How to Order Coffee in Italy

Italian Coffee Drinks

Italians take their coffee seriously and often stop into a bar (yes, you go to the bar for coffee) or cafe for a coffee, un caffe’, several times a day. They also observe a number of rules regarding coffee. For example:

  • Coffee is never served with lunch or dinner or usually even with dessert, but after dessert it’s customary to have a caffe’.
  • Cappuccino is not normally served after 11:00 (and not after a meal) although in major tourist areas you can probably find one any time.
  • Coffee is not normally served in a to go cup (although you may find that some places now) or be available in different sizes and it is not flavored with syrups.
  • Coffee often costs less if you stand and drink it at the bar rather than at the table, especially in cities and bigger towns. There may be 2 costs – one for at the bar and one with table service (and sometimes even more for outdoor table service)
Un Cappuccino

Recently I heard someone from the US having difficulty getting what he wanted. He kept asking for a regular coffee. In Italy a regular (or normal) coffee is espresso (NOT expresso), usually called a caffe’ or caffe’ normale.

Italian for the most common coffee drinks served in Italy:

  • Caffe’ (kah-FE) – a small cup of very strong coffee (espress0), topped with a caramel-colored foam called crema, a very important element in good coffee. Want a double shot? Ask for a caffe’ doppio. Or for a more concentrated espresso, as for caffe’ ristretto (kah-FE ri-STRE-to) in which the water going through the coffee is stopped sooner.
  • Caffe’ macchiato (kah-FE mahk-YAH-to) – coffee stained with a bit milk.
  • Cappuccino (pronounced kah-pu-CHEE-no) – a shot of espresso in a larger cup with steamed milk and foam.
  • Caffe’ latte (kah-FE LAH-te) – Espresso with hot milk, often served in a glass. If you just ask for a latte, you are really just asking for a glass of milk (latte).
  • Latte macchiato (Lah-te mahk-YAH-to) – Steamed milk stained with espresso, served in a glass.
  • Caffe’ lungo (Kah-FE LOON-go) or Americano – a long coffee, or American coffee, made weaker by adding more water. A caffè lungo has a little water added while an Americano has more water and the water may be served to you separately to add to the coffee yourself. You may hear Italians call it acqua sporca, or dirty water.
  • Caffe’ con panna – espresso with whipped cream.
  • Caffe’ Hag -decaffeinated. You can also ask for decafinato.
  • Caffe’ corretto (kah-FE ko-RE-to) – coffee corrected with a little liquor, usually sambuca or grappa.
  • Iced coffee or caffe’ freddo (cold coffee) can be found many places during summer. Another cold version is a Caffe’ Shakerato (kah-FE shake-er-Ah-to) made with hot espresso, sugar, and ice and shaken until it foams.
  • You may also find specialty coffees in different towns or bars. In Montepulciano the historic Caffe Poliziano serves several unusual coffees including caffe’ al pepe with a layer of chocolate at the bottom, espresso, cream, and black pepper on the top. In the Piedmont region, a specialty is bicerin with layers of chocolate, espresso, and cream.

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How to Order Coffee in Italy originally appeared on , updated: Feb 14, 2021.