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Espresso: the Italian Coffee

Updated: Dec 14, 2023

A real love affair going on for more than four centuries

In Italy, coffee first arrived in 1570. Initially, it was sold in pharmacies but it wasn't considered as a popular drink until the 18th century.

The first shop selling coffee was opened in Venice in 1683 and a century later, in 1763, shops became 218. Coffee was changing from being a mysterious object to a drink appreciated by the people, love was about to blossom. Between 1800 and 1900, the concept of coffee shop evolves to become a place for cultural exchange, or salons to talk about literature and politics. Only with the creation of the Italian bar coffee became a daily appointment from North to South of the country, symbol of pleasure and conviviality.

In 1884, the first patent for the coffee machine was registered. The inventor of the machine was Angelo Moriondo, who presented his work during the Universal Exhibition in Turin. Coffee machine became a commercial product and began to be mass-produced only in the early 1900s.

In 1933, Alfonso Bialetti invented the moka coffee maker, the traditional machine so popular in every Italian kitchen: Over the years, more than 105 million different models have been registered.

Coffee is an Italian iconic drink: you cannot start the day without a cup of coffee. But having a coffee at the bar is not just a pleasant habit: It is a ritual, a tradition throughout Italy from north to south.

Let's see the many ways in which the Italians ask for a coffee at the bar …

CAFFÈ i.e. ESPRESSO: It almost sounds like a password, there's nothing else to add. In Italy, if you ask for a coffee at the bar, it is always understood that it is an espresso served steaming and bitter in the typical small cup with the sugar aside.

CAFFÈ MACCHIATO CALDO: An ESPRESSO spotted with a drop or two of hot milk.

CAFFÈ MACCHIATO FREDDO: An ESPRESSO spotted with a drop or two of cold milk.

CAFFÈ SCHIUMATO: An ESPRESSO with a small layer of foamed milk on top.

CAFFÈ DECAFFEINATO or simply DECA: An ESPRESSO in a caffeine-free version.

CAFFÈ CORRETTO: An ESPRESSO served with a few drops either of Grappa, Rum, or Sambuca.

CAFFÈ DOPPIO: A double ESPRESSO served in a cup larger than that of a classic ESPRESSO.

CAFFÈ LUNGO: An ESPRESSO obtained by letting a little more water flow into the cup.

CAFFÈ RISTRETTO: An ESPRESSO with a strong, concentrated taste.

CAFFÉ MAROCCHINO: An ESPRESSO served in a slightly larger cup with a bit of cocoa powder, a small layer of foamed milk, and then one more sprinkle of cocoa powder.

CAFFÈ CON PANNA: An ESPRESSO served in a slightly larger cup with a shot of cream on top.

CAFFÈ FREDDO i.e. CAFFÈ SHAKERATO: An ESPRESSO shaken up with ice in a cocktail mixer with added sugar, and served in a large glass (a very popular drink in the summertime).

CAFFÈ-LATTE: Hot milk with an ESPRESSO coffee added, served in a large glass.

CAFFÈ D'ORZO: A barley coffee (i.e caffeine-free) served in a small cup or in a slightly larger cup, depending on preference.

CAFFÈ GINSENG: It is essentially a diluted ESPRESSO coffee flavored with ginseng extract, served in a small cup or in a slightly larger cup, depending on preference (very popular in recent years).

And finally, the word that the whole world knows:

CAPPUCCINO = A normal ESPRESSO added to swollen milk with his foam, topped with a sprinkle of cocoa powder, and served in the special cappuccino cup which is larger than the one for ESPRESSO

The CAPPUCCINO is so called for the color that recalls the Capuchin monks' habit.

Don’t expect to be able to make a good CAPPUCCINO at home: It takes a lot of mastery as only a skilled bartender could have!

Keep in mind: The Italian breakfast

Italians enjoy a cup of coffee at anytime of the day (both an ESPRESSO at the bar and a MOKA COFFEE at home), especially at breakfast and after lunch.

Outside Italy there are those who drink CAPPUCCINO for lunch or in the afternoon, but in Italy this is very unlikely to happen: CAPPUCCINO and croissants remain the the typical Italian breakfast, an exclusive morning ritual that is difficult to combine with other moments of the day.

... You will hardly ever see an Italian asking for a CAPPUCCINO after lunch, and even less at 5pm! ...

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