There’s often a lot of confusion over exactly what a macchiato should be. Most of us, at one time or another, have ordered a macchiato and been served a drink that we aren’t happy with. If you’ve ever wondered just what professional baristas are thinking when they create your long macc, here’s an insight from Jen Murray.

Ask a room full of people what a long macc is and I guarantee you’ll get mixed opinions. Better yet, ask a room full of baristas and long macc drinkers for a definition and it’s likely to end in fisticuffs! Here’s my two cents on why LM customers are the hardest to please and why baristas continually argue over how a long macc should be served.

The truth is, any definition of a drink is useless if the drink you serve fails to meet the customer’s expectations. If you ordered a latte and were given a flat white, wouldn’t you return it? It would technically be incorrect. Or would it? In Australia, almost all cafés serve lattes in a glass. However, if you were in North America, the drink would be correct, as over there, lattes are usually served in a ceramic cup, identical to a flat white.

So whose definition is correct? They both are! Cultural influences have to be taken into account and in my opinion, it’s completely useless to argue traditional, correct, Italian, and so on. The challenge for a barista is to meet customer expectations. And no matter how hard you try, you’ll only ever get this ‘right’ 90% of the time.

Baristas often ask me how to ‘correctly’ make a Long Macchiato — and here is what I tell them:

Firstly, as I’ve mentioned, the most important thing is to meet expectations. For example, in Western Australia, this is almost always a double shot latte. If you serve the drink this way, the majority of your customers will get what they want, though you’re always going to disappoint a few.

The easiest way to take an order for a long macc in Australia is to ask the customer whether they would like it topped up. If the customer gives you a weird look, you might predict that they are after something completely different and you may need to do a bit of prying to find out what they want.

The problem with the huge variations of this drink is that it’s time consuming to continually clarify what customers want. To be honest, a lot of customers don’t really know what they want, and can even be offended when you can’t predict what they’re after! It has the potential to get messy, and when it’s busy, it often does.

Here’s how I imagine things started to get confusing:

Let’s look at a macchiato. It’s an Italian word meaning stain or mark. Keeping in mind the huge espresso drinking culture in Italy, it’s safe to translate that a macchiato is an espresso with a little bit (stain) of milk. How much milk? Hmmm, well, I would say a dash. Some might say a splash, cold, warm, spoonful, foamy — it’s open to interpretation, it’s basically just a little bit of milk. My preference is a dash of hot milk, which smoothes out any edge to the espresso and adds a bit of body and sweetness.

Over time, the macchiato has evolved, and people often now request it topped up. A typical espresso cup holds 60-90 mls. A macchiato barely fills this half way. I’m guessing that the topped up version originated from a couple of different scenarios. One, Australians not typically used to drinking such a strong drink wanting a bit more milk, and two, inexperienced baristas not wanting to send out a half empty cup. Whatever the case, the macchiato has now been divided into two categories. ‘Traditional’, which is code for a little bit of milk (open to interpretation) or ‘topped up’ with steamed milk, like a little mini foamy flat white.

Keep in mind, espresso based coffee is all about being made to order. We create names and recipes for drinks to facilitate ordering, but really, we have the capacity to create whatever the customer wants, so there is technically no right or wrong.

As for the long macc, I’m guessing this one has come from people enjoying a strong drink but wanting a bit more. If I was to think logically (dangerous, I know!) I would guess it to be a double shot with a dash; however, for the most part, that’s rarely the case. The closest thing that I’ve seen to that is a double shot in a glass with a bit of hot water and a bit of milk. As always, the amount and temperature of said milk is open to interpretation. Some like to use cold, as it layers, though I’m not a big fan of this. Once again, with this method, baristas are sending out a half empty glass, and it’s only natural that a customer ask it to be topped up, or baristas do so themselves. I guess the reason that a long macc is served in a glass came about as a way to differentiate it from its shorter version (now referred to as a short macc), but if you ask me, it just adds to the confusion.

I think a large part of the problem lies in the cup. I visit more and more cafés using mini glasses for short maccs (rather than espresso cups) and large latte glasses for long maccs. Although the glasses are mini, they still hold at least 100mls, so they always look empty. The same thing goes for a long macc. Cafés are putting extra shots in a latte glass to make a stronger drink and not topping it up, instead of just using a smaller glass. Then it seems it’s only a matter of time before baristas start topping the drink up, or adding water to ‘make it look fuller’. I hear that one all the time!

There are so many variations and opinions on what a long macc should be. Ultimately, baristas and customers share the responsibility of ensuring that the drink that’s served is the right one. If you have a preference, be specific about what you want when you order!

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