Cracking the Coffee Code

Submitted by admin on 26 Nov 2013

The Australian passion for coffee must be almost equal to the Italian, but we often notice on our tours that the differences in terminology can catch a visitor out, and lots of great coffee-drinking moments are getting lost in translation!  We have designed this simple guide to ordering, to ensure you get what you came for!

Remember first of all that in Italy you go to the Bar for coffee. Coffee shops in the way we have come to know them from the giant global brands don't really exist - but even the smallest village will have a Bar and it will ALWAYS serve coffee. Motorway service stations also serve great coffee as do restaurants, trattorias and osterias. Portion sizes generally are much smaller in Italy and the trend for walking down the street with your coffee in a huge paper cup has not arrived in La Bella Italia. Coffee is drunk in situ in a proper cup and saucer! Here's what to go for:

A short black Un caffè or un espresso
A double espresso Un caffè doppio
A cappa Un cappucino
A latte Un caffè latte
A long black Un americano
A flat white Un americano con latte
A short mac Un caffè macchiato
A boozy coffee Un caffè corretto
A frappe Una granita al caffè


  • If you ask a barman or a waiter simply for "un caffè" they will assume you are asking for an espresso or short black.           
  • Whilst you can order all coffee combinations at any time of the day or night, the Italians themselves consider the milky cappucinoto be a breakfast drink and not something to be taken after a heavy lunch or dinner.
  • Never enter a bar and shout for a "latte" because you will get a glass of cold milk!  You must remember to specify "un caffè latte" and this will more often than not be served in a glass.
  • If you're after a flat white, you might like to ask for an "americano con latte aparte" which means the milk will come in a little jug and you can mix as much or as little you like.  The barman may ask if you want the milk hot or cold so the key words to remember are caldo = hot and freddo = cold.
  • In Italian the word "macchiato" means stained or spattered, and implies therefore a coffee with just a spot of milk.
  • Standing at the bar you will often hear locals asking for "un caffè corretto" or a "corrected coffee" - even early in the morning!!  This is an espresso with a shot of grappa (or other alcohol) to liven it up a bit!              
  • Iced coffee is something more often found in the high summer months and known as a granita. Basically made with crushed ice this drink can be lemon or fruit flavoured but is delicious when made with coffee.
  • babycino is a totally Aussie invention and cannot be found in Italy!
  • De-caffeinated coffee does exist although, to the majority of Italians, the concept is as baffling as trying to eat a vegetarian steak, but if this is what you want you should ask for a "caffè Hag" prepared in any of the styles above.
  • Most bars and restaurants will not carry a variety of speciality milks - the word "skinny" is totally meaningless to the Italians. You may be able to find soy milk - known as latte di soia - but its not absolutely guaranteed.
  • Herbal teas are available but drunk more at home and not necessarily as an after-dinner drink.  Some restaurants will have them if they have international customers, but many smaller local places will not.
  • Hot chocolate is also not widely available as an after-dinner drink and in fact Italian hot chocolate comes incredibly thick and rich and is better drunk earlier in the day.

So, go out and enjoy yourselves and share the Italian passion for coffee. We hope this guide will help you to order and within hours you could be looking like a local!  Why not print this out and bring it on tour with you as a helpful reminder!!   The pic below shows Jackie with her favourite Italian barista Roberto in Myrtleford, north east Victoria.


Just when you thought you had it all clear in your mind, here's a bit of acurve ball!  When Jackie is in Italy she always drinks a caffè macchiato mid morning, but when she's in Australia she prefers a piccolo latte because she thinks they taste better!  Got that?  Think I need a coffee!!!