Why Is Espresso Served With Lemon?

Have you ever seen an espresso served with lemon and wondered, why? Have you ever wanted to increase your knowledge about coffee and espresso? Did you know that there are tons of quirks and traditions in the coffee world that make for great trivia knowledge?

A cup of Espresso coffee.
Lemon twist became popular with espresso suddenly

Expand your knowledge set and read on to learn about a delightful coffee beverage. It looks as though cultures all around the world serve espresso with lemon! This combination is named Espresso Romano. We’ve done a little research and have the scoop on why it is that lemon was chosen to accompany espresso in this recipe.

We found a few concepts that may have inspired this recipe. Inspirations seem to vary, dependent on the resource, but we’ve narrowed it down to what we found as the most common answer. To better understand this popular coffee recipe, let’s take a look at what exactly is in the cup.

Espresso is created from roasted and ground espresso beans. When the fine espresso is packed into a tamper (the device used to press espresso for brewing), hot water runs through the tiny granules and brings with it, a thicker brew than your traditional coffee roast.

Espresso is thick and somewhat creamy in consistency, thus, its flavor is a bit more round than coffee from coffee beans.

espresso coffee with espresso beans
Espresso offers a thick, bitter or a semi-sweet flavor

Espresso is a full body of flavors that are dependent on a few variables in the process of its creation. Water composition, brewing temperature, the quality of the bean, and the timeliness of the espresso pull are just a few variables that contribute to a perfect version of the popular cafe drink.

It is served in an extra small cup because espresso is pulled through only around two ounces of water when served. With no lemon, this drink is named, Espresso.

Espresso offers a thick, bitter or semi-sweet flavor. It is a very concentrated and aromatic drink. While it is traditionally served with sugar cubes or packets, another popular garnish is lemon. Lemon in espresso is not exactly derived from Italian culture, rather, it might have become a popular duo as a remedy to cure an espresso shot that wasn’t at its optimum quality.

Now known as Espresso Romano, this coffee drink is an espresso shot accompanied by a lemon twist, slice or wheel.

If you’d like to dive in a little deeper with understanding the possible origins of Espresso Romano, read on! The lemon garnish on espresso appears to be common all around the world. Remember, the lemon on the plate or saucer differentiates an Espresso Romano from an Espresso.

Lemon is often used in the kitchen or bar because it is such a versatile fruit; you can slice a lemon, use its rind or you can simply twist the outer layer of a lemon to add a little flavor curve to your drink.

A lemon twist creates a small spritz of oil and flavor because the pores of the lemon are pushed into each other and burst. One theory on why the lemon twist became popular for espresso is that a lemon spritz, squeeze, or twist might take the espresso’s bitterness away if it were present.

You could use a lemon squeeze and drip a little bit of the juice into the espresso. In short, the Espresso Romano creates a consistent experience around the variables of the espresso brew.

You might also be interested in learning what tea is good with lemon.

How To Use The Lemon Served With Your Espresso

How to serve the lemon properly in your espresso can be made in a couple of ways

The lemon twist served with espresso can be used in a couple of ways. When you are served a cup of espresso with a lemon twist on the side, take the lemon rind and twist it above your cup. This action will release the oils from the outside of the lemon and a little, barely visible spritz should fall into the cup.

After you’ve made this twist, place the lemon rind on the lip of your espresso cup and rub it around the edges. This action will leave a small trace of lemon oil on the rim of the glass. When you bring your lips to the edge of the espresso cup, you will automatically have the oil on your palette before your first sip.

From our research, this beverage experience is why the lemon is served with espresso. There are several other different opinions about why this is done and they range from explanations that linger around the same basic idea.

Not only does a lemon serve to add just the right amount of aroma to support the full body of an espresso shot, but it also creates a beautiful garnish and pop of color to the espresso service.

Some report that lemon adds a little sweetness to the morning drink. Other resources say that the lemon wedge became common as part of espresso service so as to fill the nose with citrus notes and mask the bold coffee aroma.

Another perspective offers lemon as something to suck on to cleanse your mouth’s flavor palette, just after you finish the espresso shot.

The most tenured coffee enthusiasts might argue that an espresso brewed correctly doesn’t need a lemon to alter the flavor. Because a proper espresso brew requires a few different harmonious variables to be served properly, the lemon twist, slice or wheel works something like flavored coffee creamer in mediocre coffee.

It might make something less than perfect, better. It seems that the common practice of this easy resolution to a bitter shot became known as the popular drink, Espresso Romano.

While the answers varied in our quest to find out why a lemon twist is served with espresso, we concluded that the most common answer was because it slightly altered the tasting experience.

We discovered that there’s nothing like a mindfully crafted, perfectly robust espresso shot—but if the taste isn’t quite on par, there’s a little twist of lemon commonly available to tweak any bitterness with ease. With this bit of coffee culture knowledge, we hope you enjoy your next shot of delicious and warm espresso!

You might be interested in learning why is espresso served with sparkling water.

Related Questions On Lemon In Espresso

Is Espresso Served With Lemon Common Only In Japanese Culture?

No. Lemon served with espresso is common all around the world.

Do You Need Lemon To Drink Espresso?

No, you don’t need lemon when you drink espresso, but having a lemon twist, slice, or wheel on your saucer might help cut any bitterness and support the flavor and quality of the beverage. When served this way, it is called an Espresso Romano.

Does Espresso Need A Garnish?

Not necessarily. Espresso is most often served in a tiny cup on a saucer. It usually comes with a little spoon so as to stir in a sweetener or cream. Sometimes, it is served with sugar cubes or a lemon.

Do Lemon And Espresso Really Go Together?

We don’t recommend that you squeeze a lemon into an espresso drink; a juicy lemon wedge might be too much flavor and change the beverage in its entirety. A little slice of lemon can complement the drink experience in a few different ways, but lemon juice and espresso are not recommended.

Espresso garnished with a lemon squeeze or twist is most common.

Is It Common To Serve An Orange Slice With Espresso?

No. Serving an orange slice after a meal is common in some cultures, but it is the lemon twist or squeezes that are most often offered with espresso.

Why Should I Care About Lemon And Espresso Or Traditions?

It is always good to gain more information on cultures and traditions. When we understand our similarities with one another, it helps us to support those traditions and realize that we have a common ground between us.

Understanding different cultures, traditions, and good coffee are a few things everyone can relate to around the whole world.

If you liked this article on coffee, culture, and traditions, we hope you’ll read more about this topic. There’s always information available here for you to learn. Enjoy your next coffee beverage with your newfound knowledge!

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  • Aisling O'Connor

    Aisling is an Irish food and drinks writer and journalist fueled by coffee and herbal tea. She followed up her journalism degree with nutrition studies. Find Aisling on LinkedIn.