Espresso Con Panna – What It Is, And How To Make A Great One

Have you ever seen espresso con panna on a menu and wondered just what kind of espresso that is ?

Well wonder no more, because I’ll help you understand just what an espresso con panna is, and how to make one at home.

espresso con panna

So what is espresso con panna ?

Espresso con panna is a shot of espresso with a generous dollop of whipped cream on top. It might be sweetened, or it might not.

The espresso is the key here, and you need a very good coffee, one you really love.

The panna (Italian for “cream”) is only going to help your espresso whine bright.

You’ll need good quality whipped cream for this, since there’s only two ingredient in this drink and they better be delicious.

Once you’ve got quality ingredients, you can be sure your espresso con panna will turn out great, since you’ve got great building blocks.

It’s also a great exercise in drinking black coffee. Con panna isn’t black, but it’s one of the first steps you can. take if you want to cut down on sugar and cream/milk. More on getting used to black coffee here.

Where does espresso con panna come from ?

No one’s really sure exactly where or how the con panna started. We’re all pretty sure it’s an Italian concoction, just because of the name. But it might as well be German for all we know, or Turkish.

The more important point though, is that this is an older drink, older than a cappuccino. So it stands to reason that you’d find a very specific recipe for it.

Well, in truth it’s not so. This is because espresso con panna is sometimes also named Viennese, or Vienois, or Vienne.

Which is terribly confusing, since Viennese is a whole other espresso drink, which does contain whipped cream, alongside steamed milk and some nice toppings.

This is mostly because Vienna (Austria, not the one with kangaroos)

Even in the U.S. you can ask for an espresso con panna and get a Viennese, as it really depends on the establishment, and what they call each drink.

So remember, if it’s a single shot of espresso (can sometimes be a double shot) and has a big dollop of whipped cream and nothing else, then it’s espresso con panna.

It’s usually a small drink, somewhere around 3 oz total, served in a demitasse. Or the smallest coffee cup the place has.

You might be wondering how hard is it to make an espresso con panna at home. wonder no more, I’ve got you covered.

How to make espresso con panna

You’ll need a good espresso machine for this. Or just a decent espresso machine, and great barista skills. Or the willingness to flavor your espresso if it’s mediocre, since that’s going to be the main star of your drink.

If you espresso is bad, your drink will be bad. The whipped cream can only do so much, and it will mostly make the espresso creamy and cut down on the bitterness, just a bit.

But it contains absolutely no sugar, traditionally. So if you want to be old school about it, you need a good espresso. More on brewing a great espresso here.

Once you’ve sharpened your espresso skills, it’s time to actually make the espresso con panna.

espresso brew

So we start by pulling a great espresso shot. Not too much crema, otherwise the whipped cream will be drowned out. Not too little otherwise you’ll get a meh espresso.

If this is your first ever con panna, make your espresso shot a standard one. See how it tastes with a standard shot, and if you’re happy with it, try a double shot to amp up the caffeine.

Before you start brewing your espresso, you need to whip the cream. Now, you can do this a few ways.

If you want to get the classic taste, get yourself quality heavy cream (at least 20%), a clean whisk, a very clean bowl, and whisk he cream like there’s no tomorrow.

You might have the patience and muscle to get to stiff peaks, or you might not. I recommend you stop before that point, since it’s easy to overdo it and it will start to separate into butter.

So, stop a little before stiff peaks. You whipped cream should be looking creamy, luscious, and fairly defined. If you were to take a spoonful of it, it would mostly retain its shape.

This will take a few minutes, maybe 2-3. But if you’re in a hurry, or just don;t feel like whisking, you can do 2 other things.

You can use a very clean mason jar, which is cooled (has been in the fridge), and shake the heavy cream in the jar (lid on). It’ll get you a softer texture, but it’s easier on the arms than a whisk. It’s also a bit slower.

And finally, you can just blitz the heavy cream in a bowl with an electric mixer. But where’s the fun in that ?

Anyway you whip your cream, make sure you keep it cool while the espresso brews. Once the espresso is done, get the whipped cream out, and garnish the top of the espresso with as much as you want.

This is one espresso drink recipe which never asks for a specific amount. Put as much cream as you like, though more than a tablespoon is a bit much for most people.

If you’d also like to sprinkle a little cinnamon or cocoa on top, who’s gonna stop you ?

The espresso you use matters

A few words on the espresso. I keep saying it matters, because I want to make it very clear that it does matter. If you plan to make espresso con panna the right way, you’re not adding any sugar.

Nor are you sweetening the whipped cream.

You’re going to need a good coffee that is a nice blend between Arabica and Robusta,

If you were to use pure Arabica, you’d lose a bit of the flavor profile since espresso isn’t the best medium for that (you’re better off with French press for that)

If you were to use pure Robusta, you’d get too much crema, and a ridiculously harsh coffee.

Your best bet would be a 70/30 Arabica/Robusta coffee, if you can find the print on the coffee pack where it says the percentages or ratios used for the blend.

As far as origins go, I recommend you go for a South or Central American bean, since those are usually more flavorful. But if you’re in no position to pick the country, any will do as long as they’re decent.

And of course, buying whole bean and grinding the coffee yourself before you make the espresso is going to help immensely.

Not only is the espresso going to be more flavorful, the crema will be thicker (not more per total, but thicker, more dense), and the whole drink will taste fresh.

Grinding at home will also ensure that you get the best grind size possible for your espresso machine. Usually that means as fine as you can get the grinder to go.

Get good quality heavy cream

whipped cream

Another ingredient, actually the only other one, is the heavy cream. You’re going to need to use a really good cream for this, since we’ve only got two ingredients and they need to be high quality, otherwise the whole drink will be bland.

If you were planning on buying whipped cream in a can, the spray kind, please don’t. That’s never going to be as good as actual heavy cream that you can mix at home.

Now, when you buy the heavy cream look at the packaging. You’re looking for cow’s milk heavy cream. If you find any ‘hydrogenated fats’ or ‘plant-based fats and milk’, put it back and keep looking.

The reason behind this is the flavor of the whipped cream will be significantly less impressive if you use plant based cream.

If you’re vegan, go ahead, that’s your business. I suggest you look for cashew based cream, to get a thicker whipped cream.

But if you’re not vegan, then this should be something you’ll allow yourself to splurge on, a bit.

It’s not every day you get espresso con panna, and you can use the rest of the heavy cream when cooking, if you’re somehow left with some to spare.

However I think you’ll be drinking con pannas like there’s no tomorrow once you get to taste the first batch.

Final thoughts

Espresso con panna is a great way to experiment with getting the right espresso brew, and really tasting quality ingredients.

It’s usually made without any sugar or sweeteners, or flavorings at all. So I recommend that’s how you try it the first time.

You should be able to taste the bitter, strong espresso, and the creamy whipped cream that’s going to make the drink that much easier to handle with no sugar.

If you want to know more about coffee or tea, feel free to check the related articles below. Who knows what else you might find ?