espresso flavor mixed together in your mouth as you sip it.


An espresso macchiato is easily noted with it being a shot of espresso with a little stain of milk. May have a dollop of foam.

A flat white is easily identified due to looking like a smaller latte or a slightly larger cortado. It’s a blended coffee drink that looks like what you would expect a coffee with milk to look like. It often has some latte art on top.

A latte macchiato is layered and easily recognizable, especially if it is a caramel macchiato due to the crosshatch design on top.

What Is The Difference Between A Cortado And A Flat White Vs Macchiato
A Perfectly Made Flat White

Read: Latte Vs Mocha


The origins of these drinks are unique. A flat white is hotly contested as being either of Australian or New Zealand origins. Interesting both stories involve the drink being created by a barista and a coffee shop manager in the mid to late 1980s.

One thing we can be sure of is that it came from down under! The name lat white is in reference to the fine cap of microfoam which is flat and white, hence flat white.

An espresso macchiato, also known as an Italian macchiato originates in Italy where the name “macchiato” translates to stain which describes the small stain of milk in the shot of espresso. An espresso, nor milk in coffee, is enjoyed past midday as milk in coffee is seen as a morning thing.

A latte macchiato is an American drink, popularized by Starbucks when their signature caramel macchiato was invented by Hannah Su who created the drink to mark the company’s 25th Anniversary.

Caffeine Content – Which Has The Biggest Kick?

Let’s drill down and look at the caffeine content of each drink and see which has the most caffeine.

Drink Size Espresso Macchiato Latte Macchiato Flat White
Short 8 Oz (240 ml). 75 mg (single shot)* 150 mg 130 mg
Tall 12 Oz (360 ml). 150 mg (double shot)* 150 mg 130 mg
Grande 16 oz (480 ml). N/A 225 mg 195 mg
Venti 20 Oz (600 ml). N/A 225 mg. 195 mg.

* An espresso macchiato does not align with the drink sizes stated. 1 Shot = 1 Oz (30 ml) and a double shot 2 Oz (60 ml).

Clearly, for all drink sizes, a macchiato has the most caffeine.

Calories – Which Is The Belly Buster?

The belly buster here is the latte Macchiato as it has the most calories. Notably, a flat white is not too far behind it!

The best choice for your waist line is an espresso macchiato.

Drink Size Espresso Macchiato Latte Macchiato Flat White
Short 8 Oz (240 ml). 10 calories (single shot)* 120 calories 110 calories
Tall 12 Oz (360 ml). 15 calories (double shot)* 190 calories 170 calories
Grande 16 oz (480 ml). N/A 250 calories 220 calories
Venti 20 Oz (600 ml). N/A 310 calories. 290 calories.

* An espresso macchiato does not align with the drink sizes stated. 1 Shot = 1 Oz (30 ml) and a double shot 2 Oz (60 ml).

Flat White Vs Latte Macchiato

A flat white is often confused and mistaken for a latte macchiato. They may look similar, but both are two very different drinks.

The obvious difference visually is the quantity of the foamed milk on top of the drink. A flat white has only a thin and fine layer of foam while a latte macchiato has a lot, a large part of the drink is made up of microfoam.

Also, a flat white is blended while a latte macchiato is a layered drink. The result is different tasting drinks and different textures. A flat white has a silky smooth texture while a latte macchiato is airy, light and bubbly.

Frequently Asked Questions About Flat White Vs Macchiato

To determine and display the difference between these three drinks, let’s look at their construction:

  • Cortado Coffee: Double espresso and an equal amount of textured milk with a thin layer of milk foam.
  • Flat White: Double ristretto and steamed milk using a coffee to milk ratio of 1:2. A small fine cap of foamed milk is added on top.
  • Macchiato: A traditional macchiato is a shot of espresso with a dash of milk. An American Macchiato, an espresso with steamed milk in a ratio of 1:05 to 1:1.5 with an equal amount of milk foam as there is milk.

With this in mind you and I can see clearly just how different these three beverages are. One peculiar note is that an American macchiato when made with a coffee to milk ratio of 1:1 is very similar to a cortadito, a cortado with a single shot. One key difference is that a cortadito is made with textured milk while an American macchiato is made with steamed milk.

A cortado has a bold and strong taste that is toned down and balanced with the equal amount of dairy used. You really get the best of both the coffee and the creaminess of the milk.

A flat white has strong taste too with the power of the double ristretto cutting through the milk much better than that of a latte but lighter than a cortado.

A macchiato has a strong and bold taste due to the espresso shot dominating the beverage. The edges of the bitterness and acidity are taken off due to the dash of steamed milk.

Flat whites are strong both in taste and caffeine content, but it is not the strongest tasting coffee, nor the one with the greatest total caffeine content.

Some coffee drinks that have a stronger coffee flavor are:

  • A ristretto.
  • An espresso.
  • A macchiato.
  • A cortado.

There are more drinks with a higher caffeine content than a flat white coffee. These are just some examples of popular drinks.

  • Cortado.
  • Cold brew.
  • Brewed coffee.
  • Cordusio macchiato.

The amount of caffeine that a drink has depended a lot on its volume. A flat white has a lot of caffeine due to the double, or triple ristretto depending on the drink size. A flat white has more caffeine than a macchiato and a caramel macchiato.

The table below shows the caffeine content for the two drinks for all drink sizes.

Drink Size Flat White Espresso Macchiato Caramel Macchiato
Short 8 Oz (240 ml). 130 mg 75 mg
Tall 12 Oz (360 ml). 130 mg 75 mg Single 75 mg
Grande 16 Oz (480 ml). 195 mg 150 mg Double 150 mg
Venti 20 Oz (600 ml). 195 mg 150 mg.

Is Macchiato Stronger Than Flat White?

Yes, the strength of flavor of a macchiato is much stronger than a flat white due to significantly less milk being used. A flat white is made using twice as much milk as coffee and thus has a deal of its potent coffee taste subdued by the milk content.

A flat white, though, has more of a caffeine kick than a macchiato.

A flat white is so popular due to the great balance of the coffee flavor and the creaminess of the milk. The steamed milk is stretched and with a very tight-knit of microfoam on top. You get the best of the potent double ristretto and the creaminess of the milk.

The taste and balance of the milk and the strong double ristretto cutting through the milk brings all the great flavors of the coffee without the bitterness and acidity. Similar to a cortado, you get the best of both the coffee and the milk.

Final Thoughts – Flat White Vs Macchiato

Well, I did at the beginning of this article that I’d get to the details of a Flat white Vs Macchiato and deliver a comprehensive comparison and analysis.

If I have missed anything, or you have any questions, please do ask.

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Derek Marshall, a certified barista by the Specialty Coffee Association possesses over two decades of experience in specialty coffee shops. He holds professional certifications for coffee brewing and barista skills. Derek is also an author with authoritative books covering various coffee topics including specialty coffee, sustainability and coffee, coffee brewing, coffee recipes, coffee cocktails and books focusing on Brazilian coffee, Vietnamese coffee, Indonesian coffee and Malaysian coffee. As a barista for over two decades, Derek Marshall has worked in specialty coffee shops across the United Kingdom, Spain, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. His expertise extends to the distinct coffee cultures, specialty beverages, and brewing techniques of each nation. Functioning as a coffee consultant, Derek charges US$50 per hour. To learn more about Derek Marshall and Latte Love Brew, visit his About Me Page. For coffee inquiries, contact him at +34-639-410-375 or Derek@LatteLoveBrew.com, mentioning your name and location

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