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Espresso With Lemon: Is It A Good Combination?

There is a new trend in cafes: espresso with lemon.

It’s an espresso shot served with a lemon twist on the side, which looks exotic and sophisticated.

So, you got to ask yourself: should you try espresso with lemon? 

I did my research and eventually tried it, so I can tell you everything you need to know about it. 

Let’s dive in! 

What Is Espresso Served With Lemon? 

So, you saw the coffee called Espresso Romano and ordered it enthusiastically. But you got a regular espresso shot and a lemon peel twist on the side

This must have been a mistake, right? 

Well, it’s not!

Let me introduce you to Espresso Romano or espresso with lemon. 

Lemon is definitely one of the very least things you can think of as a garnish for coffee. But you’ll have to trust me with this one, especially if you love to try out new things. 

Well, it’s pretty simple: an espresso shot served with lemon on the side (on a saucer).

Originally, it was just a piece of lemon peel. But nowadays, you’ll get a lemon twist or even a whole slice of lemon.

While you definitely shouldn’t add as much as you add to your tea, a dash of lemon can alternate the taste of your espresso. The citrusy aroma totally changes the experience of sipping espresso. 

But more on that later.

Now let’s see who and why came to the idea of serving espresso with lemon in the first place.

The Background Story Of Espresso With Lemon 

Today, Espresso Romano is served all over the world. It’s becoming a trend, and more and more people choose this unusual way of drinking espresso. 

But, you may wonder, from where is this practice originates? 

Well, I’ll have to disappoint you, but there’s no confirmed information. However, a few theories are circling around. 

Espresso Romano must have been invented in Italy, right? 

So, there’s a belief that Espresso Romano was invented in Italy, the motherland of espresso.

Lemon is also an important part of Italian culture and grows in many parts of the country.

Contrary to the most obvious answer, Espresso Romano didn’t come from Rome. Actually, if you order Espresso Romano in Rome, don’t be surprised if you get a confused look from the waiter. 

But Italians sometimes like to add a few drops of limoncello (lemon liqueur) to their espresso. People who tried it said it pairs extraordinarily well with espresso.

Also, lemon is a common ingredient in many food and beverages in Italy. So it won’t be much of a surprise if we ever find out that espresso with lemon did originate in Italy.

Dirty cups in WW2 

This one is really interesting. 

It starts like this: during World War 2, hygiene was a bit of an issue in Europe, especially among soldiers. Fresh and clean water wasn’t always available, and it was used only for existential needs. Soldiers didn’t waste any water on dishwashing. 

So, they came out with this clever hack. They used lemon leftovers to clean cups with it.

Lemon has been used for centuries as a cleaning product. I know my mum loves using lemons to clean our house.

If this theory is true, soldiers rubbed coffee left over with lemon. That way, they disinfected the cup. But it also left a thin layer of lemon over the cup.

As you can imagine, it totally changed the taste of coffee. Soldiers loved it, and it became a thing.

Lemon as a cover-up for bad-tasting coffee 

This last theory is most likely to be the truth. According to this, Espresso Romano was invented here in America. 

The first time espresso came to America, it was an instant hit. But, it wasn’t easy for small cafes to buy quality coffee grounds for espresso. Often, they would end up with stale coffee grounds.

As you can expect, the result was bad-tasting coffee, often very bitter with not too many flavors. So, clever baristas came to an idea.

Lemon was a perfect cover-up for bad espresso.

Smart, right?

Lemon’s vibrant taste, naturally sour and slightly sweet, was perfect for balancing out stale and overly bitter coffee. 

Plus, it looked posh and sophisticated. To make it more authentic, they called it Espresso Romano. 

To be completely honest with you, this one sounds most likely to be true. 

Why Should You Drink Espresso With Lemon? 

coffee with lemon

Some espresso purists will say that a good espresso shot doesn’t need anything. They will tell you it’s blasphemy to add syrups, spices, and even sweeteners to espresso. 

But that shouldn’t stop you from experimenting!

So, should you give it a try? 

Definitely yes! If you’re an adventurer and love to experience new things, trying out a new style of espresso shouldn’t scare you at all.  

Lemon is sour and zingy. But, besides that, lemon has a very distinctive taste and aroma. It has a refreshing, light, and vibrant flavor. It will create a contrast to the robust taste of espresso.

The sourness and light sweetness of lemon will balance out the bitterness of the coffee. 

And the citric taste really pairs well with coffee.

All in all, there’s no reason why shouldn’t you give it a try. 

How to Make Espresso With Lemon and Not Ruin It

Now, the last thing you should know before ordering Espresso Romano is: 

How to properly add lemon to your espresso? 

Well, there are a couple of different methods. All of them are super easy. The main point is not to go over the top. You don’t want to overpower the espresso and make some weird citrus coffee.

You can use lemon in different forms, such as:

  • lemon zest
  • lemon rind
  • lemon twist
  • lemon slice
  • lemon wheel

The first method is the easiest one. If you got lemon peel or lemon twist, you want to use aromatic oils from the peel. You’ll do that by squeezing or twisting the peel. That twist will create a small spray of oils. 

Twist it a couple of inches above your espresso cup. Oils will lightly spay over the cup and leave lemon oil particles. 

Also, you can swipe lemon peel over the rim of the espresso coffee cup. It will create a layer of lemon essential oil over the rim. 

With these two options, you won’t change the taste of your espresso coffee too much. But, the first aroma you will feel will be the lemon. 

If you get a lemon wedge, you have another option. You can squeeze a few drops of lemon juice into the espresso. This will give a nice zing to your coffee.

Just be careful. You can easily go over the top. So, add drop by drop, and taste it until you find a perfect balance. 

BONUS TIP
Lemon can help clean your palate from the strong coffee aftertaste. Plus, it can regulate the smelly coffee breath. Take a bite of lemon slice and suck it; the sourness will defeat a strong aftertaste in your mouth.

In Conclusion 

And that’s it! 

Espresso with lemon or Espresso Romano is the real deal. It’s simple as it sounds: just an espresso shot with a little bit of lemon. 

A dash of lemon can elevate your coffee drink and add a vibrant note and nice aroma.

If you’re open to new tasting experiences – give it a try! 

Searching for other ways to balance out the flavor of your coffee? Check out our guide to adding salt to coffee and reducing its bitterness.

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Tijana Veljovic
Tijana spent a few years working as a barista. Now she’s enjoying writing about everything she learned about coffee and sharing it with you. Her weapon of choice for making it through the day is a hot latte. Besides writing and coffee, she loves traveling, camping, cooking, and good music.