What Is Espresso Con Panna?

Once again, we are back with an espresso drink, and as expected, the name itself doesn’t make much of a sense if you don’t know Italian. That being said, espresso con panna is a staple of the espresso world, which is why you have most likely seen it on the coffee shop menu even if you never tried it.

If you find yourself wanting to try all these different drinks, but you simply cannot bring yourself to ask about their contents, we got you covered. We feel like this one will please both those who have a sweet tooth and those who enjoy strong coffee, which is why it’s definitely a drink that you don’t want to miss out on regardless of your preference.

So, what is espresso con panna?

An espresso con panna is a regular espresso shot that is topped with whipped cream. While traditionally served in a demitasse cup, nowadays it’s possible to find it being served in a regular coffee cup or even glass. 

Those who live in the United States would also know this drink as Cafe Vienne, and those who live in France or the United Kingdom can hear it be called Cafe Viennois.

Origin of Espresso Con Panna

The Italian words “espresso con panna” translate to “espresso with cream” in English, which leads us to believe that this drink is of Italian origin, much like plenty of other espresso drinks.

That being said, the origin of espresso con panna isn’t confirmed for sure, with Vienna also being considered as one of the possible origination points for this drink. Considering that it is also known with names such as Cafe Vienne or Cafe Viennois that refer to the city of Vienna, it’s hard to disregard this possibility.

Of course, there is always the chance that this drink has been discovered in multiple different places. As the recipe for an espresso con panna is rather simple, it wouldn’t be surprising if multiple people had the exact same idea.

Either way, it’s a delicious espresso drink regardless of who came up with it first.

How Does an Espresso Con Panna Taste?

When you think about it, an espresso con panna is a rather odd combination of ingredients. 

While we are used to seeing whipped cream in drinks such as flavored lattes or mochas, where the entirety of the drink is quite sweet and creamy, this isn’t exactly the case when it comes to a cup of espresso con panna, where a strong shot of espresso rests below the sweet whipped cream.

Due to whipped cream not completely mixing with espresso, you will be tasting a few different flavors as you make your way through the layers of an espresso con panna.

First off, you will be greeted with the sweet and creamy taste of whipped cream. This layer won’t taste any different than eating a creamy dessert as the espresso does not touch this part of the drink.

When you’re done with the whipped cream layer, there will be a point where you taste the sweetness and the bitterness at once due to the transition from whipped cream to espresso. The combination of cold and sweet whipped cream with the strong espresso is the highlight of this drink.

Finally, the strong taste of espresso will be the only thing that’s present as all the whipped cream will be gone, just as if you were having a regular shot of espresso.

How to Make Espresso Con Panna?

While espresso con panna is a drink that is simple in terms of ingredients, ensuring that you prepare these ingredients in the best way possible is quite important.

As both of the ingredients in an espresso con panna are enjoyed separately throughout the drink, showing an equal amount of care to the preparation process of both of these ingredients is vital.

Preparing the Espresso

A good cup of espresso con panna starts with a good shot of espresso, as there is nothing in this drink that mixes with your espresso to save its taste. While the quality of an espresso shot may not be too noticeable in drinks such as a mocha, where there is a lot of added flavor, the flavor of your espresso con panna will be all about the espresso.

As we always say, the first step to a good espresso is fresh and high-quality coffee beans. For flavors to be present in your espresso, your coffee has to be roasted and ground freshly.

While the coffee type and roast level are completely down to preference, we can recommend using a blend of dark roast Arabica and Robusta if you have no idea where to start, as long as it’s fresh.

After you’re done with shopping for coffee beans, it’s time to grind them. Brewing espresso requires a fine, even grind, which can best be achieved by a burr grinder. 

As a blade grinder can produce an uneven grind, we recommend against using a blade grinder for the most part. While electrical burr grinders can be quite expensive, a manual burr grinder will do the job for a reasonable price.

When you are done with the grinding process, all you have to do is to add your grounds to the portafilter and let your espresso maker do the job.

Preparing the Whipped Cream

While you may be compelled to use store-bought whipped cream, we highly recommend buying heavy cream and whipping it freshly to obtain the maximum amount of flavor. Canned whipped cream usually falls short both in terms of taste and consistency compared to freshly whipped heavy cream.

The sign of a quality heavy cream is its fat content, which gives it its thickness. If the cream you bought is too liquid and almost resembling milk, you should definitely go with a different brand the next time.

Before you start whipping the cream, you can mix it with sugar or flavored syrup to give it some sweetness as heavy cream by itself is unsweetened, unlike canned whipped cream.

In terms of consistency, you should be looking to prepare whipped cream that is quite aerated as it should be sitting nicely on top of your espresso instead of sinking into it, so don’t be afraid of whipping your cream for a decent amount of time.

Putting It Together

Now that you have your espresso and your whipped cream ready, it’s time to tie them together to create a delicious cup of espresso con panna. One may say that this is the most fun part of making an espresso con panna, as it’s all about decorating your cup with whipped cream.

Since your espresso is already in your cup, all you have to do is to put your whipped cream into a piping bag and squeeze it nicely on top of your espresso. 

The layer of whipped cream should rest on the espresso without sinking unless you use way too much of it. 

Enjoy your espresso con panna!

Espresso Con Panna vs. Espresso Macchiato

An espresso con panna is quite similar to an espresso macchiato, with only one small difference to separate the two.

While an espresso con panna consists of an espresso shot that is topped with whipped cream, an espresso macchiato is a shot of espresso that is topped with milk foam. As milk foam doesn’t completely mix with espresso, similar to whipped cream, both of these drinks have two separate layers with different flavors.

That being said, the transition in flavor isn’t as sharp in an espresso macchiato as it is in an espresso con panna due to milk foam being quite light with an overall neutral flavor as opposed to the thick and sweet whipped cream.

Even though the difference between these two drinks is slight, we feel like an espresso macchiato won’t be enjoyed by those who are expecting a certain degree of sweetness from their drink.

Espresso Con Panna vs. Cafe Vienna

Even though espresso con panna can be called with alternative names such as Cafe Vienne or Cafe Viennois in certain parts of the world such as the US, the UK, and France, Cafe Vienna is something you will most likely hear in Australia.

While this name also refers to espresso con panna, in essence, you might be seeing a change in the way the drink is served. As we have mentioned earlier, an espresso con panna is often served in a demitasse cup, just like a regular shot of espresso.

On the other hand, a Cafe Vienna is served in a coffee cup, similar to a latte. For this reason, you will find that a Cafe Vienna has a larger amount of espresso and whipped cream compared to an espresso con panna.


Whether you are someone who enjoys the strong taste of a straight shot of espresso or someone who enjoys sweetness in their drink, an espresso con panna beautifully covers both aspects, allowing you to enjoy both sweetness and strength through different parts of the drink.

That being said, if the sharp transition from whipped cream to espresso is too much for you to handle, you can always add a small amount of flavored syrup to your espresso to give it a bit of extra sweetness and bring its flavor closer to the whipped cream.

Have a great day, and enjoy your coffee!