How to Order Coffee in Italy and Understand the Italian Coffee Culture

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If you travel to Italy for work or vacation, you will immediately notice that at every corner there is a coffee bar, and most of them are always full of people drinking their coffee, most of them are sipping their coffee before heading to work in five minute flat and usually are standing up. As a matter of fact a lot of business takes place here at the coffee bars during coffee breaks.

However it is important to know how to order and what you are ordering (especially if you do not want to look like a tourist), so here it is.

Caffe’- This is coffee but if you order this you will get a simple espresso. This drink is sometimes ordered in a glass cup, you will sometimes hear in fact someone ordering a “caffe al vetro”, usually because it is considered more hygienic and the taste of the coffee is different.

Caffe’ ristretto- A lot of people like their coffee strong, so they will order the caffe’ ristretto, which literally means “restricted coffee” and this is basically a shot of espresso and it means that when made it will have more coffee grounds than water. This is a popular request in particular in the southern part of Italy.

Caffe’ macchiato- This is an espresso with some milk in it, some people also add sugar to this cup but most likely the milk will make the coffee less strong.

Caffe’ Latte- This is coffee and milk, the difference between this and the caffe macchiato is the percentage of the coffee and milk is about the same, and it differs from a cappuccino because it does not have the frothy foam on top. Since in the U.S. this is normally just known as Latte, make sure that in Italy you specify “caffe latte” otherwise you will be served just a glass of milk.

Latte Macchiato – This is milk with a half a shot of espresso, and the espresso is added after the milk.

Caffe’ Americano or Caffe’ Lungo- When ordering an “American coffee” or “Long Coffee” (Caffe Lungo), you are ordering an espresso that is watered down.

Cappuccino- Ah the famous cappuccino, most bars will serve it at room temperature, so you can still drink it and be out of there in no time. If you want it hot, you have to request it. A cappuccino is an espresso that is prepared with hot milk and milk foam, one important note is that Italians do not order cappuccino after 11:00 AM, but this does not mean that they will not serve it after that time.

Caffe’ corretto- this literally means “corrected coffee”, and it is usually drank after a meal; is an espresso with a shot of liquor such as grappa.

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