Are you sure you want a macchiato?

macchiato at window counter

Not the Starbucks kind.

Love them or hate them, one thing that can be said about Starbucks is that they make their own rules. They've made up their own sizes, they've coined terms such as "frappuccino," and have changed skim milk into "skinny."

Most of those changes are relatively harmless, except for your poor local coffee shop barista who genuinely isn't sure what size people want when they say "grande."

But one Starbucks change is just plain wrong: the macchiato.

A Starbucks macchiato is actually just a latte with foam on top and flavored with your choice of hazelnut or caramel or what have you (a latte macchiato). It's a sugary, decadent drink that is delicious -- and full of confusion.

The traditional macchiato -- a caffe macchiato -- is a pretty serious espresso drink, all things considered. It's simply espresso with a dollop of milk foam. Depending on the café, the espresso will either be poured first and the foam spooned on top, or the foam will be spooned in and the espresso poured through it. It's an option for those who like straight espresso, but want to cut the harshness just a bit.

The word "macchiato" actually means "marked" in Italian. So its use for coffee is either because the espresso is marked with milk or because the milk foam is marked with espresso -- it depends on how you make it.

macchiato overhead closeup

According to Zaya from Caffé Vero in Lake George, the macchiato is "a pretty easy drink to make."

What would you make if a customer asks for a macchiato?

"A double shot mixed with a little bit of milk and foam on top."

How many times do people order it expecting a Starbucks macchiato?

"About a thousand times a day, most people who order it either don't know what it is or they're looking for a caramel macchiato from Starbucks. They want something hot and foamy and sweet with lots of milk and that's a latte, not a macchiato."

Erin from Uncommon Grounds in Saratoga said he'd probably never recommend a traditional macchiato to a customer.

"It's one of those drinks that very few people are into. People who like espresso just want espresso and people who want something a little lighter usually just go for a cappuccino," he explained. "About 70 percent of the time, when people order it, they want a Starbucks caramel macchiato instead."

So at Uncommon when a customer orders a macchiato, baristas usually double check to ask them if they want a macchiato or a Starbucks macchiato. (As it happens, the Starbucks menu also includes the traditional macchiato, listed as an "espresso macchiato.")

Considered against all the problems in the world, the Starbucksing of the term macchiato isn't a big deal. It's pretty much the definition of a first world problem. But it's the kind of thing that causes grief for your local baristas. So do them -- and yourself -- a favor the next time you step up to the counter: know what you want, be specific and order clearly. You'll make your barista's day a little bit better -- you'll get what you want.

Casey is a former barista at a local coffee shop.

Earlier on AOA:
+ In 2011, Daniel had high praise for the macchiato at Caffe Vero
+ Do you tip at food trucks, the coffee place, counter service?

Comments

If you order a macchiato at Starbucks, they make it correctly - or almost. Sometimes it's a little too milky, but I've always gotten it in a short cup with mostly just espresso and foam. Some baristas will just spoon the foam onto the espresso, but others will kinda pour it in with some milk. Either way, only if you order an actual caramel macchiato or the like, will you get that ridiculous dessert/drink.

I once worked at a fauxStarbucks. We used their old machine and many products (but not all), and were "trained" with their manual.
They explain that the term "macchiato" means marked, and the idea is that you make the latte, and pour in the espresso last, thus "marking" the milk.
I'm not sure if it actually makes a difference, and it's still a load of BS, but that's their reasoning. Or something.

I certainly have made a macchiato for a woman, who, halfway through asked me if I could put caramel in it. I realized what she really wanted, but it was too late. She looked puzzled.

Say Something!

We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.

The Scoop

Ever wish you had a smart, savvy friend with the inside line on what's happening around the Capital Region? You know, the kind of stuff that makes your life just a little bit better? Yeah, we do, too. That's why we created All Over Albany. Find out more.

Recently on All Over Albany

Tedeschi Trucks Band at SPAC

The Tedeschi Trucks Band is set to make a return appearance at SPAC July 3. Tickets go on sale this Friday, January 27 -- they're... (more)

Messages from the "Inaugurate Resistance" march and rally in Albany

Thousands of people marched in Albany Saturday as part of the "Inaugurate Resistance" event, one of many similar marches around the country coinciding with the... (more)

Shirley Jackson gets shout out on SNL

You might have seen that RPI president Shirley Jackson was namechecked on Saturday Night Live this past weekend. The clip is above -- the part... (more)

Dan Savage at RPI later this week

Author/sex advice columnist/podcaster Dan Savage will be at RPI this Friday, January 27. It's free and open to the public. Savage is, of course, famous... (more)

LGBT Law Series at Albany Law

Albany Law School starts a series of informational events about legal issues in LBGT communities next week. The lineup: January 30: The State of LGBT... (more)

Recent Comments

Next: Translate this into political action, candidate support, and voting -- at the local, state, and national levels.

Icy, Snowy Apocalypse Watch

...has 3 comments, most recently from gb

Messages from the "Inaugurate Resistance" march and rally in Albany

...has 1 comment, most recently from Karen

Photos from the "Inaugurate Resistance" march and rally in Albany

...has 21 comments, most recently from Chris

Dan Savage at RPI later this week

...has 1 comment, most recently from JayK

A good stationery shop?

...has 7 comments, most recently from Annie Ferris