Bombón or cortado? Coffee is an institution in Spain, although you’ll find many coffee variations that you’ve never seen before.
In Spain, you can order a wide variation of coffees that you won’t find in other countries. You can order Spanish coffee with different amounts of caffeine, milk and liquor.
To make your Spanish coffee experience easier, here is a guide you can use next time you order your café.
A guide to Spanish coffee
Café sólo: it contains more coffee than the Italian espresso but is less strong. It’s usually served in a small cup.
Cortado: has the same amount of coffee as a café solo but with a hint of milk, and usually served in a small cup.
Carajillo: is coffee with a liquor, usually brandy, whisky or Baileys Irish Cream. There is a chance that the waiter will bring a bottle of liquor to your table and ask how much of it you prefer. The caffeinated brew will always be served in a glass.
Trifásico: is basically the same as a carajillo but with a bit of milk as well.
Bombón: is a café solo with leche condensada (condensed milk). It’s delicious – at least if you have a sweet tooth – and there is no need to add sugar. A bombón is usually served in a small glass to give it an extra visual touch. (While writing this post, I actually enjoyed a homemade bombón with non-fat leche condensada to feel a little less guilty.)
Cafe Belmonte: essentially a bombón but with an added dash of brandy.
Café con leche: ‘coffee with milk’ is served in a big cup and normally consists of 50 percent coffee and 50 percent milk.
Manchado: is like café con leche but with fairly less coffee. Manchado means ‘stained’, which refers to how the milk appears stained by the small amount of coffee.
Cappuccino: differs from a café con leche by having the same amount of coffee as an Italian espresso (one shot). It, however, contains a large quantity of milk foam.
Con hielo: Apart from all these variations, you can also ask for a café solo con hielo (coffee shot with ice) or a cortado con hielo (coffee shot, milk and ice). But when you do, don’t expect a fancy frappuccino as the waiter will instead bring your hot coffee with an extra glass of ice cubes – you pour it yourself. Tip: If you drink your coffee with sugar, put the sugar in the hot coffee before pouring it over the ice.
Miserable coffee: On a final note, it’s best not to ask for a café desgraciado as the waiters call it. Translated as ‘miserable coffee’, it consists of decaf coffee (descafeinado), skim milk and sacarina as a sweetener.