The Italian Espresso Culture

For us Italians, espresso is more than a drink; it’s a moment of pure pleasure. You’ll often see us savoring our daily shot with closed eyes, relishing in the moment.

The Raffaellesco espresso cup and saucer sits on a tray with a fresh croissant, sticks of cinnamon and coffee beans

There is no simple answer to the question of how Italians prefer their espresso. If you were to watch four Italians ordering their daily espresso at a bar, you would notice that each of them requests a different type of coffee. They may ask for differences in temperature, quantity, brewing process, or ingredients.

To help you understand the basics of Italian espresso culture, here is a brief menu, which you can use to try different varieties and find your favorite espresso. It might even inspire you to plan your next trip to Italy to test your knowledge!

An Arabesco espresso cup and saucer sits on book beside a pastry,  sticks of cinnamon and coffee beans

The Italian Espresso Menu

Caffè ristretto – A more concentrated espresso made with the same quantity of coffee grounds and half the water. It results in a stronger drink with an intense flavor and syrupy mouthfeel.
Caffè lungo – A type of espresso that uses more water and has a longer extraction time than regular espresso. The resulting beverage has a softer taste but contains more caffeine.
Caffè macchiato – An espresso with a small amount of milk. Ask the barista for a macchiato caldo for foamed milk or macchiato freddo for cold milk. Adding an additional ingredient multiplies the options: macchiato lungo, macchiato ristretto, with hot or cold milk. If you ask hot or cold milk “on the side,” the barista will serve it in a jug, allowing you to add as much as you like.
Caffè corretto – An espresso with a small amount of grappa, sambuca, or any desired liquor that adds an extra kick to the caffeine.
Caffè con panna – An espresso with a large blob of whipped cream on top. This gourmet coffee is sometimes served with whipped cream on the side, so you can add more once the first dollop is gone.
Caffè mocaccino – It’s a layered drink that originated in Turin, Piedmont, where it is known as Bicerin. The bottom layer is hot chocolate, then milk froth, and finally, a shot of espresso. It can also be sprinkled with cocoa powder.
Caffè marocchino – A drink from Alessandria, also in Piedmont. It is prepared by dusting the cup with unsweetened cocoa powder, then adding an espresso and finally a topping of milk froth.

The Espresso Cups

The small ceramic espresso cups are as much part of the experience as the coffee itself. What makes them special?

  • They are small, thick and ideally made of ceramic to keep the espresso hot and preserve its taste and aroma for longer.
  • They are rounded inside, allowing the coffee to swirl around nicely and the espresso cream to float on top, golden against the white background.

Explore our selection of espresso cups or contact us to get an espresso cup in any of our dinnerware collections.