A Guide to Ordering Coffee in Spain

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!

Ordering coffee in Spain is easy with this guide. Learn the local lingo to order your regular cup of coffee or surprise your senses and order something new.Photo Credit: 55Laney69 (Text Overlay: Devour Madrid)

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

Café Solo
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.

Café Americano
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.

Café Cortado
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.

Carajillo
This coffee order doesn’t have a drop of milk, instead, it has alcohol! A carajillo is espresso served with rum, whisky or brandy.

Ordering coffee in Spain can be complicated, but with such great coffee available all over the country, it's so worth it to take the time to learn the lingo and get it right!
You can’t go wrong with a piping hot café solo in Spain Photo Credit: Michelle Tribe

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).

Café Bombon
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.

The pretty leaf decoration found on top of this café con leche won't be available everywhere, but the strong tasting delicious coffee is a given all throughout Spain
Café con leche is a hugely popular coffee drink all throughout Spain Photo Credit: Edsel Little

Decaffeinated Coffees

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! 

9 Comment

  1. Sam says
    February 20, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    Expresso machiato equivalent in Palma please ?

    Reply
    1. Brianne Garrett says
      March 1, 2017 at 2:43 pm

      Hi Sam! Thanks for the question! We’d say a cafe cortado is going to be the best fit! It might have less foam, but the milk-to-espresso ratio is the most similar!

      Reply
  2. Kirill says
    March 2, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    Hey! I would more useful in you added how to say hot and cold in Spanish. Especially here:

    Sometimes when you order this, the waiter may ask if you want hot or cold milk.

    Many thanks! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Brianne Garrett says
      March 2, 2017 at 8:34 pm

      Hi Kirill! Thanks for your suggestion! The word for cold in this case would be fría, and the word for hot would be caliente! Hope that helps!

      Reply
  3. Richard says
    May 11, 2018 at 4:35 pm

    Great article! I know what I like and now I know how to ask for it.

    Another unusual feature of coffee in Spain is their habit of adding sugar to the beans while roasting (Torrefacción). If you search online you’ll find articles complaining about how it ruins the coffee, but other people (including me) rather like it. Apparently the practice is routine in Spain and Portugal, but not even legal elsewhere in the EU.

    This is the reason for the words ‘Torrefacto’, ‘Natural’ and ‘Mezcla’ on bags of coffee beans in Spain.

    Reply
    1. Devour Tours says
      May 13, 2018 at 1:20 pm

      So true, Richard, and such an interesting bit of Spanish history that affects how we drink our coffee today. Those who don’t like the bitter torrefacto taste will have to head to specialty coffee shops.

      Reply
  4. Steven says
    June 4, 2018 at 10:28 pm

    Hola team.

    We are opening a cafe in brisbane and were just talking about spanish style coffee.

    Gracias

    Reply
    1. Devour Tours says
      June 5, 2018 at 4:46 pm

      Pretty sure that you guys could teach us a thing or two about good coffee!

      Reply
  5. Verity says
    July 6, 2018 at 6:14 am

    Haha Melbourne has the best coffee, Brisbane can be hit and miss

    Reply

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