Easy Espresso Romano Recipe: Coffee With a Twist

I don’t know about you but I love a book with a twist in the end, when something unexpected happens. Espresso Romano is just like that, it has a twist, something extra to make it special.

(You can, of course, also literally add a (lemon) twist, but that’s not my point)

In this post, I will quickly give you an overview of what an espresso is and then what espresso Romano is. If you simply cannot wait to go to the recipe for coffee Romano you can skip to that part.

What is Espresso?

Way back in the 19th century people started to make steam-driven coffee beverages. However, it was only in the early 20th century that espresso as we know it was invented by a guy named Luigi Bezzera.

Since then espresso has not only become an integral part of Italian culture but also a staple for many coffee lovers.

Traditional espresso is a very versatile drink that is used in popular drinks such as lattes and cappuccinos. But it is also used in a lesser-known drink called espresso Romano. It has many different names and is also sometimes referred to as coffee Romano, caffè al limone, or caffè canarino. I have actually also heard some people call it café Romano.

What is Espresso Romano?

The basic gist of it is that an espresso Romano is a combination of espresso and lemon. The idea is that the lemon’s acidity balances out the bitter, robust flavor of espresso.

It is not a drink that you will find at just any of your local coffee shops. However, it is presumably quite popular in the Campania region in Italy and also in a town called Giugliano. Some consider it a regional delicacy around the town of Giugliano. In that region, they quite often use Sorrento lemons for coffee Romano, but seeing that that variety of lemon is not available everywhere, it is not a requirement that you use them. So, don’t go trying to import them now, whatever lemon you can find at your local supermarket will do.

Origins of Espresso Romano

Everyone will tell you that the origin of espresso Romano is unknown and this is true. Where and how exactly this drink made its appearance in the world is a mystery.

Theories about its origin vary widely. Most believe that it is not one of the great Italian inventions that have taken over the world. Most people say that it is an American invention.

However, others seem to believe that during the second world war, the only coffee that was available to the Italians was cheap instant coffee imported by the Americans. Because they were used to high-quality coffee, they were of course, not happy with it. So, using lemon flavors the balance out the bad coffee flavors seems like an easy way to get a caffeine fix.

I have also heard people say that after the war poverty prevented people from buying good quality coffee and so they continued to add lemon to their coffee.

Espresso Romano Coffee Recipe

It feels to me like everyone has a different opinion on how to make coffee Romano. As I said earlier, the basic idea is to add lemon to a shot of espresso to counter the bitterness of the coffee.

However, it is the how that seems to be the part, like the coffee’s origin, that is under debate. I will now give you all the different ways that I have come across and then you can decide which of them you prefer. It might be a good idea for you to try them all to see which you like best.

Brew Espresso

Okay, so this step is pretty much standard. You can use your espresso machine to pull an espresso shot. However, if you do not have an espresso machine, you can always make espresso-like coffee with a Moka pot or AeroPress. Instant espresso is, of course always an option. I recommend Nescafé’s instant espresso. It is probably the closest you are going to get to the real thing.

Coffee Beans

I really like Starbucks’s Pike Place roast. Which is why I used it to make my espresso.

However, I actually also tried their blonde roast for it and it also works really well.

Adding the Lemon

​Here is where the controversy starts. Here is a list of all of the ways that you can use to add lemon to your coffee.

Rub the Lemon Peel Onto the Cup’s Rim

By doing this you add the essential oils of the lemon to the inside of the cup to flavor your coffee. You can also just squeeze the peel over the cup before adding the coffee.

Rub a Lemon Wedge or Slice on the Inside of the Cup

For this one, you basically just take a lemon wedge and rub it on the inside of the cup.

A Little Lemon Juice

You can also squeeze a few drops of lemon juice into the coffee to add the lemon taste.

Slice of Lemon

Many people opt to simply add a lemon slice to the cup. That way the hot coffee will extract the flavors of the lemon for you.


Lemon Twist

You know the twist I was talking about earlier? Now, here is the literal version of the twist.

You can finish off your drink with an added twist of lemon zest.

Other Ways of Customising Coffee Romano

Romano Ice Coffee Recipe

You can add ice cubes to the cup before you add the coffee. This can be very nice on a hot day when you’d prefer something cold.

Other Citrus

Another option would be to use other citrus fruit in your drink. These include oranges, limes, or tangerines. I tried an orange and was quite surprised by how much I liked it.


As per usual you can add sweetener to your coffee if you prefer a sweeter drink.

Milk or Cream

Like with sweeteners, you are always free to add milk or cream to your heart’s content to a drink.

Fix Failed Espresso

Because espresso is such an integral part of this drink. It is important that your espresso is as good as it gets. However, sometimes it does happen that our espresso doesn’t turn out quite like we would like it to. Read more on how to fix sour or bitter espresso.

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