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Posted:  |  Updated: 08/31/12 10:48 AM ET

What A Macchiato Really Is

Except for a select few of us, practically everyone drinks coffee in the morning. For many of us it's a crutch -- we just can't live without it. And it's a good reason why a certain chain coffee shop has stayed in business all these years, but we've got a bone to pick with them. Not only has this coffee company created Italian-sounding names that were never Italian to begin with (Frappuccino) but it's also caused some confusion with authentic terms, namely the macchiato. Most people would know an espresso or a cappuccino when they saw one, but would you know a real macchiato?

The Macchiato Defined

The macchiato (mah-key-AH-toe) is a cornerstone of Italian coffee culture, along with the espresso and cappuccino, among other coffee drinks. It's basically an espresso (served in a demitasse cup) with a small amount of foamed milk on top -- the name macchiato means "marked." So really, you could look at it as a cross between an espresso and a cappuccino. Since Italians only drink cappuccino in the morning, a macchiato gives the afternoon drinker the option of having a little milk in their espresso for some extra flavor. It's also a good option for those who can't tolerate a strong espresso but find a cappuccino too weak and milky.

There is another type of macchiato called "latte macchiato," which is a cup of hot milk with a shot of espresso, but it does not have caramel-flavored syrup added, which is what the chain coffee shop would have you believe is a true macchiato.

How To Order

An authentic macchiato is one of those coffee drinks that's served at any reputable coffee bar or restaurant, so you won't necessarily see it written up on the menu. Go ahead and order one without hesitation. But if you decide to order one at the chain coffee shop, you'll probably have to specify an "espresso macchiato" unless you want to get that caramel concoction. In Italy, all you have to ask for is a "caffe macchiato" and everyone will know what you want -- but don't ask for a frappuccino unless you want to be embarrassed.

What's your favorite kind of coffee? Let us know below.

See the slideshow below for some great drink ideas using coffee.

Cafe Cubano
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Cuban coffee is famous for the thick layer of foam. This recipe shows you how. All you need do is beat a portion of the espresso with sugar until foamy, add the remaining espresso and watch the foam rise to the top. Pour and serve.

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Main image courtesy of Jonathan McIntosh, Flickr.

Also See:
How To Make A Perfect Cup Of Coffee At Home
Taste Test: The Best Instant Coffee

UPDATE: The definition of "latte macchiato" has been added to this article.

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Filed by Joseph Erdos  |