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Italian coffee

Coffee, the Italian way

I’m Italian and I have a shameful secret to confess.. I’m not a coffee addict!

Honestly, the amount of times I had to “excuse” myself for not being a “real Italian espresso lover” is unbelievable but I guess people have a point in expecting that an Italian cannot live without coffee.

totoI’ve been knowing how to use a caffettiera since I can remember. In my family everyone used to drink coffee, especially espresso: strong, short and hot ! It wasn’t until I started my first job that I openly confessed that I wasn’t keen in drinking espresso and that I’d have rather had an americano (heresy!) I still remember the annoyed face of the barista who reclutantly prepared me what Italians call “brodo” ie soup.

I sometimes think I was destined to live in Britain 😉

lavazza_cappuccino_cups_1_1Anyway don’t get me wrong, I used to and still do enjoy my cappuccino in the morning but if I don’t have it I am pretty sure I can still survive the day.

One thing that really bothers me though is when I walk past Starbucks and cannot get my mind around people drinking those big cups of “coffee”. The Starbucks “Italian style coffee” has nothing to do with the coffee that you find in Italy. Remember a real Italian coffee lover would NEVER drink coffee from Starbucks.

img_3635So, you would ask yourself, what is so special in the way Italians drink their coffee?

First of all remember that in Italy you would never ask for a “latte” unless you want a glass of warm milk. BUT you can have one of the following:

  • latte macchiato
  • caffè macchiato
  • cappuccino
  • caffè (espresso)
  • caffè latte
  • caffè lungo
  • caffè corretto

When you go to the bar you must never ask for an “espresso” but simply “un caffè”. If you ask for a caffè by default you get an espresso: very short, very strong and very hot!

Italians tend to drink their caffè on the go. They go to the bar, they call out for a coffee even if the barista is not looking at you (promise it’s not rude!) they just say “un caffè per favore”, (a coffee please). They then drink it and only AFTER they pay for it and go. All is very quick! An espresso is the daily caffeine boost that Italian people need before heading to the office.


If you are after an american style coffee then you can ask for a caffè americano and you will get an espresso with hot water added. Something similar but not quite the same,  is a “caffè  lungo” ie “a long coffee” and this is made only by the espresso machine which will make the espresso more watery.

When asking for cappuccino then it’s a different story. Cappuccino is ONLY drunk in the morning, for breakfast, never after lunch or in the afternoon, “troppo pensante” ie “too difficult to digest”. Usually when you go to the bar you order a “cappuccino e briosche” (cappuccino and croissant) while if you make yourself a cappuccino at home for breakfast, it will always be served with “biscotti” (biscuits).

There are some variation when ordering coffee with milk. If you want an espresso with just a dash of milk (cold or hot) then you ask for a caffè macchiato. If you would like a hot milk with a dash of coffee then you would ask for a latte macchiato – remember, mornings only ;).

Last but not least, especially for me as I come from the land of grappa, we have the caffè corretto which is basically an espresso “corrected” with a slug of brandy or grappa, perfect to drink after lunch as it promotes digestion (or at least this is the excuse).

lavazza coffee grounds And if you want to impress your friend and prepare them a real Italian caffè  then follow the instructions below.

  • First of all you need to get a good quality Italian coffee for caffettiera (moka express). You can either get coffee beans to grind or go for coffee grounds. My family in Italy always uses “Lavazza qualita d’oro”. In Italy Lavazza is one of the main brands of coffee along with Illy and Segafredo.
  • Get yourself a caffettiera (you can buy it online pretty cheap or you can go for the iconic Bialetti – slightly more expensive)img_3644
  • Unscrew the top, remove the filter and fill the base with water to just below the level of the safety valve.
  • Insert the funnel.
  • Fill the funnel with espresso ground coffee, do not press coffee down.
  • Screw the top to the base.
  • Place the caffettiera on a low to medium heat (make sure the flame does not extend up the side of the pot.
  • It usually takes only 3/5 minutes for the coffe to “venire su'”. Basically when you hear the coffee bubbling then it’s ready and you have to take it off the heat otherwise you risk to have a coffee which tastes bitter/burnt.
  • Your coffee is now ready to serve.

img_3661In Britain is quite common to ask for a coffee flavoured with some kind of syrup like caramel or vanilla. You will find pretty hard to find this in Italy. I obviously have it as I told you I’m not your usual Italian coffee lover 😉

img_3664Here we go, this is your mini guide to Italian coffee so when you will find yourself ordering a coffee in Italy you will look like a pro!