How to Order a Coffee in Italy Without Sounding Like an Idiot
Know the differences between a caffè macchiato, freddo and lungo before your next trip.
So, you want to go to Italy? Great choice! The food, the wine, the history and of course, the coffee. Italians are particular about their coffee, and while you can probably get by with whatever terms you’d use at your local coffee shop, it’s best to have a strong understanding of Italian coffee options. Here’s how to order a coffee in Italy without sounding like an idiot.
First, a few rules to follow. While most American coffee drinkers will simply drink any coffee concoction as they please, Italians drink certain beverages at certain times of day. For instance, cappuccinos are generally reserved for breakfast—not to be ordered after 11:00 a.m. A macchiato is traditionally enjoyed as a bit of an afternoon pick-me-up and espresso is served after dinner. Also, try to stay away from ordering a coffee to-go. Most cafés in Italy are counter service or table seating only so try to keep that in mind.
Also know as caffè normale, caffè is the foundation of any Italian coffee drink. A caffè is simply an espresso, served black and only in one shot increments. Rather than ordering a doppio, or double, Italians will traditionally make a return trip to the barista if they’re in need of more caffeine.
The classic Italian espresso drink, a cappuccino is equal parts espresso, milk foam and steamed milk. They are most commonly enjoyed before or during breakfast, but never after a meal.
A creamier alternative to a cappuccino, a caffé latte is one part espresso to two parts steamed milk and just a little bit of foam on top. Much like a cappuccino, caffè lattes are traditionally enjoyed in the morning.
For those looking for a slightly milkier version of a simple caffè, the macchiato is the answer. This drink includes espresso that is “marked” with a splash of frothy milk. Unlike other milky espresso drinks, the macchiato can be enjoyed all day.
Undoubtedly one of the greatest coffee insults of all time, an Americano is simply espresso that is diluted with hot water to mimic American-style drip coffee.
Not quite a caffe or an Americano, this “long coffee” includes espresso with just a splash of hot water.
If you’re looking for a nice pre-dinner drink after a long day, try a boozy caffè corretto. This drink, which translates to “corrected coffee,” features espresso with a splash of grappa, sambuca or your choice of liquor.
It gets hot in Italy, especially in the south, and while a refreshing Aperol spritz is usually the best way to combat that, sometimes it’s best to opt for something non-alcoholic. A caffè freddo is simply espresso shaken with ice and sugar until the drink develops a slightly frothy head and is the refreshing jolt of caffeine you need during the spring and summer.