What is Italian espresso coffee?

Italian espresso coffee, or caffè espresso, is a hallmark of Italy's rich culture and culinary expertise. This concentrated drink is known for its rich flavour and velvety crema.

Here, we delve into the history, preparation and characteristics of Italian espresso coffee, answering common questions.

How is Italian espresso coffee defined?

Espresso is made by forcing nearly boiling water through finely-ground coffee beans packed tightly into a filter, creating a concentrated and flavourful small shot of coffee. The result is a robust and rich coffee topped with a layer of crema, the creamy foam that forms on top of a freshly brewed espresso.

Find out more about how to make an Italian espresso here.

The crema is often considered a sign of a well-executed espresso. It's created by the emulsification of coffee oils and the presence of microbubbles from the high-pressure extraction. The crema adds to the visual appeal and contributes to the overall sensory experience of the espresso. Italian espresso is celebrated for its intense flavour and serves as the foundation for many coffee drinks.

Read our guide to the history of Italian espresso.

Hot Espresso Coffee in a transparent glass cup

The significance of espresso bars

In Italy, cafes serving coffee are known as “bars”. Italian coffee bars are more than just places to grab a coffee; they are social hubs where Italians gather and connect. The tradition of starting the day with a quick espresso at the local bar, often standing at the counter, is a ritual that reflects the Italian philosophy, “bella vita”, which translates to “beautiful life”. This Italian philosophy celebrates the appreciation of life’s simple pleasures. Whether you are walking down the busy streets of Venice or the vibrant streets of Naples – you are guaranteed to find a coffee bar around almost every corner.

Read more about the history of Italian espresso here.

 Arch door entrance of coffee bar called Caffe Novecento decorated with plants and flowers with standing tables and chairs.

Caffe Novecento in Rome.

What is a Moka pot?

An Espresso Moka, commonly referred to as a Moka pot, is a stovetop or electric coffee maker that brews coffee by passing boiling water pressurised by steam through ground coffee. The Moka pot was named after the Yemeni city of Mocha, and it was invented by Italian engineer Alfonso Bialetti in 1933. It has since become a beloved staple in Italian homes, and many coffee enthusiasts favour making an espresso from an authentic Moka pot.

The brewing process in a Moka pot is straightforward but requires attention to detail. Water is placed in the bottom chamber, and coffee grounds are placed in the middle filter basket. As the water heats, it creates pressure that forces the water through the coffee grounds into the top chamber, where the brewed coffee collects. Made from aluminium or stainless steel, the Moka pot operates at a lower pressure than a traditional espresso machine, resulting in a coffee that's slightly less concentrated than that of a professional espresso. However, Moka pots create a level of depth and richness that is often appreciated by coffee lovers. The Moka pot's ability to produce a robust, espresso-like coffee without the need for an expensive machine makes it a perfect option for those wishing to enjoy the authentic Italian coffee experience at home.

Are you looking to enjoy an authentic Italian espresso from your own home? Shop Carluccio’s range of coffee and hot drinks.

Moka pot old coffee maker and coffee beans

Carluccio’s espresso range

Our espresso coffee range has been specially blended and roasted for us in Italy and we believe it captures the aroma and flavour of this unique coffee drinking experience. The roasters of Carluccio’s blends roast each type of bean separately in the traditional “drum” roasters, which spin the beans constantly while surrounding them with hot air. A longer roasting time at lower temperatures avoids any burnt taste and recreates the results of the constant, careful stirring given to the pan-roasted coffee beans.

Carluccio's commitment to authenticity and quality ensures that each cup of coffee offers a genuine taste of Italy. Carluccio's cafes stand as modern ambassadors of Italian espresso, offering blends that are deeply rooted in regional traditions while embracing the nuances of contemporary tastes. Each blend, from the bold Napoli to the sweet Milano, tells a story of its origin.

Shop our coffee and hot drinks range to find out more about what we offer.

Carluccio’s espresso di Napoli

Our Napoli espresso coffee has been blended and roasted in the traditional style of the master roasters of Naples, which is the darkest roast in all Italy using Arabica beans with a little kick of Robusta. This blend is rich, lively and well-rounded, presenting dark cocoa, smoky flavours and blackberry notes.

Our Napoli espresso beans can also be ground finely for use in an espresso machine. When ground coarse for use in a cafetiere, it can present flavours of cinnamon and cherry.

 Napoli espresso coffee.

Shop our Napoli espresso coffee.

Carluccio’s espresso di Milano

Enjoy Milanese-style ground coffee from pure Arabica beans. We use 100% Arabica beans from Central and South America, Africa and Indonesia.

Our Milano espresso blend provides chocolatey, caramel and hazelnut flavours. To grind your own beans finely for use in an espresso machine, you can shop our Milano coffee beans here. You can also grind our Milano coffee beans coarse for use in a cafetiere, providing honey, toffee and nutty flavours.

Milano espresso coffee blend

Shop our Milano espresso coffee blend .

Siena espresso

Our Siena espresso coffee is made from 100% Arabica beans, carrying aromatic hints of citrus, almonds, and sweets reminiscent of Christmas delicacies found in the Medieval Tuscan town of Siena. It offers a gentle, yet rich flavour profile with a persistent aftertaste, making it a comforting winter hug in a cup. Designed for use in espresso machines or stovetop Moka pots, it is a delightful choice for those seeking to bring a piece of Tuscan tradition into their daily coffee ritual.

Shop our full range of coffee and hot drinks here.

Siena espresso coffee.

Shop our Siena espresso coffee.

By adhering to traditional Italian roasting practices and using only the finest beans, we ensure each cup of espresso is fresh and full of flavour. Additionally, we are also committed to responsible sourcing, ensuring that not only are our products of high quality but also ethically obtained.

Choose between our sweet and refined Milano blend, our rich and lively Napoli blend, or our intense, creamy and full-bodied Roma blend for notes of walnut, dark caramel and spice. For a gentle yet rich flavour, our Siena espresso provides aromatic hints of citrus and almond.

Frequently asked questions

Can espresso be made with any coffee bean?

Coffee beans that are dark roasted promote a fuller body and richer flavour and are more commonly used for making espresso.

What are the different types of coffee beans used in Italian espresso coffee?

Italian espresso coffee often includes a mix of Arabica and Robusta beans, each contributing unique characteristics that are essential to the espresso's overall taste. The precise blend and roast level for Italian espresso can vary. However, a common characteristic is the preference for a medium to dark roast, which enhances the espresso's strength and body.

Carluccio’s coffee is roasted in Italy, and our coffee beans are sourced from Central and South America, Africa and Indonesia.

What are the key differences between Italian espresso coffee and Americano coffee?

Italian espresso is renowned for its concentrated form, resulting from a brewing process where hot water is forced under high pressure through finely ground coffee beans. This method produces a small, potent shot of coffee with a rich aroma, complex flavours and a creamy layer on top known as "crema."

Americano coffee is a diluted form of espresso, made by adding hot water to an espresso shot. This process lightens the espresso's strength while preserving its unique flavours, resulting in a longer coffee drink that is less intense but maintains the rich taste of the espresso. Espresso stands out for its potent flavour and rich crema, central to Italian coffee tradition. Americano offers a milder version, extending the espresso's appeal to a broader audience.

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