How to Order an Italian Coffee in Italy is now a book on Amazon Kindle with dozens of full-color photos and an Italian pronunciation guide! Buy your copy now!
There are so many different types of Italian coffee, and by now we know them all, right? Latte, mocha, Frappuccino…
You won’t find a single drink by those names here in Italy.
Ordering coffee in an Italian bar is quite a different story, and I often give my guests a little primer on coffee in Italy (much like How to Avoid a Pickpocket I wrote Monday). Torani syrups to “personalize your coffee experience” and nonfat whipped cream don’t exist in Il Bel Paese. Instead, there are a series of coffee variations you can count on finding in almost any bar in Italy. Italy doesn’t have Starbucks and in my opinion, it doesn’t need it. The next time you say “Venti” remember you’re ordering 20oz. of a coffee drink. And that’s only the medium.
Jeff Israely, the Rome correspondent for Time touches on the mystery of un caffè in Italy in his article Black Magic – he even says….
…the consumption of espresso at the local bar is a rare example of standard fare, identical throughout the country: a brief but intense pausa from life’s travails that is a national bond…
The fact is that there is relative consistency in the quality as well as the coffee drink names across Italy. You won’t have to worry about mixing your ice blends with your Frappucinos as you go from bar to bar and town to town. Maybe you won’t be able to learn how to make the perfect Illy espresso (part 2) like David, but at least you’ll know how to order it!
Popular Italian Coffee Drinks
Caffè – In Italy the word “caffè'” naturally implies an espresso. There is no need to specify “espresso” when ordering. It will be served in a porcelain demitasse cup “tazzina” with its own saucer and little stirring spoon. Pronunciation tip: Cahf-FEH’
Caffè Macchiato – In Italian, macchiare means to “stain” – and this espresso in a demitasse cup is stained with some hot milk, probably frothed, though no attention is placed on serving foam. This is not a mini-cappuccino.
Cappuccino – Probably the most well-known and loved coffee drink, it has a long history. Espresso and steamed, frothy milk added so that there is a clean layer of milk foam in a larger cup, a tazza.
Marocchino – In some areas of Italy, also called an Espressino or Mocacchino, this is my drink of choice and was what ultimately led me to be addicted to coffee 9 short months ago. It is a shot of espresso served in a glass demitasse (for aesthetic reasons), with a sprinkling of cacao (added either before or after the milk, sometimes both!) and milk foam spooned on top.
Want more about Italian coffee? I continue to share in my book How to Order an Italian Coffee in Italy – with dozens of full-color photos and explanations on your favorite caffeine obsession.
Here’s what you’ll find inside How to Order an Italian Coffee in Italy:
- Popular Italian Coffee Drinks — the above list is just a taste!
- Popular Variations on Caffè Espresso — doppio, ristretto, lungo – your coffee, your way.
- Special Coffee Drinks — you should try these, only in Italy.
- Sweetening Your Coffee — it’s not only white sugar!
- Non-Coffee Drinks — if coffee isn’t your thing, there’s still something for you in any Italian bar.
- Ordering Coffee in an Italian bar — order and act like a local.
- What to eat with your coffee: Italian breakfast — what to expect and eat with your Italian coffee.
- A note on Drinking Coffee at Home like an Italian — an Italian coffee at home, even if you’re not in Italy.
How to Order an Italian Coffee in Italy is now a book on Amazon Kindle with dozens of photos and an Italian pronunciation guide! Buy your copy now!
What a great description of the bar drinks! Yum, those are some great photos. I prefer latte macchiato when we stop in bars first thing in the morning because I don’t drink straight espresso.
Sara - Piperita says
Marocchino (decaf) is my favourite too!
But I think that outside Milan is not very known, or yes?
what a lovely guide to coffee drinking in Italy! This is great, and should be read by visitors :)! The Marocchino looks yummy, but I’ve never tried it (I’ve never even seen it here in Le Marche, actually). I always stick to the the standard caffe :)!
Ehm… Maybe “Zucchero DI canna” is better than “Zucchero ALLA canna”.
Ms. Adventures in Italy says
@Piperita – I’ve had it in Rome and Florence, but in Puglia it was espressino. I think it’s getting more popular.
@Napolux – oops! Must have been a Freudian slip. Fixed. :)
I hope everyone tries a Marocchino!! :)
I’d add a section on local caffé tradictions…
Caffè has different way to be consumed by italian peoples.
There are specific rituals:
I.e. In Sicily is avoided to drink coffe alone you have to offer it to at least a people…before you take you have:
1) Drink a water glass (mixed 50% normal and friz)
2) Put sugar
4) Drink 2 times
5) Re mix
6) Last drink
P.s. Another good way to drink coffe is coffe with almond granita…wow!!!
Oppssss, another error… Please correct the http://www.detior.it URL ;)
wow, I’m impressed! This post covers everything! But I have to say that I don’t like Illy at all and I don’t understand all the fuss about it.
Rose in Cali says
Is it true that any caffè made with milk in any amount isn’t taken by Italians after 10 a.m.? That marocchino is something I could drink all day!
nyc/caribbean ragazza says
very informative. I need to try coffee with some sambuca. Caffè corretto indeed.
Shelley - At Home in Rome says
Brava, another great reference. Personally I liked the zucchero alla canna Freudian slip, that would definitely be a hit in any bar, right? The “secret ingredient” that makes people buy panini afterwards. ;-)
Ristretto coffee, while being more flavorful is also less rich in caffine. The amount of caffeine is highier in cofee the loger the water is kept into contact with the pèowder, so american-brewed coffee is usually much richer in caffeine than an Italian espresso not only due to amounts but also due to the fact that percolation or other filtering techniques allow water to sit with the powder for longer. A similar consideration could also be done for Turkish or Greek coffee.
Rose, that’s one fully American legend that’s completely false. Actually, many people drink caffè macchiato only in the afternoon because it’s commonly believed that milk depowers caffeine (which is not true, but let them stick to their believes). What is true is that cappuccino is not believed to be a drink to be had with a meal: the amount of milk in it makes the bar version of the most popular breakfsat drink in Italy, caffellatte (usually, the cold leftovers of the previous day moka-made coffee poured into freshly warmed milk), so cappuccino is drank mainly at breakfast or, less frequently, as a mid-afternoon snack (usually with some pastry: notice that most Italians never eat dessert after meals, we eat pastry mainly with our brakfast or as an afternoon snack).
Goodness, girl, this post must’ve taken forever to compile! Bravissima :)
wow…wonderful post…i have bookmarked it…thanks for a lovely lesson in ordering coffee…
Bialetti…..more on this as it is ready to go public on the Italian exchange
Shelley, At Home in Rome says
Just looking your post over again (so much good info.) and a thought came to mind… I noticed that miele is on the list of sweeteners… do you (or any of the other commenters) know anyone who puts honey in their coffee to sweeten it? That sounds kind of weird to me.
Have you ever heard of the remedy of putting lemon juice in an espresso for a sick stomach? I saw someone do it at a bar once. Yikes. I’ve always thought that would cause more of a problem than solve it… what do you think?
This is a great post! Nice job!
Ms. Adventures in Italy says
@Enrico – I’ve never heard of that version! That’s to try out!
@Napolux – I love that you’re “working for me” as my Dad would say. Thanks for the help :)
@Rose – Most Italians wouldn’t have a cappuccino after 11am and definitely not after lunchtime. Cappuccino seems to be ok from 12am-11am disco to dawn! But as Typsetter says, they may have a macchiato in the afternoon/after a meal.
@Shelley – yes, several of my coworkers use honey, and I think especially with the orzo coffee. Have heard the lemon and honey but not in coffee!!
Thanks all for the comments – I hope this is useful!
At Home with kim vallee says
Thank you for making it so clear for us. Your insights are quite useful.
Colorado Reader says
This was fun to read. I just returned from my very first trip to Italy and loved every minute of it. I’ve never been a coffee drinker (YUCK!), but I love my tea! A relative told me before I left that I would get addicted to coffee in Italy. I thought she was crazy, but it happened! I had at least one cappuccino everyday. And now that we’re home, my husband and I ordered, and are impatiently waiting for our new espresso machine to arrive!
What a charming (and informative post) :-) Thanks for sharing – I love the photos!
Wow, that’s all!!
I like marocchino!!
I have it in Rome
Actually, I know lots of Italians who have macchiato throughout the day and cappouccino for “merenda” at 4 pm, along with a pastry. Macchiato is commonly used as aftermeal by lost of people who prefer a milder-tasting coffee or who think that the milk will depower the caffeine. Again, though, cappuccino is drank by _lots_ of Italians in the afternoon, but never as an aftermeal drink.
Shelley: at the office we keep a honey jar for the two colleagues who have honey with their coffee. A cup of unsweetened black coffee witha rind of lemon is a popular hangover remedy.
Fantastic. I really love your blog. It’s so amazing to see our culture and our faults from a different point of view. Is it so funny. Good job!
I had no trouble getting a “caffe latte” anywhere in Italy when I was there 2 years ago. And it was exactly what it should have been!
my melange says
Great info! I love them all, but if I had to pick it my fav would be cappuccino! I fell in love with it at the B&B we stayed in Venice. I immediately bought the Bialetti, frother, cups etc when we got home and I switch off between that and cafe au lait from my french press for breakfast every day! I prefer the brand Kimbo to Illy coffee(too many people buy Illy for the name, but I don’t really like the taste). My method is a good substitute, but nothing beats having them in Italy!
This post really makes me miss Italian coffee!
There’s also something I learned about in Trieste, the ‘Trieste Capucchino’, which is a tiny capucchino served in a small, clear shot glass. Great post…
Ms. Adventures in Italy says
@Nicole – Kim – Thanks!
@Colorado reader – I never thought I would get addicted, either!
@Tulip – yum, marocchino. :)
@Typesetter – right, no aftermeal cappuccinos! :) I think everyone’s tastes are so varied – no one I know gets a cappuccino in the afternoon with a pasty but it is gelato time nowadays!
@Paul – I hope it’s not funny in a bad way! I try to keep things true to how I see them.
@Ann – right, a caffè latte is not a latte, though, which is how most people order it in the states ;)
@my melange – cappuccinos are good but for me right now it’s too much milk
@David – No cacao on your Trieste Cappuccino? Maybe it’s the marocchino’s cousin! :)
WONDERFUL post !
What a truly informative post! Thank you so much! Am just beginning to appreciate coffee and its nuances so I’m trying to drink up as much info as I can. My husband just came back from Rome and gifted me with a Mukka Express. I love it to death and have been making myself a cappuccino a day. I’m eager to go to Rome and order myself a marocchino.
Great post…so much info!
(But I think you mean “CioccolatA CaldA” when you talk about the drink…”
Mike Meehan says
I was fortunate to have lived in “Bella Napoli” for 11 years and got to know the culture and People around Campania quite well. It is not at all uncommon for Napolitanos (home of “il migliore caffe nel mundo”) to have Cappuchino or Cafe Macchiato the evening. While I enjoy all types of Italian Cafe my personal favorite is Macchiato. In my humble opinion the best brands are the local brands from around Napoli Cafe Kimbo, Cafe Tico and especially the Cafe Kimbo Espresso Napoletano. Try a shot of Espresso Napoletano correto (with a shot of sambucca) nothing better on a cold morning.
Quote: Actually, many people drink caffè macchiato only in the afternoon because it’s commonly believed that milk depowers caffeine (which is not true, but let them stick to their believes).
All perfectly exposed about the caffeine content, but there is soething to add about the use of milk. Actually the grease contained in the milk does not “depowers” caffeine but slows down its absorbtion by the body. Thus the myth that it depowers the caffeine (which is soluble in water).
Great post! I think the one thing I would add– which has been alluded to in the cappuccino comments– is that Italians drink coffee by itself or AFTER a meal: never WITH a meal. I can’t tell you how many Americans I’ve heard complain about poor restaurant service, saying “we didn’t get our coffee until after we finished dessert!” I try to tell them that that’s just the way it is! The coffee is to help you digest after you’re finished.
Great! A very good guide, I can barely belive it has been written by a non-italian.
Honey in coffee…. mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!
Ciao! Grazie for the info — it’ll help on my next visit to Italia this summer. I can’t help but laugh when I remember my first trip to Venezia: I ordered a latte, and the baffled barista gave me a glass of hot milk! :)
Wow, great explanation and with pictures too. People always ask me about coffee in Italy. It’s hard sometimes to describe well but I’m going to pass your link onto everyone I know! Thanks for taking the time to post something so useful and informative.
In Rome you can also ask for “caffe’ genovese”, which is like a caffe’ macchiato but has some cocoa powder sprinkled on top. I believe the name comes from the stereotype that wants genovesi (people from Genoa) to be cheap, therefore asking for this kind of drink instead of paying for a cappuccino! (caffe’ genovese is usually the same price as a regular espresso shot)
Was in Italy for the first time in the fall and had an amazing time…the coffee was great..I did see in a few cafe that they used a special latte milk and I can’t find it anywhere back home..do you know if it is available in north america or if it is just whole milk? it definately said latte milk on the label
Wonderful article. Also, a lemon slice is not used with espresso in Italy.
Carlene – “latte” means milk in Italy so every bottle/carton of milk in Italy will say “latte” on it – it is not a special milk used to make lattes – it is just plain old whole milk.
Sue Christi says
Very happy to come across your coffee descriptions. We have just returned from Italy, and had the opportunity to sample many of those listed above. However, I did notice one that was missing. That would be the “caffe affogato” or drowned coffee, and maybe would more appropriately be a dessert coffee. It is an espresso served over vanilla gelato in a tall glass – very refreshing in the hot Italian sun!
Initially I had the same problem with the differences in dutch and italian coffeeculture… My favourite is the caffe macchiato, especially with some ‘zucchero di cana’ on top! But in the morning I usually start with a selfmade moka-espresso… But (I’m sorry to say so) I just don’t agree on the Illy-coffee-part… I mean, it’s not a bad coffee, but there are a great number of more delicate coffees to be found… for exemple here in Turin we have Caffe Costadoro, recently recognised as the best coffeeblend in Italian bars in an Altroconsumo (Italian magazine) headline. I hardly drink anything else since I discovered it! Which turned out to be a great problem when I was back in the Netherlands for a week… Only thing with Costadoro is that you can’t buy it in the supermarket, but only in Costadoro bars…
In your list u have to add “Cappuccino freddo”.
You can taste this amazing summer breakfast drink in Napoli zone. I think the best i drunk is in Bar Max in Santa Maria La Carità. Served in a 0,50 cl glass, it’s based on a cold espresso cream mixed with fresh milk and above… a chocolate snow…
It’s only a poor description…u have to taste…
Sorry for my english.
Your post is an absolute delight, congratulations!
Any ideas on the variations of eating a pizza?! (completely unrelated, I admit, but another fascinating ritual!).
World so small palce , where internet makes even closer to each other to share.
Thanx for great post on one of the world greatest coffee and its maker….
Here in Varese (near Milan) there’s also the Buosino, 3 parts of a particular chocolate and one part of cofeee, with milk foam and some 70% cacao chocolate powder on top of it
Here in Varese (near Milan) there’s also the Buosino, 3 parts of a particular chocolate and one part of cofeee, with milk foam and some 70% cacao chocolate powder on top of it and a chocolate spoon
you’re missing ESPRESSINO FREDDO!!!!
it’s a kind of MAROCCHINO with a bit of coffee ice cream inside….AHHHH, wonderfull!
i will send you a photo as soon as possible !
Nice very nice, remembered me of my days in Firenze, im a coffe adict i drink 6 per day, italian style standing, in 3 seconds and out caffe normal(esspreso), senza zucchero
I remember one thing that a friend told me one day in the evening after school next to the duomo. I saw a beautiful girl talking a perfect italian and I told him look I love that italian girl, he said, shes not italian, I was like, how do u know? he said look, shes drinking cappuccino, only turists drink cappuccino in the evening, so i went there talked to the girl and yes, she wasn’t italian…
since then I used that metod to detect turists and it never failed, i have never seen an italian drink cappucciono alla sera
I found your blog around 9 months ago when I was researching the different coffees of Italy and have been following your blog ever since. I am thankful that I was able to find you because your blog is hepling prepair me for my study abroad experience comming this September. Great job!
Usually I drink caffe macchiato or cappuccino with italian breakfast…but throughout the rest of the day, and especially post-meal when I’m full I opt for un caffe’ normale …but I totally agree that summertime is the perfect excuse for a caffe shakerato…and when possible I always get it with bailey’s…yummmm! by the way, great post, I’ve lived in Italy before and I think you hit the nail right on the head…
Daniel Phelps says
An excellent post! Have you tried a “Marrochino”? It may be only a Torinese special, but it’s a macchiato in a cup lined with Nutella!
Ms. Adventures in Italy says
Hi Daniel – look more closely at the post – the Marocchino is there :)
Bravissima! This is a wonderful post! Marocchino is my favorite as well, but I have a word of warning: Don’t order this as a Marchocchino while in Calabria (Naples) or Sicilia. I ordered one in Naples ( 10 years ago ) and offended the Barista. I was living/studying in Torino… Her response was “I am marocchina!”
mi dispiace…. spagliato (again…) :) just be cautious where you use the marocchino reference … I was “bright” enough to explain what it was, that I was from the ‘north’ … you know… a marocchino is with cafe, latte e un po cocao….OOOPS. Didn’t help things….
Love the blog…
Here in Italy I saw tht it is very speading the Caffé alla Nocciola, Coffee mixed with hazelnuts flavor…
Personally I dislike it (but it is a choice of mine), and sure a great number of people like it, and its consume its increasing…
Chris Lewis says
Erin (http://www.theolivenotes.com/) and I just got back from a brief vacation, passing about a week in Ischia. In Ischia Ponte, at the foot of the Ponte Aragonese is the Coco bar (http://is.gd/cEDyb), where we generally ate breakfast. Erin’s preferred coffe is also a Marocchino, but when she ordered it from the Coco bar, we realized they called it an Americanino. No one corrected her, the cassiera simply heard her order and shouted it to the barista with an on-the-fly translation of “Americanino.” They even printed it on the receipt!
She’s ordered this drink countless times all over Italy, from Torino down through Napoli, and never have we heard it called this. Has anyone else heard this name, and can you explain it?
Franca Bollo says
I just have to say I had the best cappuccino ever (though they called it a cappuccino macchiato, I think.) at the Espressamente Illy in the Frankfurt airport. Made my missed connection worth it … almost.
Martin Yarnit says
Coffee is just one of the ways that Italian food is very different to Italian food abroad. My blog offers an introduction to food in Bologna. But just as important as the food is the Bolognese food culture. In Bologna, life revolves around the aperitivo, going out for dinner with friends and sitting down to a monumental sunday lunch with the family. Final thought on coffee – if you buy an espresso machine, look for one with a powerful pump, measured in bars. At least 15 if you want espresso with crema.
scuola toscana says
The most exhaustive list about coffee in Italy ! Compliments !
J P Maher says
Good blog. But in Italy “un caffè’ macchiato” is not “stained”. Macchia is from the Latin “macula”, source of “immaculate”, but it wasn’t cow’s milk that dripped or didn’t, in the case of Mary. Una macchia can be a stain, but un caffè’ macchiato is coffee with a SPOT of milk — at room temperature, not warmed up as at Starbuck’s. You’ll hear customers request “give me a drop, please –dammi una macchia, per piacere”.
J P Maher says
Not picky picky enough: I should have spellchecked better: in font switching I added an apostrophe to “un caffè macchiato”, and I should have deleted “and not”. Sorry… jpm
Michael Housewright says
This is quite excellent and my only disagreement is: there is no cocoa served on a proper Espressino in Puglia :-)
I enjoy your blog very much
Stacy Orndorff says
A MUST read for any coffee snob. Much gratitude!
I am visiting Northern Italy right now and this is so helpful–thanks for putting this out there! Now I feel like I can go order something other than cappucino in the AM and macchiato in the PM!
Buona Sera, Thanks so much for your website. It keeps me company as I struggle alone here in Bologna, waiting for my citizenship to be approved. I’m asking you please to do a “fresh” cheese guide (not aged) for Italian cheeses, similar to your coffee explanation. I’m excited yet hesitant in the grocery store. I’d like to try some of the fresh cheeses, however I can’t afford to try something that isn’t to my liking. You could add some quick recipes to use them too. …just an idea, thanks
Ms. Adventures in Italy says
@Monica – great idea for a future guide! :) Thanks.
Nathalie ( @spacedlaw ) says
And the milk used in bars will always be full milk, because it foams so much better.
Amazing post! I’m off to live in Italia soon and I think maybe I will just drink coffee all day long :) Thanks for this!
This is very helpful. I’m burning with excitement – off to Rome and then Basilicata in a few days’ time.
As a committed coffee lover and an aspiring student of Archaeology, I’ve had a dilemma of sorts as to what I’m more excited about – the coffee or the sheer historical wonder of R0me. I think coffee just won.
Can’t wait to try an actual ristretto!!
As to your questions, my preferred way of drinking coffee tends to be something very short first thing in the morning (ristretto being my favourite) and then long milky drinks throughout the day. I find I often get through about 5 or 6 cups a day on average, simply because it’s so much less time consuming than actually eating! :)
I never switch drinks in the summertime, I just can’t get my head around the notion of iced coffees, I might just ask for cold milk. :)
Thanks again, I’m more buzzing that ever to finally get there on Monday!!!
Italia, here I come. Get your coffee supplies ready, they can and will be demolished ;)
soraya sondak says
Viva il caffe’ Italiano il piu’ buono al mondo
Illy also makes a special grind just for Moka pots! It’s called “Illy Moka” and I believe the grounds are slightly thicker than espresso grounds, so they brew more properly in the Moka pot.
Living in Italy taught me many things but for certain one trying them all will find a favorite. I used to be sold on Starbucks until i found the Caffe Barbera which is so far away as benchmark that i never look back.
Cafe Barbera just opened last month in San Diego, CA and I’m excited to see investors looking for more opportunities to bring this coffee to the entire USA and Canada.
Clint Graves says
I’m going to visit Rome next month and I like to know where to buy the unsweetened Cappuccino in the city? Do you know of a store name that sells that coffee? Hope for replies.
Ms. Adventures in Italy says
@Clint – I’m not sure what you mean? All coffee in Italy is served without any sugar – you add it yourself, if desired. The exceptions of course are the specialty drinks I mentioned.
Clint Graves says
My friend corrected me a few days ago about it. She wants a Italian espresso coffee and like to get a small bag or medium. What brand of Italian espresso would you recommend? Can I get it at a regular store in Rome? Hope for your reply.
Ms. Adventures in Italy says
@Clint – you can get a ton of espresso in any store in Italy – most will have 10-20 varieties on hand, or you can go to a torrefazione, coffee roaster, where they roast their own beans and sell them directly. I’m sure either option will be acceptable to your friend!
I’ve bought the kindle edition of your book. It’s an interesting and eye-opening read (especially if you’ve been a Starbucks fan long enough). It is only during my recent trip to Italy that I’ve discovered the ‘true’ taste of coffee. I’m glad I read your post before ordering (it avoids me of the unecessary embarrassment)
Will we be thought of as crazy tourists if we order decaf?
Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy says
@SarahM – no, definitely not. A lot of people order decaffeinato!
J P Maher says
MACCHIA. Some spots are stains; some stains are spots — on your shirt e.g. But not every stain is a spot; not every spot is a stain. Leopards and Dalmatian (dogs) are spotted, not stained. in regard to coffee una macchia is NOT a stain, but “a spot” . A spot of milk, that is.The barista just adds a drop of room-temp milk (not foamed, not spooned) to the freshly brewed coffee. (Starbucks says it’s a “mark” — nonsense.)