How To Make The Perfect Macchiato With a Dollop

Justin Chong, Saltwater barista making the perfect macchiato

Dollop or pour? In this two part debate, Jenny Chiang and Justin Chong, two of Saltwater's beloved baristas, will fight to the finish to defend their views on how to make the perfect macchiato.

Next up! Justin Chong defends the dollop method:

You have just landed in Florence, Italy. You couldn’t sleep on the plane and the local time is 9 AM. Your eyelids struggle to stay open as you try to hunt down your luggage at the baggage claim. The Starbucks mermaid is beckoning you to drink a “venti caramel macchiato” and you succumb to her lures.

You take a sip of your “macchiato”. It’s delicious. The creaminess, the caramel drizzle, the slight notes of “espresso” all come together and you chase down your bags with this newfound energy.

It’s 2 PM in the afternoon and you’ve settled down at a cozy restaurant in the town center. You finish your pasta and the waiter asks if you’d like dessert or coffee. You confidently ask for a macchiato.

The waiter brings out a small shot glass on a tiny saucer. You are confused, as this is 1/10 the size of your usual Starbucks order. You wonder why this macchiato seems to be a shot of espresso but with some foam plopped in the middle.

“Scusi, I ordered a macchiato.”

The waiter shrugs, smirks and simply says “mi dispiace!”

Nonetheless, you take a sip. The acidity and strength of the espresso makes you grimace. However, you just paid 4 euros and stomach the rest of the drink. You realize there a lot of flavors hitting your mouth at once. It’s strong, yet somehow smooth. The notes of chocolate and the texture of the foam fuse greatly for the perfect after meal drink.

You return to New York and consistently drink macchiatos, but the drink you receive is far from consistent. One place gives you something reminiscent of your trip to Italy. Another place hands you a macchiato with a glossy heart in the center of your espresso. But who is giving you the right drink?

In Italian the word “macchiato” means stained or marked, which refers to the very small amount of milk that is added to the espresso.

The traditional Italian macchiato is a single shot of espresso with 1-3 teaspoons full of the foam that sits at the top of the steamed milk. However, the methodology of the macchiato has seen a shift as third wave coffee starts to become more mainstream. Some places stay true to the Italian tradition, but many places now do full double shots and instead of scooping the beautiful foam from the steamed milk, they pour the milk directly into the espresso.

Dollop method of making the perfect macchiato

The pouring of the milk may not change the ratio of milk to espresso, but it completely changes the drink’s texture. The milk is more smooth and “wet” which is more reminiscent of a Cortado. The only difference between the poured macchiato and Cortado becomes the amount of milk. However, there is only a difference of about 1-3 ounces of milk and a customer could simply request a Cortado with less milk as it is the same concept.

The main purpose of the macchiato is to experience the dryness of the foam combined with the espresso.

The dollop method is the only way to fully capture the perfect layer of foam.

Baristas frequently argue between the difference of macchiatos, but rarely question the validity of the difference between the flat white and cappuccino. Baristas will give you a definitive answer at every coffee shop that a flat white has less foam and is more wet in texture.

At the end of the day we have turned the “wetter” cappuccino into its own thing and have preserved the traditional cappuccino. Baristas will be baristas and claim that third wave departs from the traditional norms of Italian coffee, which in essence is true. Full double shots have become an industry standard and have rendered the single shot obsolete, available only by request. The macchiato should stay traditional just as the cappuccino has. However, the third wave coffee industry should create a new name for the more contemporary method of pouring the macchiato. Until then, there will be a never-ending, meaningless debate over whose method of making a macchiato is correct.

Catch you on the flip side,


Stay tuned! Next week, will wrap up our series on how to make the perfect macchiato with a summary of what we learned from both methods.

P.S. If you'd like to test out a dolloped macchiato at home, check out our coffee subscription service below. Use discount code "ACE" at checkout to get the first bag on the house!

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