Espresso Romano 101: Everything You Need to Know

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Welcome to the world of Espresso Romano, a unique beverage blending espresso and lemon. This blog explores its origins, crafting, health benefits, and flavor pairings, providing a comprehensive understanding of this Italian delight.

Key Highlights

  • Combines an espresso shot with a slice of lemon peel
  • Lemon peel adds refreshing citrus notes that enhance the coffee’s aromas
  • Lemon’s acidity balances the espresso’s bitterness, creating a harmonious blend
  • Versatile – can be served hot, cold, or iced, with or without milk
  • Popular in Italy’s Campania region, considered a regional specialty
  • The interplay of lemon’s sharpness and espresso’s intensity provides a unique flavor experience

What is Espresso Romano?

Espresso Romano is a special Italian drink that mixes an espresso shot with a twist of lemon. The fresh citrus flavor of the lemon peel complements the strong, bold taste of the espresso really nicely. The lemon helps cut through the bitterness of the coffee, creating a smooth and refreshing drink. Espresso Romano is especially popular in the Campania region of Italy, where it’s considered a local delicacy that highlights the country’s creative coffee traditions.

Taking Lemon Rind Out Of A Cup Of Espresso Using A Long Teaspoon
The lemon complements the espresso surprisingly well!

The Origins of Espresso Romano

The exact origins of Espresso Romano are unclear. There’s no definitive evidence linking it directly to Rome or Italy, yet the drink has become synonymous with Italian coffee culture. Some believe it was invented in Italy during the early 20th century, while others claim it originated as an American concoction that was given a fake Italian backstory to appeal to tourists.

My favorite espresso Romano conspiracy theory is that the drink originated during World War II when Italians added lemon juice to cover the bad taste of American soldiers’ cheap instant coffee. I can see it happening.

What Is Espresso Romano
Mamma mia, that’s no espresso!

Regardless of its mysterious beginnings, Espresso Romano is becoming more and more popular, world wide, as coffee nerds embrace the combination of bold espresso and bright, zesty citrus.

How To Make An Espresso Romano at Home

  1. Brew the espresso using a dark roast for a rich flavor that complements the lemon.
  2. Add a lemon twist by squeezing a few drops into the espresso or rubbing the rim with the peel.
  3. Adjust the lemon to suit your taste, adding sugar if desired.


  1. Freshly brewed espresso shot
  2. Lemon wedge or twist


Use an espresso machine for true espresso, or a Moka pot for a rich substitute.

  • Espresso Machine
  • Moka Pot (Bialetti)

Why Lemons?

Adding a lemon twist to an espresso shot may seem unconventional, but it works remarkably well. The essential oils in the lemon peel release their fragrant aroma when squeezed or rubbed around the rim of the cup. This citrus essence beautifully complements the bold, intense flavor of the espresso.

Moreover, the lemon’s natural acidity helps balance out any bitterness from the coffee, creating a harmonious flavor profile that is both invigorating and refreshing.

A Dark Wooden Table Hosts An Open, Aged Notebook With A Pen, A Cup Of Espresso Romano, A Bowl Full Of Fresh Lemons, One Sliced In Half, And A Grey Cloth Napkin, Creating A Cozy Atmosphere For Writing Or Reflection.

Variations Around the World

This Italian specialty has spawned various interpretations around the world.

1. Different Citrus

While the lemon twist is the classic accompaniment, some variations incorporate different citrus fruits. In parts of Europe, for example, orange slices are sometimes used instead of lemon. Latin American versions may also include a dusting of cinnamon or a touch of sweetness.

2. Americano-Style

Some coffee drinkers prefer a milder, more diluted version of Espresso Romano. This can be achieved by adding a splash of hot water to the espresso, creating an Americano-style drink.

3. Ristretto-Style

For a bolder, more concentrated take, baristas may use a ristretto (short) espresso shot as the base. This results in an even more intense coffee flavor profile.

Health Benefits and Myths

Espresso Romano combines espresso with lemon, potentially aiding digestion through the citric acid and essential oils in lemon. The caffeine in espresso boosts energy and focus, and coffee is a source of antioxidants, which may protect cells.

However, it’s crucial to discern real benefits from exaggerated claims. Drink Espresso Romano for its flavor and some health benefits, but maintain realistic expectations about its effects.

Pairing Espresso Romano?

Espresso Romano pairs well with many flavors and textures. Classic combinations include:

  • Ice Cream: The warm, intense espresso contrasts nicely with cool, creamy ice cream.
  • French Press Coffee: Enhance your coffee experience by combining the rich flavor of French press coffee with concentrated espresso.

Feel free to explore other flavors that match your tastes. The key is to balance and complement the intense espresso.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Espresso Romano Be Made With Any Coffee?

Yes, you can make Espresso Romano with any type of coffee beans. However, for the best results, choose a high-quality, dark roast coffee. A robust flavor profile will complement the lemon and enhance the overall taste of the drink.

How Does Lemon Enhance the Espresso Experience?

Lemon adds a burst of freshness and acidity to espresso, enhancing the coffee experience. The essential oils in the lemon peel interact with the espresso’s bitterness, creating a harmonious balance of flavors.

Can I Make Espresso Romano Without an Espresso Machine?

Yes, you can prepare Espresso Romano without an espresso machine. Use a Moka pot, Nespresso machine, coffee maker, or even a French press to brew your coffee. Simply add a slice of lemon or a few drops of lemon juice to your coffee for the Espresso Romano experience.

What are the Best Beans for Espresso Romano?


The best beans for Espresso Romano are dark roast coffee beans with a rich and robust flavor profile, ideally those specifically roasted for espresso. These beans will create a strong and flavorful base for your Espresso Romano. Spirit Animal Coffee’s Espresso Roast is my go-to supplier for espresso beans.

Avatar Of Kelsey Todd
With over two decades in the coffee industry, Kelsey is a seasoned professional barista with roots in Seattle and Santa Barbara. Accredited by The Coffee Association of America and a member of The Baristas Guild, he combines practical expertise with a profound understanding of coffee's history and cultural significance. Kelsey tries his best to balance family time with blogging time and fails miserably.

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