Most people are particular about how they enjoy their coffee, but ordering coffee in Spain can be difficult without knowing the local lingo. Read this guide on how to order coffee in Spain and get the cup of coffee that’s right for you.
At some point during your time in Spain you will want to order a cup of coffee. Simply asking for un café (a coffee) won’t cut it, you must be more specific.
The first thing to know is that coffee in Spain is usually prepared using the espresso brewing method. This method forces extremely hot, pressurized water through finely ground coffee beans. This results in a stronger flavour in a smaller amount of coffee. A cup of coffee brewed in this manner is often referred to as espresso.
Coffee orders in Spain involve taking a cup of espresso and then adding as much (or as little) milk as you prefer. The barista won’t add any sugar, instead you will receive packets of sugar to add to your coffee yourself.
Coffees Served with Little or No Milk
A café solo is a small cup of strong, black espresso. Order this if you need a some energy during a fun day of sightseeing around Madrid.
If the intensity of a café solo is a bit much, try a café americano. This coffee contains the same amount of caffeine as a café solo but with more water, resulting in a milder flavour.
A café cortado is small cup of espresso with just a tiny touch of milk. Other regions in Spain may refer to this drink as café manchado which means stained coffee– but sometimes a manchado will mean a glass of milk stained with coffee, so be sure to specify!
Café con Hielo
This summer time favourite is literally coffee with ice. The barista will give you a cup of black espresso, and another cup containing ice cubes. Pour your coffee over the ice, and enjoy.
The coffee order doesn’t have a drop of milk, instead it has alcohol! A carajillo is coffee served by taking a cup of espresso and adding rum, whisky or brandy.
Coffees Served with a Lot of Milk
Café con Leche
A café con leche is coffee served with equal parts espresso and milk. Sometimes when you order this, the waiter may ask if you want hot or cold milk. If you’re in a bit of a hurry and can’t wait for the steamed milk to cool, ask for cold milk (leche fría o leche del tiempo).
This drink, which means stained milk, is made by taking a cup of steamed milk and adding a drop of espresso.
A café bombon is coffee made from espresso and sweetened condensed milk. Those of you with a sweet tooth must try it, you won’t be disappointed. If you prefer to eat your sweets, make sure to check out the 7 best pastry shops in Madrid.
Fresh decaffeinated coffee isn’t very popular in Spain, and many cafes may only have it in instant form. If you order a café descafeinado de sobre, you will be served a cup of hot milk and given a packet of instant decaffeinated coffee.
If you’re lucky, the cafe may have machine brewed decaffeinated coffee or descafeinado de maquina. If so, decide how you would like your coffee served and then clarify that you’d like it made with decaffeinated coffee.
For example, if you want a decaffeinated café americano, simply say: “Querría un café americano descafeinado.”
Enjoy Coffee the Spanish Way
Now that you’ve got ordering coffee in Spain down, the last thing to note is that most Spaniards do not take their coffees ‘to go’. Instead they sit down to enjoy their drinks with friends or family. Do as the Spaniards do, drink your coffee in a beautiful public square or a quaint cafe, and take a short respite from exploring the city.
How do you like your coffee served?