Italian Espresso Beginner’s Guide – How To Make It

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Italian Espresso

The Italians are responsible for creating the way the rest of the world makes and enjoys coffee. Italy is home to the purest, most authentic coffee in the world, so it’s no wonder that coffee made and drank there is truly unlike the coffee you may be used to sipping every day. Even more unique to Italy is Italian espresso. 

Espresso is the purest form of coffee and a major component of Italian coffee culture. Espresso originated in Italy and has since become a popular beverage all over the world. But Italian coffee, particularly Italian espresso, is different from coffee made anywhere else.

The History of Espresso

The love affair between Italians and coffee first began centuries ago. But it wasn’t until 1901 when Luigi Bezzera came up with the idea to make a small, very concentrated coffee drink, that the world was introduced to espresso.

Today, you can find espresso in coffee shops everywhere and you can even make your own at home. However, espresso isn’t the same everywhere you go. Its color, taste, smell, and quantity vary not only by country but from one city to the next as well. One thing remains the same: no one does espresso like the Italians.

What is Italian Espresso?

Italians are passionate about their cuisine and take their food and drinks seriously. But enjoying true Italian espresso isn’t as simple as it is with other Italian favorites. You can easily make Italian pizza at home with the help of tutorials, but true Italian espresso is hard to find outside of the country of Italy.

For Italians, espresso is just as much a beverage as it is a cultural ritual.

The Italian Espresso National Institute (Istituto Nazionale Espresso Italiano) & Certified Italian Espresso

In 1998, the Italian Espresso National Institute (Istituto Nazionale Espresso Italiano) was founded to protect and promote espresso. The institute was founded after three years of research, together with the International Institute of Coffee Tasters and the Taster Study Center.

According to the INEI, Certified Italian Espresso is served using a qualified coffee blend, machine and grinder dispenser, and personnel. To earn the certification mark “Espresso Italiano,” the coffee must comply with those three conditions.

A Certified Italian Espresso has a hazelnut-colored froth that is very fine in texture. There are no bubbles present in the froth, which explains its distinctive creamy mouth-feel. The intense aroma contains notes of fruits, flowers, chocolate, and toasted bread. The flavor is smooth and lacks the acidity or bitterness often found in coffee drinks. Ideally, Italian espresso is served in a white china cup with a capacity of 50-100 milliliters. A plain white cup allows you to fully appreciate the look, smell, and taste of espresso.

How to Make Italian Espresso at Home

If you’re unable to enjoy Italian espresso in its most authentic form, you can make a form of it at home. To make homemade Italian espresso, you will need espresso grounds, water, and a Moka pot.

There are three main parts of a Moka pot: the bottom chamber or the boiler, the funnel cup, and the top chamber. Water fills the bottom chamber and coffee grounds fill the funnel cup. The coffee is pulled into the top chamber as the boiling water is forced through the funnel holding the coffee grounds.

With a better understanding of how the Moka pot works, you can begin preparing your own Italian coffee.

Homemade Italian Espresso Recipe

You Will Need:

  • Moka pot
  • Water
  • Espresso Grounds


  1. Disassemble the Moka pot into its three parts.
  2. Fill the bottom part of the Moka part with water.
  3. Fill the filter with espresso grinds – Fill to the top of the rim but don’t pack it in.
  4. Place the filled filter over the water in the bottom chamber.
  5. Tightly screw the top part of the pot onto the lower part, then place the assembled pot on the stove over medium to low heat.
  6. Once the coffee has percolated, pour yourself an espresso.

Things to keep in mind:

  • The temperature of the water you use is a matter of personal preference. Italians love bottled water and some use it to make their coffee. Some Italians will claim that the temperature of the water you use doesn’t make a difference, while others will insist on either hot or cold water to fill the chamber.
  • Regardless of what type of water you use for your espresso, you will want to avoid filling the boiler to the brim. To avoid using too much water, stop pouring when you reach the small valve of the boiler. Otherwise, you will end up with watery espresso.
  • For the best results with a Moka pot, look for medium-ground coffee. Finely-ground coffee is better-suited for espresso machines rather than stovetop percolators like the Moka pot.
  • For the most authentic experience, you will want to sip your espresso in small amounts from a ceramic, glass, or porcelain espresso cup. 

Understanding Italian Coffee Culture

Espresso is just one component of Italian coffee culture. This cultural phenomenon is based on the idea that an Italian’s day is defined by rituals that involve coffee. For non-Italians, it can seem bizarre to have a day centered around coffee, but for Italians, it’s just the way of life.

For Italian coffee fanatics, the day begins with a pastry and milky coffee for breakfast. Popular milky coffee drinks include cappuccinos, Caffe lattes, and latte macchiatos. Keep in mind that Italians only sip milky coffee in the morning, so you won’t want to order one of these drinks after 11 AM.

You might like to read: Best Latte Makers

Espresso is the go-to drink for Italians at any time, but especially as an afternoon energy booster or post-meal treat. In Italy, coffee is usually enjoyed with friends at a coffee bar.

Italian Coffee vs American Coffee

Italian coffee is different from American coffee in just about every way. Authentic Italian coffee is comprised of what Americans call an espresso shot, while in Italy an espresso shot is called “un caffe” which translates to “a coffee.” Italians drink espresso throughout the day and it’s the most commonly ordered drink at coffee shops in Italy.

Americans love their coffee and consume a lot of it, but it is less of a cultural phenomenon than in Italy. There are fewer “rules” about how and when to consume coffee. However, the culture and “rules” for Italian coffee are what make it among the best in the world, and truly something that every coffee lover needs to experience at least once in their lifetime.