This blog aims to help you order a coffee that is right for your tastes, but also to explain the main varieties of Rome Coffee. Lastly of course we will share a few rules about how and when to drink your coffee as well as make some recommendations on where to find the good stuff.
Let’s start with the fact that there is really only one type of coffee – Caffe in Italian is a very short strong coffee. Many of us call this an espresso (be careful with your pronunciation here as an eXpresso is a fast train!) Anything else is an adapted version of this with varying amounts of water, milk or foam added.
Traditionally caffe was made on the hob in an espresso pot or bought from a bar with a proper barista machine. These days most Italians have a posh machine at home that makes coffee from pods. There are as many ways to take your coffee as you like (sometimes I think they are as fussy with their coffee as an Englishman is about his cup of tea).
When is it time for coffee?
Many Italians start the day with a long milky coffee. Breakfast is a milky coffee and a pastry. There are many options and within those you can get super complicated with chiaro – light (more milk than coffee) or scuro – dark (more coffee than milk) no foam, extra foam, extra hot or served in a glass…….
Cappuccino – espresso and hot milk with foam on top served in a cup topped with chocolate
Caffe latte – espresso and hot milk normally served in a glass (don’t forget the caffe bit otherwise you will just get a glass of milk!!)
Latte macchiato – Hot milk ‘stained’ with coffee served in a glass
Breakfast is the ONLY time in the day most Italians drink milky coffee – it’s a breakfast drink so after 11.00 in the morning it is a little bit odd – It would be like having a warm malty bedtime drink with lunch. Hence why when tourists order a cappuccino with their pizza or pasta, Italians are confused, slightly alarmed and possibly offended.
After the initial long milky coffee people switch to an ordinary thimble-full of coffee – caffe or perhaps a baby white coffee a caffe macchiato (stained with milk froth or foam).
A pick me up that can be had at any time of day, although often the choice of wizened old men at 7 am is the corrected coffee – caffe coretto. What would you correct it with?? Grappa, sambuca, any hard liquor. This is one that really puts hairs on your chest for when you need that extra kick, or you could have a sweet version corrected with Baileys.
A foreign coffee invented during WWII is the Americano, the caffe topped with hot water. As its name suggests it was adapted for the American GIs based in Italy who wanted a longer coffee. The French press or cafetière or percolator does not exist here so it is literally diluted espresso. If you want it with milk…. Con latte
Fun fact: Italians are pretty disgusted with this version and call it ‘dirty water’.
To sit or not to sit?
Wherever you go for your coffee you should beware of the dual pricing system. Most Romans stand at the bar where an espresso is between 80 cents and €1, a cappuccino between €1.20 and €1.50. You should look for the cash register and pay FIRST and then take your receipt or scontrino to the bar where you actually order your drink.
We know you are on holiday but be aware that a €1.50 cappuccino can become a €5 cappuccino if you sit at a table, especially if it is at a table on a piazza with a nice view. Sitting down always costs more as they have to come and serve you. Think of it as renting space with a view, although once you have paid that higher price you can relax as long as you want with your coffee.
The Best Rome Coffee
La Casa Del Caffe Tazza D’oro – Via degli Orfani 84 (near Pantheon)
Antico Caffe Greco – Via Condotti 86 (near Piazza di Spagna) – Keats and Byron both drank coffee at this celebrated richly ornate cafe.
The Gran Caffe La Caffettiera – Piazza di Pietra 65 is an elegant cafe offering Napolitan Coffee and pastries