Starbucks Iced Caramel Macchiato: What To Know Before Ordering

In March 2021, Starbucks celebrated its 50th anniversary (per the official website). For more than five decades, the iconic coffee house has served millions of drinks and introduced hundreds of caffeinated beverages to customers around the world. Some options were only in our lives for a short amount of time (we still miss you, Mocha Valencia), and others seem to have stood the test of time. One example of the latter: the caramel macchiato.

Originally introduced to commemorate Starbucks' 25th anniversary (per their website), the drink will be celebrating its own 25 years of existence this fall. Though people love it served warm, it's also a great pick served iced when temperatures jump.

In fact, the iced caramel macchiato is one of Starbucks' most beloved drinks — according to company baristas, it's one of the coffee shop's top five iced drinks (noted on their site). Sweet but still full of bold espresso flavor, the iced caramel macchiato is a perfect treat for those warm days when you need a refreshing beverage and a caffeine boost all in one.

What is an iced caramel macchiato?

First, it might be helpful to know the definition of a macchiato. Unlike brewed drip coffee, a macchiato is an espresso-based beverage. Traditionally, a macchiato is a shot (or two) of espresso topped with a small amount of usually foamed milk, says The Roasterie. In Italian, macchiato means "stained" or "spotted."

However, the Starbucks caramel macchiato so many know and love doesn't really resemble the traditional Italian drink at all. In fact, it almost seems more like a latte, and that's because in some ways, it is. The caramel macchiato is a variation of a latte macchiato (per Starbucks), a drink where espresso is poured on top of steamed milk. A latte — sans macchiato — on the other hand, is usually made with more milk than espresso, and the milk is poured over the coffee.

When you order an iced caramel macchiato, you're technically ordering an iced caramel latte macchiato. The barista will combine milk, ice, and vanilla syrup in a cup, then "mark" the beverage with shots of espresso poured over the top and drizzle it with caramel sauce.

If you want the Italian version of a macchiato at the Seattle-based chain, be sure to specify to your barista that you want an espresso macchiato instead.

What does this drink taste like and can you modify it?

Since the iced caramel macchiato has both vanilla syrup and caramel drizzle, it's definitely on the sweeter side of the coffee chain's menu. However, it's not overwhelmingly sugary, and the bitterness of the espresso balances the profile as well. It's great for people who like a sweeter coffee drink, but still want to be able to taste the coffee itself.

Because so much of the drink is milk, it's a very creamy option and best for those who like more velvety rich drinks.

There are also plenty of ways you can customize your iced caramel macchiato to make it fit your dietary needs or flavor preferences. Common modifications include changing the milk option to a non-dairy choice like oat or almond milk, or adding in an extra shot of espresso for more bold flavor and a higher amount of caffeine.

You can also order extra or light vanilla syrup and caramel sauce, making the drink more or less sweet depending on your taste. You could even substitute the vanilla syrup for another flavor altogether. 

Is an iced caramel macchiato nutritious?

First, it's good to know the amount of caffeine in an iced caramel macchiato. It will largely depend on the size of drink you order. According to the Starbucks website, a grande has 150 mg of caffeine. Compare this to a grande Pike Place drip coffee that has 310 mg of caffeine. A tall iced caramel macchiato and a venti size have 75 mg and 225 mg of caffeine, respectively. If you break the math down, that means each shot of espresso has approximately 75 mg of caffeine, with the standard recipes using one shot for a tall, two for a grande, and three for a venti. If you love the caramel macchiato but want to increase or decrease your caffeine intake, you can always adjust the drink size and ask for a specific number of espresso shots. 

But, if you're looking for the healthiest Starbucks drink, an iced caramel macchiato probably isn't it. A grande has 250 calories, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, and 34 grams of sugar. While the drink also has some protein (mainly from the milk), it doesn't offer a whole lot of substantial nutritional benefits. Starbucks also offers a "skinny" version of the drink made with skim milk, sugar-free vanilla syrup, and light caramel drizzle that only has 140 calories in a grande size (according to Eat This Much). 

How much does an iced caramel macchiato cost?

Ordering an iced caramel macchiato couldn't be easier. Since it's part of the standard Starbucks menu, asking for an iced caramel macchiato will get you the regular recipe, which is made with 2% milk, vanilla syrup, espresso, and caramel. If you're looking to modify the drink, you can always specify what you'd like to change. The beauty of Starbucks, among other things, is that you can also mobile order all of your drinks on the Starbucks app and have them ready when you walk into the store. The caramel macchiato is no exception to this standard feature.

Like most places, the price depends on the size of drink you order. A tall iced caramel macchiato generally costs $4.75, a grande will be $5.45, and a venti is $5.95. Keep in mind, certain modifications at Starbucks often result in an additional charge, so alternate milks or additional syrups and espresso shots may increase the price. An extra shot will cost and additional $1 and choosing a plant-based milk is usually an additional 80 cents, according to the Starbucks website.