Latte vs Macchiato – Which Coffee Drink Is Sweeter? (The Great Debate)

Ah, the age-old coffee conundrum! As an avid coffee lover and frequent café-goer, I often find myself deep in thought (or deep in debate with friends) over which drink reigns supreme in the sweetness department: the creamy latte or the sharp macchiato. It’s a battle of robust espresso softened by varying amounts of milk, with both drinks having their distinct personalities. And the truth is – many of our NYC coffee catering customers have the same question!

So, let’s break it down.

Quick Answer: When comparing a traditional latte to a traditional macchiato, a latte often tastes slightly sweeter due to its higher milk content, but modern variations like the caramel macchiato can be much sweeter than a standard latte.

picture of a latte

Understanding The Basics

Before we dive deep into the sweetness factor, it’s crucial to understand what constitutes each drink. A latte, known for its velvety texture, generally consists of one or more shots of espresso drenched in steamed milk with a dollop of foam crowning its surface. When I take that first sip, it’s like a warm, comforting hug in a cup – the robustness of the espresso complemented beautifully by the creaminess of milk.

On the flip side, a traditional macchiato is the bolder cousin. It’s essentially an espresso that’s been “marked” or “stained” with a little frothy milk. The first time I had a macchiato, I remember being taken aback by its sharpness, with the milk merely tempering its edge. But then, with the rise of popular coffee chains, the term ‘macchiato’ has taken on new forms, introducing sweet variations like the caramel macchiato, which is a world away from its traditional counterpart.

Sweetness By Definition (Or Not)

If we’re talking traditional preparations, neither the latte nor the macchiato inherently stands out as “sweeter”. They both don’t come with added sugars, unless you choose to add them. However, the more substantial milk content in a latte does impart a natural sweetness derived from the milk itself. Those lactose sugars subtly shine through, making a latte seem somewhat sweeter, especially when contrasted with a standard macchiato’s stark coffee-forward profile.

But here’s where it gets tricky – enter the world of modern macchiatos. As mentioned, the caramel macchiato is a game-changer. Infused with vanilla syrup and topped with a caramel drizzle, this variant can easily be mistaken as a dessert in a cup. Comparing this sweetened version to a traditional latte? The macchiato undoubtedly takes the cake (or should I say, the caramel?).

Personal Preference is Key

At the end of the day, as I’ve learned from countless coffee outings and discussions, sweetness is largely subjective. What I might find perfectly balanced, my friend might deem too sugary or too bland. When someone asks me whether a latte or a macchiato is sweeter, I often reply, “Which macchiato are you referring to?” because that makes all the difference.

If you’re new to the world of coffee or are trying to switch things up, my suggestion is to taste both in their purest forms first. From there, let your palate guide you. Want more sweetness? Add a drizzle of caramel or a shot of vanilla. Prefer something stronger? Maybe a double shot macchiato is your calling.

So, to answer the question – which is sweeter, latte or macchiato? It truly depends on the type of macchiato and, more importantly, on the individual sipping it. But isn’t that the beauty of coffee? It’s a canvas waiting for you to paint your perfect cup. Cheers