What Is an Espresso Romano? (Espresso With Lemon)

Last Updated on June 27, 2023 by Barry Gray

I’ve always enjoyed different coffees, and the first time I spotted someone drinking coffee with lemon slices floating in it. I was intrigued. 

It’s not something you see every day. 

It is often said that the best things in life are simple, and Espresso romano is a simple drink, but it’s also quite unique. So, what is it?

An espresso romano is made with a shot of espresso and a slice of lemon. It can also use lemon juice rather than a slice, and a teaspoon of sugar is often added to the drink. The aim is to combine two very distinctive flavors, and some people may even add in lemon zest to give it a stronger taste.

Of course, as soon as I spotted someone drinking one, I had to order one on my next coffee travels, and I was not disappointed. However, I do admit not every coffee shop knows of its existence, so some explaining may be required in order to get your hands on one.

espresso romano

Does Lemon and Coffee Work?

It’s impressive when you discover just how many types and ways to drink coffee once you start a coffee journey. I am a coffee hobbyist, if there is such a thing, and I’m always interested in trying new things.

But I admit that even I looked at the espresso romano rather tentatively. I mean, come on, lemon and coffee?

Yet, here’s the surprising thing. An espresso romano is both a delicious and refreshing drink.

I know it may not seem possible, but the lemon slice adds a bright and citrusy note to the espresso. Also, it manages to cut through those bitter flavors that may exist in the coffee while also allowing other flavors to come to the fore.

I feel this is an important point. After all, not everyone loves bitterness in their coffee. 

To counteract it, people will tend to throw in lots of sugar in an attempt to remove the bitter taste, and that’s not always a good thing.

But there are people that love the bitterness in coffee. It’s all a matter of individual taste, and personal preferences can vary so much.

And that is where this lemon and coffee mix can play an important role.

This combination produces a drink that is not only refreshing, but packed full of flavor.

I’ve since become a big fan of espresso Romano, and I’ve been making it at home semi-regularly. It’s a great way to start the day and a perfect pick-me-up in the afternoon.

How to Make an Espresso Romano

espresso being made for an espresso romano

Do you know something else I love about this drink? The ease with which you can make it. 

Honestly, there’s nothing difficult here, and it’s a straightforward thing to serve it to your friends while you sit on the patio enjoying the sun.

All you need is an espresso, and some lemons. Oh, and don’t forget the sugar.

That’s it. There’s nothing special or elaborate that’s required, so as long as you have the ability to produce an espresso, then you shouldn’t find it to be too tricky to make.

All you have to do is place the lemons in a jar separately so people can choose between milk or lemon. However, you can put both lemon and milk into the espresso. 

But be aware that some might put a few lemons in, so at least have them on hand for those who like more lemons. 

Where Does Espresso Romano Come From?

making an espresso for espresso romano

Many say the drink originated in Rome because of the Romano part of the name. Still, there is no actual supporting evidence to substantiate this. 

In fact, the name may have been given to the drink simply because it is often served with a slice of lemon, a popular ingredient in Italian cuisine. Which hints that it started in Italy. 

Others still argue that during the second world war, there was a shortage of coffee beans in the US, so individuals were putting lemons in the coffee to eliminate the bitterness and perhaps staleness of the coffee beans. 

This makes a lot of sense. Have you ever visited a coffee shop later in the afternoon before a fresh pot of filtered coffee was made? It could be a better experience. 

So, imagine what it would have been like when coffee beans were being rationed? You would try anything to get some of the flavor from them and make it a drink to be enjoyed.

Whenever it was invented, it took hold. Today Espresso Romano remains a favorite of many. 

I think for me though it’s more of a surprise that it’s not as widely known about as it deserves. It took me years to discover it, and I like to think I know a thing or two about coffee.

How to Make Espresso Romano Taste Better

espresso with lemon

I’ve already stated that an espresso romano is an easy drink to make. However, I have a few tips and tricks that could make your entire experience that bit more enjoyable. 

The key here is to really introduce the taste of lemon to the coffee. Yet, it’s reasonable to presume some people may want just a hint of lemon, while other people want the full-on experience.

So, what do you do if you want to increase the lemon taste? Well, you don’t always have to just throw in more lemon slices, as that takes up space that could have been set aside for coffee.

Instead, you can increase its appeal by rubbing lemon around the cup’s rim. This is a personal favorite; I love the sharp hit of lemon on the lips, followed by the nuttiness of the coffee

This tip allows you to really explore the different flavors that come from two widely different products. It confuses your taste buds, but that simply allows each taste to really be highlighted. 

But that’s not all you can do in order to make your espresso romano taste better. 

I’ve already discussed what it tastes like, but there are a few variations you can play with. Try more robust coffee and more lemons, try fewer lemons, and also try squeezing lemon into the coffee before throwing in the fresh lemon for visual artistry only. 

I know this will tend to be experimental for most people. Making your first romano at home may turn into a disaster since you could go too strong on the lemon, which is why it’s best to add just a touch and see what you think of the flavor first.

The rule of thumb is that the darker the coffee, the thicker the slice of lemon. If the coffee is light and pale, you will drown out the coffee entirely if you put too much lemon in, so go slowly.

There’s nothing worse than pulling a good espresso only to then ruin it via something else when it could have been so easily avoided. 

What is the Best Coffee to Use for Espresso Romano?

coffee beans for espresso

The best coffee to use for espresso romano is a medium-roast coffee. A medium-roast coffee is neither strong nor weak, so you can play around more. 

I know this kind of goes against what most people would recommend for an espresso, but that’s because you need to think about the other flavors you are introducing to the coffee.

I feel it would be a waste to take a dark roast and then eliminate those flavors by adding anything else. A medium-roast is easier to play around with, but you can certainly try out a darker version if you feel unhappy with the overall flavors.

Also, try different coffee beans from around the world. Remember that beans from Brazil taste different from beans grown in India or Africa, so it gives you the opportunity to try out different things.

Other Variations of Espresso Romano

You can add sugar or leave it without depending on personal preference. You might like to try it cold as well. 

If you do this, cool off the espresso, pour it into a glass, and add mint and lemon. It is freakishly satisfying on a hot day. 

But here’s something else I’ve discovered. Different countries have their own twist on serving Espresso Romano. 

In the United States, espresso romano is often served with a thinner slice of lemon, which is dropped into the cup. That is how I would do it at home in the morning. 

In Italy, serving it with a sprig of mint or candied ginger is more common. I really like the warmth of the ginger. It’s well worth a try and the lemon then feels more balanced out as a result.

Some parts of Italy serve it with honey, and some use white or brown sugar. 

This is the fun of making coffee overall and why it intrigues me. You can play around with it and develop your own specialties, but knowing the starting point helps determine how to add new rules. 

My Recap on the Espresso Romano

I feel that this has been a different post as I’ve looked at something a bit more unusual from the normal way of drinking coffee. However, here’s my recap on the key points that stand out when discussing the espresso romano.

  • It combines espresso with lemon
  • You can use a slice of lemon, lemon juice, or even lemon zest
  • You should also add a touch of sugar to balance out the taste
  • It will remove some of the bitterness from the coffee
  • It’s very easy to make and only requires you to pull a decent espresso
  • The drink is very refreshing
  • It’s best to use a medium-roast coffee to achieve the perfect balance

If you have never tried this combination before, then now is the time to change that. I promise you will be taken aback by the experience, and it will certainly taste better than what your mind is perhaps telling you.

My Conclusion

Espresso romano is a delicious and refreshing drink perfect for any time of day. It’s easy to make, and it’s a great way to enjoy the flavors of coffee and lemon.

You won’t be disappointed if you’re looking for a new and exciting way to try new tastes with coffee. However, you still need to play around with different coffee beans and espresso flavors to see which one you prefer.