Drinking coffee in Spain

by Lorraine Williamson
drinking coffee in Spain

Drinking coffee in Spain is part of the culture, and there are so many different ways to take it. How do you like yours?

All over Spain, you will find cafes and bars filled with people drinking coffee. But do you know how to ask for the exact coffee you want? InSpain.news looks at how you can immerse yourself in the coffee culture in Spain.

The history of Spanish coffee

But first, let´s look at the history, and how coffee came to be in Spain. Spanish ships were involved in the transportation of plants and seeds to many remote areas of the world where coffee was not grown. As descendants of Spanish conquistadors settled in Central and South America, they soon created massive coffee plantations. And so the distribution began. However, as legend has it, the first coffee was brought to Spain by Turkish immigrants.

In the early days

During the late 19th century, coffee shops were much different from what we know now. The interiors were very opulent in style. Then, they were very bohemian places for intellectuals, artists, poets, writers, and philosophers to hang out.

In fact, many famous artists and writers have spent hours drinking coffee at their favourite coffee houses. These include Lorca, Hemingway, Dalí, Picasso, and Torrente Ballester.

Drinking coffee nowadays

traditional cafe

In recent times, there are many coffee shop chains all over the world. But Spain still retains the charm of traditional coffee houses, as well as quality modern cafeterias. They are very sociable areas and can be found in every neighbourhood.

A coffee shop in Spain is a place where you can enjoy drinking your favourite coffee while relaxing and reading the newspaper, enjoying a pastry, people watching, or chatting with friends. They are the hub of every community.

Types of coffee

In Spain, there is every variation of coffee you could imagine. Therefore, it is essential you know how to order your preference. Some coffees are known worldwide such as latte or cappuccino, but there are many others you may not be as familiar with.

drinking coffeeCafé con Leche

This is one of the most popular and well-known. It is usually served as half coffee and half milk, (mitad) but this could vary depending on the region. It literally means coffee with milk.


If you ask for a coffee without being specific, this is normally what you would receive. Similar to café con leche, but hot water is added instead of milk.

Café Solo

Café solo is basically a standard single shot of coffee. Otherwise known as espresso. This is one of the most common types enjoyed in Spain and is usually very strong.


Doble (double) is simply two shots of espresso.

JammFM Radio


A cortado is perfect for those that like a good “hit” of coffee, but without bitterness. It is literally a café solo (cut short) with a splash of hot milk added at the end.

Cortado Grande

This a café doble with a splash of milk.


At the other end of the spectrum, we have café nube. This is a glass of hot milk with a dash of coffee.


Similar to the nube, but with an extra splash more coffee.

Café Bombon

For those with a sweet tooth, be careful as the café bombon is quite addictive. It is one of the most indulgent Spanish coffees. Instead of milk or sugar, condensed milk is poured into a cup, and hot coffee is added.


If you want to take it a step further, then this is the Spanish coffee for you! The milk is replaced with alcohol! It is usually brandy, but can also be whisky or rum. And can be served with or without milk.

drinking ice coffeeCafé con Hielo

On a hot day in Spain, there’s nothing better than an iced coffee. Normally, this is served is in two cups or glasses. One contains hot coffee, the other contains ice. The coffee can be with or without hot milk. Then, simply pour the coffee (coffee and milk) into the ice. If you take sugar, remember to add this to your coffee before you add it to the ice.

Café Descafeinado

Descafeinado (decaffeinated) coffees are common in Spain, and almost every bar or cafe will have them. However, some places may only offer it from a sachet (de sobre). Therefore, if you want it from the machine like regular coffees, ask for “de máquina”. This way, you can have your coffee in any of the above types and strengths. 

More choices

As if it wasn’t complicated enough to order your perfect strength of coffee, there are also other ways to ask for your milk, and which type of vessel your coffee arrives in.

Unless you ask, your milk will be hot. The temperature will vary and can sometimes be very hot. If you prefer something different, you can ask for leche fria (cold milk), or leche templada (warm milk). Often people will ask for a café americano con leche aparte. This is basically an Americano but with a small jug of milk on the side.

And finally, when you are ordering your coffee, it will either come in a glass or a cup. In most traditional cafeterias, it will come in a glass. However, if the barista realises you are not Spanish, they may serve it in a cup. The best way is to advise how you like it best. ‘En vaso’ (in a glass) or ‘en taza’ (in a cup).

After all that, I am sure you will be ready for a coffee!

Also read: Our visit with barista Juanma Cafeina

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