How to Drink Coffee in Italy
Coffee is the gas that keeps the engine of Italy running, so you need to know how to drink it when traveling in Italy. Most locals stop off multiple times a day for a sharp shock of espresso to keep the all-important flow of caffeine running through their bodies. While every bar and café in Italy will knock out an espresso in a matter of seconds, there is also a new wave of quality specialty coffee establishments throughout Italy that make drinking espresso a truly memorable experience.
Watch Foodie Sisters, Benedetta and Valeria, show you how to order and drink in caffè espresso.
What is Espresso?
First of all, make sure you have the pronunciation right. It is ‘espresso‘ not ‘expresso’! The name refers to the preparation method which sees very hot water pushed through finely ground coffee beans to ‘pull a shot’ of concentrated coffee. Good espresso should have a layer of ‘crema‘, a creamy foam, on top and no hint of burnt bitterness. In Italy, espresso is generally referred to as ‘un caffè’ and may be served macchiato (with a drop of foamed milk on top). It is also the basis to which milk is added to make cappuccino and caffè latte.
Espresso has a thicker texture and higher concentration of caffeine by volume than other coffee drinks so will often taste stronger than what you are used to. However, in actual fact, most regular coffees in other countries contain more caffeine, just in a larger volume of water.
The rich flavor of espresso allows you to really taste the characteristics of the coffee bean used. In Italy, it is common to use a dark roast of ground coffee resulting in a rich, complex, intense flavor.
The basics for a good Espresso at a bar
When you order an espresso at a bar in Italy, more often than not, you’re drinking one with traces of coffee made hours ago. The result is that, despite the variety of coffee bean you’re having, your coffee will have an unpleasant, burnt flavor. There are two basic yet very important steps a barista should follow before making each and every espresso:
1) Thoroughly clean the handheld filter that contains the ground coffee with a brush to clear all the residues from the previous coffee. Violently banging the filter against a wooden bar to clean it is not enough as the filter must be thoroughly wiped clean by hand.
2) Purge the espresso machine, letting hot water run out of the machine to clean it from the previous coffee. The water that flows out should be clear before they prepare your coffee.
These two simple steps make a world of a difference. So please pay attention to how your espresso is being prepared.
Specialty coffee bars in Rome
Although it is not hard to find espresso in Rome, finding truly excellent coffee sometimes can be a challenge. Coffee bars stand on every corner of the city and some are better than others but to the delight of many serious Roman coffee-drinkers, the city has welcomed an influx of new cafés: Specialty coffee bars. Here you’ll find top-quality coffee made from beans carefully roasted to maintain their natural flavors and aromas, prepared in a faultless fashion by an expert barista. Some of our favorite Specialty coffee bars in Rome:
Defining themselves as ‘Luminaries of Coffee’ and naming their bar ‘The Lighthouse’, the folk at Il Faro are on a mission to enlighten the people of Rome with real specialty coffee culture. Scouting out the best of the best from around the world, Il Faro combines a contemporary, relaxed, ambiance and a regularly changing menu of top-notch coffee options.
Via Piave 55, (Sallustiano)
Pergamino was the first specialty coffee house to hit central Rome back in 2016 and its great location by the Vatican means that it regularly welcomes both local and international clientele. With modern extraction and infusion methods alongside their classic espresso, come here for a great introduction into Rome’s specialty coffee scene.
Piazza del Risorgimento, 7 (Vatican)
The Marziali family have been roasting their own coffee for almost a century and continue to maintain careful control of their product and service. Their attractive bar not only serves amazing coffee but also a fabulous selection of pastries, sandwiches and baked goods.
Via Po 80, (Salario)