Making the Best Caramel Macchiato

There are so many tutorials on how to make an iced caramel macchiato, but what do you learn from them? Everyone is so interested in healthy lifestyles and cutting back on calories. Some people have special dietary needs while others are sticking to a lifestyle choice. If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to make the best caramel macchiato, you’ll want to read further. This detailed guide can give you an insight into how combined flavors please your senses.

What Do The Caramel Macchiato Flavors Do?

Just the name by itself sounds like a super sweet coffee treat. In fact, it’s all about the flavor combos that are subtle hints that tease your taste buds. No matter what ingredients you use, the number one point is not to mask your coffee. Every coffee house tries to improve on their recipe, but often forget the full-richness of espresso that’s enjoyed too. This is why an iced macchiato works so well. It’s a visual treat to look at and enjoy while you drink it.

The Basics: Art of the Macchiato

First of all, I want you to understand that a macchiato is a very select type of espresso drink. The textures are changed when it’s made and this is how you should drink it. You wouldn’t see James Bond sitting at the Baccarat table stirring his gin martini. Well, some mixed drinks are meant to be enjoyed without any mixing at all. Another fine example is how a traditional macchiato is made.

Bond drinks his martini
Bond drinks his martini ‘shaken not stirred’ because he has nerve damage in his hands and his hands shake. This would be obvious to others if he had to stir his martini. So he’s drinking the martini backwards
  1. It starts with a shot or two of espresso that is added to a tall cup.
  2. After this, milk is added three-quarters of the top. Sometimes it is steamed while other recipes call for room temperature milk.
  3. The very top has a layer of foamed milk that sits on top.

To mix any of this together would be a total disaster. It’s made so that an equal amount of milk and espresso mix as your drink it. You are also treated to a warm foamed milk cap that is often sweet.

Most people already know that the foamy layer on top adds even more rich texture to the coffee. The frothy near-cooked flavor of milk often brings a marshmallow-like hint that instinctively feels comforting. If you’ve ever warmed-up milk on the stove, you know how comforting these are to the senses. But that’s where the espresso adds a jolt to the whole experience. Instead of drifting off to sleep, the caffeine kicks you in the face.

If you order a double or triple espresso macchiato, it’s a drink that you need to sit back and enjoy. Not while driving, not while working, but sitting and enjoying a drink that was meant to be enjoyed. But then, the iced caramel macchiato changed everything. Back around 1996, Starbucks invented a new drink that changed it all. This is most likely because Starbucks simply couldn’t stop making burnt-tasting espresso.

So it became kid-friendly to mask the flavor of bad tasting coffee beans. I could be wrong, but speaking as a barista who knows coffee, they have no clue. And this is why making a caramel macchiato needs to be an experience and not a sugar rush!

How do the ingredients change the flavor?

Caramel Macchiato

The right kind of caramel

Caramel syrup comes in all forms but there’s an old saying about saltwater taffy. If you’ve ever tried it before, you know that it’s about the perfect balance of sweet and salty. Your caramel should be thick like molasses with salty-sweet caramel flavor. If it mixes too quickly into the coffee or milk, it ruins the layers you should be able to taste.

The right temperatures

The espresso comes from the machine piping-hot and this is the reason it often rises to the top if it’s sitting on anything cooler than itself. It won’t mix so easily with your milk but does intermix with the layer it sits upon. As you take a drink, the coffee is blended slightly with your milk making a very distinct flow that follows.

A vanilla flavor that doesn’t mask your coffee

The very bottom layer of vanilla syrup in a caramel macchiato needs to be that kind thick gooey syrup too. It’s one that doesn’t melt away in your milk either. Instead, since the ice cools it down, it should act as a time-released flavor that drifts away from each sip that you take. By the time you get to the bottom of this drink, there should be a bit of vanilla syrup left-over.

An espresso that you really enjoy

At any Starbucks, you don’t have the choice of which coffee you want to add to your flavored drinks. But when you’re at home you have all the choices in the world. This means you can enjoy special blends that are flavors you want to drink. Depending on where you buy your beans, you’ll get an espresso that is always satisfying no matter what.

Practical steps to make the best caramel macchiato

  1. Make sure your caramel and vanilla syrup is thick and rich. Don’t settle for brands that flow like warm pancake syrup. If it beads-up on the rounded end of a spoon, that’s what you want.
  2. Always use fresh espresso that is right from the machine. This is when peak flavors are active and degrade after a couple of hours. Nearly everyone has a home espresso machine at home and even the capsule espresso is still better than instant espresso coffee.
  3. Your ice should be right from the freezer and not getting glossy. This is when the ice does the worst damage to your drink as excess water washes-down flavors you should experience.
  4. Your milk should be between cold and room temperature. If it’s been on the counter for 5 minutes this is still considered the perfect temperature. It also won’t melt away your vanilla syrup layer so easily.
  5. Understand that the topping that you add should be a nice thick whipped cream head. What happens is the espresso will melt the under-layer of cream. This helps act as a natural creamer with the vanilla aroma. It makes your espresso taste extra smooth as it goes down.
  6. Please don’t go overboard with the caramel topping as this just adds extra calories to your drink. This last step is because you don’t add sugar to your coffee and the caramel is essentially the sugar substitute. It also leaves your tongue feeling both sweet and salty which enhances the flavor of coffee moreover.

Starbucks Macchiato
Recipe vs Ours

Perhaps you would like to see how Starbucks makes its legendary iced caramel macchiato? Well lucky for you, I just happen to have the most faithful recipe that comes directly from Starbucks. It has three of their main ingredients and is essentially the secret of their recipe. To be perfectly fair I’ll also give an improved recipe that lists what should be added to make it better. It’s not hard, but it’s really just about the contents and visuals.

Iced Carmel Macchiato


Starbucks original recipe:

  • 2-3 pumps of Fontana vanilla
  • cup tepid milk
  • 1-2 shots Starbucks espresso (dark roast)
  • Ice cubes
  • 2-3 drizzles of Fontana caramel syrup on top

The method:

In a tall cup add two full pumps of the Fontana vanilla followed by milk, poured over the syrup. Then 1-2 shots of espresso are poured into the milk. After this, slick ice is added and then the caramel goes over the top of the ice. If you request whipped cream on top then the caramel is pumped afterward. Then, a plastic top goes in and your iced caramel macchiato is served.

Our version of Stubucks


  • 2 pumps Heilala vanilla syrup
  • cup frosted ice cubes (must be right from the freezer)
  • cup cold milk
  • 1-2 shots of medium roast espresso beans
  • 2 drizzles of Ghirardelli Sea salt caramel

The method:

Into a tall cup, you add two pumps of the Heilala vanilla syrup. Directly onto the syrup, you drop frosty ice cubes and slowly pour milk over the top. Once the ice cubes rise to the top you can then add 1-2 shots of medium roast espresso over the ice. The espresso should be warm but not hot. After this, you can add whipped cream and drizzle the sea salt caramel over this.


So What Did We Learn?

As you can see some things jump out immediately when reviewing the original Starbucks recipe. The first is tepid milk – this may be shocking to some – Tepid milk isn’t hot or cold, it’s room temperature from pasteurized milk. If you’ve ever worked at a fast-food restaurant, you’ll know that products like milk don’t go in the walk-in fridge. If they’re stored on a shelf in the storage room until they get put under the counter in mini-fridges. They won’t be cold at all. This video shows the process of how the real one is made, can you spot the mistakes?


The second problem is the syrup made by Fontana. Starbucks bought the rights to use their syrup and slap their label on it. You can have the same flavors if you buy from Starbucks or Fontana. But here’s the problem, it’s way too watery to be decent syrup. More watery than the pancake syrup you get from IHOP or Denny’s. It mixes into the milk too quickly as you can see from the video. Our version is an improvement on the original featuring quality syrup that’s nice and thick.

The big difference here is the syrups since both are thick and rich. The vanilla syrup here is made in Polynesia using natural raw cane sugar that is Vegan-friendly. The espresso roast isn’t dark so the coffee won’t taste burnt. The sea salt caramel adds flavor to the coffee since some people like a dash of salt in their coffee. And most importantly, the color separation is clear and visible, allowing each sip to intermix as you drink it.

In closing

Perhaps this is going overboard but if you want to enjoy an iced caramel macchiato, do it right! With this recipe, you may say goodbye to Starbucks and enjoy flavors that aren’t muddied together. We hope you’ll enjoy this recipe with your friends more often. Check out our coffee archive for other ideas to make your favorite coffee at home.