Tips for Ordering the Perfect Cup of Coffee in Spain
If there’s one thing that Spaniards take seriously, it’s definitely their coffee! When you walk into a Spanish café you might be overwhelmed at first with all of the different variations listed on the menu. But never fear, with this handy guide you’ll be able to order a coffee in Spain just like a local!
Spanish coffee basics
The first thing that you should know about coffee in Spain is that espresso roast is king. The grounds are extremely fine, which result in a strong flavor during brewing. Espresso is a smaller serving of coffee, but still has all the caffeine and full body of flavor that you would expect from traditional drip coffee. From there, the espresso can be served in a number of ways, as we will look at further.
An interesting thing that you should know about Spanish coffee is that it often has a bitter, burned aftertaste. This is because most Spanish coffee beans are torrefacto. This means that sugar is added to the beans in the final steps of roasting. This method became popular during the Spanish Civil War to better preserve the beans, and the tradition has since stuck. Torrefacto beans make the flavor more intense and give the coffee a dark, thick appearance.
Basic coffee drinks
You can usually get a coffee at most bars, restaurants, and cafés. All of these places have the basic drinks, which usually include the following.
- Café sólo: a single shot of espresso served in a small glass. This is the drink for the coffee purist, as nothing else is added.
- Cortado: espresso with a splash of milk. The milk is usually steamed, but you can ask for cold milk to cool down your coffee for quick drinking.
- Café americano: espresso with a bit of water to dilute the flavor. It has all the caffeine of a café sólo but is less intense and easier to drink.
- Café con leche: probably the most popular coffee drink in Spain! This is espresso that fills half the cup and the rest is filled with milk. Again, typically the milk is hot unless you ask for cool or cold milk. This is Spain’s version of a latte, and is just the right size with the perfect amount of caffeine.
- Café con hielo: espresso with an ice cube. Unless you go to a specialty coffee shop, most cafés in Spain do not have iced coffee or cold brew. To get a cold coffee in Spain, café con hielo is the closest that you’ll get.
Now that you know the coffee basics, let’s take a look at some of the coffee drinks in Spain that are equally as good but a bit less common.
- Carajillo: espresso is the base, but no milk or water here! Instead, liquor such as Bailey’s, whiskey, or brandy is added to the coffee and served in a glass.
- Trifásico: the same as a carajillo but with a splash of milk.
- Café bombón: a real treat if you like something sweet. Instead of regular milk, condensed milk is the key ingredient here. Since the condensed milk is already pretty sweet, there’s no need to add sugar.
- Café manchado: this one can be a bit tricky, as it can have completely different meanings. Manchado means “stained” and can either mean espresso with the slightest dash of milk, or milk with a splash of espresso. Make it clear before you order to know what you’re getting!
- Café vienés: a café con leche with a healthy serving of whipped cream on top.
Other things to know about coffee in Spain
There are a few other things that you should know about coffee in Spain to help you order like a pro. You can ask for your coffee in a taza (small mug) or vaso (glass). If you want to drink your coffee quickly, it will cool down faster in the glass, as the small mug will keep it warmer longer. Also, most cafés do not prepare decaffeinated coffee. You can order it, but it is usually instant coffee that is mixed with water, milk, or both. Most importantly, having a coffee in Spain is a moment to be enjoyed during the day. This means that the locals drink their coffee at the café or bar and not on-the-go on the street. It’s one of the simple pleasures of the day to be able to enjoy your delicious coffee and relax for a moment!
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