Espresso, caffè normale, cappuccino; sometimes it seems that there are as many types of coffee in Italy as there are kinds of pasta. And just like pasta, Italian coffee is an art form with many customs and traditions. Whether it's a caffè corretto thrown back like a shot, acappuccino and brioche for breakfast or a granita di caffè con panna to cool off from the hot midday sun, in Italy, there is a coffee drink specific for every time and mood.
The Perfect Tazza
Want to start a heated discussion in Italy? Ask a group of friends how to make a perfect cup of stove top espresso! There are fully automatic espresso makers, pump-driven espresso machines, lever piston espresso machines, and, of course, the classic aluminum espresso coffee maker (also called a moka pot or The Moka Express), which was invented in the 1930s.
Italian coffee tifosi in search of the perfect cup will also debate various factors such as bean type, blade vs. burr grinders, tamp pressure, water temperature and humidity. Caffeine junkies not only have their favorite local torrefazione (coffee house), but even prefer certain baristi because of their ability to deliver a perfect caffè espresso.
'S' Marks the Pot (of Coffee)
No one expects a first-time visitor to Italy to trill their r's like a native Italian speaker. But if you don't want to be labeled maleducato when ordering a coffee in Italy it's espresso, not expresso. Both will quicken your heart rate, but an expresso is a fast train and an espressois a small cup of very strong coffee. And caffè (with two f's) is both the beverage and the locale that serves it.
What kind of coffee should you order in a caffè? The possibilities can be as daunting as a Starbucks menu. Below is a list of the most popular caffeine-laden drinks. Keep in mind, too, Italians generally don't drink coffee with any meal except breakfast. Coffee is often ordered after a meal and - che vergogna! - only the unwitting tourist will order a cappuccino in a restaurant after lunch or dinner. When ordering an after-dinner coffee, do not ask for an espresso, ask for "un caffè, per favore."
Italian Vocabulary List: Coffee
- caffè (espresso)-a small cup of very strong coffee, i.e., espresso
- caffè Americano-American-style coffee, but stronger; weaker than espresso and served in a large cup
- caffè corretto-coffee "corrected" with a shot of grappa, cognac, or another spirit
- caffè doppio-double espresso
- caffè freddo-iced coffee
- caffè Hag-decaffeinated coffee
- caffè latte-hot milk mixed with coffee and served in a glass for breakfast
- caffè macchiato-espresso "stained" with a drop of steamed milk: small version of a cappuccino
- caffè marocchino-espresso with a dash of hot milk and cacao powder
- caffè schiumato-similar to a macchiato, but with milk foam instead
- caffè stretto-espresso with less water; rocket fuel!
- cappuccino-espresso infused with steamed milk and drunk in the morning, but never after lunch or dinner
- granita di caffè con panna-frozen, iced beverage (similar to a slush, but ice shavings make it authentic) and topped with whipped cream
- shakerato-espresso with sugar shaken to a froth over ice and topped with foam