Italy’s centuries-old coffee culture is famous all over the world. Italian coffee terminology is used as an industry standard, and just the world “espresso” evokes images of bar-lined piazzas buzzing with locals and tourists all fueled by tiny cups of superb, strong coffee. Investigate why it tastes better in Italy, and you might come across the myth that the country’s water is superior for brewing coffee. Every cup of coffee is mostly water, so surely it’s a major factor, right? Well… no. There is nothing inherently different in Italy’s water that makes it better for brewing coffee.
THE MYTH OF ITALIAN WATER
Coffee experts and water chemists universally agree that clean, pure and, most importantly, soft water – water with low levels of minerals – makes the best coffee. This is true everywhere in the world, from Italy to Indonesia. Italy’s tap water, just like tap water elsewhere, ranges from hard to soft from region to region. Italian baristas faced with hard tap water need to use a filter or other softening techniques for the best results. The idea that Italy’s water is naturally better for brewing coffee is quite simply a myth.
WHY IS ITALIAN COFFEE SO GOOD?
If it’s not the water, why do so many coffee drinkers find Italian coffee to be superior? Perhaps it's better beans? Guess again! Italy does not grow its own coffee and imports beans mostly from South America. Italian roasters have access to the same coffee beans as any other international buyers. In fact, Italian coffees rarely feature specialty beans and are more typically mass-market products containing cheap Robusta beans as filler. One reason for this is that Italian coffee drinkers expect their staple espressos to maintain a low price point compared to coffee prices elsewhere in Europe.
We believe Italy’s reputation for superior coffee comes down mostly to expertise on behalf of its baristas, whose efficiency and craftsmanship is incomparable. Further, for visitors to Italy returning home with memories of perfect cups of coffee, the atmosphere makes all the difference. Even the most average of espressos in Italy gets imbued with the magic of happy holiday memories.
Maybe you have your own theories about Italy’s celebrated coffee culture – just remember it’s nothing to do with the water!