How to order a coffee in Italian like a true aficionado


Valentina Fornelli

Beware, herbal tea drinkers, chamomile lovers, and chai addicts: we are entering the realm of caffeine! Also named: Italy.

Italians drink every day more than 26,000,000 coffees in the 150,000 cafes all over the country, not to mention the many many cups we drink at home, straight out of our moka, or at restaurants, offices, trains, planes, gyms, libraries, gas stations and the list simply doesn’t stop.

We drink coffee to:

And Italian coffee, we proudly affirm, is the best in the world.

Well, while this is certainly a matter of personal taste, you should definitely include multiple coffees in your Italian experience. If you want to look at more delicious drinks besides coffee, then we have you covered for other delightful beverages in Italian here

Otherwise, start with learning how to order a coffee in Italian and discovering all the terms, expressions and habits that make up the Italian coffee culture.

How to say coffee in Italian

The Italian word for coffee in Italian is pretty similar to the equivalent terms in many other languages, since they all come from the Arabic word “qahwa”. But there are tens of variants you can actually order for your pleasure and discovery. Let’s check them out.

How to say coffee in Italian.

Types of coffee you can order in Italian

Italian English Pronunciation IPA What is it
Caffè Coffee Kah-feh kafˈfɛ When you order a coffee in an Italian café, you’ll always receive a very short and concentrated
Caffè macchiato White coffee Kah-feh mah-kja-toh kafˈfɛ makˈkjato An espresso with a spoon of milk foam
Caffè macchiato freddo Literally: cold white coffee Kah-feh mah-kja-toh freh-ddoh kafˈfɛ makˈkjato ˈ An espresso with a drop of cold milk you usually add by yourself
Cappuccino Cappuccino Kah-poo-chee-noh kap.putˈt͡ʃ An espresso covered in milk foam in a big cup (for Italian standards)
Latte macchiato Latte Lah-tteh mah-kja-toh ˈlat.te makˈkjato A glass of hot milk mixed with a little bit of coffee
Caffelatte Café latte Kah-feh-lah-tteh kafˈfɛˈlat.te An espresso with hot milk in a tall glass
Caffè lungo Espresso Kah-feh loon-goh kafˈfɛ ˈlun.ɡo A slightly more watery espresso, similar to what an espresso is outside of Italy.
Marocchino Literally: Moroccan coffee Mah-roh-kee-noh ma.rokˈ An espresso with cocoa powder and milk foam
Mocaccino or Mokaccino Mochaccino Moh-kah-chee-noh mo.kaˈt͡ʃ An espresso with dark chocolate or chocolate syrup and milk foam
Deca Decaf coffee Deh-kah de.ka An espresso with a reduced amount of caffeine
Caffè americano Literally: American coffee Kah-feh ah-meh-ree-kah-noh kafˈfɛˈ A watery coffee served in a cappuccino cup
Caffè ristretto Literally: Short coffee Kah-feh rees-treh-toh kafˈfɛ riˈ An even more concentrated espresso
Caffè corretto Literally: Fixed coffee Kah-feh cor-reh-ttoh kafˈfɛ korˈrɛ An espresso with a liqueur of your choice, usually grappa or sambuca
Crema di caffè Literally: coffee cream Kreh-mah dee kah-feh ˈkrɛ.ma di kafˈfɛ An iced coffee cream served in a small glass
Caffè freddo Iced coffee Kah-feh freh-ddoh kafˈfɛ ˈ An espresso with ice
Caffè shakerato Shakerato Kah-feh sheh-keh-rah-toh kafˈfɛ ˈʃ An alcoholic drink made with ice and espresso
Nutellino / Noo-teh-llee-noh nuːˈtɛ An espresso with a spoon of Nutella and, sometimes, whipped cream
Caffè d’orzo Barley coffee Kah-feh dor-zoh kafˈfɛ dˈɔr.d͡zo A slightly watery coffee made with barley
Ginseng Ginseng coffee Geen-sen-gh ʒin.sɛŋ A coffee mixed with ginseng root

Now you’ve probably realized that Italians are wild for coffee. But the wildness doesn’t stop here, since many regions have their own specialties. Let’s check some of them out:

Italian English Pronunciation IPA What is it
Caffè con panna Literally: coffee with cream Kah-feh kon pah-nnah kafˈfɛ con ˈ An espresso with a spoon of whipped cream that’s served in Genoa
Bicerin “Bicerin” means small glass in Turin’s dialect Bee-cheh-reen bi.t͡ʃe.rin An espresso with hot chocolate and whipped cream that’s served in Turin
Caffè con la cremina Literally: coffee with small cream Kah-feh con lah kreh-mee-nah kafˈfɛ con la ˈkrɛ In Naples most cafes served their coffee with a cream that’s made by mixing the first drops of coffee out of the machine and sugar

More notable coffee vocab

The coffee world is much bigger than the beverage itself, so let’s take a look at its most important terms and expressions.

Barista pouring a cup of coffee in Italian cafe.

English Italian Pronunciation IPA
Cup Tazza Tah-tzah ˈtat.t͡sa
Small cup Tazzina Tah-tzee-nah ˈtat.t͡
Coffee spoon Cucchiaino koo-kee-ah-eeh-noh kukˈkja.ino
Sugar Zucchero Zoo-keh-roh ˈd͡
Brown sugar Zucchero di canna Zoo-keh-roh dee kah-nnah ˈd͡ di ˈ
Sugar substitute Dolcificante Dol-chee-fee-kan-teh dol.t͡ʃi.fiˈkan.te
Coffee maker Macchina per il caffé Mah-kee-nah per il kah-feh ˈ per il kafˈfɛ
Moka pot Moka Moh-kah ˈmɔ.ka
Moka pot Caffettiera Kah-feh-tee-erah kaffet'tjɛra
Barista Barista Bah-ree-stah baˈri.sta
Do you want coffee? Vuoi un caffè? Voo-oy oon kah-feh ˈvwɔj un kafˈfɛ
Coffee break Pausa caffè Paw-zah kah-feh ˈ kafˈfɛ
I need coffee! Ho bisogno di un caffè! Oh bee-zo-ñoh dee oon kah-feh ˈɔ biˈzoɲ.ɲo di un kafˈfɛ
Instant coffee Caffè solubile Kah-feh so-loo-bee-leh Kafˈfɛ soˈ
Black coffee Caffè amaro Kah-feh amah-roh Kafˈfɛ aˈ
Coffee with sugar Caffè zuccherato Kah-feh zoo-keh-rah-toh Kafˈfɛ ˈd͡

How to order coffee in Italian

Now that you know all the possibilities and terms you’re going to encounter in your Italian coffee experience, let’s discover how to order coffee in Italian like a true native aficionado.

Couple ordering a coffee in Italian.

English Italian Pronunciation IPA
I’d like a coffee, please Vorrei un caffé, per favore Voh-rrey oon kah-feh per fah-voh-reh Vorˈrɛj un Kafˈfɛ per faˈ
I’d like a decaf cappuccino, please Vorrei un cappuccino deca, per favore Voh-rrey oon Kah-poo-chee-noh deh-kah per fah-voh-reh Vorˈrɛj un kap.putˈt͡ʃ de.ka per faˈ
I’d like a barley coffee with soy milk Vorrei un caffè d’orzo con latte di soia, per favore Voh-rrey oon kah-feh dor-zoh con lah-tteh dee soh-yah per fah-voh-reh Vorˈrɛj un Kafˈfɛ dˈɔr.d͡zo con lat.te di ˈsɔ.ja per faˈ

A short guide to coffee history and culture in Italy

Let’s admit it – we Italians love our traditions and specific cultural rules. Especially when they concern what we put on the table, even a café table in a nice terrazza. They make us feel safe and give us a sense of collective identity, beyond the hundreds of little things (including region, dialect, football team) that separate us.

Moreover, it’s important to remember that Italy, and particularly Venice, was the gate through which coffee - an ancient beverage that was known and loved by the majority of Muslim populations - entered Western Europe. In Italy, it sparked enthusiasm from the bottom to the top of society – after tasting it, Pope Clement VIII affirmed that coffee was so good that leaving its consumption to “infidels” only should have been considered a mortal sin.

Indeed, the love story between Italy and coffee dates way back and has ignited a burning passion that still lasts today.

Now, let’s discover some of the most interesting - and weird - rules of this special relationship:

  • First of all, a little bit more coffee-related terminology. Since almost all cafes in Italy also serve alcohol, the term “bar” has become a synonym for “café”. That’s why when Italians, at least during the day, say they’re going to the bar, this does not mean they’ll be having a glass of wine or a beer, but more likely a good ‘ol cup of Joe. The actual terms for café, which are “caffè” or “caffetteria” are not as common.
  • In Italy, you can have your coffee while standing at the counter, you can take the cup at the counter and bring it to the table with you, or sit at the table and be served. While the price is usually the same for the first two options (1€-1.30€), it might be higher for the third.
  • Many foreigners are astonished by how little coffee there’s actually in an Italian coffee, and how strong it is. But we like it exactly that way. The smaller the better.
  • Want to really blend in? Never order a cappuccino in the afternoon. And please, never order it at the end of a meal.
  • To some people, the cup containing the coffee is very important. Some connoisseurs, for example, swear that coffee tastes better in a glass cup and specifically ask for a “caffè in vetro” (a coffee in glass).
  • One of the nicest coffee-related traditions was born in Naples and is called “caffè sospeso” (pending coffee). You can go to a cafè, drink a coffee and pay for two. You’ll be offering one to a complete stranger.

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