The Espresso and Its Variants – Real Quick-Change Artists with Great Taste

The Espresso and Its Variants – Real Quick-Change Artists with Great Taste

Espresso variants from Americano to Ristretto

Espresso is the pure Italian way of life and a daily companion for southern Europeans. Whether for breakfast, after lunch, during the break or in the evening – the espresso is enjoyed with pleasure. However, the Italians have numerous variations to choose from, which we would like to examine in more detail today. Here you can find out everything you need to know about espresso varieties such as Doppio, Ristretto, Lungo, Macchiato, Corretto and Co.

Italian coffee culture in all its diversity

Anyone who has ever wanted to order a coffee in an Italian bar has surely discovered a long list of possible coffee variants. All are generally based on the classic espresso. However, there are differences in the amount of water, the grind of the coffee powder and the contact time of coffee powder with water. This creates coffee drinks of different strengths, which can also be refined with frothed milk or a dash of alcohol.

Numerous variants for every taste

Before we go into the exact preparation, here is a brief overview of the various espresso variants.

  • Espresso: In Italy simply known as “Caffè” and the standard variant of coffee with around 7 grams of coffee powder and 30 milliliters of water.
  • Caffè Doppio : double espresso.
  • Caffè Ristretto : Concentrated espresso with half the amount of water.
  • Caffè Lungo : Extended espresso with more water during the brewing process.
  • Caffè Americano : Espresso subsequently stretched with hot water.
  • Caffè Latte : Espresso with hot milk and milk foam.
  • Latte Macchiato : Lots of hot, frothed milk “stained” with an espresso.
  • Caffè Marocchino : Small glass with espresso, milk foam and chocolate powder.
  • Cappuccino : Espresso with three times the amount of frothed milk. With cocoa powder, depending on your taste.
  • Café Frappé : Iced coffee made from “extended” espresso and ice cream mixed.
  • Caffè Corretto : “Corrected” espresso with a shot of grappa or other brandy.

The “long” espresso variants: Doppio, Lungo and Americano

An ordinary espresso is a short pleasure that Italians usually drink in one or a few sips. Those who want a longer coffee enjoyment without adding milk or alcohol can choose between the Caffé Doppio, Lungo and Americano. For all three variants, the amount is usually 60ml – twice the espresso amount of 30ml. However, the taste shows clear differences.


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While the Caffé Doppio is simply a double espresso and for it both the amount of water and the coffee powder are doubled, for the Caffé Lungo you use more water for the same amount of coffee powder. This creates a less strong espresso. However, the larger amount of water spends more time in the coffee grounds during the brewing process and thus releases more aromas from it. Due to the longer processing time, the Caffé Lungo is often a bit more bitter in taste. This looks different with the Caffé Americano. Since the additional amount of water is only added after brewing, its taste is milder than that of a normal espresso. It was created – as the name suggests – by the Americans, to whom the classic espresso was too strong: When American soldiers came to Italy during the height of the Second World War, they discovered the local coffee culture and adapted it to their preferences. The Italian original, which was too strong for them, was therefore simply filled with water and thus created the Americano.

In the video: Espresso preparation with the portafilter

For the most diverse variations you first need a perfect espresso as a basis. Kelsey Carr, at Wolff College of Coffee, explains in the video what should be considered when preparing with a portafilter machine.

The “short one”: Caffé Ristretto

For the Italians, however, it can sometimes not be strong enough, which is why they have even created a “shortened” form of espresso: the Caffé Ristretto. With the same amount of coffee powder, around half of the water – i.e. around 15 to 20 ml – is used. The resulting coffee has a particularly concentrated taste and is particularly preferred in southern Italy.

There are two ways to get a ristretto: With the first, you choose the same processing time and amount of coffee grounds as for an espresso. However, the coffee beans are ground finer. After the same extraction time, you get less coffee that is much more concentrated.
The second variant has a slightly less concentrated taste, as the same amount of coarser coffee grounds allows the water to run through the portafilter faster. This ristretto is ready after about 15 seconds.

The “corrected” espresso for every taste

When it comes to refining their coffee, the Italians also have many options. Especially for breakfast, they like to refine their espresso with milk and / or milk foam and enjoy their morning croissant with a delicious cappuccino. The latte macchiato, on the other hand, is less common in Italy, but it is hard to imagine German trendy cafés without it and is often refined with spices, honey or chocolate. 
The café frappé is also rarely ordered from southern Europeans. The Italians prefer to enjoy the delicious ice cream straight.
In the summer, on the other hand, you can discover a rotating milk coffee-brown cream in many bars: the crema di caffé. For this, coffee is mixed with powdered sugar and whipped cream and frozen, similar to the well-known “granita”, with constant stirring. The thick cream is served in glasses and eaten with small spoons.

Coffee in Italy is not only “corrected” with dairy products, but also with alcohol. Grappa and other brandies are added according to taste to make a Caffé Corretto.


The Italian coffee culture is not only world-famous, but also extremely diverse and offers a suitable variant for every taste. In order to find your personal favorite it is therefore “try it out, try it out, try it out”.