October 06, 2023 2 min read

susanIf you, like many people were in Italy this past summer, you might have noticed a certain Caffè Marocchino in the menu list of the cafés (or bars, like they call them in Italy) all over the country. With such exotic name, you might have thought that it's a recipe that came directly from Morocco. In reality, it is a thoroughly Italian invention.

espresso coffee mini cappuccino milk foamDaniel Nikodemus

The Origin of The Name

It is widely believed that Caffè Marocchino's city of origin is Alessandria in the Piedmont region, and the first barrista to prepare it were the owners of Bar Carpano. This bar was a historic business that operated since 1900, now sadly closed. There are several legends related to the name of the coffee itself, but it seems to owe its existence to the workers of the famous hat manufacturing company, Borsalino.

For those who worked in this factory, Marocchino (literally "Moroccan") had a completely different meaning. It refers to a leather strip that finishes the hat inner part. Its colour, a shade of brown, brings to mind the colour of coffee mixed with milk.

Thus, the name could have simply been a brilliant idea of the bar owner who served this espresso coffee enriched with milk and cocoa to the factory employees; or it could have been the workers themselves who baptised it this way, after observing the colour of the liquid that's already very familiar to them.

Coffee with cocoa powder? Yes, please

Despite its very exotic name, Caffè Marocchino is nothing more than an espresso coffee that resembles a mini cappuccino. Like its more famous sibling, it is in fact a shot of espresso enriched with milk foam, and garnished with a sprinkling of dark cocoa powder.

It's quite simple to recreate it at home as long as you have a home espresso machine and a milk frother. Find them here and here if you don't have them already. The only rule is that it has to be served in a clear glass cup such as this one

The technique

The espresso goes at the bottom, then comes the milk foam and finally, the cocoa powder. Various variations have been tested over the years: there are those who prefer more intense flavour and who dust the cup with cocoa powder first and then pour in the espresso coffee. And then there are also those who compose it in reverse, first the milk foam, then the coffee, finally the cocoa powder. The more daring may also prepare a deliciously decadent version by "dirtying" the cup first with Nutella. Needless to say, it's better to drink this version of Caffè Marocchino without adding more sugar.

How do you like your Caffè Marocchino?