How to Drink Espresso Like an Italian

A traditional Italian espresso on a concrete ledge. The city of Rome is blurred in the background.

Especially if you’ve visited Italy and you are now sitting and drinking an espresso in one of the cafes in Florence or Rome, you can keep reading for how to drink espresso like an Italian and get approval from the locals who take their espresso so seriously.

First, know the basics.  Machines used in making espresso use 132 lb. per square inch of pressure in coffee extraction. It’s what makes espresso different from a brewed coffee that’s only making use of gravity.

Top 5 Best Italian Espresso Machines

In reality, a cup of espresso, which takes no more than 25 seconds to make, contains seven grams of coffee. [Espresso should not cause palpitations and must not be bitter.]

But in the modern times, it might be saddening you to know that espressos are now processed with between 18 and 20 grams of coffee.

So if you would do the math, you’re getting up to 3 times the caffeine of what an original espresso can give is. This amount can make bitter espressos, which are also over extracted.

Drink after lunch

Many locals drink espresso after lunch, almost always a requirement among them particularly for those in the wine and food business.

For them, espresso helps them bounce back if they had wine with lunch.

It is common in Italy where lunch is also lengthy.  Drinking coffee after lunch helps them re-enter their long day.

Have another after dinner

In addition to lunch, dinner is an important time to drink the coffee.

For many, it aids them in digesting all the meat, pasta or bread they had for dinner.

But then, you might want to opt for a decaf if you don’t like caffeine. Decaffeinated coffee is available in many restaurants.

Cup of coffee on a roof of Rome

Order and drink it quickly.

Have it done expressly in a coffee shop where you can get it made to order in minutes. It is one of the secrets of espresso. And if you want to drink it like a real Italian, you must know this fact.

In addition to ordering it quickly, you must consume it expressly, too.

Locals recommend drinking it while the crema, an emulsion of coffee oils, is on top.    It serves as the lid covering the coffee to keep the aroma intact.  It is the reason to drink it quickly.

Don’t drink it if it doesn’t have a crema

If you didn’t get your espresso at the counter, you are more likely than not to get it without crema. It is a no-no for the locals.  Or else, it might be too late to drink it because the crema might be gone by that time.

But for some, there is another advice. STIR the crema on top, which sounds counterintuitive for many people who consider the crema to be adding beauty to the espresso cup. It is somehow true because it makes a lovely cup especially if you did it right.

However, it is not great tasting, according to some locals. The CREMA on top, which is CO2’s result when brewing, is scooped off.

To blend the coffee’s thicker part, what they do is stir it slightly. The thick part sinks to the cup’s bottom, and its lighter part settles on top.

Be serious.

Italians take their coffee drinking culture seriously. They are a snob in cafes and focus on drinking their warming cup at any given time of the day like after lunch.

Speaking of being serious with your coffee, you should know that not treating coffee properly would make it stale.

That is why packaging consistency is very important for local roasters.  So while there are many misconceptions going around about espresso, its big differentiator is taste. It has to taste good all year round.

Enjoy the surroundings

Espresso is quick.  You might want to enjoy a little conversation with the barista and sip it while enjoying the surroundings whether drinking in the morning or in the afternoon.

[While you can have espresso at any time of the day, the locals never order a cappuccino past breakfast.]

Anytime, you can order espresso, but not cappuccino. You shouldn’t order it after 11 am, or you will get a frown from the people around you at the café.

The reason is that cappuccinos and other milk-based coffees are consumed for breakfast and in the morning only.   They’re not also taken with a meal or after dinner.

Romantic woman enjoying a cup of coffee on a roof terrace in Rome.

Never put milk

You’ll be making an espresso machiatto if you add milk to your espresso.  This milk-based coffee must not also be consumed after 11 am.

But then, you can make caffe corretto (espresso added with liquor) much later in the day.

If you add milk to your espresso, you are also making another drink called macchiato, which means marked. It only means a shot of the espresso made with foam on top or a dash of steamed milk.

Treat drinking espresso as a culture

Drink espresso that you must linger over not for a long time, so you should enjoy some conversation quickly.

Also, remember that it’s not a special occasion to have espresso in the morning because it’s a part of culture, a way of life.

Warm your espresso cup

Make a better shot by warming your espresso cup. However, make sure that it’s the right cup, too. You should also see to it that your coffee is served in a white and ceramic cup.

But if you’re in a high edge spot, you might get a demitasse, which is French word for half cup.

The National Italian Espresso Institute of Italy has a specification for the cup type in which espresso must be served.

According to it, this cup has an elliptical shape and free of any decoration. It should have a capacity from 50 to 100 milliliters.

Have a taste of the sparkling water

Many of those who have visited an Italian café have often wondered why they’re served with a small bottle or a glass of sparkling water along with an espresso.

It is a custom in some of the best cafes in the country as well as in other places around the world.

So now, you know! It is doe to cleanse one’s palate so that the person drinking the espresso can taste the dark and rich shot of the coffee.

Finally, appreciate the experience! Once served, you should take a moment to enjoy your cup of coffee. Allow the flavor of the dark and tasty coffee get into your senses.  You should be able to taste the beans and feel the drink’s rich texture. Lastly, you should absorb its aroma into entire being.

Have a taste of this coffee’s deep flavor and aroma and experience the magic of your little cup.

Enjoy it alone or with a company. And regardless of the accompaniment you prefer, you should take espresso seriously and drink it properly to avoid being frowned upon by the locals.

Magnify your espresso experience by drinking it like a true Italian today!

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