Coffee Facts

Espresso With Lemon: A Combination That Might Surprise

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When you think of a lemon-based beverage, you probably think of lemonade or water with lemon, not espresso with lemon. However, the two paired together is an unlikely dream team with unknown roots and persistent popularity within the global coffee community. 

I know what you’re thinking; who would add lemon to espresso? What could that possibly taste like? Well, we’ve answered all of your questions and then some about espresso with lemon below.

Espresso with Lemon Overview

The seemingly incompatible combination of espresso with lemon, better known to coffee enthusiasts as espresso romano, is a coffee recipe with several origin stories. Some people believe that this drink is part of Italian culture because of the name “romano,” but there’s no concrete proof to back it up despite the Italian title. 

The espresso beverage has different variations and names in many countries, such as cafe canarino, cafe al Limone, espresso with lemon, and Roman espresso. Sometimes, establishments will swap out the signature lemon slice for an orange or tangerine peel too. 

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The drink itself is your choice of espresso, traditionally a single shot, accompanied by a twist of lemon or peel. While some coffee shops will replace the lemon with a candied peel or lemon juice, the idea remains the same; espresso and a side of lemon.   

Why Add Lemon to Espresso?

People all over the world have different reasons behind the espresso with lemon method. However, one common thread among the theories is that the citric acid in the lemon will cut the acidity of a particularly bitter coffee. 

You can add a few drops of lemon juice from the slice of lemon directly to the liquid, or, as initially intended, rub the lemon peel around the coffee cup’s edge and squeeze its oils into the Italian coffee to activate the oils and reduce the acidity. Other espresso romano theorists say that the drink dates back to World War II. At the time, Italians had a sugar shortage and replaced the coffee accompaniment with lemon. 

The least plausible theory states that the recipe came about as the ultimate hangover cure. The lemon’s sharpness combined with the espresso’s caffeine content was just what people needed after a night of drinking to jump-start their day.

Does Adding Lemon Make Espresso Taste Better?

Adding a bit of lemon flavor to enhance espresso’s distinctive flavor palette truly depends on your preferences. Some espresso enthusiasts might disagree with the method, stating that espresso is best served on its own, especially if the barista produces a quality pull. 

On the other hand, less experienced espresso drinkers might claim that it helps with the bitterness of a straight espresso shot. Ultimately, there’s only one way for you to find out if adding lemon to espresso makes it taste better; you need to try it.

How to Make an Espresso Romana

Espresso Romano With Lemon

Whether you’re planning a night out on the town and need a hangover cure or just want to see what an espresso romano tastes like, follow these fundamental steps to make it correctly.

Brew Your Espresso Drink

The first step in making the espresso romano is to brew a shot of espresso. Since espresso in Italy is typically a sweet combination of beans, including Robusta, you’ll want to scope out a sweeter coffee blend to make the drink. The sweetness will help when adding the lemon because you won’t be adding another bitter substance to an already bitter drink. Instead, try a less bitter Arabica blend. 

Adding Sugar

Adding sugar isn’t necessary if you’re used to a strong espresso flavor. However, if you want to cut the bitterness with some sugar before adding your lemon, that’s perfectly acceptable. There is no straightforward way to drink coffee other than what you prefer. 

Get Your Lemon

The most crucial part to making genuinely top-notch espresso romano, other than the espresso, is to add the lemon. In traditional Italian preparation, you will use a lemon peel. However, you can also use a lemon twist or fresh lemon wedge. However you choose to cut it, you will serve the lemon on the side. 

When you’re ready to drink, you will gently swipe the juicy lemon wedge around the espresso cup’s rim and squeeze a little bit into the liquid. That way, the lovely flavors of the lemon juice will hit your lips as soon as you bring the cup of espresso to your mouth. 


Finally, you get to taste and see what all of the hype surrounding the espresso romano is about. Of course, you’re not in for a world-shattering experience, but the espresso and lemon flavors combined might pleasantly surprise you. 

Happy Caffeinating! 

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