Italian Language Blog

Ordering a coffee! Posted by on Sep 25, 2008 in Culture


My name is Serena and I’m the new Italian blogger. I thought I would start with a topic dear to all Italians: il caffe’!

We like our coffee very concentrated, like a shot of adrenalin, so do not expect a pint mug, even when you order “un caffè lungo” or “americano”. I can’t start the day without my little cup of coffee made in the moka, the traditional Italian caffettiere. I take it with me wherever I go: to Egypt, to England, etc.…

But let’s see what the most common choices at the bar are:

espresso: the standard small cup of coffee

caffè macchiato: as above but with a small “stain” (macchia) of frothy milk

cappuccino: a nice espresso with more frothy milk served in a slightly bigger size cup

caffelatte: it literally means “coffee and milk”. It is an espresso with more hot milk than the cappuccino (and no froth!), served in a bigger size cup.

latte macchiato: a big cup or glass of hot milk stained (macchiato) with a little coffee

caffè lungo or americano: a diluted version of espresso, that is: it will reach the top of the smallest coffee cup!

For the strong hearted there are also:

caffè ristretto: a concentrated version of the espresso. It is literally a teaspoonful of extra strong coffee!

caffè corretto: an espresso “corrected” with liqueur or spirit, usually grappa, but you can choose whatever you like. My favorite liqueur is sambuca. Caffè corretto is normally drunk after a big meal as a digestive.

A few notes:

If you don’t like hot milk, you can always ask for a cappuccino or caffelatte etc. with “latte freddo”. By the way: don’t forget that latte in Italian means simply milk. So if you order a “latte” you won’t get any coffee with it!

Traditionally we drink our coffee on the run, that is standing at the bar. For this reason in Italy you’ll find that there are two different charges: at the bar (with no service) and at the table (with the service)!

A little note on customs: if you order a cappuccino or a caffelatte or latte macchiato after 11 am, you will be immediately recognized as foreigners, even if you speak Italian perfectly!

But coffee it’s not the same all over Italy. When many years ago I went to Naples for the first time, I went in a bar and ordered an espresso. It was very nice and creamy, but… so sweet! In Naples they serve it with sugar by default. I must admit that I like my coffee bitter with no sugar, so the next time I ordered un espresso senza zucchero (without sugar). A stunned silence followed, and I could feel that everybody was staring at me. After that I didn’t dare order a coffee “senza zucchero” again, but I did discover my favorite one: caffè freddo (cold coffee). The best drink on a hot summers day!

Enjoy your caffè e salute!

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  1. neima:

    cio, sono neima sono tunesine, ho 34 anni , ho comminciato a studiare l intaliono 2 anni fa, perche mi piacciono le lingue straniere, oggi, voglio dire qualcose sul cafe, questo cafe e devenuto internazionale in tutto il mondo entero beviamo il cafe, la mattina , per la collazione/ quando siamo con le amici , a casa, fuori, per molte gente 3 a 4 per giorno >

  2. Serena:

    Ciao Neima, grazie per il tuo commento in italiano, mi fa molto piacere quando qualcuno scrive in italiano. Continua cosi’ e sarai bravissima.

  3. Ted Taormina:

    Serena, I have only recently discovered your blogs and I can’t tell you how much I am enjoying them. They are so interesting and educational at the same time. I am American born but all of my people are from Monreale in Sicily. When you talk about customs such as with coffee, or Christmas cards, I realize, having visited my relatives in Sicily that that is exactly how they do it. Please keep up the blogs especially the language ones. I am trying to learn Italian so when I visit my folks in Sicily I can at least make myself undestood. In between visits I have to constantly review or I forget what I have learned not having anyone to practice speaking with. Thanks again, Ted Taormina

  4. Guy Manfellow:

    What a delicious article!

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