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What is a Caramel Macchiato?
Blog / Confectionary / What is a Caramel Macchiato?

What is a Caramel Macchiato?

A caramel macchiato, a delightful concoction that has become a staple in coffee shops across the UK, is more than just a caffeine fix; it's an experience for the senses.

Whether you're a seasoned coffee aficionado or new to the macchiato scene, this post will guide you through the intricacies of this popular drink, from its origins to how to savour it like a pro.

What is a Caramel Macchiato?

Originating from the Italian word "macchiato," which means "marked" or "stained," this beverage is typically made by staining a cup of steamed milk with a shot of espresso and then adding a layer of froth on top.

The crowning feature is a generous drizzle of caramel sauce, which adds a rich, sweet flavour and creates an appealing visual contrast.

This combination of bold espresso, creamy milk, and sweet caramel offers a delightful taste experience that balances the bitterness of the coffee with the richness of the caramel.

Popularised by coffee chains and cafes, the Caramel Macchiato has become a staple in the UK's coffee culture.

It is enjoyed by those who appreciate the classic strength of espresso but prefer it with a sweeter, more indulgent twist.

Whether enjoyed as a morning pick-me-up or an afternoon treat, the Caramel Macchiato is a beloved choice for coffee enthusiasts.

What is the Difference Between a Macchiato and a Caramel One?

A traditional macchiato, Italian for "stained" or "spotted," is a strong espresso-based drink.

It consists of a shot of espresso "stained" with just a dash of steamed milk and sometimes a bit of foam.

A macchiato is ideal for those who enjoy the robust taste of espresso but with a slight moderation.

On the other hand, a caramel macchiato is a more modern, Westernised version of the traditional drink and is generally sweeter and creamier.

It typically starts with vanilla-flavoured steamed milk, to which a shot of espresso is added and is then topped with a layer of foam.

The defining characteristic of a caramel macchiato is the generous drizzle of caramel sauce over the top.

This not only adds a rich sweetness but also a delightful visual appeal.

What Are the Ingredients in a Caramel Macchiato?

A Caramel Macchiato, a beloved coffee beverage known for its sweet and indulgent flavour profile, typically comprises the following ingredients:

  • Espresso: The drink base, usually one or two shots, depending on the desired strength. Espresso provides a robust coffee flavour, a key characteristic of the drink.

  • Steamed Milk: This adds a creamy texture and mildness to the drink, balancing the intensity of the espresso. The milk is heated and frothed to create a smooth, velvety consistency.

  • Vanilla Syrup: Often added to the steamed milk, vanilla syrup imparts a sweet, aromatic flavour. It complements both the coffee and caramel tastes.

  • Caramel Sauce: Drizzled over the top, the caramel sauce is the signature element of a Caramel Macchiato. It adds a rich, sugary flavour and a visually appealing finish.

  • Foam: A layer of milk foam is usually added to the drink just beneath the caramel drizzle. This helps to hold the caramel on the surface and adds a light, airy texture.

Some variations of the Caramel Macchiato might include additional toppings or flavours, such as a cinnamon sprinkle or an extra espresso shot for a stronger coffee flavour.

However, the core ingredients remain espresso, steamed milk, vanilla syrup, caramel sauce, and foam.

How to Make a Caramel Macchiato?

Making a Caramel Macchiato, a delightful and popular coffee drink, involves key steps and ingredients.

Here's a guide to creating this sweet and creamy beverage:


  • Freshly brewed espresso (1 or 2 shots, depending on preference)
  • Steamed milk (about 150-200 ml)
  • Vanilla syrup (1-2 tablespoons, to taste)
  • Caramel sauce (for drizzling)
  • Optional: Milk foam for topping


  • Prepare the Espresso: Start by brewing a shot or two of espresso using your preferred method, whether using an espresso machine, a stovetop espresso maker, or a pod-based machine.

  • Steam the Milk: Heat it until it's hot but not boiling. If you have a steam wand on your espresso machine, steam the milk until it's hot and slightly frothy. If you don't have a steam wand, heat the milk in a saucepan or microwave, whisk it vigorously, or use a milk frother to create some foam.

  • Add Vanilla Syrup: In a large cup, add the vanilla syrup. The amount can be adjusted based on how sweet you like your drink.

  • Combine Espresso and Milk: Pour the steamed milk into the cup with the vanilla syrup, leaving some space for the espresso. Then, gently pour the espresso over the milk. If done slowly, the espresso will mix with the milk, creating a marbled effect.

  • Top with Foam: If you've created milk foam, spoon it on the drink now.

  • Drizzle with Caramel: Finally, drizzle caramel sauce over the top of the foam in a circular or zig-zag pattern. Be generous with the caramel for that classic Caramel Macchiato taste.

  • Serve Immediately: Enjoy your homemade Caramel Macchiato while it's warm and fresh.

Remember, the key to a great Caramel Macchiato is the balance of flavours – the boldness of the espresso, the sweetness of the vanilla and caramel, and the creaminess of the milk.

Feel free to adjust the quantities to suit your taste preferences.

Who Invented the Caramel Macchiato?

The invention of the Caramel Macchiato is widely attributed to Starbucks, the global coffeehouse chain.

It was introduced in their menu in the mid-1990s as part of an effort to expand their range of espresso-based drinks.

The exact individual who concocted the first Caramel Macchiato within Starbucks is not well-documented, but the drink was developed as a part of the company's broader product development strategy.

The Caramel Macchiato quickly gained popularity due to its appealing combination of familiar coffee flavours with the added indulgence of caramel and vanilla.

It was designed to appeal to customers looking for something different from the traditional Italian espresso drinks, offering a sweeter and more dessert-like coffee option.

Since its introduction, the Caramel Macchiato has become a staple in coffee shops worldwide, often inspiring similar creations by other coffee establishments.

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Some Notes From an Expert Chocolatier

As an expert chocolatier, I've enjoyed exploring various pairings that enhance the chocolate-tasting experience.

One such delightful combination is pairing a Caramel Macchiato with dark chocolate.

This pairing works exceptionally well due to the contrast and complementarity in flavours and textures.

The Caramel Macchiato, with its rich espresso base, creamy milk, and sweet caramel notes, offers a complex flavour profile that includes both sweetness and the robust depth of coffee.

When this is paired with dark chocolate, the bitterness and the intense cocoa flavours of the chocolate provide a perfect counterbalance.

The slightly bitter and earthy dark chocolate notes cut through the caramel's sweetness, creating a harmonious blend of tastes.

As the chocolate slowly dissolves in your mouth, it releases its full range of flavours, which are then enhanced by the warm, sweet notes of the macchiato.

Final Notes On Caramel Macchiato

The Caramel Macchiato stands as a testament to the creativity and innovation in the world of coffee.

Its unique combination of rich espresso, velvety steamed milk, sweet vanilla, and the luxurious drizzle of caramel offers a delightful experience that caters to various tastes.

This drink has transcended its origins as a speciality offering from a major coffeehouse chain to become a beloved staple in cafés across the globe, including in the UK.

The Caramel Macchiato offers something special, whether you're a coffee aficionado or enjoy a sweet, indulgent drink.

So next time you savour a Caramel Macchiato, remember that you're not just drinking a coffee – you're partaking in a rich tapestry of flavour, culture, and innovation.