Coffee Drinks: A Visual Glossary

Cortado vs. Macchiato

These two mini milky drinks are confusing for a couple of reasons: One, they're from different coffee traditions (the cortado at left is a Spanish import; the espresso macchiato on the right is Italian), but their American counterparts typically brook both national traditions.

In its European home, the cortado is usually a one-to-one ratio of coffee and lightly textured steamed milk, served in a glass without a handle (which requires the drink be a bit cooler than one that would be served in a mug with a handle). A macchiato, on the other hand, is normally presented as a simple shot of espresso "marked" or "stained" with texturized steamed milk—anywhere from a dollop of the stuff to a slightly fuller one-to-one-ratio type pour.

Most cafes have their own interpretation of these drinks, so it's always best to ask. I've found a cortado to often be described as a "mini latte," while an espresso macchiato is more like a "mini cappuccino." Which leads us to the next pair…

Alice Gao

Latte, cappuccino, and macchiato are all familiar words on the menu of our favorite coffee shops, but what do these terms really mean—and how do each of these drinks differ?

Just like different chefs have different interpretations of the perfect hamburger, every barista has his or her ideas about what constitutes the ideal version of one or the other option on their menu. That said, there are some standard features of each basic beverage, which can help when you're deciding if you're in the mood for a flat white or a cortado.

If you've ever had a hard time deciphering the difference between the coffee drink vocabulary listed on your favorite cafe's menu, we hope that this visual glossary will help you order your next cup.