Coffee has been a part of Italian culture since the 1500s, and true Italians have coffee flowing through their veins. However, ordering coffee in Italy and knowing which Italian coffee drinks are actually available can be difficult, and it’s definitely not as simple as walking into your local Starbucks. In this guide we’ll give you a complete guide to all traditional Italian coffee drinks, so you'll know what to order and how to drink it like a local.
20 Italian Coffee Drinks (A Complete Guide Of Traditional Orders)
Italians pretty much invented the coffee drinks we enjoy today. Many of these drinks have been reinvented to meet current tastes, but if you strip them back, you’ll still find their Italian roots. Here’s our list of all the traditional coffee drinks which are still popular in Italy today:
1. Caffè Espresso
Let’s start with a classic, the espresso. This is the most popular coffee in Italy, and it forms the basis of many other Italian coffee drinks. To order it in Italy you’ll need to ask for un caffè. It will typically be served black and have a light layer of crema on the top from the oils. It's this crema that gives the espresso its bold and bitter Italian flavor.
Espressos tend to be 1 ounce in Italy and served in a small cup. They’re often drunk at home or in coffee bars by Italianos in the early afternoon as a pick me up when energy levels start to drop. A single espresso will have 70-90mg of caffeine and 0 calories.
Espressos are loved by Italians who enjoy the authentic taste of coffee without any sugar, milk, cream, or other additions. If you're in Italy, you should definitely try un caffè, and make sure you sip it slowly like the locals.
2. Caffè Doppio
A caffè doppio is just a double shot of espresso, so around 2 ounces of black coffee, and they’re really popular with Italians. They offer more of an energy boost, with around 150mg of caffeine in a single cup, and give an even more intense coffee flavor than a regular espresso.
Italians tend to order these in the early afternoon and pair them with the classic sweet and spicy Italian panettone. If you’re visiting Italy and you find yourself lacking energy, then head to the nearest coffee bar and get yourself a caffè doppio.
3. Caffè Ristretto
Ristretto translates into the English word "restrained." It's very similar to an espresso and is brewed with the same amount of coffee but half the water. This makes it incredibly strong, very rich, and gives a powerful caffèine kick. It has a similar bitter flavor to dark chocolate and is appreciated by Italian coffee lovers who truly enjoy the taste of fresh coffee.
A caffè ristretto has about 100mg of caffeine in a single serving and 0 calories. It's a favorite in Italy but isn’t available in many other countries so you'll have to enjoy it while you're there.
4. Caffè Lungo
The caffè lungo is the Italian espresso alternative that's basically the opposite of a ristretto because it uses more water. Lungo comes from the English word long, and this long espresso uses double the amount of water as a regular espresso to give you a slightly less strong-tasting coffee. It's similar to an Americano, but with a bit less water, so it still has a rich but bitter flavor.
A caffè lungo, like other Italian espresso variations, is always served black in Italy. It’s enjoyed without any sugar, milk, or cream, and sipped gently. There are still 0 calories and about 90mg of caffeine in a single serving.
5. Caffè Con Panna
Panna is the Italian word for whipped cream, and this Italian coffee is simply an espresso served with whipped cream on top. It’s one of the most popular coffees with locals because the cream cuts through some of the bitterness and gives a richer drink which you can literally feel coating the inside of your mouth.
Many Italian bars also offer cakes and pastries, so they make their own cream on site. Fresh whipped cream makes this drink much more indulgent than store-bought cans, so it's worth asking the barista if they're using fresh cream before ordering.
6. Caffè Shakerato
A caffè shakerato is very elegant, and if you didn't know any better, you might assume it's a cocktail. It's made by shaking together an espresso with ice, and the resulting drink is poured into a high glass. The shaking gives it a thick froth and makes it very smooth to drink.
When you order a caffè shakerato in a coffee bar, you'll be asked if you want it sweet or bitter. This is one of the only Italian coffees you can actually ask for sugar in without judgment, so it's great for those who like a sweet, iced coffee. You can also request panna (whipped cream) if you want to make it a bit richer. A caffè shakerato has about 95mg of caffeine in a serving, and it’s a favorite with true Italians in the summer months.
7. Crema Al Caffè
This is the perfect Italian coffee for the summer months because it gives a big energy boost and some cooling refreshment. It's made with frozen cream and coffee, which are crushed together through a machine.
The resulting slushy mixture is served in a tall glass and comes with a spoon so you can scoop it out. In truth, this is more of a sweet coffee dessert than a coffee drink, but the Italians love it. So if you're visiting in summer and want to fit in with the locals, then ask for a crema al caffè.
Cappuccinos are one of the most popular drinks worldwide and are still very popular in Italy. They're made with a shot of espresso at the base, topped with steamed milk, and then finished with milk foam. In Italy, the cappuccinos are served in a much smaller cup to give you a more intense flavor. This is how the Italians like it, and you won't find the locals adding in any extra sugar or sweeteners.
You can order your cappuccino as a chiaro or a scuro. A cappuccino chiaro is made with less coffee and is lighter, whereas the cappuccino scuro is made with more color and darker. This caters to Italians who want a more robust, more intense flavored coffee that they can enjoy through the milk. An authentic Italian cappuccino tends to have about 80 calories and 125mg of caffeine. It’s popular in Italian culture as a morning drink but never ordered by locals in the afternoon or evening.
Macchiato means spotted or stained in English, and it has the name because of the mixture of espresso and steamed milk. Macchiatos are made with an espresso base, topped with a dollop of steamed, frothy milk, which forms a layer on top with the crema all around. This makes it smoother than a regular espresso but doesn't take away from any of the intense espresso flavor. In a typical Italian macchiato, there's about 100mg of caffeine and 50 calories.
In Italy, you can order your macchiato with hot milk (macchiato caldo) or cold milk (macchiato freddo). If you don't specify, you'll probably get the hot milk, though I think you'll impress the locals if you order it with cold. Italians consider macchiatos appropriate for any time of day, and it’s a suitable alternative to a cappuccino in the mornings.
10. Caffè Marocchino
The caffè marocchino has its name because it has the same coloring as the old brown Moroccan leather they used to trade. It’s made with espresso mixed with cocoa powder, topped with milk which is whipped into a cream. It tends to be served in a small glass and dusted with extra cocoa powder.
This sweet Italian coffee combines chocolate and coffee in a similar way to a mocha but keeps a very intense flavor. It's available in coffee bars but often made at home, too, as a richer and more drinkable version of an espresso. There are about 75 calories and 95mg of caffeine in a serving, and it's one that Italians only tend to drink in the early afternoon.
11. Caffè Al Ginseng
Ginseng coffee doesn’t sound like an Italian option, but it’s very popular with the locals. It’s made with ginseng root, which is mixed with an espresso to give it a lighter and nuttier taste. Ginseng has been known to provide health benefits, increase energy levels, and even improve brain function, so you can see why it's been incorporated into one of the most popular Italian beverages. You can order it as an alternative to a regular espresso or have it as a cappuccino or macchiato if you prefer.
In Italy, you can order caffe al ginseng in any coffee bar, but most supermarkets will also stock it, so you can make your own at home. A typical serving has 0 calories and 100mg of caffèine from the espresso.
Caffè orzo is one of the unique Italian coffee drinks that you won't find anywhere else in the world. Orzo in English means barley, and caffè orzo dates back to the days when coffee beans were too expensive for locals to drink. So instead, they roasted barley, which gives a reasonably similar taste but has no caffeine. This makes it a popular Italian coffee for kids or those avoiding caffeine.
You can order orzo as an espresso, cappuccino, or macchiato in an Italian bar. It has a unique taste, and it's one we think everyone should try at least once when they're visiting Italy.
13. Caffè Corretto
The caffè corretto is the adult drink that introduces alcohol into the mix. Corretto means correct in English, and this alcoholic coffee will definitely straighten you out. It’s made with a shot of espresso mixed with a shot of liquor.
Typically, this is sambuca or grappa, but it will vary depending on the spirits in that region. It's a local drink ordered by local Italian people after a hard day's labor, and one that Italian baristas won't expect tourists to know. There's typically 95mg of caffeine in a serving and 25-75 calories depending on the liquor.
14. Caffè Latte
Latte is the Italian word for milk, so it makes sense that this is a milky coffee. Lattes are popular throughout the world and are made with one part espresso, two parts hot milk, and some milk foam on top. True Italian caffè lattes won’t have sugar syrup or whipped cream toppings because their focus is on the bold coffee flavor, so don’t try asking for a vanilla or caramel latte.
In an Italian caffè latte, there's typically 100mg of caffeine and 60 calories. They’ll only ever have milky coffees in the morning and never after a heavy meal, so make sure you don't order it after 11 am if you want to fit in.
Barbajada is the Milanese specialist coffee that is only really available in that region. It’s made from espresso, milk, and cocoa, which are combined to give a rich and creamy flavor. It's then topped with whipped cream for some extra indulgence.
The name comes from the specific coffee blend they use in Milan called Barbajada, and this Italian coffee is typically ordered as a dessert drink. There’s roughly 75mg of caffeine and 170 calories in a serving, and you’ll find it on the dessert menu in most of Northern Italy.
16. Caffè Decaffèinato
If you want to avoid caffèine when in Italy, you’ll need to ask for a caffè decaffèinato. Despite what you might think, this is a fairly standard order in Italy, and no baristas will look at you strangely for ordering it. It's very simply a decaf espresso that is made with special decaffeinated coffee beans.
It still keeps all the rich flavors of the espresso, but without the energy boost. You can ask for un caffè deca, or decaffeinated versions of all the espresso drinks, including the ristretto, lungo, and doppio.
The Italian mochaccino is an indulgent Italian coffee that is similar to a caffè mocha. It’s made with a cappuccino, mixed with whipped cream, chocolate, and sprinkled with cocoa powder. It’s much sweeter than most Italian coffees, though you still have the hint of bitterness from the espresso base.
Italians always serve a mochaccino in a glass so you can see and appreciate the different layers throughout. They often add a shot of chocolate liquor to the drink to increase the richness, but they will typically check with you first. There are usually 150 calories and 95mg of caffeine if you order this in an Italian coffee bar, but you can also get sachets to make it at home, which tend to have fewer calories and less caffeine.
The caffè Americano is the Italian drink that has taken over the whole world. Every coffee shop offers it, and it's made with an espresso shot topped up with hot water. Italian’s serve it slightly differently, though, as they give you a larger cup for your espresso, and provide you with a jug of hot water.
This lets you add as much or as little water as you like so you can serve the coffee your way. Italians never add milk, though if you request some latte (milk), they probably won't judge you too harshly. There’s usually 95mg of caffeine and no calories, though you will add calories if you introduce milk into the drink.
19. Caffè Affogato
The caffè affogato is a cross between a coffee and a dessert. It’s made with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, with a shot of espresso poured on top and some chocolate sauce around the edges. You can then either mix the hot coffee and ice cream together to create a drink or eat it bit by bit using a spoon.
This is probably one of the unhealthiest Italian coffees, but it's very indulgent and a pleasure to eat. The sweet ice cream balances the bitter coffee beautifully and gives you the ultimate summer coffee drink. You’ll get about 100mg of caffeine and 200-300 calories in a serving, and the locals love it, so you should be able to find it in every Italian coffee bar during the summer.
20. Caffè Anisette
A caffè anisette is an Italian coffee that’s definitely not for kids. It’s a blend of a French aniseed-infused liqueur and espresso, which gives a slightly sweet and alcoholic taste.
The anisette is fairly low in alcohol, so it's not a heavy drink, but it tends to only be enjoyed in the evenings or on weekends by the locals. It can be enjoyed chilled or with ice, and given it's only really available in Italy, it's worth trying while you're there.
Coffee Culture In Italy (How To Drink Like A Local)
Italy has a long coffee history. Venice was one of the first European ports to import coffee beans in the 1500s, and even though coffee wasn't invented in Italy, it's a massive part of the culture.
While we would normally go to the bar for a beer, Italians will go to the bar for a coffee. In fact, most Italians would rather skip having coffee in a restaurant so they can go to their local bar, and in traditional Italian regions, there are several coffee bars on every street.
Within these coffee bars, Italians will have food and drink. Italians won't order milky coffees after 11 am, and they’ll never have them after a meal because milk slows down digestion. This means you may be frowned upon for ordering a latte or cappuccino in the afternoon or evening. The most traditional Italian coffee is the caffè espresso, and it’s usually ordered just after lunch when you most need a caffeine boost.
Most Italian coffee bars don’t have menus, so it can be a little intimidating. That doesn't mean that your barista can't make a wide variety of coffees; it just means you'll need to remember the name yourself to be able to order it. You'll find that most coffee in bars is served standing up, and the locals will all stand around tables rather than sit down to enjoy their drinks.
In many coffee bars, you'll pay first and then use your receipt to order the coffee, so make sure you keep hold of it! Unlike in some other parts of Europe, tipping isn't expected in Italian coffee bars, but leaving some change for your server is common.
Contrary to popular belief, Italian coffee isn't made really strong. In fact, Italians tend not to drink anything stronger than an espresso, and you won't find anything like a cold brew on a regular Italian menu. What you will find is a rich, bold, and slightly bitter flavor that isn’t as disguised by sugar or milk as an American coffee might be. If you’re in Italy, do as the locals do, and get yourself a caffè, sometimes known as an espresso, and sip it gently so you can savor the taste.
Common Italian Coffee Drinks Questions
What makes Italian coffee so good?
Italian coffee tends to have a higher acidity, giving it a more distinctive flavor. It's also slightly thicker, so you can really taste the flavors of the coffee.
What type of coffee is used in Italy?
Italian coffee is generally made using Arabica beans which are smoother and slightly more acidic than Robusta beans.
Is Italian or French coffee stronger? Is Italian or French coffee stronger?
French coffee tends to be more intense than Italian coffee and is considered slightly stronger. Italian coffee has a bold flavor but is slightly more delicate and doesn’t taste as strong in comparison.
Italians didn't invent coffee, but they did influence the coffee culture around the world. Italians enjoy coffee differently from most other people, and they’ll usually order a caffè, which is a strong black coffee, rather than a milky or sugary drink. Hopefully, this guide has given you some insight into the Italian way, and you now feel as though you can blend in with the locals on your next visit.