When you first get to Italy, depending on your Italian knowledge, the bar can be a little intimidating. You know they have coffee but what kind, how big, what are the order options? There won’t be a large board menu like American coffee shops, instead, you are expected to know exactly what you want. Here is some advice when you order coffee in Italy.
Things you should know about cafes in Italy:
First, most cafes in Italy serve only one type of coffee, as in only one roast or brand. Occasionally at specialty shops, they may have a few different origins or types of roasts available. However, the majority of bars have partnerships with one roaster and will serve only that one. So when you order coffee in Italy, you won’t necessarily have a huge choice.
Next, you may pay more to sit down. Especially in city centers, near touristic sites, or if the bar looks a little fancy. So be sure to ask for clarification or be prepared to pay more. If you are trying to watch the budget, but need a caffeine fix, take it at the counter!
Paying and Ordering are fine art.
When you order coffee in Italy it’s never clear if you are supposed to pay first or if you should order at the bar then pay after. If someone is at the cash register. I always start there and then order. Keep your receipt to show the barista. When you want to sit down, the order gets even more complicated. If looks like a fancier cafe, sit down, and the waiters will most likely come to you (this is why you pay extra)! Instead, if it looks like any other cafe, order at the counter, then sit down, they probably won’t bring it to you. This sounds complicated, I know. But the truth is even after all these years in Italy, I am not 100% the etiquette for every bar, they are all different!
What coffee to order?
Un Caffè: an espresso. It will be just as you expect an espresso to be, however they may ask ristretto or lungo. Ristretto means the close the pour as soon as a bit of water trickles into the coffee, it will be a very tiny sip of thick coffee. Lungo allows a little extra coffee water in it to make it a bit lighter. The general price is 1 euro to 1.20 but this, of course, depends largely on region to region, city to city.
Macchiato: Unlike what you may expect back home, a macchiato in Italy is simply an espresso with a dollop of foamed milk on top. That added little touch of milk often helps ease the harsh bitter coffee edge, it also cools it down a tad.
Cappuccino: served in a cup a bit bigger than those for espresso. It is an espresso, often technically a double, with added steamed milk and topped with milk foam. For longer sipping, this drink tends to have more milk than coffee in it, unless you get an amazing barista.
Cafe Latte: served in a tall glass, this is a shot of espresso with then much more steamed milk added, usually a drop of foam on top as well.
Cafe Correto: if you really want a kick in the morning, this is a shot of espresso with a shot of either grappa, sambuca, or any other liquor upon request.
Marocchino: coming from Piedmont, this little sweet coffee is made from hot chocolate, mixed with espresso, dusted with cacao, a pour of milk, then a dollop of foamed milk and topped with another dusting of cacao powder!
Americano: this one is deceiving, you would think it is a filtered coffee like we are used to. Instead, an Americano is a shot of espresso, with a cup of hot water added to it. It really doesn’t have the same effect. If you are craving a coffee like back home, keep an eye out for caffè filtrato, but not everyone will have it.