How to Order Coffee in Spain

A brief introduction to ordering coffee in Spain

Spain coffee
••• epicantus / Pixabay

If you find yourself in a Spanish café without being fluent in the language, don't worry, they're not speaking some sort of coffee-centric code. Ordering a cup of joe in Spain can be tricky. It's rarely just "coffee" (or café in Spanish)—there are the terms to get acquainted with if you want to keep your head above water in a Spanish cafeteria (and for you tea drinkers, you can read about Tea in Spain here).

You can also read more about breakfast in Spain for a glimpse at how the Spanish start their day.

Here are the plethora of ways to order coffee in Spain:

  • Café solo: Espresso, the standard form of coffee in Spain. If it's too strong, you can order it with added water (con agua caliente)—but be prepared for the barista to scoff. 
  • Café con leche: Espresso with milk. This is the most popular form of coffee in Spain, and you'll find a decent cup in most cafés.
  • Cortado: Espresso with a drop of milk. Sometimes called cafe manchado (stained coffee), not to be mistaken with leche manchada, which we'll get to in a moment. For reasons that may puzzle Spanish coffee aficionados for years to come, in Barcelona, the difference between a cafe con leche and a cortado has been lost. Therefore, you will find your Barcelonan cortado to be a lot milkier than elsewhere in the country. If you want to order a cortado in Barcelona like in the rest of Spain trying asking for a cortado con poca leche—or "a coffee with a little milk."
  • Leche manchada: Or "stained milk," a little coffee and a lot of milk. This is more like coffee-flavored milk than a "proper" coffee. Not very common, though it is more popular in the south (like in Seville, for example).
  • Café descafeinado: Decaff coffee. You can ask for it from the machine (de maquina) or from a sachet (de sobre).
  • Café con hielo: An espresso and a glass of ice. You're supposed to pour the espresso over the ice. This is popular beverage during the hot summer months. 
  • Café bonbon: Espresso with sweetened condensed milk. Sometimes referred to as a café cortado condensada. A mix of half normal milk and half sweetened condensed milk is called a leche y leche.
  • Cafe bonbon con hielo: Same as above, but poured over ice. It's similar in flavor to a Vietnamese iced coffee.

In some bigger cafés, you will find an even greater selection of coffees. Irish coffee, Russian coffee (with vodka, of course) and Viennese coffee (with milk and whipped cream) are some examples you'll find in high-end cafeterias