How to drink coffee when you're in Italy.

How to drink coffee like an italianWe are all familiar with the ever expanding menu of coffee choices from Starbucks, Costa and the like.  Tall, short, dark, de-caff, soy, caramel, double shot, frappuccino, mocha… the list goes on. You can be anywhere in the world and be assured of finding the same blends that you are used to - if that’s what you want.  Whatever is going on in our life you can be sure of your coffee choice. You can define yourself by your coffee choice. Your coffee choice can say a lot about you. 

In Italy it’s all about when and how you drink certain coffees. It’s a cappuccino or latte in the morning, a caffe corretto for a pick me up, maybe a marocchino mid afternoon. 

One thing that is absolutely certain is that an Italian would NEVER order a cappuccino after a meal. Italian’s consider it a meal in itself - and you have just eaten!

Here are the typical coffee drinks you can enjoy in an Italian coffee shop/bar - and when they are usually drunk.

CAPPUCCINO (breakfast)

A drink that the Italians would consider breakfast - a little ‘meal in itself’. Made with a shot (or two) of espresso topped with thick frothy steamed milk. Often topped with sprinkled chocolate powder on top. Served in a wide brimmed coffee cup.

LATTE (breakfast)

A single or double of shot of espresso topped with hot milk. Usually served in a tall glass on the continent or large mug in the UK. Commonly drunk throughout the day in the UK and USA. In Italy usually only in the mornings. 

MACHIATTO (mornings) (mid afternoon)

Machiatto literally means ‘marked’ and that is what this drink is. If you want to soften the dark bitter taste of an espresso have a drop of steamed frothy milk on top and mix it up. Served in an espresso cup.

MAROCCHINO (mid morning/ mid afternoon)

Named after the light brown Moroccan leather used in the 1930s, this coffee is served in a small glass with espresso, cocoa powder and frothed milk. Sometimes a shot of hot chocolate is added, similar to the bicerin. Usually however the cup is dusted with cocoa powder before adding the espresso.

AMERICANO (all day)

Basically a light filter coffee style flavour. Made with a shot of espresso and hot water. Served in a large cup.

BICERIN (mid afternoon) (evening)

A very traditional Italian chocolate coffee drink created at the Caffè Florio where a shot of strong coffee, a dose of chocolate and a splash of cream was combined into a single drink. In celebration and as a reflection of this drinks popularity a café was dedicated to the new creation, Al Bicerin, in 1763. Nietszche and Cavour were both customers of this establishment.  When he passed through in 1852 Alexandre Dumas commented that "Of the many noteworthy things Turin has to offer, I shall never forget the bicerin, which is served in all the cafés at relatively cheap prices". 

ESPRESSO (all day) (after a meal)

Single or double shot of strong freshly brewed coffee. Served as a shot in a small cup and saucer. It is strong and bitter. Now common place in the UK although English espresso is ‘longer’ than a typical Italian one (see below). 

LUNGO (all day) (after a meal)

If a tiny single espresso is too small and bitter for you, ask for it ‘lungo’ which means a longer pour with extra water.

CAFFE CORRETTO (after a meal) (evening)

Our favourite and very popular after a meal or as a pick me up - a single shot of espresso with a shot of something alcoholic, usually grappa.


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