The Italian Way To Identify Good Coffee

Coffee to Italy is what wine is to France or what a good cup of tea is to England. It’s a drink that’s taken seriously and you’ll find it almost anywhere in Italy, whether in a busy café or in your sweet and delicious tiramisu. Basically, the Italians know coffee and they know it well. It is no wonder that Starbucks isn’t operating in the country. But, if you’ve ever wondered the Italian way to identify a good coffee, now’s your chance.

Daniela, a local from Rome and coffee and ice cream enthusiast let us in on a few secrets so that the next time you’re in a café and shout cappuccino, you’ll know whether your coffee is going to be something to write home about or not.

The most important step in knowing whether you’re going to have a good coffee or not is by rightly identifying that you’re in a café or restaurant with a genuine espresso machine. What’s that, I hear you cry? Cry not. It’s simple. Keep your eyes wide open for a large metal looking machine with enough handles and buttons to scare you. That’s when you’ve found it. So far, so good.

Daniela told me that Italy imports 100 percent of its coffee and that it’s the country which is considered to be the best at roasting coffee. Slightly bias? Perhaps, but the coffee does taste amazing here. Another tip is to make sure the coffee is Brazilian Arabica for its rich, intense flavour. Yum.


So, a good espresso is nearly within reach. Only a few more steps to go before the liquid joy is in your very own hands. Espresso is short, it’s about 7 grams of pressed coffee with 2.5mm of water. So much goes into making such a small cup of perfection. Before your espresso is made ensure that your barista is running hot water through the tap of the machine. Why? This cleans it, meaning that any residual coffee is cleaned away so your coffee is untouched. Also all coffee ought to be freshly pressed before your very eyes. If it isn’t, alarm bells should be ringing and you should be looking for the nearest exist. Bad espresso. These are basic steps that any barista should know, apparently.


When your espresso is pulled and in your cup, it’s time to get forensic. Take a good look at the froth, it should be a little like leopard skin. Or tiger skin. Essentially, you’re looking for a light brown froth with a few white dots here and there. But, there should never be blank spots. If you’re able to see directly into the coffee, this means the pressure of the machine is not right. And if it’s not right, you don’t want to drink it.

The next step in your journey to espresso perfection is followed by breaking the froth with a spoon and smelling the coffee. Get your nose in there and give it a good sniff. This will help you to discern that the coffee smells either like good coffee or sour. If it smells sour, bad. If not, good. Drink. It’s possible that if the coffee is sour it has been burned during the roasting process. The Italians calls this cicorione which in English means something along the lines of tasting like chicory. Basically, it means bitter. Not good.


Daniela says that a real Italian would never add sugar to their coffee. Apparently if it’s a good coffee the sugar is killing the flavour. You don’t need to add sugar to something already so tasty. I’m not one to argue with an Italian. Also, I’m told that a good barista is like a best friend – they should always remember how you like your coffee.

So if hunting for a good Italian coffee the real way is up your street then let Daniela take you around the city and divulge the city secrets all while learning a little bit more about what makes a good Italian coffee click here!

– Post written by Steven Douglas and Zhandra Fuentes