If you’re a globe-trotting coffee lover, one of your key concerns will definitely be making sure you know how to get your coffee wherever and whenever you need it.
If you want to know what kinds of coffee you can get–and how to order coffee in Spain, read on!
Coffee In Spain Summary
Spain has a very strong coffee culture, and Spaniards consider having a coffee with a friend to be a necessary daily event.
Like much of Europe, the cafe culture in Spain is steeped in tradition: terraces, cafes, and other establishments cater to the coffee-loving crowds, serving a variety of beverages with an espresso base.
Coffee in Spain is a little different to what American and even British tourists might be expecting, in part due to tradition.
Coffee roasters in Spain prefer a method called torrefacto, which gives the coffee a distinct flavor.
Sugar is added in with some of the beans during the roasting process, near the end. The result is a deeper, often more bitter flavor–it can take getting used to.
The torrefacto process gained popularity during the 1920s as a way to extend depleted coffee supplies as well as to disguise the flavor of cheaper robusta beans, but it’s held on through to today.
It’s possible to buy non-torrefacto coffee in the country, but you’ll want to seek out specialty coffee shops rather than the standard restaurants, bars, and cafes, if you really don’t like it or order online!
Spaniards drink their coffee at all times of the day and in the evening as well: cafe con leche is the most popular breakfast beverage, and a little espresso with dessert in the evening is standard as well.
If you’re a coffee-lover, you’re definitely in luck while traveling in Spain.
How To Order Coffee In Spain: Types Of Spanish Coffees
Because café culture is so developed in Spain, there are many different options for coffee lovers of all kinds.
But it’s important to know what to order, to make sure you get what you want.
Asking for a latte isn’t necessarily going to get you what you’re looking for–so learn the terms for the different types of coffee available across the country to satisfy any craving.
Spanish Coffee With No Milk
If you’re a black coffee fan, these are the drinks you should be ordering:
A single shot of espresso coffee, strong and black.
The Café Solo is sometimes served with sugar cubes or packets in case you want them. If you want more, you can also order a Doble (double).
Much like the Americano in Italy and in many American coffee shops, the drink in Spain consists of a shot of espresso (like the café solo) with hot water added to it.
If you’re looking for something that’s close to the cup of coffee you’d get at most US restaurants, the café americano is the right drink for you.
Café Con Hielo
On a hot summer day, the café con hielo is definitely a winner for black coffee lovers.
Black espresso, served with optional sugar and a glass of ice to pour it over.
If you like your coffee with sugar, simply add it to the hot espresso to dissolve it, and then quickly chill it over the ice for a refreshing beverage.
Spanish Coffees With Milk
If you need to know how to order coffee in Spain with milky flavor at any café, there are a few key terms to know as well:
Café con Leche
Translated as coffee with milk, the most popular morning drink in Spain.
This is prepared with equal parts espresso coffee with milk, and one interesting aspect that sets coffee in Spain apart from most of Europe: the server or barista will likely ask outright if you want hot or cold milk.
A small cup of espresso, like the café solo, with just a splash of milk.
This is ideal if you want to just cut some of the bitterness of the torrefacto beans without overwhelming the flavor.
In fact, “cortado” means “cut” en Espanol, so the name is very apt.
Related Read: What Is A Cortado?
Similar in some respects to the Italian macchiato, this is warm milk “stained” with a little bit of espresso. The difference is in the proportions.
The manchado is mostly milk with just a splash of coffee, where an Italian macchiato is mostly espresso with just a little foam.
The word “manchado” means “stained,” and it’s a good option if you want the taste of coffee with milk without so much caffeine.
This one is my favorite when I’m in Spain!
If you prefer your milky coffee very sweet, café bombón is the top choice for you.
It’s a fine treat made with espresso and sweetened condensed milk. More like a coffee-flavored milk drink, if I’m honest.
In some ways, it’s reminiscent of Vietnamese coffee–while the base is a little different, both drinks feature sweetened condensed milk and end up almost syrupy in their richness.
The condensed milk doesn’t just add flavor, with the caramel-like sweetness that sets condensed milk apart, but texture as well.
The café bombón is definitely worth trying, just for the experience. If you’re less than interested in the sweet coffee, you can ask to adjust the amount of condensed milk.
Decaffeinated Spanish Coffee
There’s something you need to know before you order coffee in Spain if you don’t want the caffeine jolt.
If you simply order “café descafeinado,” you’re likely to end up with a mug of hot milk and a packet of instant decaf.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t get the beverage of your choice decaffeinated, but you have to know precisely how to order coffee and get what you want.
For example, for espresso machine-brewed decaf, you should ask for “descafeinado de máquina.”
Not every coffee shop will have this on offer, but it also isn’t especially rare. If you confirm that the café or restaurant serves machine-brewed decaf, you can also request any of the drinks we mentioned before.
From the café cortado to the café bombón to the café con hielo or even a solo or doble–decaffeinated. Simply specify to the person taking your order. For example, “café americano descafeinado.”
Spanish Coffee With Alcohol
Like many European countries, in Spain, coffee is sometimes served with alcohol.
While it’s less common in the US, a drink combining different liquors and coffee is a treat in Spain, just as much as France, Germany, and a few other countries.
When you want alcohol, you should know how to order coffee just as you want; fortunately, all of the options are well worth trying.
Irish coffee is served a little differently: a layer of whiskey, preferably Irish, followed by a distinct layer of espresso with sugar, and then a layer of cream, lightly sweetened in some cases.
It’s generally sold in a glass or at least a glass mug so that the distinct layers are visible before you mix it all together.
Another great treat for a hot day. This also gets ice, along with espresso, sugar, vodka, and cream.
The sugar is dissolved in the coffee and then mixed with the ice, vodka, and milk. In some versions, it’s blended all together, while in others, it’s simply shaken or stirred.
The important elements of the cocktail are that it’s sweetened, that it contains vodka as the liquor of choice, and that it is served cold.
According to folk etymology, the name for this coffee beverage comes from the word for courage, “coraje,” but there’s no real proof of that history.
This beverage is a little more general than the first two; it’s generally espresso coffee with some type of strong spirit added.
The real charm is in the fact that no two places in Spain make the café carajillo exactly the same way. In Madrid, it’s different from Catalonia, and in Valencia, it’s different from Salamanca.
The “typical” recipe includes rum or brandy, warmed gently with lemon rind, sugar, and a few coffee beans.
The warmed liquor is mixed with coffee and served hot, sometimes in a glass mug. But different places will add some other ingredients or use different spirits.
Café Con Leche vs Latte
When people want to order coffee in Spain, a question that often comes up is whether a café con leche is the same thing as a caffè latte.
Each one is a coffee drink with milk added, but they are distinct from each other at the same time.
A caffè latte usually has more milk compared to the café con leche, and it also has foam as a key feature; the coffee drink of Spain usually does not.
Wrapping Up Spanish Coffee Drinks
If you want to order coffee in Spain, it’s important to know a little bit of the traditions and history surrounding it and the terms that the restaurants and cafés will be using.
Hopefully, this guide has got you prepped and ready to enjoy Spanish coffee!
Whether you’re in Madrid or Toledo, you can get a satisfying coffee with milk, a cup of coffee that isn’t too different from what you’d get at a diner, or even something decadent like the café bombón.
Whether you want your coffee with condensed milk, with ice, or on its own, you can learn how to order coffee in Spain and enjoy the brew!