Italian espresso: corto, ristretto, lungo and with a "mosca"

Mar 24 2023, 11:17 | by Michela Becchi
In Italy there are many other ways to enjoy espresso coffee, shared from North to South of the Peninsula. Here are the most common ones.

Italian espresso coffee at the bar

The espresso machine was invented in Turin, Italy, patented by Angelo Moriondo in 1884, which revolutionized the way of serving the beverage, giving baristas the opportunity to produce many cups in series. Luigi Bezzera, Desiderio Pavoni, Pier Teresio Arduino and Achille Gaggia contributed to the spreading of espresso: innovators who made significant changes, thus electing Italian-style coffee famous throughout the world. But how can Italian espresso be served at the bar? In addition to regional variations, in Italy there are many other ways to enjoy espresso coffee, shared from North to South of the Peninsula. Here are the habits of Italians at the coffee bar.

Caffè corto, ristretto and lungo

Even a simple espresso, without adding other ingredients, can be served differently. Ristretto, for example, is when you have less than 30 ml of liquid in the cup: a "reduced" espresso, with a very intense and bold taste, extracted in less time than expected (the standard requires between 20 and 30 seconds). On the contrary, an espresso lungo is not very dense and obtained with a slower extraction, which usually exceeds 35 seconds. And what about the corto? In reality, no beverage goes by this name: what we Italians call "corto" is a regular espresso extracted correctly.

Caffè corretto and with a "mosca"

Grappa is one of the most used spirits to spike coffee, but in reality any alcohol can be fine depending on personal taste. Another classic pairing is with Sambuca, which finds a happy marriage with black gold also in the variant with mosca, i.e. "fly". It is not an espresso in this case, but a glass of Sambuca served with one or more coffee beans floating in it, which is still worth mentioning. In fact, there are many anecdotes about the origin of this tradition, but the most curious concerns Federico Fellini, Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg and Walter Chiari during the filming of "La dolce vita." The actors used to spend their break in a coffee bar on Rome's Via Veneto and, according to popular belief, one day as a joke one of them dropped a coffee bean into a glass of Sambuca, shouting "There is a fly in my drink!"

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