coffee in Italy

I’ve heard someone claim coffee in Italy is as close as atheists come to religion. While the saying is hyperbolic, it does hold certain truths.

Italians are attentive to their coffee, pay special attention to blend selection and brewing process, and have many rules about when and where a particular coffee drink should be enjoyed.

By various accounts, there are around 20 types of coffee drinks popular all around the country, and far more if we account for regional varieties. At a closer look, it seems that many drinks resemble each other closely enough that they can be considered subtypes of one another.

In the article below, we broke down popular Italian coffee drinks into 12 distinct types and provided instructions on making them yourself.

1. Caffè (Espresso)

Coffee in Italy is synonymous with espresso. So much so that it’s even referred to as caffè normale (i.e., normal coffee). If you ask for un caffè at an Italian coffee bar, don’t expect to get a large cup of coffee - espresso is what you’re getting.

Italians don’t refer to espresso as espresso because, for a long time, it referred to the brewing technique (still does) rather than the product of the brewing, which was caffè normale. That said, the baristas will understand what you’re referring to as espresso, don’t worry.

An Italian espresso shot is served in a small cup of around 25-30ml. You can recognize quality espresso by the thick layer of crema on top - a foam formed by air bubbles combined with coffee oils. It’s supposed to be drunk quickly while still hot and fresh - about 2 minutes after brewing.

Double espresso in Italy is called caffè doppio. It’s made according to the same rules as standard caffè, but with double the amount of coffee and water. It’s not a particularly popular drink in Italy, but it does have its fans.

How to make it at home: coffee in Italy is taken very seriously, so even the smallest coffee bars invest in quality espresso machines. An ideal shot of espresso is thought to be around 7-9g of ground coffee (about 0.25-0.32oz) brewed at 195-215°F (i.e., before it reaches the boiling point) for about 25-35 seconds. Caffè doppio, suitably, requires around 14-18g (0.5-0.63oz) of ground coffee. 

Not every Italian has the means to purchase an espresso machine. If you visit an Italian friend at home, you’re much more likely to find they substitute it with a Moka pot or Makinetta. Moka pot is a strictly domestic tool; you’re not expected to encounter it at eating establishments. The coffee it brews isn’t precisely espresso, but Italians seem to find it comes closest.

You can also use Aeropress or a V60 coffee maker to produce drinks similar to espresso in strength and taste, though you need to adjust the ratio according to each tool.

Espresso coffee in Italy is brewed with finely ground dark roast beans. If you have an espresso machine at home, you can simply buy ground coffee, like the Lavazza espresso ground. But if you’re using other tools, it may be more prudent to buy suitably roasted coffee beans (they’ll usually be marked as espresso roast) and grind them yourself, as both Moka pot and V60 work better with medium or medium-fine grinds. We’d advise trying beans from Lavazza Espresso line or mildly roasted Segafredo Coffee beans (Segafredo Coffee also has an extra-strong roast, but unless you’re already an espresso aficionado, we’d advise you start with mild).

2. Caffè Macchiato 

Caffè macchiato is just espresso with a touch of frothed milk (we’re talking only a few drops here). There are two ways to order this type of coffee: macchiato caldo with hot milk and macchiato freddo, with cold.

In the Italian region of Veneto, you’ll find a twist on the drink called Macchiatone. It’s a single shot of espresso combined with a much more considerable amount of steamed and frothed milk. If you think the drink resembles cappuccino, you’re entirely right, though the amount of milk used in Macchiatone is less. If you ever visit Veneto, you’ll find cappuccino isn't ordered here all that often. Macchiatone is the reason why.

There’s also caffè con panna, which is not quite a macchiato but somewhat close. Instead of frothed milk, the espresso shot is topped with a dollop of whipped cream.

How to make it at home: if you’ve got the art of brewing espresso down, most of the drinks on this list will be pretty easy to make, as espresso is basically the foundation of coffee in Italy. In the case of caffè macchiato, you need to add around a teaspoon of hot (caldo) or cold (freddo) milk to your espresso and done! Alternatively, add a dollop of whipped cream on top and enjoy caffè con panna. 

If you’re using a Moka pot, try brewing espresso for macchiato with grinds created specifically for Moka! Multiple brands like Segafredo coffee and Illy offer options.

3. Cappuccino 

There can be a debate about the more popular coffee in Italy, espresso or cappuccino. Still, there’s no doubt that cappuccino wins the popularity contest when it comes to the rest of the world.

Cappuccino may excite the imagination, but it’s as straightforward a drink as most other espresso-based drinks on this list. It’s a 1:1:1 ratio of espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam.

Keep in mind that this ratio makes standard Italian cappuccino a much smaller serving than you’re probably used to - only around 100-150ml (depending on how many espresso shots you order it with).

How to make it at home: the trick is measuring out the milk correctly. For an ideal cappuccino, use a kitchen scale. Add steamed milk on top of espresso slowly until you reach the correct ratio, and then repeat it with milk foam. We’d advise checking out Lavazza Espresso line again for those who have espresso machines or medium roast from producers like Saquella Caffe for other devices.

4. Caffè Ristretto

Caffè ristretto, sometimes shortened to caffè stretto, is another popular form of coffee in Italy. It’s basically espresso, but with less water and thus has a more concentrated flavor and stronger kick. Ristretto is only around 15-20ml.

How to make it at home: measure out coffee for espresso, but half the amount of water. 

We’d advise grinding beans from Lavazza Espresso selection yourself, but you can try using dark roast ground coffee with a drip

5. Caffè Lungo

Caffè lungo is the opposite of a ristretto - it’s espresso with more water. You can adjust how long you want it - with just a dash to double the standard amount of water.

How to make it at home: add 10 to 30ml more water when brewing espresso. It’s a perfect Italian coffee drink to try brewing with a Moka pot. Try medium grind coffee from Caffe Vergnano or Kimbo.

6. Caffè Latte

Standard Italian caffè latte, sometimes referred to as one-word caffellatte, is one part espresso, two parts milk, with a tiny foam layer on top. Interestingly enough, it’s not often ordered at coffee bars. Most Italians tend to brew it themselves at home for breakfast.

How to make it at home: due to being more of a “home drink,” this is an ideal option for Moka pot owners. Try experimenting with medium roast Segafredo coffee or Caffe Mauro espresso line beans.

7. Caffè Shakerato

Caffè Shakerato could be described as the most deceitful drink on this list. While it’s simple in concept - a shot of strong espresso and ice served in a tall glass - it requires significant skills. See, being cold is no excuse for espresso to not have crema, in the eyes of Italian coffee lovers. A good glass of shakerato is thus supposed to have a generous foam on top to visually resemble hot espresso. It’s typically achieved by shaking espresso and ice together until the foam is formed.

Shakerato can be made in two ways. It can be sweetened with sugar (this version is called shakerato dolce) or without sugar, and thus coffee-bitter (this version is called shakerato amaro).

Certain coffee bars even add additional pizzaz with whipped cream or a shot of liquor.

How to make it at home: break out a shaker if you’ve got one; it’ll make things significantly more manageable for you. If you don’t have a shaker, you can try a sturdy container that can be hermetically sealed. Otherwise, you’re better off leaving this one in professional hands.

8. Caffè Marocchino

Caffè marocchino, in some southern regions of Italy called espressino, got its name due to its visual resemblance to Morrocan leather - it’s supposed to be the same deep brown color. It was invented in Piedmont in 1929. 

To make marocchino, the baristas add unsweetened cocoa powder to the espresso shot and then top the concoction with a generous amount of whipped cream and decorate with more cocoa powder.

How to make it at home: possibly one of the most straightforward drinks for making at home, all you need is to stir unsweetened cocoa into your espresso and add whipped cream. We’d advise brewing the espresso with a blend that has cocoa undertones, like the ones from Tostini Caffe.

9. Caffè Corretto

Caffè corretto is an espresso served with a dash of liquor. Usually, it’s grappa, but depending on where in Italy you are (and which alcohol is the favorite of the owner of your coffee bar), it can be made with rum, sambuca, or Baileys. 

The funniest thing about this drink is that corretto in Italian means correct. Now we know what is considered to be the real correct coffee in Italy.

How to make it at home: brew your favorite espresso and add a dash of your favorite alcohol. That’s it.

10. Caffè al Ginseng

Caffè al Ginseng, or sometimes just caffè ginseng, is a warm drink made by mixing espresso with ginseng root extract. The ginseng extract is naturally sweet, so be ready that caffè ginseng will be much sweeter than a usual cup of caffè when you order. Some say it’s somewhat similar to chai latte in flavor.

How to make it at home: add a couple of drops of sweet ginseng extract to your espresso. 

11. Caffè Affogato 

Caffè affogato is translated as “drowned coffee.” An apt name, considering that the drink requires the maker to “drown” a scoop of ice cream (typically vanilla) in espresso by pouring it on top.

Some cafes serve the ice cream scoop in a glass and a shot of espresso separately so that the customer can add espresso bit by bit.

Another version of Italian cold coffee would be Crema di Caffè. It’s traditionally only served in summers and requires a unique apparatus that blends coffee and ice together until a thick cold coffee slushy is formed.

How to make it at home: brew your perfect espresso shot. Scoop out a generous serving of ice cream into a glass and pour espresso over it.

12. Caffè d’Orzo

Caffè d’orzo is not technically a coffee. It’s made out of barley. Italians have a long tradition of making drinks out of barley, and in times when coffee in Italy was either hard to get or too expensive, a similar drink brewed with barley tended to fill the gap. Nowadays, getting coffee in Italy is always easy and almost always affordable, but orzo coffee remains popular. Especially among people who are sensitive to caffeine (there’s no caffeine in caffè d’orzo) and children.

How to make it at home: if you have proper “grounds,” like Orzo Pupo Machinato from Crastan, you can easily brew it using a Moka pot.

How to Choose the Right Coffee for Your Drinks:

A lot depends on the tools you choose to brew your espresso in. Typically, espresso should be brewed with a finely ground dark roast (though many baristas tend to experiment with their roasts). A fine grind allows hot water to pass easier and brew the coffee faster. 

But if you’re using a pour-over method (like V60) or brewing it stove-top (using Moka pot), medium grind tends to work better, even if it takes more time than espresso-brewing is supposed to take.

When looking for your ideal coffee blend, the most important thing is not to be afraid to experiment and try out several blends until you find the one that works best with the specific tools you have.

We keep quite a wide selection of Italian coffee from some of the most renowned Italian coffee producers like Segafredo, Lavazza, Tostini Caffe, etc. If you take a chance, you’re bound to find something that will deliver your ideal cup of espresso.

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