Spanish coffee: Celeste Wong's global guides
Our expert barista takes a deep dive into Spanish coffee with coffee roaster Jordi Mestre, including traditional rituals, how to order in Spain and the perfect recipe for at-home brewing
Want to learn about Spanish coffee culture? Expert barista Celeste Wong chats to Spanish coffee roaster Jordi Mestre, founder of Nomad Coffee in Barcelona, about what makes Spain's coffee special, how to order it in Spanish cafés and how to make it at home.
What is special about Spanish coffee?
Spanish coffee is hugely influenced by the south of Europe, in particular Italy. Most Spaniards start their day drinking a café con leche. This is a 1:1 ratio coffee with heated milk, but in reality a little more milk is used, like in a latte. Similarly to the Italians, at home the most common way to make coffee is with a moka pot and then add hot milk. While the rest of the specialty coffee world has been slowly moving away from the ‘grande’-sized coffee drinks made popular by Americans, Jordi says that Spanish coffees have always been small – espressos, cortados, and café con leche being the largest. At his café for example, the biggest cup is 6oz (approx. 177ml) – and this is the same in more traditional, family-run cafés too.
Spaniards will have their first coffee at home, and then be outside most of the day, or working, so would go out to a café for their next coffee. Spaniards would never have a café con leche after 12pm or with lunch, but rather a small coffee like an espresso or cortado.
How to order coffee in Spain
Here are some of the most popular and traditional Spanish coffee serves:
- Café con leche: single espresso with milk.
- Cortado: single espresso with a touch of milk, similar to but not the same as a macchiato or piccolo.
- Espresso solo: single shot espresso, extracted long (about 40-50ml).
- Double espresso: double shot (17-20g) espresso, 30-40ml (usually found in specialty cafés).
Spanish coffee trends
In Spain, contemporary coffee shops are experimenting with many different flavours. With Spanish weather being on the hotter side, their uptake of cold brew coffee has been faster than in the UK. I remember about five years ago seeing Nomad take a lemon syrup made from the juice of many hand-squeezed lemons, add it to cold brew and finish with a spritz of soda water… but now the latest coffee on offer is the michelada cold brew using hot spices and umami flavours with cold brew coffee and soda as seen below.
How to make Spanish café con leche at home
Spanish coffee kit you'll need:
- Moka pot/stove top coffee maker – this what most people use in Spain every morning.
- Coffee grinder – grind coffee on medium.
- Milk frother
- 6oz cup – your cup shouldn’t be larger than this.
- 20g coffee beans
- 100-150ml milk or plant-based alternative
Spanish café con leche recipe
- Unscrew the moka pot and fill the bottom piece with cold water. Fill it just up to, but not beyond, the pressure valve.
- Fill the perforated basket with ground coffee. You don’t need to tamp it or push it down hard. Just make sure the coffee is level. Screw the top back on.
- Put the moka pot on the hob or stove top and slowly heat the water. You can check that the coffee has started to percolate by opening the lid. But be careful, it can be hot to touch!
- While the coffee is heating, pour milk or plant-based alternative into the milk frother and press the on button. If using plant-based milk, it's best to use a 'barista' version if you want a foamy texture.
- Once the moka pot top is full, and there is no more coffee bubbling through, take it off the heat and pour in the cup immediately.
- Once finished, add the hot milk to the coffee to fill the cup.
Jordi Mestre is founder of Nomad Coffee and is a Spanish coffee expert.
Image credit: Eye Ubiquitous/Universal Images Group via Getty Images