This blog post was originally posted on December 17, 2014, and was updated on October 11, 2017.
We don’t know what we’d do without our coffee…
…so we wouldn’t dream of sending you out in Madrid without a helpful rundown of the local java jargon. Whether you like it black, iced, with or without milk, we’ve got you covered in our complete guide to ordering coffee in Spain!
First, you should know the espresso brewing method is the most popular way to prepare coffee in Spain. This method forces extremely hot, pressurized water through finely ground coffee beans. This results in a stronger flavor in a smaller amount of coffee. A cup of coffee brewed in this manner is often referred to as espresso.
Ordering coffee in Spain involves the barista taking a cup of espresso and then adding milk to your liking. They won’t add any sugar. Rather, you will receive packets of sugar to add to your coffee yourself.
Sounds simple enough, right? Well, there’s a little more to it, which is why we’ve created this trusty guide for ordering coffee in Spain. Continue reading (or watch Devour Madrid expert guide Luke break things down in the video below), and before you know it, you’ll be sipping the perfect coffee in Madrid!
Coffees Served with Little or No Milk
A café solo is a small cup of strong, black espresso. Order this if you need 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 flavor.
A café cortado is a small cup of espresso with just a splash of milk. Other regions in Spain may refer to this drink as café manchado (stained coffee). However, some places, a manchado refers to a glass of milk flavored with coffee, so be sure to specify!
Café con Hielo
This summertime favorite is simply coffee with ice. The barista will give you two glasses: one containing black espresso and another containing ice cubes. To enjoy, just pour your coffee over the ice.
This coffee order doesn’t have a drop of milk, instead, it has alcohol! A carajillo is espresso served with 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, you can ask for leche fría o leche del tiempo (cold or room temperature milk).
A café bombon is espresso with sweetened condensed milk. Those of you with a sweet tooth must try it! If you prefer to eat your sweets, make sure to check out the some of Madrid’s best pastry shops.
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’ll receive a cup of hot milk and a packet of instant decaffeinated coffee.
However, some cafes offer descafeinado de maquina (machine-brewed decaffeinated coffee). If you see it on the menu, decide how you would like your coffee served, and be sure to clarify thatyou want it prepared 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. You can use the opportunity as a short respite from exploring Madrid!
Want to sample some great coffee, learn about Madrid’s amazing food culture and hear about some of the city’s most fascinating history and traditions? Join us on our Ultimate Spanish Cuisine Tour! You’ll experience Madrid like a local and have the opportunity to taste the diverse flavors of Spain. Coffee is only the beginning!