Discover the Rich Flavours of Italian Coffee: Exploring 40 Varieties
Silvana Lanzetta Artisan Pasta Maker
Welcome to the world of Italian coffee! Prepare to embark on a delightful journey as we explore the rich flavours, cultural traditions, and exquisite craftsmanship behind 40 varieties of coffee enjoyed across Italy. From the iconic espresso to the creamy cappuccino and everything in between, we’ll uncover the secrets of each unique brew, inviting you to savour the diverse and captivating coffee culture of Italy. So grab your favourite mug, sit back, and get ready to awaken your senses to the irresistible allure of Italian coffee.
Ciao, fellow coffee lover! Have you ever heard about Italy’s amazing knack for getting creative with coffee? We Italians truly love taking this already awesome drink and whipping up a fantastic variety of versions. Each one is like its own special ceremony waiting to be experienced at the neighborhood cafe. As coffee devotees, we might sometimes leave baristas scratching their heads with our detailed requests, but hey, who wouldn’t for the ideal cup of coffee?
You might think “coffee” is a simple enough term. But, over here in Italy, it’s a doorway to a world of possibilities. What will it be today – a classic espresso or perhaps a macchiato? Fancy it hot or craving it cold? Then there are choices like the potent ristretto, glass coffee, an exotic Moroccan, or even a decaf in a large cup. And, don’t get me started on regional gems like the Piedmontese Bicerin, Moretta Fanese, or Lecce coffee. The list goes on!
Ready to dive into the Italian coffee scene with me? Let’s take an exciting trip around Italy, checking out 40 unique coffee types relished from the northern regions down to the southern tips, and from east to west.
We’ll dip our toes into everything – from the no-nonsense, straight-up brews to the wonderfully weird concoctions. So, are you ready to flex those Italian coffee trivia muscles?
40 Varieties of Italian Coffee: A Journey Through Flavours and Traditions
In Italy, when you say you want a coffee, we instinctively whip up an espresso for you. This legendary little drink, with its signature frothy top, has Antonio Gaggia to thank for its star status. He came up with the lever espresso machine back in 1948, and it’s been love at first sip ever since!
If you’re someone who craves a bolder, more intense kick from your coffee but could do with a bit less caffeine, let me introduce you to ristretto. It’s a condensed, super-charged version of the classic espresso that’ll certainly make your taste buds sit up and take notice!
Say hello to lungo coffee, a brew that takes its time. This one’s made by letting more water seep through the coffee grounds, which gives it a longer extraction time. Contrary to what some folks might think, the extra water doesn’t wash away the caffeine. Surprise, surprise, lungo coffee actually packs in more caffeine punch than its siblings, ristretto and espresso!
Double Espresso Coffee
Ever tried a double espresso? It’s exactly what it sounds like – two shots of espresso poured into a cappuccino cup, giving you an adrenaline kick that won’t quit. Fun fact: you’ll usually start to feel the coffee buzz about 10 minutes after you take your first sip. But hold on tight, because the strongest caffeine hit doesn’t roll around until about 45 minutes later. Brace yourself for a caffeine-fueled ride!
Are you a fan of the rich taste of coffee but could do without the buzz? Decaffeinated coffee might just be your perfect match. The method to strip the caffeine from coffee beans has quite a history, tracing back to the 20th century. The big shout-out goes to Ludwig Roselius, the brains behind the coffee brand Hag, who was the trailblazer in this caffeine-free journey.
Cappuccino, though enjoyed all day, every day by coffee lovers around the globe, in Italy, it’s a breakfast-only affair. This frothy blend of espresso and milk, optionally dusted with cocoa or dressed up with a bit of Latte art, is a morning must-have for Italians, typically savoured with a croissant. As for its name? It comes from the Capuchin friars – their robes are the same color as this delightful morning
Hot Macchiato Coffee
A hot macchiato coffee is a quintessential Italian favourite. Essentially, it’s an espresso with a little ‘mark’ or dollop of frothed milk crowning the top. The perfect blend for those who love a hint of creamy indulgence in their robust espresso.
Cold Macchiato Coffee
Then there’s the cold macchiato coffee. It’s a cool delight featuring chilled espresso, served up with cold milk on the side. This way, you can add as much or as little milk as you fancy, customising the drink exactly to your taste. A refreshing twist on the classic espresso, perfect for those warmer days!
Coffee with Cream
Fancy a bit of indulgence? Then why not treat yourself to a coffee paired with a lavish dollop of fresh cream. One of the most celebrated takes on this creamy delight is Viennese coffee. Hailing from Vienna, a city steeped in a rich coffee house culture, this delightful brew is truly a moment of pure pleasure in every sip.
Here’s a treat that’s close to my heart: a blissful blend of chocolate, coffee, and whipped cream. This gem first came to life in the Yemeni town of Mokha, making its grand entrance to Italy in the 17th century. Served in a clear glass cup, it’s a visual and gustatory delight with clearly distinguishable layers – smooth chocolate at the bottom, robust coffee in the centre, and a dreamy dollop of whipped cream to top it all off. Feeling a bit cheeky? Swap regular chocolate with a chocolate liqueur for an extra indulgent kick.
Down in the sun-kissed landscapes of southern Italy, iced coffee holds a special place in the hearts of the locals. A simple yet refreshing concoction, it’s made by pouring delicious coffee over crisp ice cubes in a glass. The perfect way to keep cool while enjoying your daily caffeine fix!
Step into a sensory delight with a Marocchino, best savoured in a petite glass cup. This three-layered espresso treat is a feast for the eyes before it even hits your taste buds. It starts with a light dusting of rich cocoa powder, followed by a sharp shot of espresso, and crowned with a dollop of frothy milk, then a final sprinkle of cocoa to finish. Born in the famed Caffè Carpano in Alessandria, Piedmont, the name ‘Marocchino’ comes from the colour of a leather strip in a hat, due to the café’s close proximity to a hat shop. A sip of history and a true Italian classic!
“We want to do a lot of stuff; we’re not in great shape. We didn’t get a good night’s sleep. We’re a little depressed. Coffee solves all these problems in one delightful little cup.”
A relatively new kid on the block, coffee cream has quickly become a favourite in Italian bars. This sorbet-esque delight is whipped up using a special machine and can be enjoyed in a myriad of ways. Whenever I find myself in Italy, I make it a daily ritual to indulge in this delectable treat. It’s the epitome of perfection!
Give in to the tempting delight that is Caffè Affogato. Imagine a scoop of gelato, traditionally cream-flavoured but the possibilities are endless, submerged in a cup, then fresh espresso cascading over it. This is a treat I often whip up at home, and it’s become a family favourite. Simple, yet undeniably irresistible!
Coffee with Nutella or Nutellino
Give in to a simple indulgence and add a touch of Nutella to your espresso. With a knife, gently spread this famous hazelnut cream around the rim of your cup, pour in your coffee, and crown it all off with a dollop of whipped cream. The perfect combination of flavours for a truly sumptuous treat.
Coffee with Cinnamon
Add a traditional twist to your coffee with a sprinkle of cinnamon. But don’t let tradition hold you back! Feel free to venture into the world of spices – try cardamom, cocoa, or vanilla. And for those who fancy a bit of a kick, a hint of chilli pepper can transform your coffee into an adventurous delight.
When artfully crafted according to the Italian Coffee Masters Academy’s guidelines, a Latte Macchiato is a sight to behold and a treat to savour. Served in a tall, slender glass, it exhibits three delightful layers: a foundation of milk, a middle layer of coffee, and a crowning touch of frothy milk.
Unlike the stratified Latte Macchiato, the Caffè Latte, or Caffelatte as it’s also known, is concocted by blending hot milk with coffee and presenting it in a glass. Caffelatte is my daily morning indulgence, often enjoyed with a buttery, crisp croissant.
Be careful not to ask just for latte, as in Italian it means “milk.”
Ideal for those who prefer a gentler flavour, similar to the American style, an Americano is essentially an espresso watered down and presented in a larger cup. Alternatively, it can be served alongside a small jug of hot water, allowing you to tailor the intensity to your liking. This variety of coffee has been gradually gaining recognition over the past decade, but it tends to be more popular with tourists than with Italians, as we have a penchant for our small, potent espressos.
A delightful blend of a cappuccino and a macchiato, the Macchiatone is presented in a cappuccino cup but with a lesser amount of frothed milk.
The Shakerato, served in a Martini glass, is the epitome of summer coffee, blending sophistication with refreshment. It’s concocted by shaking coffee with ice and sugar syrup, although sugar can be omitted for those who favour a more bitter taste.
Moka coffee, though uncommon in bars, is a cornerstone of Italian coffee culture. The game-changing Moka pot, introduced by Alfonso Bialetti in 1933, revamped coffee brewing methods and soon replaced the traditional Napoletana pots. An amusing tidbit is that the iconic Bialetti figure, complete with its distinctive moustache, is actually a caricature of Alfonso’s son, Renato Bialetti, who propelled Moka production onto the global stage. Indeed, the Moka pot is an essential fixture in every Italian household, including my own!
Valdostano Coffee serves as a heartwarming symbol of camaraderie and shared joy. It demands a special piece of equipment known as the ‘grolla’ or ‘friendship cup,’ which features a lid and multiple spouts. This enchanting recipe includes sugar, a dash of liquor (like grappa or Cointreau), and zests of lemon and orange added to the coffee. The concoction is heated, given time to cool, and then enjoyed amongst mates, with each person savouring from a distinct spout.
Taking its name from the famed Caffè Pedrocchi in Padua, this special brew is an espresso poured into a large cup and lavished with a refreshing mint and cream emulsion, all beautifully rounded off with a sprinkle of cocoa.
Across Italy, it’s quite the norm to “amend” an espresso by introducing a dash of liqueur. Grappa often tops the list, with sambuca not far behind. In the southern regions, the locals have a particular soft spot for anise liqueur, or anisette. It’s a tradition my own grandfather, bless him, upheld with his anisette-infused coffee. I could never quite acquire a taste for it, the distinct fusion of anise and coffee aroma was just not my cup of tea, so to speak. But to each their own, right? The beauty of this tradition is its versatility, spanning brandy and rum to cognac or even whiskey cream (now that’s a treat I can get behind. Delicious!)
In times when coffee was either too pricey or simply in short supply, substitutes were hunted down, one of them being roasted barley grains. Barley coffee still enjoys widespread popularity as a caffeine-free choice available at every bar. It’s especially a hit with children, who relish the idea of feeling grown-up by drinking coffee, yet are too young for caffeine. My own childhood memories are steeped in barley coffee lattes, and now my children are growing up with them too. Whenever I return home brandishing some Italian barley coffee, their happiness knows no bounds.
Ginseng, an Asian root renowned for its invigorating qualities, offers an exceptional alternative to traditional espresso. Ginseng coffee typically comprises instant coffee, powdered milk cream, sugar, a small measure of ginseng root, and various flavourings.
Coffee in a Glass
While the conventional choice for Italian coffee is a porcelain cup, some favour the transparency offered by glass. It’s believed that glass enhances the hues of the espresso and yields a superior froth. My father was an advocate of drinking coffee in a glass. He claimed it tasted better!
Cold Brew Coffee
Cold brew coffee is a distinct preparation method that skips the hot water. Instead, it involves a lengthy steeping process, typically spanning 6 to 8 hours. This slow extraction takes place without heat and can be done using a simple jug or, for a more specialized approach, an ice drip apparatus. With the latter, coffee is painstakingly extracted drop by drop, resulting in a smooth and refreshing cold brew.
Irish coffee is a delightful and warming beverage crafted with Irish whiskey, sugar, coffee, and a delicate layer of whipped cream. The art lies in skillfully ensuring that the semi-whipped cream gracefully floats atop the brew. Originating in the Irish town of Foynes in 1942, it made its way to Italy via the USA in the late 1950s. Despite my initial reservations due to my dislike of whiskey, I finally mustered the courage to try it a few years back. A lovely Irish lady kindly prepared it for me, and out of politeness, I took a sip. Oh my, what a delightful surprise! The taste was simply exquisite, and from that moment, I fell head over heels for Irish coffee.
A true delight for cocktail enthusiasts, the Espresso Martini is a harmonious blend of vodka, espresso coffee, and coffee liqueur. Served elegantly in a Martini glass, it has earned the prestigious status of being an official IBA (International Bartenders Association) cocktail since 2011. To create this exquisite concoction, combine 5 cl of vodka, 1 cl of Kahlúa, sugar syrup to taste, and a shot of espresso. Shake these ingredients vigorously in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, then strain out the ice. As a final touch, adorn the surface with three coffee beans, adding a touch of flair to the presentation. Cheers!
Hailing from Apulia, the Espressino is a delightful creation served in a small glass. It strikes a perfect harmony between the strong espresso and velvety milk, blended in equal measures. To elevate its allure, a layer of cocoa powder graces the bottom, while a delicate dusting of cocoa adorns the top. This coffee is exclusively served chilled, making it a refreshing beverage of choice during the scorching Italian summers.
Prepare to be enchanted by the exquisite taste of Lecce Coffee, a true gem originating from the captivating region of Salento, particularly celebrated in Lecce. Renowned throughout Southern Italy, this delightful beverage combines coffee, ice, and a star ingredient: almond milk. The almond milk not only adds a distinctive flavour but also serves as a natural sweetener, creating a harmonious and indulgent experience. Whether you seek a morning pick-me-up or a delightful afternoon treat, Lecce Coffee is sure to captivate your senses.
In the gorgeous region of Piedmont, you’ll discover the delicious Bicerin, a true work of art in the realm of coffee. Served in a unique glass, this exquisite creation boasts layers of velvety melted dark chocolate, rich coffee, and frothy shaken cream. The combination is nothing short of divine, resulting in a regional delight that will leave you in awe. And if you’re in the mood for an extra indulgence, the bicerin liqueur takes this experience to sublime heights. Prepare to be delighted!
Once cherished by sailors in Fano as a source of warmth and revitalization, Moretta Fanese has evolved into a beloved treasure, adored not only in the Marche region but also across Southern Italy. This captivating coffee is crafted in a petite glass, featuring a captivating medley of Moretta liquor (with a rum base), coffee, sugar, and a subtle touch of lemon zest. The result is a truly enchanting experience that delights the senses and warms the heart.
Ammantecato coffee is a delightful Sicilian creation that embodies the essence of the region. Much like Lecce Coffee, it combines almond milk with steaming espresso or moka coffee, often infused with a hint of cinnamon. The distinctive aspect of Ammantecato coffee is that almond milk is used in place of water when preparing the coffee, lending it a unique and indulgent twist. This Sicilian specialty is a true delight for coffee enthusiasts seeking a rich and aromatic experience.
Coffee granita, accompanied by a dollop of cream and served with a brioche, is hailed as a gastronomic marvel and a quintessential Sicilian breakfast. While it has achieved legendary status in Messina, its popularity extends well beyond the region. I fondly recall my family relishing this treat during the summers in Naples when I was young. As I grew older, I, too, sought its invigorating powers to combat the scorching Neapolitan heat. The best part is that it’s incredibly easy to prepare at home. Start by brewing a strong espresso, sweetening it to your liking with sugar, and allowing it to cool. Then, using a special tool or a rolling pin (encased in a plastic bag), crush the ice into a granular consistency. Spoon the ice into small glasses and pour the chilled coffee over it. Sit back, relax, and savour the delightful experience!
Get ready for an extraordinary and unconventional fusion: coffee infused with the essence of licorice. Calabrian coffee introduces a unique twist by grinding pure licorice into a fine powder, blending it with brandy or cognac, and adding a touch of sugar in a petite glass. The mixture is set ablaze, allowing the sugar to dissolve, before being combined with espresso coffee and a sprinkling of licorice powder. The result is a truly remarkable and unforgettable experience, very similar to the Neapolitan caffè corretto with aniseed liqueur.
The Livornese punch, with its rich history dating back centuries in Livorno, offers a remarkable twist on the traditional punch recipe. Instead of water, it incorporates the captivating essence of coffee, yielding a truly exceptional blend. The ingredients include sugar, lemon peel, “rumme” (a combination of rum and either cognac or sassolino), and a unique preparation method. The mixture is brought to a boil using the steam nozzle of the espresso machine before the espresso is added, resulting in a captivating and flavourful punch that pays homage to Livorno’s heritage.
Originating in my beloved Naples, the beautiful tradition of suspended coffee embodies the spirit of solidarity. It involves ordering and paying for two cups of coffee instead of one. This simple act enables someone in need to enter the bar and inquire about a suspended coffee, receiving a warm cup gifted by a kind stranger. It’s a heartwarming gesture that fosters a sense of community and generosity.
I hope this journey through the diverse world of Italian coffee has both enlightened and captivated you. Perhaps it has even ignited a desire to embark on your own exploration of these delightful coffees. And of these 40 varieties of Italian coffees, which one have you tried already? And which one are you looking forward to try? Let me know in the comments below!
Valdostano Coffee in the typical container, called Grolla
Source: Italy Chronicles Photos – Flickr
Italian Coffee Phrases
Buongiorno/ Buon pomeriggio!
Good Morning/Good Afternoon
Hi! / Hello! (Also Bye!)
Beviamo/prendiamo un caffè?
Shall we go for a coffee?
Sì/ no, grazie!
Yes/ No, thank you!
Dimmi/ Ditemi/ Mi dica
(From the barista) Tell me (singular informal)/ Tell me (plural or singular formal)/ Tell me (singular courtesy form)
Vuoi un caffè?
Would you (singular informal) like a coffee?
Volete un caffè?
Would you (plural or singular formal) like a coffee?
Vuole un caffè
Would you (singular courtesy form) like a coffee?
Un caffè per favore.
An espresso, please.
Due/ Tre caffè per favore.
Two/ Three espressos please.
Un cappuccino per me e un americano per lei/lui.
A cappuccino for me and an americano for her/him.
Vorrei un caffe latte, per favore.
I would like a latte, please.
(From the barista) Is that all?
Ecco a Lei.
(From the barista) Here you go.
NOTE: In Italian, the pronoun “Lei” is commonly used as a formal way of addressing someone. It is the third person singular form, but it is also used to refer to the second person in a formal setting. This practice is known as using the “courtesy form”.
Dov’è lo zucchero?
Where is the sugar?
The coffee spoon (to stir)
Altro?/ Volete Altro?/ Vuole altro?
(From the bartender) Anything else?/ Do you (plural or singular formal) want anything else? Do you (singular courtesy form) want anything else?
Basta così, grazie!
I’m/ We’re all good, thanks!
Quanto è?/ Quanto devo?/ Quanto costa?
How much?/ How much do I pay?/ How much is it?
Vorrei anche qualcosa da mangiare.
I would also like to order something to eat.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What is the most popular coffee variety in Italy?
When it comes to coffee in Italy, the undisputed champion and most popular variety is the classic espresso. It’s the heart and soul of Italian coffee culture, with its intense flavour and rich aroma. You’ll find it served in every corner of Italy, from bustling city cafes to cosy countryside bars. The Italians have truly mastered the art of crafting the perfect espresso, and it has become an integral part of their daily routine. So, if you want to experience the true essence of Italian coffee, an espresso is the way to go. It’s a small but mighty cup of pure delight.
Can I drink cappuccino outside of breakfast hours in Italy?
Ah, the age-old question: can you enjoy a cappuccino at any time of the day in Italy? Well, here’s the deal: in Italy, cappuccino is a beloved breakfast beverage. It’s like a delightful morning ritual to kickstart your day. Picture yourself sitting at a café, sipping a creamy cappuccino alongside a flaky croissant. Pure bliss, right?
But here’s the thing: once breakfast time is over, the cultural norm in Italy is to switch to other coffee options. It’s like a secret code among the coffee-loving Italians. You’ll see them sipping on espressos or macchiatos as the day goes on, indulging in the rich and intense flavours that make Italian coffee so famous.
So, if you want to blend in with the locals and experience the authentic Italian coffee culture, it’s best to enjoy your cappuccino during breakfast hours. That’s when it’s most appreciated and savoured.
But hey, don’t worry! Italy has an incredible array of coffee varieties for you to explore throughout the rest of the day. From the bold and concentrated espressos to the velvety macchiatos, there’s a whole world of Italian coffee waiting to be discovered.
How is a Moka pot different from other coffee brewing methods?
The Moka pot is a unique and charming way to brew coffee. It consists of three chambers that work together on your stovetop to create a strong and flavourful cup. As the water boils in the bottom chamber, it creates pressure that pushes it through the coffee grounds and into the top chamber. The result is a rich and full-bodied coffee that sits between an espresso and a drip brew. It’s a hands-on brewing method that allows you to customize your coffee to your taste.
What is the story behind suspended coffee?
Imagine the vibrant streets of Naples, where the tradition of “caffè sospeso” was born. It all started in the 19th century when coffee vendors roamed the city, selling their brews to the lively crowds. During tough times like the Second World War, people who could afford it would pay for an extra coffee, leaving it “suspended” for someone in need. It was a small act of kindness that brightened someone’s day.
This heartwarming tradition has spread beyond Naples, becoming a symbol of compassion worldwide. Today, when you visit a café, you can participate in caffè sospeso by ordering an extra coffee and leaving it suspended for someone else to enjoy. It’s a beautiful way to share kindness and make a difference, one cup at a time.
Let’s keep the spirit of caffè sospeso alive, spreading warmth and goodwill wherever we go. Cheers to coffee and the power of generosity!
Are there any famous coffee-related traditions in Italy?
Italy’s coffee traditions are as rich and diverse as the flavours in a perfect cup of espresso. Picture gathering with friends at a buzzing café, savouring the rich aroma and sharing laughter. Coffee isn’t just a drink here – it’s a social experience that brings people closer.
After a hearty Italian meal, a small, strong espresso aids digestion and adds a indispensible finishing touch. And when the afternoon sun dips, it’s time for a leisurely break with a steaming cup of coffee, allowing you to unwind and recharge.
Imagine stepping into historic cafés steeped in art and literature, where legendary figures once gathered. Enjoy the enchanting ambiance as you sip your coffee, immersing yourself in a world of inspiration and creativity.
In Italy, coffee brewing is an art form. Skilled baristas ensure each cup is a masterpiece, from the careful selection of beans to the meticulous extraction and silky foam for cappuccinos.
These Italian coffee traditions offer a gateway to unforgettable moments of connection, culture, and pure coffee bliss. Are you ready to experience the magic of Italian coffee traditions for yourself?
“Ciao, I’m Silvana, a fourth-generation pasta artisan from Napoli with a lifetime of experience! I began making pasta at the tender age of 5 under the watchful eye of my pasta-making generalissimo, my granny. Through her guidance, I’ve become a master in crafting traditional pasta dishes. Since 2014, I have been teaching pasta making classes in London, sharing my expertise with aspiring pasta enthusiasts. I’ve also had the privilege of showcasing my knowledge on BBC and in national newspapers like The Sun and iNews, and held pasta making demonstration in Harrods. Join me in exploring the world of Italian pasta and let’s create unforgettable culinary experiences together!”
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