Going to a coffee shop should be an experience. It should be about learning new things, trying different drinks, exploring the world of coffee. But, that can be a little scary when you don’t know what you’re ordering. No one wants to look like they don’t know what they are doing so let’s learn a little about the coffee world few have discovered.
Macchiato is one of those items on the coffee menu that tends to not only be mispronounced, but misassembled. And since those two things can make ordering this drink rather intimidating let’s go over some basics.
Macchiato (pronounced Mah-key-ahh-toe) is the Italian word for marked or stained. In the world of coffee that translates into shots of espresso poured over foam (or ice) rather than the shots being in the bottom of your cup, as is the norm. It is a drink that is all about layers of complimenting flavors.
The most commonly recognized macchiato is the Caramel Macchiato. This drink starts with a vanilla syrup, followed by ¼ of the cup filled with milk and ¾ of the cup filled with foam, shots of espresso over the foam, and a caramel sauce (this is the thick stuff, you don’t want any caramel syrup here) over the top in what is called a crosshatch (see: http://www.starbucks.com/menu/drinks/espresso/caramel-macchiato) design. The layers on this drink are what make it unique, the separation gives you a chance to enjoy the different flavors and how they blend.
When you drink it iced it is built the same way only instead of foam the shots are poured over the ice. It is a completely different experience iced as well as the ice tends to freeze the caramel sauce and turn it into almost a dessert. If you watch your barista make this drink and you don’t notice them building it like this, you simply have a vanilla caramel latte, light on the vanilla. As good as a vanilla caramel latte is a true caramel macchiato is a much better experience.
The second most recognized macchiato is the Espresso (sometimes referred to as Caffe) Macchiato. This drink is as simple as they come. It is literally a scoop of dense creamy foam (preferably whole or as fatty as you can stand it) topped with espresso shots.
There is something about the flavors of a really good espresso shot and the purity of good foam that are a great way to start your morning or even kick start your afternoon. If straight espresso shots are kind of out of your comfort zone try stirring in a sugar in the raw. It will take the edge off a little without ruining the flavor.
Now, armed with the knowledge of what a macchiato is and how to pronounce it, go forth and conquer your local coffee shop. And if they hand you a caramel vanilla latte, you can always hand it back and politely ask them to remake it correctly. However, you may want to just find a more learned coffee haven.