A Guide to Ordering Coffee in Spain

This blog post was originally posted on December 17, 2014, and was updated on July 27, 2018.

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!

RELATED: 5 Coffee Shops You Can’t Miss While in Madrid

Ordering coffee in Spain is sometimes more complicated than you'd expect! It pays to know what to say in order to get your coffee just how you like it, so we put together this infographic to help you know exactly how to order coffee in Spain.

Click to expand or embed this image on your site

Ordering Coffee in Spain: An Introduction

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.

Spanish coffee might taste more bitter than you’re used to, which can be attributed to the torrefacto method of preserving roasted coffee beans. The story of torrefacto is interesting, and linked to the Spanish Civil War. If you’re looking for non-torrefacto coffee in Madrid, you should head to a specialty coffee shop. If you just want a regular cup of joe, you can get one in most every bar and restaurant.

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.

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 (coffee stained with milk). However, in some places, un manchado can mean the exact opposite: a glass of milk stained with a little bit of 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, add sugar to your liking, stir to dissolve the sugar in the hot coffee, and pour your coffee over the ice. It’s a feat of physics if you can get all the coffee into the other glass without spilling any!

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

An essential thing to know for ordering coffee in Spain is how to order a black coffee: un cafe solo
There’s nothing like a piping hot café solo in Spain! 

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). More on that below!

Café Bombón
A café bombón is espresso with sweetened condensed milk. If you have a sweet tooth, you have to try it!

If you prefer your coffee with milk, you need to know how to order it in Spain! A coffee with milk in Madrid is a café con leche.
A delicious café con leche is filled to the brim with milk.

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 máquina (machine-brewed decaffeinated coffee). If you see it on the menu, decide how you would like your coffee served, and be sure to clarify that you want it prepared with decaffeinated coffee.

For example, if you want a decaffeinated café americano, simply say: Querría un café americano descafeinado.

Other Coffee Vocab

In Madrid, the barista or waiter will often ask you how you’d like the milk in your coffee. Your decision will affect the temperature of your coffee when it’s served to you, so decide based on whether you like a scalding cup, a cool one, or something in between! Here are your options:

Caliente: Hot, steamed milk

Fría: Cold milk

Templada: A mix of hot and cold milk

If you have a preference on the vessel you’d like to drink your coffee out of, you can also specify:

Taza: A mug with a handle

Vaso: A little glass with no handle

Enjoy Coffee the Spanish Way

Now that you’ve got ordering coffee in Spain down, the last thing to note is that the traditional way to drink coffee here is not on the go. Do as the Spaniards do: drink your coffee in a beautiful public square or a quaint café, using the time to catch up with friends and family. You can use the opportunity as a short respite from exploring Madrid!

Of course, if you’re on the go, Madrid’s specialty coffee shops will be happy to send you on your way with your delicious cup of Spanish coffee! If you’re at a normal bar or restaurant, though, they might not have to go cups.

Our last tip about ordering coffee in Spain is that it's best to take it slowly and enjoy the coffee in the café or coffee shop where you ordered it.
You can enjoy your coffee while relaxing, or while on the go.
If you're coming to Spain, you're going to need your caffeine fix. But do you know all the necessary vocab—and all the different kinds of coffee in Spain? Take a look at our guide and ordering coffee while in Madrid or elsewhere will be a breeze! #coffee #firstmealoftheday #breakfast #travel #spain #europe

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27 Comment

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

    Expresso machiato equivalent in Palma please ?

    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!

  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! 🙂

    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!

  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.

    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.

  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.


    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!

    2. Rob says
      August 27, 2018 at 2:14 pm

      Let me know where you are opening in Brisbane. My Dutch daughter in law has specialised making and serving coffee for years and her employers’ just closed due to re-development. At the least she’d love to try yours!

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

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

  6. Roger says
    October 10, 2018 at 4:30 pm

    Nice post … How would you describe a strong, black coffee with nothing added? Maybe bitter, but not too bitter.

    1. Devour Tours says
      October 11, 2018 at 2:55 pm

      Café solo is coffee with nothing added! The bitterness will depend on the beans and how they are preserved and roasted. Spanish coffee is often bitter due to the torrefacto method of preserving beans that we mentioned.

  7. Anthony says
    October 26, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    How do you order a double espresso in Spanish? Everytime I try to order an espresso doble, or cade doble, and then I recieve a ristretto

    1. Devour Tours says
      October 29, 2018 at 3:12 pm

      Hmmm that’s very strange! Un café doble should do the trick. There might be some confusion with the espresso doble, so maybe avoid that one.

      1. Jim Mackie says
        July 3, 2019 at 10:54 pm

        Cafe solo largo fuerte should .get you a double expresso. Works for me!

  8. Verónika says
    November 4, 2018 at 10:20 pm

    Hola! My Mother is Madrileña & I Grew Up Spending Time With Family All Over Spain & Europe. As Children, We’re Given Leche Manchada & “Graduate” To Café Con Leche. Early On, We Develop A Love Affair With Café lol. My Fave Is & Will Always Be Café Cortado But When I’m Feening For A Rich Espresso, My Go To Is A Simple, Sweet, Dark Café Solo. Olé

    1. Devour Tours says
      November 6, 2018 at 10:32 am

      Thanks for your comment Verónika! What a beautiful coffee love story 🙂 Thanks for sharing it with us!

  9. Jorge says
    February 3, 2019 at 9:15 pm

    Hello! Carajillo is made with Licor 43 as opposed to brandy and whiskey. It is a sweet liquer often used as a digestif.

    1. Devour Tours says
      February 4, 2019 at 10:06 am

      Hi Jorge! Like most things in Spain, this probably varies by region. Wikipedia suggests that Licor 43 is popular in carajillos in Cartagena. Thanks for your comment!

  10. Sara M says
    March 26, 2019 at 2:42 pm

    Hello – we have guests coming to our corporate office from spain and we were told they like brown sugar in their espresso. Is this raw cane sugar or actually brown sugar?

    1. Devour Tours says
      March 27, 2019 at 5:48 pm

      Hi Sara! Raw cane sugar. “Real” brown sugar like we use to bake with in the US is actually pretty hard to find in Spain.

  11. Randa says
    June 23, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    Hi. How can I order flat white in Spain?Is cortado would be the same?

    1. Devour Tours says
      June 24, 2019 at 4:34 pm

      Hey Randa! At specialty cafes you can order a flat white, and at normal bars a café con leche is the closest.

  12. Eric Dumont says
    August 29, 2019 at 6:11 am

    Some say taste is relative but torrefacto coffee is horrendous. It tastes like yesterdays wine steeped with cigarette butts. The claim that it is conservation method is rubbish. In Spain, it is still used to mask the taste of the low quality robusta coffees used and as an excuse to add 20%+ weight in sugar to increase profits at the expense of consumers. There is a reason this practice is banned in some coutries: it’s a scam.

    1. Devour Tours says
      September 2, 2019 at 5:24 pm

      Thanks for reading, Eric—torrefacto coffee definitely isn’t for everyone. Here are some great places to find specialty coffee here in Madrid if that’s more your style: https://madridfoodtour.com/coffee-in-madrid/

  13. September 2, 2019 at 8:23 am

    I’m going to Madrid soon and I think I’ll fit in pretty well because I don’t like sweetness in my coffee anyway! In most cafes are all drinks based on espresso or is it easy to find drip coffee too?

    1. Devour Tours says
      September 2, 2019 at 5:16 pm

      Hi Alice! Most traditional cafes in Spain serve mainly espresso-based drinks, but some specialty coffee shops do serve drip coffee. You can find V60 drip at Hola Coffee and Toma Café (both of which roast their own), as well as The Fix, Ruda Cafe and ACID. We hope this helps—enjoy Madrid!


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