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Italian Coffee Drinks - How to Order Coffee in an Italian Bar

Espresso? Latte? Caffe Corretto? What Should I Order in the Bar in Italy?


espresso photo

Espresso or Caffe Normale

by Martha Bakerjian
coffee drink photo, caffe marocchino photo

Caffe' Marocchino

by Martha Bakerjian
cappuccino photo


by Martha Bakerjian

Most Italians on their way to work go to a bar for coffee. You should too. Well, not that vacation is so much work, you just need to drink a real coffee from one of those fancy machines they have in Italy. Here are some of the most popular coffee drinks served in an Italian bar.

Caffè (kah-FE) - We might call it espresso; a small cup of very strong coffee, topped with a caramel-colored foam called "crema", a very important element in the best examples.

Caffè Hag is a decafinated version. You can order a "decafinato" as well; Hag is the name of the largest producer of Italian decaf coffee and that's the way you'll see it on many bar menu boards.

You can order a straight coffee (un caffe) any time of night or day. Italians stay away from Cappuccino after about 11. If you see a bunch of people sitting around drinking cappuccini at three in the afternoon, congratulations, you've found the tourist bar.

Altering the way your Caffè is Made

Caffè lungo (Kah-FE LOON-go) - a long coffee. They'll let the water pour from the machine until the coffee becomes weak and bitter. Also called a Caffè Americano or American Coffee, which is also expressed as acqua sporca, or "dirty water" by Italians.

Caffè ristretto (kah-FE ri-STRE-to) - a "restricted coffee" or one in which the stream of coffee is stopped before the normal amount. The essense of coffee, concentrated but should not be bitter.

Modifying your Caffè - Additions to Espresso

Caffè con panna - espresso with sweet whipped cream

Caffè con zucchero (ZU-kero) - espresso with sugar. Usually, you'll add your own from a container at the bar, but in some places, especially in the south around Naples, the coffee comes with sugar and you have to order it "sensa zucchero" or without sugar if you don't like it sweet.

Caffè corretto (kah-FE ko-RE-to) - coffee "corrected" with a drizzle of liquor. I like sambuca, but most prefer conac or grappa.

Caffè macchiato (kah-FE mahk-YAH-to) - coffee "stained" with milk, usually just a bit of foam on top of the espresso.

Caffè latte (kah-FE LAH-te) - Espresso with hot milk, a cappuccino without the foam usually served in a glass. This is what you might call a "latte" in the US. In Italy, outside of tourist joints, you run the risk of getting what you asked for - milk, or worse yet, steamed milk.

Latte macchiato (Lah-te mahk-YAH-to) - Steamed milk "stained" with espresso, served in a glass.

Cappuccino (pronounced kah-pu-CHEE-no) - a shot of espresso in a large(er) cup with steamed milk and foam. Not ordered by Italians after 11 in the morning.

Specialty Coffees

Bicerìn (pronounced BI-che-rin) - Traditional drink of Piemonte around Torino, consisting of dense hot cocoa, espresso and cream, artfully layered in a small glass. Not usually found outside of the Piemonte region.

Caffè freddo (kah-FE FRAYD-o) - Iced, or at least cold, coffee

Caffè Shakerato (kah-FE shake-er-Ah-to ) - in its most simple form, a caffe shakerato is made by combining freshly made espresso, a bit of sugar, and lots of ice, shaking the whole deal vigorously until a froth forms when poured. Can have some chocolate syrup added. See, Caffe Shakerato - What's This Italian Shakerato Thing.

Cafe della casa or house coffee - Some bars have a specialty coffee drink. The cafe della casa at Caffe delle Carrozze in Chiavari is one of the best.

Need to know exactly what an Italian bar is? See the Bar listing in our Italian Travel Glossary.

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