Italian coffee Explained..

It’s easy to spot tourists in Italy. We’re the ones ordering lasagne and cappuccino at lunchtime. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but you might notice a slight snicker suffuse the waiter’s features. And it’s no good saying jingoistically, ‘Look here, Luigi, didn’t we own Italy once?’ We didn’t; I’ve already tried that line.

The English think they know a few things about coffee nowadays, it seems. Yes, we’ve got Costa, Starbucks and Caffe Nero, but look at the prodigious dimensions of the cups. It’s absurd. Even the smallest size would drown a meerkat and the largest… Well, who actually needs a bucket of coffee?

What’s my point? That the Italians do coffee. But you may find yourself intimidated by the confusing array of choice on arrival in Italy. Which is why I’m going to help. Next time, you needn’t point to a cup upon the coffee machine and mumble, ‘cafe per favore’, eyes glued to the floor because your Italian vocabulary is unjustifiably nonexistent or shit. No, not any more.

Jot down some of the following and you can brazenly approach Italian baristas, head held high. Of course you’ll still be wildly misunderstood: a blistering barrage of staccato questioning will undoubtedly scorch your fringe, heavily underscored by slammed saucers indenting the enamel. If this happens, nod sagely, shrug a little and say, ‘Si. Molte Caldo.’ It’s all part of the fun. Up for it? Course you are.

 Starbucks, Pay Attention!


Café Corretto = Espresso in a cup with a shot of sambucca. You can also ask for Baileys instead.

Cappuccino = A big cup of espresso, milk and froth. Add chocolate sprinkles to taste.

Café Latte =  (A flat white) A cappuccino in a glass (without the froth).

“Macchiato” means ‘stained’ so Macchiato (cold or hot) = Espresso stained with milk.

Latte Macchiato = Hot milk stained with coffee (served in a tall glass.)

Marocchino = “A small cappuccino”. Espresso, milk foam (froth) and chocolate powder.

Americano = (A long black). An espresso plus hot water in a large cappuccino cup. What we in the West might deem “normal” coffee.

Schiumato = Espresso with froth on top in a small cup (“schiuma” means froth). This is a marocchino without the cocoa powder.

Need a coffee yet?


Double Espresso = Bloody Obvious.

Café Lungo = A small cup of espresso but the machine is left running. If it takes say, eight seconds for an espresso, then a café lungo takes about fifteen seconds. The hot water continues through the coffee, as opposed to just adding hot water (as in an Americano). It’s really a diluted espresso.

Moka = a cafetiere. This is generally home-made and not found in cafes.

Café Freddo = Cold Coffee. I’m not dealing with cold/iced coffees, though, otherwise we’ll be here all night dealing with Ginseng Cream, or White Chocolate Cream and Nougat Pieces. Then there is granita di caffe (ice cream coffee) and shakerato (cold coffee and ice). You see what I mean?

So, has that made matters clearer? No, stick to the wine then. That’s another area they’ve got the hang of down there. One last thing, however:

Cappuccino isn’t ordered by Italians after about 11a.m. for some reason. But don’t let that stop you making even more of a fool of yourself. Yummmy, frothy coffee freckled with chocolate.. If you want one after your evening meal, then convention be blowed; the machine is still operable and the customer is always right. Risk the derision.

For an in-depth look at the cappuccino, check out James Hoffman’s blog post here..

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