Italian Espresso

When traveling to Italy, one of the first things many people want to learn is how to order their favorite beverage: coffee. The art of ordering coffee in this country is deeply ingrained in the culture and can feel daunting for a tourist, but fear not, we're here to help you navigate this caffeinated adventure. We'll focus on the key term you'll need at any Italian café - "espresso."

Espresso, the strong, concentrated coffee that serves as the foundation for many other classic Italian coffee drinks, has its own unique terminology in Italy. As the standard coffee choice, understanding how to say "espresso" in Italian can make your coffee-ordering experience feel more authentic and enjoyable. Let's dive into the pronunciation, translation, and cultural context of this essential word.

As you gain confidence in ordering espresso, you may also want to explore some of the other types of Italian coffee on the menu and learn how to order them like a native. This knowledge can further enrich your Italian coffee experience, allowing you to savor each delectable sip in true Italian fashion.

Key Takeaways

  • Espresso is the standard coffee drink in Italy and understanding its pronunciation can enhance your experience.
  • Espresso in Italian is "caffè espresso," but simply saying "caffè" typically means espresso.
  • Gaining knowledge of other Italian coffee types and ordering etiquette makes for a more authentic coffee adventure.

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Understanding Espresso

Espresso is a popular coffee beverage that originated in Italy and has since become a staple in coffee shops around the world. In Italian, the word for coffee is "caffè" (pronounced kaf-feh), and the term for espresso is "l'espresso" - although, when ordering it in the country, you can simply ask for a "caffè".

The process of making espresso involves forcing pressurized hot water through finely-ground coffee beans, resulting in a concentrated and intense coffee flavor. In Italy, an espresso is usually served in small, ceramic cups to maintain its temperature. The barista, which is "il barista" in Italian, plays an important role in preparing and serving this delicious coffee drink.

Espresso is the standard coffee in Italy, meaning that if you order a "caffè" without specifying anything else, you will likely receive an espresso. When in Italy, it is essential to understand the distinction between different coffee drinks as well as the appropriate Italian vocabulary to use. Below are a few key terms related to coffee in Italian:

  • Caffè: Coffee
  • L'espresso: Espresso
  • Il barista: Barista
  • Caffè doppio: Double espresso
  • Il chicco di caffè: Coffee bean
  • Il macinacaffè: Coffee grinder
  • La macchina da espresso: Espresso machine

While Italy is known for its espresso, it should be noted that the country boasts a wide range of coffee drinks. Some other popular options include cappuccino, macchiato, and americano. The key to navigating Italian coffee culture is understanding and utilizing the appropriate Italian words and expressions.

Pronunciation and Translation

How to Pronounce

In Italian, the word "espresso" is pronounced as ess-PRESS-oh. To speak the word correctly, each syllable should be clearly enunciated, with stress on the second syllable, "PRESS." The Italian pronunciation of "espresso" differs slightly from the English version, which often drops the first "s" sound.

Italian to English Translation

In both Italian and English, "espresso" refers to a specific method of making coffee. The process involves forcing hot water or steam through finely ground coffee beans to produce a strong, concentrated coffee. This results in a small cup of highly caffeinated and richly flavored coffee.

The Italian term "caffè espresso" can be directly translated into English as "coffee espresso." This emphasizes that it is a type of coffee beverage. While ordering at an Italian cafe, one might simply request "un espresso," which would mean "an espresso (coffee)."

Types of Italian Coffee

Italian coffee culture is deeply rooted in tradition, and it includes several popular coffee drinks that are enjoyed daily throughout the country. This section will cover some of the most well-known Italian coffee drinks, their characteristics, and the Italian names for these drinks.

Caffè (Espresso) - In Italy, if you simply ask for a "caffè" you would receive a single shot of espresso. Espresso is the standard coffee beverage in the country, and it serves as the base for most other Italian coffee drinks. It is a concentrated coffee made by forcing hot water through finely-ground coffee beans and typically consumed in a small cup.

Cappuccino - A cappuccino is a popular Italian coffee drink made with equal parts of espresso, steamed milk, and frothed milk. The frothy milk forms a creamy layer on top of the drink, sometimes with a dusting of cocoa or cinnamon. It is usually enjoyed in the morning with breakfast.

Latte Macchiato - A latte macchiato is similar to a cappuccino but has more milk and less foam. It is made by pouring an espresso shot into a glass of steamed milk, creating layers of coffee and milk. The foam on top is thinner than that of a cappuccino, and it can be topped with a drizzle of caramel or other sauces.

Caffè Americano - A caffè americano is an Italian coffee drink made by adding hot water to a shot of espresso, diluting the intensity of the espresso while maintaining its rich flavor. The resulting drink resembles an American-style black coffee and is served in a larger cup than an espresso.

Caffè Macchiato - This is an espresso-based drink with a small amount of milk, often frothed, "staining" the coffee and giving it its name, which means "stained coffee." It is stronger than a cappuccino but milder than a straight espresso.

Caffè Shakerato - A caffè shakerato is a cold coffee drink made by shaking an espresso shot with ice and sugar in a cocktail shaker. The mixture is then poured into a glass, creating a refreshing, frothy iced coffee.

There are numerous other types of Italian coffee drinks that may be less well-known, such as the caffè corretto, caffè lungo, caffè corto, caffè ristretto, caffè latte, caffè con panna, and doppio espresso. Each of these drinks has its unique characteristics and flavor profiles, making them an integral part of Italy's rich coffee culture. So, the next time you're in Italy or at an Italian café, experiment with these delicious coffee options, and enjoy the authentic taste of Italian coffee.

How to Order Coffee in Italian

Ordering coffee in Italy is an important part of the daily life and culture, so it's helpful to know how to do it properly. To confidently order coffee in Italian, you'll need to be familiar with some common vocabulary and phrases.

When you want to order a coffee in Italy, simply say "Vorrei un caffè per favore," which means "I would like a coffee, please." It's important to note that in Italy, the default coffee is espresso. Therefore, if you ask for a "caffè," you will be served an espresso. The Italian word for coffee is "caffè."

If you're at a train station or in a rush, you can shorten your request to "Un caffè per favore" (A coffee, please). Italians are fond of their espresso and often consume it quickly, so this shorter phrase will convey your desire for a fast cup of coffee.

Now, let's discuss some additional vocabulary to customize your coffee order. If you prefer your coffee with water, you can ask for "Un caffè con acqua" (A coffee with water). To add sugar to your coffee, use the phrase "Con zucchero" (With sugar).

In case you prefer a different type of coffee, there are several other options to choose from. For example, "Un cappuccino" refers to an espresso with steamed milk and milk foam, which is the most popular option for breakfast. If you'd like a decaffeinated coffee, you can request "Un decaffeinato."

Here's a summary of some essential coffee ordering vocabulary:

  • Espresso: Caffè
  • Water: Acqua
  • Sugar: Zucchero
  • Cappuccino: Cappuccino
  • Decaffeinated coffee: Decaffeinato

Remember, when ordering coffee in Italian, it's essential to be clear and concise with your chosen vocabulary. By following these tips and using the appropriate language, you'll be able to enjoy a delicious cup of coffee in Italy, just like a local.

Cultural Context

In Italy, coffee is not just a beverage; it is an integral part of the culture. The country is known for its rich and diverse coffee traditions, which vary from region to region. Rome, the capital city, is no exception. People often gather at local cafés and bars to enjoy their favorite coffee drinks and engage in conversations with friends, family, or even the barista.

Espresso, the iconic Italian coffee, is widely appreciated for its strong and concentrated flavor. The word "espresso" is derived from the Italian language, where it means "pressed out." In Italy, if you ask for a caffè, you will be served a single shot of espresso, as it is the default coffee in the country. The masculine singular form of "espresso" in Italian is "un caffè," and when in plural, it would translate to "alcuni caffè."

The way coffee is served and enjoyed in Italy is slightly different from other parts of the world. A typical Italian café, also known as a "bar," is primarily a place to drink coffee, not to be confused with the pubs or nightclubs serving alcohol. While the barista skillfully prepares each coffee, patrons primarily stand at the counter while sipping their espressos. People usually consume their coffee quickly, as it is meant to be savored like a gourmet treat rather than a casual beverage.

Traditionally, Italians have their coffee in large cups for cappuccinos and small cups for espressos or espresso macchiatos. Glass cups can sometimes be used to give the coffee a different taste. The Italian café scene is peppered with various forms of art, enhancing the ambiance and allure of the establishment. Each bar has its unique vibe, from bohemian to traditional, offering customers an opportunity to explore diverse atmospheres.

To sum up, Italian coffee culture, particularly the espresso, has deep roots that go beyond the mere consumption of a caffeinated drink. It is an essential part of the social fabric, bringing people together to relax, converse, and appreciate the finer things in life. The unique Italian approach to coffee has, in turn, contributed to the spread of espresso worldwide, turning it into a symbol of quality and sophistication.

Comparison to Other Languages

Spanish vs Italian

In Spanish, the word for espresso is "espresso" or "café expreso." It is very similar to the Italian word "l'espresso," which is widely used to describe a strong and concentrated coffee. Both languages share a Latin root and have a lot in common when it comes to coffee-related vocabulary. In each language, the word "espresso" conveys the essence of a quick and bold coffee experience.

Vietnamese vs Italian

The Vietnamese word for espresso is "cà phê espresso" or "cà phê đen sìt." It can be observed that the first word "cà phê" resembles the Italian word "caffè" for coffee, while the suffix "espresso" remains the same in both languages. Although the pronunciation of the Vietnamese word may differ from that of the Italian one, the shared term "espresso" indicates the strong influence of Italian coffee culture on different languages, including Vietnamese.

Swahili vs Italian

In Swahili, the equivalent term for espresso is "kahawa ya espresso." The first part, "kahawa," means coffee in Swahili, whereas "ya" is a connector and "espresso" remains the same as in Italian. While Swahili is an African language with Bantu origins, the appearance of "espresso" in the Swahili term showcases the global popularity and reach of Italian coffee culture.

Portuguese vs Italian

In Portuguese, the word for espresso is "café expresso" or simply "expresso." Though there is a slight variation in the spelling, with the addition of an "x" instead of an "s," the term still maintains the essence of its Italian origin. The Portuguese word for coffee, "café," also has a striking similarity to the Italian "caffè." This highlights the close relationship between the two Romance languages when it comes to coffee terminology.

Coffee at Home

In Italy, coffee is an essential part of everyday life. Preparing a traditional Italian coffee, or caffè, at home is an enjoyable experience that lets you savor the rich flavors and aroma of a classic espresso.

To begin, you will need a few essential items, such as finely ground coffee blend suitable for a Moka pot. Popular choices include Lavazza Qualità Rossa, Illy, or Pellini. A Moka pot, also known as a macchinetta, is the standard tool for making authentic Italian coffee at home.

When it comes to water, opt for good-quality bottled water to avoid the hard tap water that may not be suitable for Italian coffee. Fill the Moka pot with water up to the level indicated on the inside, and add the coffee grounds to the filter basket.

Place the Moka pot on the stove and heat it on medium-low. As the water boils, the pressure will push it through the coffee grounds and create a rich, aromatic espresso. Remember, in Italian, espresso is referred to as "caffè" or "l'espresso."

To cater to individual preferences, there are several variations of Italian coffee that you can prepare at home. For example, you can add hot chocolate to create a mocha, or serve your caffè with sugar and a freshly baked croissant for an indulgent Italian-style breakfast. Some people may also prefer a lighter coffee made using coffee capsules and an espresso machine designed for home use.

While making coffee at home, keep in mind the importance of proper brewing time, as well as the role of the barista — the person responsible for crafting delicious Italian coffee. By taking the time to learn about these essential techniques, you can enjoy an authentic Italian coffee experience in the comfort of your own home.


In Italy, the word for espresso is simply "l'espresso." It is essential to be familiar with this term if you plan to enjoy the Italian cafe culture. Espresso has a rich and bold flavor, which is why it's often hailed as the king of Italian coffee.

When ordering espresso in Italy, remember that it is the default coffee option. So, if you ask for "un caffè," you will receive a single shot of espresso. This is due to the strong preference for espresso in Italian culture.

As you travel through Italy and experience its diverse coffee offerings, knowing the correct terminology will enhance your experience and allow you to connect with locals in an authentic manner. Embrace the unique coffee world of Italy and enjoy every sip of that perfectly brewed espresso!

Italian espresso tips
Tony Barlow

Tony Barlow

Majesty Coffee Technical Sales Expert - Meet the Team

Tony Barlow, with over a decade of experience in the coffee industry, is the go-to technical sales expert at Majesty Coffee. He's passionate about helping businesses find the right espresso equipment for their needs.

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