I’d like to thank Gloria Spagnoli of Speakita.com for this post all about Italian coffee and how to order in Italian. Gloria is a native of Italy and an Italian teacher specializing in beginners.
Ordering coffee in Italy can be mystifying for Americans. For example, if you order a latte, you just might get a glass of milk instead! (Milk in Italian = latte).
In this guide you’ll learn:
- The names of common Italian coffee drinks
- How to order coffee in Italian
And now, I give the floor to Gloria!
One the things Italy is famous for is certainly coffee. As an Italian living abroad, I have to say I miss a good espresso from time to time. It’s not that you can’t find coffee outside of Italy, it’s just that it doesn’t taste the same. Plus, the way Italians drink coffee is unique in the world, and coffee in Italy is more than just a drink, it’s a pure ritual.
Italians don’t drink coffee just to wake themselves up. Well, they do, of course. Some people, myself included, need a good coffee to function in the morning. There are, however, other moments during the day where coffee becomes a ritual and an excuse to be with friends.
Take for example those famous coffee breaks at work. They’re not just a moment to get energized, they are a great opportunity to have a chat with the co-workers and share a moment together. Even when you go to a bar and you have a coffee al banco (at the counter), you will always find some time to have a chat with the barista, with your friend, or with other people you know.
Oh, and have you ever seen Italians ordering coffee after a dinner at a pizzeria? Well, that is just an excuse to spend more time at the table and chat a bit more with friends.
Coffee is almost sacred in Italy, and everyone knows that.
However, what many people don’t know is that there a lot of different coffees to choose from.
So, in the next few lines, I’m going to give you a list of the different types of Italian caffè (coffees). After that, we’re going to see a few sentences to order them, and we will practice them with some sample dialogues.
Ready? Let’s begin!
Espresso – any time you hear the word caffè in Italy, you’ll know that people are talking about the espresso. However, Italians never call it espresso, they just call it caffè. It’s the most famous type of Italian coffee, and its name comes from the fact that Italians drink it very quickly (in an express way). Yet, I’m an exception, and I take my time to drink my caffè.
Espresso macchiato – Also known as caffè macchiato or just macchiato. It’s an espresso with a bit of milk. You can have two types of macchiato: the macchiato caldo (with hot milk), and the macchiato freddo (with cold milk).
Espresso doppio – also known as caffè doppio, it’s the equivalent of two espressos served in one small cup. When you need something strong to wake yourself up, you can go for a caffè doppio and get ready to kick-start your day.
Caffè ristretto – for the strong-taste lovers. The espresso ristretto, or caffè ristretto, is a coffee with the same dose of ground coffee as a normal espresso, but half the dose of water. It’s the perfect caffè for those who love a strong and concentrated taste.
Caffè lungo – it’s a caffè made with the same amount of coffee as an espresso but with a bigger amount of water. Because this caffè has got more water than an espresso, the barista serves it in a bigger cup. It’s perfect for those who prefer softer tastes.
Decaffeinato – this is a type of caffè without caffeine. If you like the taste of coffee but you don’t want to damage the quality of your sleep, you can go for a decaffeinato and play safe.
Cappuccino – no need to introduce it. Cappuccino is so famous and, therefore, subject to false myths. Still, despite its popularity, very few people know how to prepare it. When it comes to preparing a cappuccino, maths is crucial. In a cappuccino cup (a big cup, of course) you will find: 1⁄3 of coffee (you prepare an espresso directly in a big cappuccino cup), 1⁄3 of steamed milk, and 1⁄3 of foam. Occasionally, the barista will sprinkle some cocoa powder on top of the foam, making your cappuccino taste nicer. Remember that Italians only drink cappuccino in the morning for breakfast or during their coffee break. Never after lunch, and never after dinner.
Caffè latte – it can be mistaken for a cappuccino, but it’s actually not. A caffè latte is served in a big cup and it’s made with an espresso and 2⁄3 of hot milk. Italians sometimes make their own caffè latte at home, since it’s less elaborate to make than a cappuccino.
Caffè americano – this type of caffè is made by adding hot water to an espresso, after it’s been made. So, if you want to make an americano, you can make your espresso and than add some hot water to it afterwards.
Marocchino – an amazing way to treat yourself. The marocchino (also called marocco colloquially) is made by: 1) putting a bit of hot chocolate at the bottom of a small glass cup, 2) adding the espresso, 3) adding the foam, and finally 4) sprinkle some cocoa powder. Believe me, it’s worth trying. One of the most delicious caffè you can taste in Italy.
Caffè d’orzo – if you don’t want to add any caffeine to your body and you don’t like the taste of the decaffeinato, the caffè d’orzo (barley coffee) can be a good alternative. You can order your caffè d’orzo in tazza piccola (in a small cup) or in tazza grande (in a big cup).
Caffè al ginseng – just like the caffè d’orzo, the caffè al ginseng is a good caffeine-free alternative. But, unlike the caffè d’orzo, the caffè al ginseng will give you a good energy boost, thanks to the energizing properties of this powerful root. Like the caffè d’orzo, you can have your caffè al ginseng in tazza piccola or in tazza grande.
Caffè shakerato – a caffè shakerato is an espresso shaken with ice in a mixer, and then served in a glass. It’s perfect during summer hot days.
Caffè corretto – the caffè corretto is an espresso “corrected” with a tiny little amount of liquor. Usually it’s grappa, but you can also choose sambuca or brandy.
So, now that you’ve seen the varieties of caffè you can choose from, here are some sentences you can use to order them.
Before seeing these sentences, there’s a thing that I would like you to remember:
it’s always a good habit to greet the barista with a nice buongiorno and end your request with a polite per favore, per piacere or per cortesia.
These manners are extremely important in Italy, and not teaching them would be a mistake from my part.
But now, without any further ado, let’s have a look at the famous sentences:
Vorrei un… = I would like a…
Mi fa un… = Can you make me a…
Io prendo un…= I’ll have a…
Per me un… = for me a…
Posso avere un… = Can I have a…
Now, I’m perfectly aware that this dry list won’t really help you order your caffè.
Which is why I have written some some sample conversations for you to try. These conversations will help you use all these sentences together with all the words that we saw in the first part of this article.
It could be a good idea to rehearse them, even if you have to speak just to yourself. Repeat these dialogues out loud, and then you’ll be ready to order your caffè once in Italy.
Cliente 1: Buongiorno.
Cliente 1: Mi fa un caffè per favore?
Cliente 2: Io prendo un macchiato, per piacere.
Cliente 1: Buongiorno.
Barista: Buongiorno. Cosa prende?
Cliente 1: Io vorrei un caffè corretto con grappa, per piacere.
Cliente 2: Per me, invece, un cappuccino.
Cliente 1: Buongiorno. Posso avere un marocchino, per favore?
Barista: Certo. E lei, signore?
Cliente 2: Io prendo un caffè d’orzo in tazza grande, per piacere.
Barista: Va bene.
So, now that you’ve seen the different types of Italian caffè and how to order them, tell me: which caffè do you choose? How would you order it.
Think about it, and don’t forget to include this exercise in your daily Italian practice.