If you have the luxury of traveling abroad to Italy, you will be experiencing more than art and culture, but also the celebration of authentic coffee and espresso. The Italian culture has much to contribute to the development of espresso over time, and the first inventor of the espresso machine, La Pavoni, was actually Italian himself!
When in Rome, ordering coffee is simply called "caffe", if you would like a shot of espresso. This is a small and strong shot of espresso, which is normally the term that you would use to order a coffee. Italians don't order a shot of espresso by saying "un espresso", but they will instead say "un caffe". If you would like two shots of espresso within one cup, that is called a "caffe doppio", which is the term for a double espresso.
If you have a more delicate taste and are worried about the espresso being too strong, you can order "un caffe lungo", which is the term for twice as much water added to the amount of espresso. This will give you a similar consistency to an American cup of coffee or Americanos style of espresso. You may already be quite familiar with a cappuccino, which is made with a shot of espresso and foamed milk. The barista will froth the milk for the cappuccino by infusing air bubbles into the milk, which will give it texture and a velvety foam. A cappuccino is made of one third parts espresso, steamed milk, and foam. Using the proper ratio of foam is important when the barista is steaming the milk to create the perfect consistency of cappuccino every time. What many people don't realize is that a cappuccino is actually one of the hardest espresso beverages to capture and make properly, although you may be pleasantly surprised to find artistic shapes atop your cappuccino in the form of cappuccino art.
The word cappuccino was actually derived from the Cappucin friars in Italy, and it may refer to the dark color of their robes in contrast to their white heads, which was often surrounded by a ring of their brown hair. Customarily in Italy, Italians do not drink cappuccino is after 11 AM since it is considered to be a morning beverage, but as a tourist, you are welcome to do whatever you please!
For another authentic treat, you may want to try the macchiato, which is named after the Italian word for "stained". In actuality, this drink is made from a shot of espresso that is stained with a few drops of steamed milk.
Overall, it is best to enjoy your cappuccino with a pastry treat for breakfast, and it is important to understand that you may pay significantly more for your espresso beverage if you are in a tourist location. Many times, you can find a wonderful hidden gem in Italy of a café off of the beaten path that will serve you fresh and authentic espresso at an affordable price! When in Rome...
Mark Ramos is a coffee geek. For a great selection in all things coffee, espresso machines and BUNN coffee makers, check out The Coffee Bump.