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Village lake border Austria

Austrian Coffee and Culture

Famous for its fantasy-esque castles and colossal palaces, Austria is a country that many dream of visiting. Its capital Vienna, that radiates artistic and intellectual energy, has been gaining particular notice over recent years due to its unforgettable museums and ornate coffee houses that look and feel like you’re sipping in the company of royalty.

If you’re thinking of dipping your toes into the Vienna coffee scene, keep reading and find out how the beverage came to the country by accident and why you should never just order ‘coffee’ in a Viennese coffee house.

History of Austrian coffee

Coffee’s first appearance in the country can be traced back to the exact year of 1683, when Turkish invaders were forced to leave by Allied Forces head by the Polish Habsburg Army. It’s said that they left in such a hurry, they left some of their belongings, of which included sacks of what appeared to be small brown pellets. Confused by this discovery, it was originally thought that the sacks contained camel food and they were very nearly burnt if it were not for Polish King Jan III Sobieski who gave the beans to an officer called Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki. Spending some time experimenting with the beans, he thought to add milk and sugar to the bizarre pellets and with that, he discovered coffee and opened Vienna’s first ever coffee house.

Vienna coffee houses

One thing to note about Vienna coffee houses is that they’re very old (some of the oldest, in fact) and incredibly elegant. Expect high ceilings, stunning chandeliers, smartly dressed waiters and a diverse range of people that can include everything from writers to friends catching up. Regular customers to Viennese coffee houses are called ‘stamgast’ and are treated with the utmost respect, staff will know their order by heart, preferred table and some will even go above and beyond and ensure it’s reserved at their usual calling time.

When it comes to the act of serving coffee, it’s almost always presented on a small silver tray with a glass of water and occasionally a small chocolate alongside it.

Austrian coffee types

When visiting a Viennese coffee house, if you simply try to order ‘coffee’, it’s highly likely your smartly dressed waiter will meet you with a look of disdain. One of the reasons for this is that in Austria, there’s a huge variety of coffee types!

Check out some of the most popular you’ll encounter below - don’t worry though, most Viennese coffee houses include English menus so you won’t need to remember all of these!

Cup of Austrian kleiner brauner coffee
What is it?

Kleiner brauner

The means ‘little brown’ and as such, it’s a bit like an espresso and is served in a small cup with milk or cream on the side for you to add as you like.

Cup of Austrian grosser brauner coffee
What is it?

Grosser brauner

Grosser brauner is ‘big brown’ which is the same as a Kleiner brauner, just in a big cup.

Cup of Austrian kleiner schwarzer coffee
What is it?

Kleiner Schwarzer

Meaning ‘little black’, a Kleiner Schwarzer is a single espresso in a small cup. It can also be served short, which is where less water is added to the coffee.

Cup of Austrian Grosser Schwarzer coffee
What is it?

Grosser Schwarzer

Grosser Schwarzer means ‘large black’, which is essentially a double espresso.

Glass of Austrian Melange coffee
What is it?


Melange is one of the most popular Austrian coffee types. Served in a large glass or cup, this coffee contains more water and part milk and part foam.

Glass of Austrian Franziskaner coffee
What is it?


This Viennese coffee type is a melange with whipped cream and cocoa powder on top.

Glass of Austrian Kapuziner coffee
What is it?


A Kapuziner is a double shot of espresso and cream.

Glasses of Austrian Einspänner coffee
What is it?


This is a black coffee, served in an Einspänner glass with plenty of whipped cream on top. The name actually comes from the word for a carriage driving system which leaves one hand free for holding a coffee. It’s said that the cream was added to keep the drink well insulated so the driver could enjoy it on chilly nights.

Glass of Austrian Verlängerter coffee
What is it?


Meaning ‘an extended one’ a verlängerter is like a Grosser brauner, but weaker. It’s served in a large cup and can either be black or with cream and sugar.

Glass of Austrian Verkehrt coffee
What is it?

Kaffee Verkehrt

This Austrian coffee type is 1/3 black coffee and 2/3 hot milk and foam.

Cup of Austrian Kleiner Schale Gold coffee
What is it?

Kleiner Schale Gold

An espresso with hot milk and foam, served in a small cup.

The above list of Austrian coffee types is non-exhaustive and you may discover even more! Each blend is delicious in its own right and if you’re up to the challenge, why not try a coffee crawl of the capital and sample each type along the way?

Now you know all there is to know about Viennese coffee, keep the journey going and explore other coffee hotspots around the world with our guide to German coffee.

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