Spanish Latte Recipe: Say “Hola” to a Bold, Sweet Coffee Drink!

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

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Some coffee lovers are more adventurous than others, exploring new coffee drink variations every chance they get. The Spanish latte is one drink to try if you want to change things up.

Some coffee lovers are more adventurous than others, exploring new coffee drink variations every chance they get. The Spanish latte is one drink to try if you want to change things up.

This slightly sweet, rich, velvety coffee echoes Spanish cuisine’s vibrancy and deep flavors. It’ll instantly transport you to the blissful beaches, Don Quixote-esque landscapes and picture-perfect towns of España.

So, fire up that espresso machine, and let’s craft the ultimate Spanish latte!

What Is Spanish Latte?

The irony is that there’s no such thing as a Spanish latte in Spain. If you order your coffee this way, the barista will probably give you a prolonged and puzzled look, unsure of how to serve you!

A Spanish latte in Spain is a café con leche. This hot beverage consists of equal parts espresso or strong coffee (such as from a moka pot or French press) with steamed milk. Sweetener is optional.

Most coffee shops use long-life, full-fat milk for an authentic Spanish latte, as fresh milk can be hard to come by. Crucially, the Spaniards don’t use scalded milk or add sweetened condensed milk. These additions are more common in other Spanish-speaking or Latin countries.

Kaffee Hassen Latte Art

In Cuba, for instance, they make their coffee using a moka pot and scald their milkon the stovetop or with an espresso coffee machine’s steam wand. As with Vietnamese coffee, Cubans also add condensed milk (often sweetened) and, in some cases, flavored syrup.

These changes and additions somewhat alter the latte’s taste (and its calorie count, too!). If nothing else, it gives Spanish lattes outside Spain a distinct flavor. They’re also rich in saturated fat from the added condensed milk!

The Spanish latte contains the same proportion of espresso shots and less milk. It is, thus, much stronger than a classic latte. Vegan coffee drinkers can order their latte with oat milk, almond milk or other non-dairy options.

How to Enjoy a Spanish Latte

Spanish coffee culture is rich, diverse, and very different from nearby France and Italy. I think the natural way to enjoy a coffee is much like the locals do, and then make it your own!

In Spain, nearly everyone loves a café con leche with breakfast in the morning. That said, Spain has a unique dining culture. After breakfast, Spaniards enjoy a mid-morning snack and a late lunch. An early evening snack, followed by a late dinner is often the norm.

So, it’s easy to see why you can get good quality coffee at any time. And that means you can enjoy a Spanish latte whenever you want!

These slightly sweet drinks would go well with sweet pastries and desserts. Sweet pastries, such as buñuelo (fried dough balls), miguelitos (sweet puff pastry) and leche frita (fried dough coated with cinnamon sugar) make the perfect accompaniments.

However, if you don’t have much of a sweet tooth, all’s not lost. You can have your café con leche or iced Spanish latte after enjoying the many savory mid-morning or early-evening tapas. Bocadillo de jamón (ham baguette), Spanish cheeses and cured meats are among the favorites.

Spanish Coffee Culture

Espresso is very popular in Spain and enjoyed throughout the day. This includes milk-based specialties like café cortado, and the café con leche.

Primer plano de un cortado en vaso de doble pared corporativo de Coffeeness

However, most Spanish coffees might be slightly more bitter than you’d like. This quality comes from torrefacto, a method used to preserve beans common throughout Spain and Latin America.

Torrefacto roasting enhances the Maillard reaction during coffee roasting due to the added sugar that glazes the coffee beans. These coffee beans have a distinct “liquefied coal” or “burnt brown sugar” flavor. Besides, the process enhances the antioxidant properties of the roasted coffee. This allows for longer preservation of coffee beans.

This sugar-laced roasted coffee process is also useful for disguising low-quality Robusta’s bitter, strange taste and aroma. As such, it was widely used during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), when high-quality coffee was hard to come by.

Non-torrefacto coffee is only available in specialty coffee shops in Spain.

Aside from café con leche, other popular Spanish coffee drinks include:

Café Cortado

Originating in Madrid and the Basque region, the café cortado is literally an espresso shot “cut” with milk. This coffee drink contains equal parts espresso coffee and UHT milk.

Unlike in the Italian espresso macchiato or French noisette, the Spanish cortado doesn’t have heavily foamed milk. Ask your barista for this drink leche templada o fría (with lukewarm or cold milk) if you don’t want it caliente (with hot milk).

Café Solo Corto

In Spain a café solo corto is a strong cup of black coffee, typically a single shot of espresso. It doesn’t have hot water added like in a café americano.

Café Bombón

For espresso lovers with a sweet tooth, the café bombón hits the spot. It’s a shot of espresso with a splash of sweetened condensed milk. It typically comes in a taza, a glass demitasse cup with a small handle.

El Carajillo

El Carajillo Recipe

For lovers of alcoholic coffee beverages, the drink to order is the carajillo. Originating in Cartagena, this Spanish coffee includes rum, brandy, the sugar cane liqueur aguardiente or the sweet Cartagenan liqueur, Licor 43.

Leche Manchada

Leche manchada means “stained milk.” It refers to heated milk stained with espresso coffee. In essence, it’s the same as the Italian latte macchiato. It’s perfect for late afternoons as a pick-me-up that won’t keep you awake all night! Have it as an alternative to an iced Spanish latte.

Cafe Viennese

Melted chocolate, espresso and coffee form the base of this delicious twist on a mocha, originating in Vienna, Austria. Whipped cream and cocoa powder finish this unique coffee drink, piling on the sweetness and the calorie count!

Café con Hielo

This summertime staple contains two ingredients: coffee and ice. It comes with two glasses, one with espresso and another cold glass full of ice cubes. Pour the espresso over ice and stir to enjoy.

Descafeinado de Máquina

If you are a decaf coffee devotee, order your coffee in Spain this way. This is machine-brewed decaf coffee as opposed to café descafeinado de sobre – decaf instant coffee with milk. Make sure you specify to your barista which decaf coffee you’d like.

How to Make A Spanish Latte: My Authentic Recipe

Let’s now get to making a cafe con leche with this authentic Spanish latte recipe! My version calls for a home espresso machine, but you could easily adapt it for an automatic coffee machine.

Spanish Latte: Ingredients

  • A double espresso or 3 ounces (89 milliliters) of strong coffee

  • 3 ounces (89 milliliters) of whole milk or non-dairy milk

  • 2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk (optional)

  • Sweetener (optional)

  • Flavored syrup or ground cinnamon (optional)

Equipment

Spanish Latte: Recipe Instructions

  1. Grind 18-21 grams of coffee using your coffee scale to measure. Add the grounds to your portafilter, firmly tamp and attach it onto the espresso machine.

  2. Pull your double espresso shot into a demitasse cup and set aside. This should take at most 35 seconds to avoid over-extraction.

  3. Add cold milk (UHT for maximum authenticity) to your milk pitcher then froth it with your machine’s steam wand.

  4. Assemble your Spanish latte. The classic latte has no condensed milk, so simply pour your coffee into your cup or glass mug if making this version.

  5. Use a spoon to hold back the milk foam like for a regular latte, and pour the steamed milk into your cup or glass. Use equal amounts of steamed or scalded milk and coffee. 

  6. If using, add in the sweetened condensed milk at this stage.

  7. Spoon the milk foam into the drink like for a regular latte.

  8. Sweeten your Spanish latte to your liking. Ideally, do it as the Spanish do and add sugar.

  9. Garnish with ground cinnamon, cocoa powder or flavored syrup (if desired) and enjoy!

Best Coffee Beans for Spanish Latte

A typical café con leche will use Robusta beans coated in sugar during roasting. This gives the finished coffee a unique burnt sugar flavor that’s hard to find elsewhere.

Nowadays, only a few people can stand the strength and bitterness of pure Robusta coffee beans. Smoother and sweeter Arabica beans are becoming available around the world. This has had an impact on the taste and profile of the Spanish latte.

Ethiopian Coffee Beans Close Up

Modern Spanish coffee shops increasingly use mezclas (Arabica-Robusta coffee blends). They even favor single-origin Arabica beans with earthier flavors.

Specialty coffee beans from Cuba, Brazil and Indonesia would work beautifully with this type of coffee. Cuban torrefacto beans are smoky and cigar-like, echoing the traditional Spanish latte.

In contrast, Brazilian beans are a bit sweeter and smooth-bodied with low acidity and dark chocolate-tasting notes. This coffee would give the final cup a smoother and sweeter profile.

Indonesian Sumatran beans that undergo semi-washed coffee processing are earthy, herbal and spicy, with notes of mushrooms and wood. This would give your latte a unique earthy taste.

The type of coffee beans you use will all depend on your taste preferences. As always, source beans from reputable coffee traders, whether online or in person. Look out for region of origin, roast profile/date and ethical sourcing information. These precautions will help you get the best coffee beans for your Spanish latte drinks.

Final Thoughts: Bold Flavor and a Unique Sweetness Define the Spanish Latte

In conclusion, Spanish lattes have had a major impact on coffee culture around the world. You’ll find café con leche or its variations from the Iberian Peninsula to New York and Miami.

Naturally, this coffee drink is also popular in the Caribbean and South America, and surprisingly, wait for it … Saudi Arabia!

Whether you’re partial to a traditional Spanish latte, the iced coffee version or the Cuban variety, the possibilities for an avid coffee lover are endless. Experiment, explore, and make this delicious hot coffee your own!

Have you had a Spanish latte or cafe con leche before? Let me know your thoughts on this specialty coffee in our community section below. And remember to check out our Cuban coffee recipe, too!

Spanish Latte FAQ

A Spanish latte is an espresso-based drink from Spain made with espresso, hot milk and in Latin America a little sweetened condensed milk. It has a unique taste and creamy texture, more dense than a traditional latte but less sweet and dense than a Vietnamese coffee.

A Cuban latte (Havana latte) and Spanish latte both use espresso coffee as a base. However a Cuban latte contains both scalded whole milk and condensed milk while Spanish lattes use only regular milk in the recipe.

Yes. Regular lattes contain one part of espresso coffee and two parts of steamed milk. Spanish lattes consist of equal parts of espresso or strong coffee and steamed milk.

Starbucks doesn’t have A Spanish latte on its menus. However, they do serve a similar espresso based drink, Caffè Misto, which contains an equal amount of brewed strong coffee and hot milk.

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Arne Preuss

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

More about Arne Preuss

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

More about Arne Preuss

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