The Spaniards love their café, and you can get a nice cup almost anywhere. In the cafes and bars here, instant coffee is not available. Cappuccinos, lattes, and flat whites aren’t available here (save in well-known coffee shop chains).
When you order coffee in Spain, the barista will take a cup of espresso and add milk to your preference. They are not going to add any sugar. Instead, you’ll get sugar packets to put in your coffee yourself.
In Spain, coffee drinks are generally classed according to how much milk they include. From least to most milk, we’ve selected a few of the most popular Spanish coffee drinks below.
Café con leche
Literally meaning “coffee with milk,” this is the closest thing to a latte you’ll find in Spain, but it’s a little stronger. It’s usually served with a swirl design on top of a strong coffee with heaps of foamy milk.
A Café solo (meaning “coffee only“) is a strong cup of coffee that is typically taken after a meal but may also be consumed for breakfast. Espresso is the name given to the Café alone in other nations, particularly in Italy. It depends a little on who makes the coffee and with which machine, but the Café solo can be quite strong at times, and it is common in other countries (though not so much in Spain) to drink a glass of water with it.
This is a delicious coffee that will knock your socks off. In a café bombón, espresso is mixed 1:1 with sweetened condensed milk. The condensed milk is added to the espresso in a clear glass for the extra aesthetic effect of the layers in a café bombón (also known as bombon coffee). Slowly pour in the condensed milk, allowing it to seep beneath the coffee and produce two distinct bands of color. It is the customer’s responsibility to stir it before drinking. Some places simply serve an espresso with a sachet of condensed milk for customers to add.
Decaffeinated coffee is widely available in Spain, and you’ll find it in practically every bar or cafe you visit. If you want it ‘de sobre‘ or ‘de máquina,’ meaning ‘from a packet’ or ‘from the machine,’ the waiter will generally inquire. Besides, if you ask for it from the machine, you’ll get the perfect cup of coffee that tastes so much like the real thing that you won’t even notice it’s decaffeinated. Moreover, if you want it with milk, don’t forget to ask for it ‘con leche.’
This is a powerful espresso shot topped with frothy hot milk, literally translated as ‘a short one.’ For those who find espresso too bitter on its own, it’s a terrific after-meal drink or afternoon pick-me-up.
A carajillo is an espresso with whiskey or brandy. This coffee, which comes without milk and is one of Spain’s most famous types of coffee, is perfect for those cooler evenings.
Café con Hielo
A café con hielo (coffee with ice) is essentially the Spanish version of an iced coffee, and is particularly popular during the hotter summer months.
Add sugar or milk to your café con hielo to make it your own. Typically served as a glass of espresso with a secondary glass of ice.
If you’re not a big coffee drinker but enjoy the delicate flavor, ask for a manchado. This is a hot cup of milk that has been flavored with a few drops of coffee to give it that hint of a taste.