Coffee Italian-Style: 9 hints from a professional barista

Coffee, Italian-Style

9 tips from an expert barista

I’ll never look at my cup of coffee in the same way… listening to Dino Lipari of Espresso Mali, I realize that you can talk about coffee in the same way people discuss wines and great vintages.

In Italy, coffee is an institution
The “sommelier” of coffee, the barista learns to prepare coffee according to established rules in order to make a round, full-flavored coffee that is balanced and nuanced.

The barista is responsible for maintaining the equipment, measuring and preparing the coffee and choosing the blend prepared by the roaster. He alone is in charge of his machines and is employed for this sole function. The business depends on him, since the clientele is built above all on the quality of the coffee served.

You’ll hear orders shouted out in cafés: due espressi, un normale, un ristretto. E un cappuccino non troppo caldo.

There are 33 ways to order your coffee:


  • an espresso
  • a cappuccino
  • a macchiato, espresso with a little foamed milk
  • a triestino with more milk
  • an espresso con panna, with a little whipped cream
  • an espresso americano, thinned with a little hot water
  • etc.

Each one is proportioned as required. Generally speaking, Italians are less fond of coffee with milk as served in France and other European countries.

Milk for cappuccino is frothed lightly and not served, as it is in America, mounded up like a meringue. Ideally, the proportions should be 1 part espresso, 1 part milk and 1 part foam.

Coffee is part of the art of living: even in Italy, it’s a question of temperament: in the hot-blooded south, strong brews are popular. In the North, they prefer milder concoctions. In Rome you find a harmonious balance between the two.
Enter the magical world of espresso and learn the barista basics – little tips that, combined with the right machine, produce an unparalleled nectar, heady, soft and sensual

Choose the proper grind

  • it shouldn’t be too fine because it will stick together like paste and slow down the infusion process
  • neither should it be too coarse, since the filtered water will not trap the flavors sufficiently, resulting in an insipid result

Extraction time

  • allow 25 to 30 seconds for espresso (demi-tasse);
  • if the time is under 25 seconds, the grind is not fine enough or the quantity is too great;
  • if the extraction time is over 30 seconds, the grind is too coarse and should be finer; or the quantity is too small

Water quantity

  • allow 6 to 7 g of coffee per 35 g of water for a normale, i.e., a demi-tasse
  • if you use the same amount of coffee to a larger amount of water, the bitterness of the black coffee will come out; therefore diluted espresso is not advised.
  • if, on the other hand, you use the same amount of coffee to a smaller amount of water, the acidity of the brown coffee will come out.

Water quality

  • use spring water to avoid tap water which, with its chlorine content, will make your coffee insipid. What’s more, the quality of the crema can suffer, with overly large bubbles, due to the high calcium content of your water.

Water temperature

  • for 100% Arabica, the water temperature of a commercial machine should be between 88 and 90° C
  • for a Robusta blend, the water temperature of a commercial machine should be about 95° C
  • overly hot water will produce acidity, bitterness and an astringent taste. Whether you have a commercial or home machine, the main thing is to ensure that the water does not boil.
  • The crema will become dark brown with white specks surrounded by black.


  • Check that the pressure is correct, about 8-10 atm. for a commercial machine and 14-15 atm. for a home machine. If the pressure is too great, the machine will produce an over-extraction; if too low, the opposite.

Foamed milk

  • to foam the milk well, place the nozzle just below the surface of the milk. This allows more air to be incorporated as the steam transforms into foam.

The cleaning of filters and sprays is very important, since the coffee residue will destroy the best coffee in the world and give it a bitter flavor.


  • Commercial machines have a surface large enough that the cups can be placed directly on the machine so that when the coffee is poured into them, it stays hot and the crema doesn’t dissolve. At home, you can run the cups under hot water or heat them in the microwave.
  • A perfect espresso is served with a small warm spoonful of granulated sugar – never cube sugar, because it doesn’t dissolve.
  • never serve a perfect espresso with lemon zest unless requested: it’s usually added to hide the bitterness of the coffee, and we strongly advise against this habit, even if it’s becoming commonplace in the US.

Follow the barista’s advice and rediscover how good your coffee can be.
Discover the subtleties of flavor for great coffee every day.


check the water temperature
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