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What is after-dinner coffee called?

After-dinner coffee has several common names that people use to refer to the traditional practice of drinking coffee following a meal. Some of the most popular terms for after-dinner coffee include espresso, caffè, digestivo, and pousse-café. The choice of name often depends on factors like culture, tradition, and the specific type of coffee served. After-dinner coffee has a long history and is enjoyed throughout the world as a satisfying conclusion to dining.

Common Names for After-Dinner Coffee

Here are some of the most widely used names for after-dinner coffee:


Espresso is a term used to describe a strong, concentrated coffee beverage prepared by forcing steam through finely ground coffee beans. It has a thick, syrupy consistency and rich aroma. Espresso is a popular after-dinner coffee choice in many European countries, especially Italy. It is served in small demitasse cups. An espresso provides a bold, intense coffee experience to aid digestion after a meal.


Caffè is the Italian word for coffee. In Italy, caffè may refer to a cup of espresso or another type of coffee served after a meal. It is usually taken black without milk or sugar to enjoy the full taste and aroma of the coffee. Caffè describes coffee as a cultural experience – a time to relax, converse, and savor a well-crafted cup of coffee.


A digestivo is an Italian after-dinner drink consumed to aid digestion. While it often contains herbs, spices, or liqueurs, a digestivo can also simply refer to a post-meal espresso. The热, bold coffee is thought to stimulate digestion after a heavy meal due to its caffeine content. Ordering un digestivo in an Italian restaurant will result in a serving of coffee.


A pousse-café is a coffee beverage composed of layered liqueurs and spirits added to an espresso. Popular liqueurs used include rum, whiskey, anisette, cognac, and crème de menthe. The layered effect is created by the different densities of the liqueurs. Heavier ingredients sink to the bottom while lighter ones remain on top. Pousse-café translates to “push the coffee” in French and is served as an after-dinner drink intended to aid digestion. The coffee layers help guests sober up after consuming alcoholic beverages.

The History of After-Dinner Coffee

The custom of drinking coffee after a meal dates back hundreds of years. Some key events in the history of after-dinner coffee include:

Coffee’s Origin in the Middle East

Coffee first emerged in the 15th century in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Arabs were among the first to begin brewing coffee to serve after meals. The coffee was believed to help settle the stomach after eating by stimulating digestion. Turkish coffee culture, which developed later, also incorporated strong, black coffee after dining.

Coffeehouses in Europe

As coffee spread across Europe in the 1600s, coffeehouses proliferated as popular gathering spots. Patrons would come to socialize, conduct business, and drink coffee. The coffee was served after meals to extend the conversation and interact with others. Venice’s famous Caffè Florian, opened in 1720, began serving coffee with liqueurs and sugar after dinner.

Espresso in Italy

The first espresso machine was created by Angelo Moriondo in Turin, Italy in 1884. Italy, which already had a thriving coffee culture, embraced espresso for its thick, potent texture and to aid digestion after meals. Espresso also allowed for quicker service compared to brewed coffee. The Italian tradition of after-dinner espresso was born.

French Café Culture

In France, lavish dinner parties became popular during the 18th century. At the end of these meals, a strong black coffee called café was served to re-energize guests. The French later developed the pousse-café, adding liqueurs to the coffee in artistic layers. This impresses guests with both visual appeal and taste.

After-Dinner Coffee Spreads

As coffee spread worldwide through trade starting in the 1600s, so did the tradition of after-dinner coffee. From the Middle East to Europe to Indonesia to the Americas, people integrated coffee into their cultural dining customs as the perfect end note to a meal. The types of coffee and names vary between regions, but the purpose remains the same.

Reasons for Drinking After-Dinner Coffee

There are both practical and social motivations people have for continuing their meal with a final cup of coffee:

Aids Digestion

Coffee is believed to stimulate digestion and reduce symptoms like indigestion and heaviness after eating. Researchers have found coffee’s caffeine causes increased production of digestive enzymes and acids in the stomach. This helps break down food and prevent discomfort. Black coffee is served after dinner for optimal digestive benefits.

Alleviates Drowsiness

A cup of coffee counteracts drowsiness that may occur after a large, satisfying dinner. The caffeine blocks adenosine, a neurotransmitter that induces sleepiness. Coffee provides a welcome energy boost to keep dinner guests lively and engaged.

Enjoyment of Bitter Flavors

Many cultures around the world appreciate bitter flavors, especially after meals. Black coffee’s inherent bitterness is thought to complement and cut through rich, fatty dinner flavors. The bitter taste acts as a palate cleanser as well.


Having coffee after a meal is ingrained as a tradition in many cultures, tied to a sense of hospitality and community. It provides time to relax and converse in each other’s company. Refusing coffee may be viewed as rude in some traditional contexts.

Sobering Effect

Caffeine counteracts the effects of alcohol and brings alertness back after imbibing drinks at dinner. Coffee helps transition guests from relaxed, intoxicated states after wine or cocktails to sober clarity for departure or further activities.

Types of After-Dinner Coffee

While black espresso or coffee are most common, various types of coffee drinks and specialty preparations are enjoyed after dinner. Popular options include:


Espresso, with its concentrated preparation method, thick crema topping, and bold taste, provides a strong jolt of caffeine. It is usually taken without milk after meals.


Regular black coffee made through drip brewing or French press is another favored after-dinner choice. Iced coffee is also refreshing in warm climates.


A cappuccino contains espresso topped with steamed, frothy milk. The milk is lighter than a heavy dinner, making this a palatable pick-me-up.

Caffè Corretto

An Italian “corrected coffee” with a splash of liquor like grappa, sambuca, or brandy. The alcohol enhances the coffee’s digestion-stimulating properties.

Irish Coffee

Coffee with Irish whiskey and whipped cream topping. Perfect for warming up after dinner in a cold climate.


Layered liqueurs in coffee create a beautiful multi-colored effect when served. Coffee initially separates the spirits before mixing together when drunk.

Type Ingredients Characteristics
Espresso Finely ground coffee brewed with high-pressure steam Intense, concentrated flavor without dilution
Coffee Ground coffee brewed in drip machine, French press, etc. Familiar coffee taste preferred black after dinner
Cappuccino Espresso topped with steamed, frothed milk Milk provides calming contrast to espresso
Caffè Corretto Coffee with liquor like grappa or brandy Liquor accentuates coffee’s digestive properties
Irish Coffee Coffee with Irish whiskey, topped with cream Perfect for warming up after dinner
Pousse-Café Layered liqueurs over coffee Visually impressive cocktail with coffee base

How to Prepare After-Dinner Coffee

Brewing coffee correctly after a meal completes the dining experience. Follow these tips:

Select Quality Beans

Choose whole bean coffee with notes that will complement the preceding meal, like chocolate or nutty flavors. Freshly grind beans right before brewing for full aroma.

Use Proper Equipment

Brew coffee using an espresso machine for rich crema or a French press for robust flavor. Espresso machines are ideal for restaurants.

Maintain Optimal Water Temperature

Brew coffee with water between 195-205°F for best extraction. Colder water will result in weak coffee.

Adhere to Ratios

Use the proper coffee to water ratio for the brew method. For example, 1:2 is ideal for espresso and 1:15 for drip coffee.

Serve Immediately

Coffee begins losing heat and aromatics quickly. Serve coffee within 1-2 minutes of brewing to diners.

Offer Accompaniments

Provide milk, sugar, and lemon wedges for those who want to modify the bitterness or acidity of black coffee.

Consider Liqueurs

Offer flavored liqueurs like amaretto, Kahlua, or brandy to spike the coffee upon request.

Use High-Quality Cups

Serve after-dinner coffee in thin, tempered glass cups or demitasse cups to retain heat and show off crema.

Etiquette for Drinking After-Dinner Coffee

Proper etiquette creates a sophisticated and pleasant experience with after-dinner coffee:

Wait for Coffee to Be Served

Remain seated after the meal and converse with tablemates rather than immediately excusing yourself. The host will indicate when coffee is about to be served.

Stir Gently

Lightly swirl a spoon to integrate dairy and sweeteners without excessive clinking noises. Be careful not to chip the edges of fine china cups.

Drink Slowly

Sip coffee slowly to fully savor the taste rather than gulping it down. Drinking too quickly may burn your mouth.

Hold Cup Properly

Grasp the cup handle with thumb and index finger raised. Keep your pinky down rather than sticking it out.

Thank the Host

When you have finished your coffee, place the cup back in the saucer and thank your host for their hospitality and the meal.

RSVP Accurately

If attending a formal dinner party, respond to the invitation promptly and arrive on time. Extending dinner delays staff who can’t clean until guests depart.

After-Dinner Coffee Around the World

Cultures worldwide have integrated coffee into dining customs:

Country Type Served Name
Italy Espresso Caffè
France Black Coffee Café
Morocco Mint Tea Atay
Spain Cortado El Cortado
Russia Tea Chay
Greece Frappé Phrappe
Algeria Turkish Coffee Qahwa
Mexico Café de Olla Café de Olla

The Purpose and Benefits of After-Dinner Coffee

After-dinner coffee remains a beloved custom due to its many benefits:

Facilitates Digestion

Coffee stimulates the release of gastric acids and enzymes. This bolsters the digestion process after heavy meal.

Provides Energy

The caffeine in coffee provides a burst of energy to overcome late-day fatigue or drowsiness after eating.

Enhances Conversation

Coffee provides an opportunity for dining companions to converse in a relaxed setting after the meal.

Lengthens Enjoyment

Coffee enables further pleasant lingering and enjoyment rather than a meal ending abruptly.

Offers Closure

Serving coffee signals a transition to the end of a meal, allowing guests to prepare for departure.

Provides Tradition

After-dinner coffee upholds cultural customs and hospitality rituals passed down through generations.

Selecting the Best Coffee for After Dinner

With so many coffee options, it can be difficult choosing the ideal after-dinner preparation. Here are some tips:

Consider Intensity

Select a more intense coffee like espresso if you want an extra caffeine boost for continued evening activities.

Factor in Acidity

If you often have heartburn, choose low-acid coffee varieties like Brazilian beans.

Choose Complementary Flavors

Pick coffee with chocolate, nutty, or caramel notes to match the preceding dessert flavors.

Determine Brew Method

Espresso highlights coffee’s natural flavors for a bold post-dinner drink without milk.

Check Liquor Pairings

Some coffees like French roast complement spirits like Cognac or whiskey when added.

Buy Fresh Beans

Seek out local roasters selling recently roasted beans for optimal freshness and taste.

Sample Recommendations

Ask your barista for coffee recommendations based on your meal and taste preferences.


After-dinner coffee is a time-honored tradition prized for enhancing digestion, energizing diners, and extending socialization after eating. Classic terms for the final coffee include espresso, caffè, and pousse-café. Cultures worldwide have incorporated coffee into dining customs, with unique types and preparation methods. The bitterness and caffeine provides welcome stimulation to conclude a meal. With so many bean varieties and brewing techniques, cafés can craft the perfect after-dinner coffee experience. Following proper etiquette and savoring the drink creates a sophisticated finale to dining.