Italian macchiato and macchiatone

Italian Coffee Types and Etiquette – A Practical Overview

Italy’s deep-rooted love for coffee has led to the creation of numerous delicious coffee drinks that are now enjoyed worldwide.

In this article, I’ll tell you about types of Italian coffee. You will learn about:

…and much more – read on!

Key Takeaways

  • Espresso Insight – Espresso is the cornerstone of Italian coffee culture. Remember, it’s typically enjoyed quickly, often standing up, and is the base for many other coffee drinks.
  • Cappuccino Timing: Enjoy cappuccinos, a morning favorite, before 11 am. It’s an Italian belief that milk-based coffees like these are best for mornings.
  • Ordering Coffee: When in Italy, try ordering coffee like a local. Use Italian names and savor your coffee standing at the bar for an authentic experience.
  • Afternoon Coffee Etiquette: Post-lunch, stick to espresso or other non-milky coffees. It’s considered a digestion-friendly choice in Italian culture.

Italian Coffee Types Explained

Let me start with the King of Coffee, the famous Italian espresso. But first, a handy infographic:

Italian coffee types explained on an infographic
An infographic by

Espresso – The Heart of Italian Coffee:

Espresso is undeniably the foundation of Italian coffee culture, with its rich history dating back to the introduction of coffee beans in the 1500s.

This little drink powerhouse is served in small cups, perfect for a quick pick-me-up throughout the day, and is often topped with a velvety crema.

But Italians enjoy many other types of coffee, such as:

  • Macchiatos
  • Cappuccinos
  • Lattes
  • Mochas
  • Countless regional variations
  • Decaffeinated options

To order a classic espresso in Italy, ask for “Un caffè”. But don’t be fooled by its size; Italian espressos pack a punch with their concentrated flavor and bold taste.

Espresso is enjoyed on its own and serves as the base for many other Italian coffee drinks, such as Caffè Corretto and Caffè con Panna.

Whether you’re sipping your espresso at the counter of a traditional Italian café or enjoying a leisurely cup at a modern coffee bar, you’re sure to be immersed in Italy’s rich coffee culture. So, next time you savor a shot of espresso, appreciate the rich tradition and artistry that has shaped this Italian coffee experience over centuries.

TIP: For an authentic espresso experience, I recommend using only top-quality blends. Check out our post about 22 finest Italian coffee brands, and choose wisely.

Single shot of italian espresso
A single shot of italian espresso

The Long and Short of It: Caffè Lungo vs. Caffè Ristretto

Espresso may be the foundation of Italian coffee, but its variations, Caffè Lungo and Caffè Ristretto add a layer of complexity to the beloved drink.

Caffè Lungo, meaning “long coffee,” uses more water during brewing, resulting in a milder taste and a larger volume of coffee. In contrast, Caffè Ristretto, or “restricted coffee,” uses less water, producing a stronger, more concentrated flavor.

These two variations cater to different preferences in strength and taste while maintaining the essence of Italian espresso.

Whether you prefer the milder Caffè Lungo or the bold Caffè Ristretto, both options showcase the versatility and depth of Italian coffee culture.

Espresso lungo
Espresso lungo – more volume, but slightly less intense taste

Cappuccino – The Perfect Morning Ritual

As the sun rises and Italians begin their day, the aroma of cappuccino fills the air. This beloved breakfast drink is essential to Italian coffee culture and is typically consumed before 11 am, often with something sweet to bite, like one of those famous Italian cookies.

The cappuccino consists of equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam, creating a harmonious balance of flavors. The small, rounded cup cradles this delightful beverage, inviting you to savor each sip.

Cappuccino has a few variations that cater to different preferences.

For example:

  • Cappuccino Chiaro uses more hot milk and less foam.
  • Cappuccino Scuro has less milk and more coffee.
  • Cappuccino Secco is for those who prefer a foam-only version

Despite these variations, one thing remains consistent: Italians enjoy their cappuccinos before 11 am to avoid disrupting their digestion with a milky drink later in the day.


So, when in Italy, starting your day with a warm, frothy cappuccino before 11 am is the way to emulate the Italian way of life. Not only will you be following Italian coffee etiquette, but you’ll also be partaking in a cherished morning ritual that has been enjoyed for generations.

Macchiato and Its Variants

If espresso is the heart of Italian coffee, then macchiato is its playful cousin.

Macchiato, meaning “stained” or “spotted” in Italian, is an espresso with just a touch of milk foam on top. Italians enjoy it any time of the day, so it’s a versatile choice for coffee lovers.


Macchiato, or caffè macchiato, comes in various forms, such as hot (caldo) or cold (freddo), to suit different tastes and preferences.

For those craving a slightly creamier coffee experience, Macchiatone is a Northern Italian drink that strikes a balance between a macchiato and a cappuccino. With its subtle hint of milk, the macchiato provides a delicate twist on the classic espresso. It is perfect for those seeking a creaminess without the heft of a cappuccino or a caffè latte.

Italian macchiato and macchiatone
An Italian macchiato and macchiatone.

Barley and Ginseng Alternatives

Italy’s love for coffee extends beyond traditional beans, embracing unique alternatives such as barley and ginseng. Caffè d’Orzo, a caffeine-free coffee substitute made from barley, offers an earthy and slightly sweet flavor profile.

Similarly, Caffè al Ginseng is an energizing espresso blend infused with ginseng root extract, providing a natural sweetness and energy boost.

These coffee alternatives showcase the diversity of Italian coffee culture and cater to those seeking caffeine-free options or a unique twist on their daily coffee ritual.

While exploring Italian coffee, venture beyond traditional beans and try the unique flavors of barley and ginseng.

Iced Delights: Shakerato and Affogato

Iced coffee in Italy - great for hot days
Iced coffee – great for hot days

As the temperature rises and summer takes hold in Italy, locals turn to iced coffee drinks like Caffè Shakerato and Caffè Affogato for a refreshing reprieve.

Caffè Shakerato is an iced coffee drink made by shaking espresso and ice in a cocktail shaker, creating a frothy, chilled beverage served in a martini-style glass. This refreshing concoction is perfect for sipping on a hot afternoon or as a cool pick-me-up during a sweltering summer day.

Caffè Affogato, on the other hand, is a dessert coffee drink that combines the best of both worlds: coffee and a famous Italian gelato.

A scoop of gelato (usually vanilla) is drowned in a shot of freshly brewed espresso, creating a sweet and indulgent treat that’s perfect for hot summer days.

The rich, velvety espresso beautifully complements the creamy ice cream, making Caffè Affogato a popular choice for those seeking a relaxed and decadent coffee experience.

Next time you’re in Italy during the warmer months, don’t miss out on these refreshing iced coffee delights. It’s a treat your taste buds will appreciate.

Embracing Tradition: The Iconic Moka Pot

Italian moka pot coffee - black coffee, the classic way
Italian moka pot – black coffee, the classic way.

The Moka Pot is an essential part of Italian coffee culture for its iconic design and ability to produce a strong, fragrant coffee at home.

Invented in 1933, the Moka Pot has been a staple in Italian households, allowing coffee lovers to enjoy a rich espresso-like brew without needing an expensive espresso machine.

The Moka Pot uses the pressure of vapor to push boiling water from the bottom half of the pot, through the coffee grounds in the middle, and into the top half. The result is a bold, aromatic coffee that captures the essence of Italian coffee culture in the comfort of your own home.

Embracing tradition and the timeless Moka Pot allows you to enjoy a delicious cup of coffee and connects you to the rich history and artistry of Italian coffee culture. So, the next time you brew a pot of coffee in your Moka Pot, take a moment to appreciate the legacy and craftsmanship passed down through generations.

Regional Specialties: Local Twists on Italian Coffee Classics

The diverse coffee culture across Italy is showcased through regional specialties that put unique twists on classic Italian coffee drinks.

One such specialty is Bicerin, a traditional Italian coffee drink from Turin that combines espresso, Italian drinking chocolate, and milk, all served in a small glass with distinct layers visible. This indulgent beverage is a true testament to the creativity and variety found in Italy’s regional coffee culture.

Another regional favorite is Marocchino, hailing from Alessandria in the Piedmont region of Italy. This coffee drink is served in a glass dish with layers of cocoa powder, a shot of espresso, and milk foam on top.

The harmonious blend of chocolate and coffee in Marocchino makes it a popular choice for those craving a flavorful and unique coffee experience.

While immersing yourself in Italian coffee culture, sample these regional specialties to appreciate the diversity and creativity inherent in Italy’s coffee traditions. From Turin’s Bicerin to Alessandria’s Marocchino, each region offers its unique take on Italian coffee types, the beloved coffee drinks of Italy.

Corrected Coffee: The Spirited Caffè Corretto

For those who enjoy a spirited twist to their coffee, Italy’s Caffè Corretto is the perfect choice. This espresso “corrected” with a shot of liquor, such as grappa or sambuca, adds an intriguing element to the traditional coffee experience.

Caffè Corretto has a long-standing history in Italy, particularly among sailors, fishermen, and other workers who needed a bit of warmth during their long days.

Whether you prefer a classic grappa or a sweet sambuca, Caffè Corretto offers the opportunity to experience a unique aspect of Italian coffee culture. This spirited coffee drink is a testament to Italy’s adventurous spirit and the country’s love for coffee and liquor.

Related posts worth checking:

Italian Coffee Etiquette: Dos and Don’ts

Italian coffee etiquette - image showing a ritual of sharing coffee amongst friends

When enjoying coffee in Italy, following a few etiquette rules to immerse yourself fully in the country’s coffee culture is important.

For instance, Italians typically order their coffee at the bar and sip it while standing, allowing for a quick and efficient coffee break. Standing at the counter aids in blending in with the locals while appreciating the dynamic nature of Italian coffee culture.

Another essential tip for enjoying coffee in Italy is to use the proper Italian names for coffee drinks, such as “Un caffè” for espresso or “Un cappuccino” for a cappuccino. This shows respect for the culture and ensures you get the coffee drink you desire.

Also, it’s advisable to refrain from ordering milky coffees like cappuccinos after 11 am. Italians reserve such beverages for mornings, believing they can disrupt digestion later in the day.

By following these etiquette tips and immersing yourself in Italian coffee culture, you’ll enjoy a delicious cup of Italian coffee and gain a deeper appreciation for the customs and traditions that make Italy’s coffee scene unique.


From the foundation of espresso to the spirited Caffè Corretto, Italy’s rich coffee culture offers a diverse and vibrant array of coffee drinks to explore and enjoy.

Whether you’re sipping a cappuccino in the morning, indulging in a refreshing Shakerato on a hot summer day, or embracing tradition with a Moka Pot at home, immersing yourself in Italy’s coffee scene is a delightful journey of flavors, aromas, and customs that have been cherished for centuries.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some types of Italian coffee?

Popular Italian coffees include cappuccino, macchiato, cafe latte and espresso. Lesser known types include ristretto, affogato and doppio. There are many other types to explore on a visit to Italy.

What is the most famous Italian coffee?

I’d say that cappuccino is the most famous Italian coffee, made with equal parts of espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. This creamy and mild drink is traditionally enjoyed in the morning and can be found at coffee bars and home.

What do Italians call a latte?

In Italy, a latte is called a caffè latte or a latte macchiato – milk with espresso – rather than a plain glass of milk.

When is the best time to enjoy a cappuccino in Italy?

For the classic Italian cappuccino experience, grab one before 11 am. Enjoy it with a pastry for an extra special treat!

What are some unique coffee alternatives in Italy?

If you want a unique Italian coffee experience, why not try Barley (Caffè d’Orzo) or ginseng root extract (Caffè al Ginseng)? Both are popular alternatives to traditional coffee in Italy.


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