9 Essential Ways to Order Coffee in Spain

Coffee| © Jazz Guy/ Flickr
Coffee| © Jazz Guy/ Flickr
Photo of Esme Fox
31 May 2017

The Spanish love their coffee, and pretty much everywhere you go, you’ll find a good cup. There’s no such thing as instant coffee in the cafes and bars here. Forget cappuccinos, lattes and flat whites – these don’t exist here (unless you’re in well-known coffeeshop chains). This is how to order coffee in Spain.

Café con leche

Literally, ‘coffee with milk’, this is probably the closest equivalent to a latte you’ll find in Spain, although it’s slightly stronger. Strong coffee with lots of frothy milk, it typically comes with a beautiful swirly pattern on top.

Coffee | Pexels

Café o Americano

Order a Café (Coffee) and that’s exactly what you’ll get – nothing fancy, just plain strong black coffee. You can also ask for an ‘Americano‘ to get the same thing. Sugar is never pre-added – sachets are usually provided on the side of your cup or on the table.

Filtered Coffee | © Julius Schorzman/ Wikimedia Commons

Leche manchada

If you’re not a big coffee drinker, but like the subtle flavour of it, then why not try asking for a leche manchada? Literally translated as ‘stained milk’, this is a hot cup of milk, flavoured with a few drops of coffee to give it that hint of a taste.

milky coffee | ©PublicDomainPictures / Pixabay

Café descafeinado

Decaffeinated coffees are common in Spain, and almost every bar or cafe you come across will have it. The waiter will usually ask if you want it ‘de sobre‘ or ‘de máquina‘, meaning ‘from a packet’ or ‘from the machine’? Ask for it from the machine and you’ll receive the perfect cup of coffee – so similar in taste to the real thing, you won’t even be able to tell it’s decaffeinated. Don’t forget to ask for ‘con leche‘ if you want it with milk.

Coffee break | © Mzlle/Pixabay

Café Solo

A strong espresso shot, typically taken after the main meal in the middle of the day. It is sometimes offered instead of a dessert as part of a menu of the day.

Espresso | © Michelle Tribe/Flickr


Literally translated as ‘a short one’, this is strong espresso shot, topped with frothy hot milk. It’s great for an after-meal drink or an afternoon pick-me-up for those who find an espresso too bitter on its own.

cortado coffee | ©Bex Walton / Flickr

Café Bombón

Those with a sweet tooth will love the café bombón – sticky sweet condensed milk topped by a shot of bitter espresso.

Cafe bombon | ©Chris Gladis / Flickr

Café con hielo

On a hot day in Spain, there’s nothing better than an ice coffee. Forget fancy blended ice drinks or ice cream sundae-looking concoctions, however, this is ice coffee the simple way. You’ll get two cups – one with hot coffee and one with large ice cubes. Simply pour the hot coffee into the glass with the ice and stir. After a just a minute, you’re coffee will be cold enough to drink. Remember to ask for a ‘café con leche, con hielo‘ if you want it with milk.

Spanish ice coffee | ©txenoo / Flickr


And there’s a coffee for winter time too – the carajillo – a small glass filled with espresso and shot of your favourite liquor. Typically it will be brandy, rum or whisky.

Carajillo coffee | ©Gordito1869 / Wikimedia Commons

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