This blog post was originally posted on October 21, 2014, and was updated on September 1, 2017.
Ordering a coffee in Spain can be tricky business. Confusing jargon and differing regional specialties intimidate even the most dedicated of coffee fanatics. Learn how to order coffee in Barcelona like an expert!
Here in Barcelona, many people are further perplexed by the Catalan language twist thrown in the mix. Therefore, unless you are satisfied with having a café con leche each and every time, read on for a general guide as well as tips on how to order coffee in Barcelona. Of course, if you want to know how to order coffee in Barcelona just like a local, join us on a food tour for even more useful tips!
The purest of Spanish coffee orders, café sólo which literally means coffee alone is what you will get if you simply mutter the word, café! All it is is a shot of espresso, but expect it to be thick, bitter and with a thin layer of foam on top.
The cortado, also known as tallat here in Barcelona, is a shot of espresso with a splash of steamed milk. Both terms in Spanish and Catalan mean cut because that’s exactly what the milk does—cuts the espresso. Though more or less the same throughout the country, Barcelona’s cortados are known to be a bit on the milkier side.
Café con Leche
Ahh, café con leche or cafè amb llet in Catalan as it is mostly referred to here. The most ubiquitous coffee order around. With equal parts espresso and steamed milk, it is a bit more substantial and a perfect breakfast accompaniment.
Café con Hielo
The Spanish version of iced coffee, cafè amb gel in Catalan, is your basic café sólo served alongside a glass of ice. Though you can do it, it’s also not usual to order any other type of coffee with ice. Café con hielo is a local favorite during the warmer months of the year, even for people who usually prefer milk with their coffee.
If you’d like to sip on black coffee for a little while longer, order a café americano for a shot of espresso with hot water. Though it’s nothing close to the bottomless cups typical of the US, for example, it may be as close as you get without going to Starbucks.
Spain’s most typical alcoholic coffee drink is a surprisingly common order in the late afternoons and evenings. One part brandy and one part espresso, and the brandy can be substituted for whiskey or rum.
Also sometimes referred to as a biberón, literally meaning a bottle, this treat is thought to have originated in Valencia. It usually consists of espresso with condensed milk. Expect to see a sharp contrast between the two liquids in this sweet indulgence that literally tastes like a chocolate bonbon melting in your mouth.
Of course, it’s not over yet. When you are wondering how to order coffee in Barcelona, keep these things in mind:
- If you would like decaf, ask for descafeinado!
- Sometimes waiters ask how you’d like your milk, templado o caliente, room temperature or hot. If you order caliente, you can bet that coffee is going to be very, very hot.
- When you order café con hielo, it is advisable to add sugar before pouring the coffee over the ice. Also on that note, don’t hesitate when pouring. It takes a quick, fearless flick of the wrist to avoid spilling coffee all over the table, or worse yourself!
- Spaniards don’t usually drink café con leche after lunch. They see that amount of milk as quite heavy, and will more often drink a cortado or café solo.
For the Coffee Snobs
Check out a few of Barcelona’s top coffee spots, where drip coffee is a religion and elaborate coffee culture abounds. We recommend the hip Satan’s Coffee Corner in the Gothic Quarter, or the charming Nomad Coffee Productions in the Born. Find more awesome spots for coffee connoisseurs here. If you’re more of a visual learner, why not take a look at one of our expert guides from Devour Madrid, Luke, as he talks you through how to order coffee in Spain… like a local of course!