If you’re planning to visit Italy, the choice of coffee drinks can be overwhelming. With so many choices, how can you know which is the best coffee in Italy for you?
There are drinks that help you recover from a heartbreak or to recover from a hard night. There are Italian coffees that you can order when you’re in a rush and others for when you have time to linger over your cup.
There are options for when you need a good night’s rest. There are also types of Italian coffee drinks that seem much more like a dessert. And to make it even more complicated, the time of day you drink coffee is vital.
Yes, Italian coffee culture is vast. Let’s dive in so you know what to order at coffee shops on your next trip to Italy.
The 23 Best Italian Coffee Drinks
1. Caffè Espresso
We’re starting this list with caffè espresso, the classic Italian coffee. In fact, it’s so classic that when you go to a coffee bar, you don’t have to bother saying the word espresso. Just ask for un caffè and you will be served your espresso.
Served in a tiny demitasse cup, un caffè is a quick shot of intense coffee made in an espresso machine. This type of machine forces hot water under pressure through ground coffee beans in under 30 seconds.
An Italian espresso is just 1 ounce and has an intense taste with a balanced bitterness. It’s also topped with crema, which is a thin layer of foam that forms from the oils in the coffee.
Developed in the early 1900s, espresso machines in Italy are the way to prepare coffee outside the home.
Italians drink coffee, and specifically espresso, throughout the day, and even after dinner. They’re the foundation for many other coffee drinks, and almost all the other drinks on this list.
If you want to blend in with Italians, take a sip or two of water to cleanse your palate. Then sip on your Italian espresso, finishing it in just a few sips.
A caffè ristretto is un caffè, or a shot of espresso, with a twist. The name means restricted in Italian, as in the amount of water being restricted.
Indeed, it takes half the amount of water as an espresso. That makes for a strong, concentrated espresso.
This brief sip of coffee has a bolder taste than an espresso, and it’s also sweeter. Although it seems quite strong, a caffè ristretto actually has a bit less caffeine than an espresso, since the extraction time is shorter.
3. Caffè lungo
The opposite of a ristretto, un caffè lungo is an espresso prepared with more hot water. Lungo means long, and this type of long espresso has about 50 ml of prepared coffee.
Larger than a shot of espresso and more nuanced, un caffè lungo has a ratio of one part coffee to three parts water. The barista also pulls the shot for longer.
Although there are additional variations with extraction and grind, the main ones are the ratio and a longer extraction time.
You will find that a lungo is slightly more bitter because of that longer extraction time. It’s also less intense, more complex, and never sour.
The longer extraction time gives you one main benefit: more complex flavors can develop, if the barista uses a good specialty coffee.
In the world of Italian coffee drinks, un caffè lungo is not well known or understood in the United States, but it is worth exploring when you’re in Italy. And in case you’re wondering about the caffeine, un caffè lungo has essentially the same caffeine content as an espresso.
4. Caffè doppio
Caffè doppio comes from the Italian word for double, as in a double espresso. As it sounds, it’s just two shots of espresso. A double espresso obviously gets double the amount of coffee grounds and double the amount of water.
When ordering coffee, you will be served two ounces of the precious brew instead of one. If you simply want more coffee, this is the one to ask for.
If you want a stronger coffee, you might want to try a ristretto.
5. Caffè decaffeinato
Un caffè decaffeinato is coffee that has gone through a decaffeination process. When you order coffee at a bar that offers this choice, the only difference will be the lack of caffeine.
In fact, all the coffee drinks on this list can be made with decaffeinated coffee.
While caffè decaffeinato isn’t as popular in Italy as it is in the United States, you can still find coffee blends that are decaffeinated.
Italians drink coffee for its energy, so drinking it without caffeine may not make sense to some.
Also famous on the list of Italian coffee drinks, a cappuccino has equal parts of espresso, milk foam, and steamed milk.
Adding foam gives the coffee drink a light and airy feel. That makes for a drink that isn’t strong and that isn’t so milky, either. Iced coffee lovers will be happy to know you can request an iced version of the cappuccino.
Don’t expect to find a grande size cappuccino, which isn’t Italian at all. Cappuccinos in Italy are quite a bit smaller than in the United States, with a total volume of just 150 ml.
So if you’re used to a huge mug of cappuccino at home, in Italy you might be wondering where the coffee is.
According to Italian coffee culture, there are types of Italian coffee drinks that you should only order in the morning, afternoon, or evening.
In Italy, drinks with milk are strictly for mornings. No one would drink a cappuccino coffee in Italy after a meal, since Italian culture dictates that drinking coffee with hot milk interferes with digestion.
If an Italian espresso is a bit strong for you, turn to an espresso macchiato. Caffè macchiato means marked coffee, and it’s an espresso with a small amount of milk that marks, or spots, the drink.
This drink gets just a couple of teaspoons of milk, so this is not a milky beverage. Sometimes a caffè macchiato, also known as latte macchiato, is served in a glass or a small cup.
This is one of those Italian coffee drinks that can be enjoyed at any time of day.
In fact, if you’re wishing you could order a cappuccino in the afternoon, which is a no-no in Italy, you can order a macchiato to satisfy your craving for a milky coffee without raising Italian eyebrows.
Also, remember that a macchiato isn’t a cortado.
Now we’ve come to one of those Italian coffees that is hard to understand. A macchiatone is an espresso served with a bit of foamed milk.
But it’s not an espresso, since it has milk. And it’s not a latte macchiato, although it is similar. Does this seem like an Italian coffee riddle? It may well be.
The difference is the amount of milk. Served in the same cup as a cappuccino, a cup of macchiatone is only half full. It has the same amount of coffee as an espresso or macchiato with less milk than a cappuccino.
9. Caffè con panna
Coffee in Italy can sometimes take a form that seems more like dessert. That’s the case with caffè con panna. Combining hot coffee with freshly whipped cream, this dessert coffee drink is a crowd pleaser.
Panna is the Italian word for whipped cream. Order coffee or espresso with cream and experience for yourself how this type of cream creates a thick whipped treat. It’s one of my favorite Italian coffees.
Often served in a tall glass, take time to admire the dark color of the espresso mixing with the light color of the whipped cream.
You can get this with a single or double shot of espresso, at times called a doppio con panna. And you can get your coffee drink cold for a refreshing summertime drink.
This Italian coffee drink means Morrocan, yet has nothing to do with that country.
A coffee drink that has been popular for a long time, caffé marocchino was invented after the Second World War near Turin, Piedmont. It’s based on older traditional beverages that mix the same ingredients.
Un caffé marocchino is a gorgeous layered drink that starts with espresso and then gets a layer of cocoa powder and some steamed or foamed milk.
Then it’s topped with a bit more chocolate powder. The layers of chocolate, coffee, and hot milk make a dramatic visual display. That’s why its served in a glass cup, so you can appreciate the beauty.
The distinct layers that don’t mix is part of the beauty of this drink. Of course, after you order coffee and you’ve enjoyed the gorgeous display, feel free to mix the layers together to drink it.
You can get a more concentrated version of it by asking for a ristretto rather than an espresso. Two layers of chocolate create an intense flavor, while the milk makes it a thick, creamy treat.
A marocchino is smaller than the American mocha drink. It has less coffee and never uses hot chocolate, chocolate syrup or shavings.
It may sometimes be topped with Nutella, or Nutella may be spread around the edge of the glass.
11. Caffè corretto
Coffee in Italy is exciting with a caffè corretto! This coffee drink means corrected coffee, and it adds a bit of booze to liven an espresso. Not surprisingly, it’s often served as an after-dinner drink.
A caffè corretto is a shot of espresso corrected with a shot of alcohol, often grappa or Sambuca. When you order coffee, usually the barista will mix the two, but they might serve you the shot on the side. You can add sugar to taste.
Does a caffè corretto taste good? Yes, many people feel it is indeed the correct way to drink espresso! A corrected coffee is the correct coffee to to choose when you want to relax. You can even hunt down an affogato corretto.
A coffee drink that doesn’t have much to do with coffee culture in Italy, caffè Americano was created to please…well, Americanos.
This coffee drink is an espresso diluted with lots of water to give the impression it was prepared with a drip coffee maker. Keep in mind that an Americano is still stronger than most drip coffees.
The reason is that espresso is produced under pressure, and lots of it. That extracts a lot more of an intese flavor hit than drip coffee, which relies on slow gravity to brew coffee.
Also, espresso has crema, which is a thin layer of oil and gasses from the coffee bean that sit on top of the extracted coffee.
So a caffè Americano is not drip coffee, but coffee lovers not used to the intensity of the Italian espresso enjoy this milder version.
It’s also ideal if you want to settle into a comfortable chair at your favorite Italian coffee bar and enjoy a larger cup of coffee.
13. Caffè latte
If you’re looking for a creamier coffee drink that has more milk than a cappuccino, caffè latte may be the answer.
This Italian coffee drink has the same espresso and steamed milk, but it goes easy on the milk foam. With less foam and more milk, the bold coffee flavor is muted.
There are a few points to consider with this type of drink. A caffè latte is considered a morning drink, and few Italians will order it after 11 am.
Also, you can get away with just asking for a latte in the United States, but not in Italy. Since latte means milk in Italy, if you head to your favorite coffee bar and ask for a latte, you’ll simply get a big glass of milk with no coffee in sight.
This coffee drink, sometimes called a caffè mocha, is a hot coffee drink made with an Italian espresso, milk, and chocolate. It’s generally served in a glass cup.
Your barista may put chocolate syrup in the bottom of the glass, then pour in the espresso. Then they will add cream to the top.
At times it gets a layer of whipped cream. When ordering coffee in Italy, you might not find anyone who will recognize a drink called mocha, but you may find they recognize what a mocaccino or espressino is.
15. Caffè d’orzo
Barley coffee doesn’t sound appealing. But caffè d’orzo is surprisingly popular. This coffee substitute has no caffeine and is an inexpensive way to have a warm drink.
When rationing during the Second World War limited coffee in Italy, it forced Italians to come up with a different kind of hot drink. They turned to roasted barley. It’s still a popular drink in Italy, with orzo espresso pods widely available.
Composed of roasted ground barley, this shot is made in an espresso machine and produces a dark color drink with a bit of foam on top.
The barley gives the drink a nutty flavor. It’s usually combined with dairy to make it tastier. And with no coffee in it, just barley, it’s not surprising that this alternative to coffee has an earthy taste.
16. Caffè al ginseng
It’s easy to guess the ingredients in this drink. Caffè ginseng is not traditional, but it is an incredibly popular coffee drink. Weighing it at double the size of an espresso, it mixes ristretto with ginseng.
Very sweet, comforting, and milky, caffè ginseng reportedly keeps you awake and improves stamina.
Often made with instant coffee rather than coffee grounds, caffè ginseng also gets an addition of milk and sugar to cut the bitterness of the ginseng roots.
17. Caffè shakerato
Caffè shakerato is a shaken iced coffee drink that combines hot espresso, sugar, and ice cubes.
Served in a martini glass with a creamy top layer, caffè shakerato is a shot of espresso shaken in a cocktail shaker with sugar and ice. Served black and topped with foam, the texture from the sugar helps to make the drink velvety. You can make a caffè shakerato with espresso or coffee brewed in a Moka Pot.
18. Crema al caffè
Traditional, smooth, and creamy. Sounds like an ideal coffee in Italy.
Known as crema al caffè, crema di caffe, and crema del nonno, this coffee drink is made with whipped cream. It’s actually meant to be eaten rather than drunk.
It’s an established part of coffee culture in Italy, and one of my favorite types of Italian coffee desserts.
To make crema al caffè, the barista whips cream and then slowly adds the coffee and continues whipping.
Once all the coffee is whipped into the cream, it goes into the freezer. You’ll be served this creamy white dessert in a short glass with cocoa powder on top.
Similar to mousse, it is beloved by people of all ages and is another type of Italian dessert to finish a perfect Italian meal.
19. Caffè affogato
The simplest of mixes, caffè affogato is a dessert that combines ice cream with strong espresso coffee.
The name means drowned, as in the coffee drowning the ice cream. Born shortly after the birth of the espresso machine, these two ingredients are a natural combination in Italy.
Plain vanilla gelato gets a shot of hot espresso poured over it. The creamy ice cream mixes with the sharper notes of the espresso in a milky drink that’s sure to please. It’s a drink that you eat, and after a meal, it’s a way to combine the ever-present espresso into a dessert.
Part of the attraction is the contrast between the strong, bitter flavors of coffee and the sweet creaminess of the ice cream. There’s also a pleasing contrast between temperatures as the hot espresso meets the frozen gelato.
20. Moka Coffee
Although you might think otherwise, there’s no chocolate in this coffee. At home, people make coffee in Italy in a Moka pot. In Italian, this brewing method is simply called caffettiera, or coffee pot.
Also called a stovetop espresso, it was invented in the 1930s, taking its name from a city in Yemen, Mocha. The famous hourglass-shaped method is a beloved Italian way to brew coffee.
It’s easy to recognize, with its bulky squarish bottom and the top that screws on. You’ll find this eight-sided aluminum pot in every Italian’s house. Bialetti is the most famous brand.
This coffee maker prepares a strong, often bitter brew that is traditionally made with Italian coffees that blend Arabica and Robusta beans in a medium-dark roast. You don’t often find it at Italian bars, but you will find it in just about everyone’s home.
I’ve owned a lot of Moka Pots over the years, given to me by Italian friends. To get a less bitter brew, make it with 100% Arabica coffee and use a low flame so you don’t overheat the water.
21. Caffè Pedrocchi
This Italian coffee drink is named after the coffee shop that invented it, Caffè Pedrocchi, a famous café and museum in Padua.
Originally a roastery and bakery, in 1839 Antonio Pedrocchi enlarged his father’s small coffee shop and continued the family tradition. They are still making pastries and brewing traditional coffee in Italy.
Among the Italian coffee types that are lesser known but quite delicious, caffè Pedrocchi starts with an espresso served in a medium cup. Then mint syrup and fresh cream are added, with a layer of cocoa powder on top.
When ordering a coffee like this, don’t ruin it by stirring it. Just drink it as is. If you want a refreshing summer version, ask for cold espresso and the same ingredients.
22. Caffè Ponce
Mixing alcohol with coffee in Italy is not new. Born in Livorno in the 17th century, this drink is called caffè Ponce or Ponce alla Livornese.
It calls for one shot of espresso, one ounce of dark rum, and sugar. If rum isn’t to your taste, you can mix it with cognac or brandy. Other ingredients, such as lemon and cinnamon, may find their way into this drink.
23. Caffè Bicerin
Of all the types of Italian coffee drinks, this is probably the least known. But it is a traditional Italian coffee and is the foundation for other types of Italian drinks.
From Turin, the bicerin was the forerunner of the mocacchino and the marroccino. It combines espresso, chocolate, and milk or heavy cream. It’s served in a glass to admire the layers of color, and heavy cream sits on top.
Not surprisingly, the world of Italian coffee culture is vast and complex.
Which coffee should you order when visiting Italy? That depends on your tastes.
Maybe you’ll find just one coffee in Italy you love, or maybe you’ll try all the types of Italian coffees and find new favorites. Knowing what makes each one different – and what makes it special – will help you choose the perfect coffee for your stay in Italy.