Inspired by the simple Italian espresso, American coffee shops have created a bewildering array of espresso-based drinks with italiano-sounding names and exorbitant prices. These are truly inspired creations, topped high with whipped cream, drizzled with syrups, covered with sprinkles. And people go for them.
But like most things Italian, less is more. So when Stefano and I order a caffè from a coffee shop we opt for something more basic, often to the chagrin of the barista.
No, thank you, I don’t care for a shot of toffee nut syrup in my caffe latte. Yes, I am sure that I don’t want to try the Caramel Macchiato. No, I really will pass on the new Cinnamon Dolce Latte. Really.
So most of the time we don’t go to coffee shops. We make our own caffè here at home. Nothing fancy – we don’t own one of those expensive espresso machines (that often take those expensive espresso pods). With our collection of stovetop Bialetti Mokas, and our Illy espresso grounds, we are content and caffeinated.
In summertime in Rome, when the sun is already scorching at 9:00 in the morning and you want a coffee but cannot bear the thought of anything hot, you ask your barista for a caffè freddo, or chilled coffee. Poured into tall, thin glasses, the espresso is dense, sweet and intensely flavored. Or, if it is still morning, you might order a cappuccino freddo – a caffè freddo with milk. The color of Bailey’s, cappuccino freddo is rich and creamy with a more mild coffee flavor.
First, no ice. Italians don’t put ice in their sodas, much less in their coffee. It dilutes the coffee and ruins everything. No ice.
Second, in cappuccino freddo, use whole milk. Yes, whole milk. There are basically only two types of milk in Italy – whole milk, and partially skim milk. They began selling skim milk in the late 1990s, but it only came in pint-sized (half-liter) containers, like the milk cartons served at school lunches. Stefano’s mom buys the partially skim milk only we come to visit. Otherwise, she uses whole. I am quite certain she has never bought skim milk.
Italians don’t drink a lot of milk; it’s for breakfast only. And if you only drink a little milk at breakfast, you might as well drink whole milk.
You may choose to make your cappuccino freddo with 2%, or 1%, or even skim milk, but it is not the same at all as making it with whole milk. Try it, you’ll see. Don’t worry about the fat content. Just avoid fats another way.
Caffè Freddo and Cappuccino Freddo
If desired, milk
Make a large pot of espresso. Pour coffee into a glass container. While the espresso is still hot, add one heaping teaspoon of sugar for each espresso serving made. Stir well, until the sugar has dissolved. Let it sit at room temperature to cool. When cool, cover and transfer to refrigerator. Leave the coffee in the refrigerator until well-chilled. Pour and enjoy. If you wish, add whole milk to the chilled coffee to make a cappuccino freddo.