How To Make Spanish Coffee: A Comprehensive Guide

Coffee is an integral part of Spanish culture, and Spanish coffee, or "café español," is a delightful and invigorating beverage that captures the rich flavors and traditions of Spain. This article will guide you through the process of making authentic Spanish coffee, from selecting the right ingredients to mastering the art of roasting and brewing. We will explore the essential elements of Spanish coffee, including the choice of coffee beans, the roasting process, and the traditional brewing method. By following these steps, you can recreate the exquisite taste of Spanish coffee in the comfort of your own home.

Quick Answer: How To Make Spanish Coffee

To make Spanish coffee, you will need the following ingredients:

  • High-quality coffee beans, preferably from Colombia, Guatemala, or Costa Rica
  • Raw sugar or panela
  • Brandy or Spanish liqueur such as Licor 43
  • Orange peel
  • Cinnamon stick
  • Heavy cream

The steps to make Spanish coffee are as follows:

  1. Grind the coffee beans to a medium-fine consistency.
  2. Add the ground coffee to a coffee maker or stovetop espresso maker.
  3. Brew the coffee according to the machine’s instructions.
  4. While the coffee is brewing, prepare the glass by rubbing the rim with an orange peel and dipping it in sugar.
  5. Once the coffee is ready, pour it into the prepared glass, leaving some space at the top.
  6. Add a shot of brandy or Spanish liqueur to the coffee.
  7. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and more orange peel.
  8. Lightly whip the heavy cream and place a dollop on top of the coffee.
  9. Serve and enjoy your Spanish coffee.

The Essential Ingredients For Authentic Spanish Coffee

High-Quality Coffee Beans

The foundation of any great coffee is, of course, the coffee beans. When making Spanish coffee, it’s essential to use high-quality beans that complement the bold and rich flavors associated with this beverage. Spanish coffee is traditionally made from Arabica beans, which are known for their smooth and aromatic profile. Beans from regions such as Colombia, Guatemala, or Costa Rica are particularly well-suited for Spanish coffee due to their balanced flavor profiles and medium acidity.

Raw Sugar Or Panela

Sweetening Spanish coffee is a crucial step in enhancing its flavor profile. While regular white sugar can be used, raw sugar or panela adds a depth of flavor and richness that complements the complex taste of the coffee. Panela, a type of unrefined whole cane sugar, is a common choice in Spanish coffee due to its molasses-like undertones and natural sweetness.

Brandy Or Spanish Liqueur

A defining characteristic of Spanish coffee is the addition of brandy or a Spanish liqueur, which elevates the drink with its distinct flavor and aroma. Brandy adds a warmth and depth to the coffee, while Spanish liqueurs such as Licor 43 contribute a unique blend of vanilla and citrus notes. The choice of brandy or liqueur can greatly influence the final flavor of the Spanish coffee, allowing for personalization and creativity in the brewing process.

Orange Peel And Cinnamon Stick

The use of citrus and spice in Spanish coffee imparts a fragrant and aromatic quality that sets it apart from other coffee variations. Rubbing the rim of the glass with an orange peel before serving the coffee adds a burst of citrus essence to each sip, enhancing the overall sensory experience. Additionally, a cinnamon stick serves as both a garnish and a flavor enhancer, infusing the coffee with its warm and subtly spicy notes.

Heavy Cream

To complete the presentation of Spanish coffee, a dollop of lightly whipped heavy cream is delicately placed on top of the brewed beverage. The cream provides a luxurious and velvety texture that balances the boldness of the coffee and adds a touch of indulgence to the overall drinking experience.

Choosing The Right Type Of Coffee Beans

Selecting the right type of coffee beans is crucial in achieving the authentic flavor and aroma that define Spanish coffee. When choosing beans for Spanish coffee, consider the following factors:

Bean Variety

Arabica beans are the preferred choice for Spanish coffee due to their superior flavor profile and lower caffeine content compared to Robusta beans. Arabica beans are known for their smooth, sweet, and aromatic qualities, which contribute to the overall richness of Spanish coffee. Additionally, certain regions, such as Colombia, Guatemala, and Costa Rica, are renowned for producing high-quality Arabica beans that are well-suited for crafting Spanish coffee.

Flavor Profile

The flavor profile of the coffee beans plays a significant role in determining the taste of the final brew. Spanish coffee is characterized by its medium to full body, balanced acidity, and notes of chocolate, caramel, and toasted nuts. When selecting coffee beans, look for those with flavor notes that align with these characteristics, as they will enhance the authenticity of the Spanish coffee.


Opt for freshly roasted coffee beans to ensure the fullest expression of flavor in your Spanish coffee. Freshly roasted beans retain their essential oils and volatile compounds, which contribute to the complexity and depth of the brew. When purchasing coffee beans, check the roast date and select beans that have been recently roasted for the best results.

Mastering The Art Of Roasting Coffee Beans

Roasting your own coffee beans allows you to customize the flavor profile and freshness of your Spanish coffee. While it requires precision and attention to detail, roasting coffee beans at home can be a rewarding and enriching experience. Here’s a step-by-step guide to mastering the art of roasting coffee beans for Spanish coffee.

Selecting Green Coffee Beans

Green coffee beans are the raw, unroasted seeds of the coffee plant and are the starting point for the roasting process. When choosing green coffee beans for Spanish coffee, look for high-quality Arabica beans from reputable sources. Consider factors such as origin, bean variety, and flavor profile to ensure that the green coffee beans are well-suited for crafting Spanish coffee.

Determining Roast Level

The roast level of the coffee beans significantly influences the final flavor and aroma of the brewed coffee. For Spanish coffee, a medium to medium-dark roast is commonly preferred, as it allows the beans to develop a rich and robust flavor while retaining their inherent sweetness and complexity. Aim for a roast level that brings out notes of chocolate, caramel, and toasted nuts, which are hallmark characteristics of Spanish coffee.

Roasting Method

There are various methods for roasting coffee beans, including using a dedicated coffee roaster, a stovetop popcorn popper, or even a cast-iron skillet. Whichever method you choose, it’s essential to monitor the beans closely during the roasting process to achieve the desired roast level. Additionally, ensure proper ventilation during roasting to release smoke and chaff, and be prepared for the beans to undergo distinct color changes and audible crackling as they roast.

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Monitoring The Roasting Process

As the coffee beans roast, it’s crucial to monitor their progress through visual and olfactory cues. Initially, the beans will emit a grassy smell, followed by the development of toasty aromas as they approach the desired roast level. Pay close attention to the color of the beans, aiming for a consistent medium to medium-dark brown hue. The crackling sounds produced by the beans will indicate the progression of the roast, with the first crack signifying the development of lighter roasts and the second crack indicating a deeper roast.

Cooling And Resting The Roasted Beans

Once the coffee beans have reached the desired roast level, immediately transfer them to a metal colander or cooling tray to halt the roasting process. Allow the beans to cool and rest for a few hours to allow for degassing and the development of their flavor profile. This resting period is crucial in ensuring that the roasted beans achieve optimal flavor and complexity before they are used to brew Spanish coffee.

Spanish coffee is a beloved beverage that captures the essence of Spanish culture and tradition. By selecting the right ingredients, such as high-quality coffee beans, raw sugar or panela, brandy or Spanish liqueur, orange peel, cinnamon stick, and heavy cream, and paying careful attention to the roasting process, you can create a truly authentic and flavorful Spanish coffee experience. Whether enjoying it as a daily indulgence or as a special treat for guests, mastering the art of making Spanish coffee allows you to delight in the rich and aromatic qualities of this timeless beverage. With a combination of precise ingredients, expert roasting techniques, and a touch of creativity, you can savor the delightful flavors of Spanish coffee in every sip.

Step-by-Step Guide To Preparing Spanish Coffee

Spanish coffee, or café español, is a delightful and invigorating beverage that is popular throughout Spain. It is characterized by its rich and robust flavor, as well as its distinctive foam topping. While there are different variations of Spanish coffee, the traditional method involves the use of a stovetop espresso maker known as a moka pot and a few simple ingredients.

To make authentic Spanish coffee, you will need the following ingredients and equipment:

  • Stovetop espresso maker (moka pot)
  • Coarsely ground coffee beans
  • Cold water
  • Demerara sugar (optional)
  • A coffee cup or glass

Now, let’s dive into the process of making Spanish coffee:

Step 1: Fill The Bottom Chamber Of The Moka Pot With Water

Start by unscrewing the moka pot and separating its three chambers: the bottom chamber, the coffee filter basket, and the top chamber. Fill the bottom chamber with cold water up to the valve or just below it. Make sure not to exceed the valve as this could affect the brewing process.

Step 2: Insert The Coffee Filter Basket

Place the coffee filter basket on top of the water-filled bottom chamber. Fill the filter basket with coarsely ground coffee beans, making sure not to overfill it. The amount of coffee you use can vary depending on your preference, but a good rule of thumb is to fill the basket until it is level with the top.

Step 3: Screw The Top Chamber Onto The Moka Pot

After filling the coffee filter basket, screw the top chamber onto the bottom chamber tightly. Ensure that both chambers are securely fastened to prevent any leakage during the brewing process.

Step 4: Heat The Moka Pot On The Stovetop

Place the moka pot on a stovetop burner over medium heat. Make sure the handle is not directly above the flame to avoid any accidents. Allow the water in the bottom chamber to heat up gradually. This will create pressure, which will force the water through the coffee grounds and into the top chamber.

Step 5: Stir The Coffee In The Top Chamber

As the water heats up and begins to brew, you may notice that the coffee starts to rise into the top chamber. It is important to stir the coffee gently using a spoon or coffee stirrer. This helps to ensure proper extraction and an even distribution of flavors.

Step 6: Remove The Moka Pot From The Heat

Once you notice that the coffee has stopped flowing into the top chamber, it is time to remove the moka pot from the heat source. Be careful while handling the pot as it will be hot. Using oven mitts or a towel, carefully unscrew the top chamber from the bottom chamber to prevent any residual pressure.

Step 7: Pour The Coffee Into A Cup

Now that you have your freshly brewed Spanish coffee, it’s time to pour it into a cup or glass. The most traditional way to serve Spanish coffee is in small cups known as "tazas de café." You can also add sugar to the coffee at this point if you prefer a sweeter taste. Demerara sugar, which has a deep, caramel-like flavor, is often used in Spanish coffee.

Congratulations! You have successfully prepared a delicious cup of Spanish coffee. But what about the foam on top that gives it that extra touch? Let’s explore some tips to achieve the perfect foam using traditional tools.

Tips For Perfecting The Foam On Top: Using Traditional Tools

The foam, or "espuma," is an essential element in Spanish coffee. It adds a velvety texture and enhances the overall taste of the drink. While there are modern methods and gadgets available to create foam, the traditional Spanish way involves using simple tools that have been passed down through generations. Here are some tips for achieving the perfect foam using traditional tools:

Traditional Tools For Making Foam

  • Cazuelilla: This is a small, shallow earthenware dish traditionally used to create the foam for Spanish coffee. It has a rounded bottom and a handle for easy manipulation.
  • Molienda (whisk): This is a long-handled, flat whisk made of wood or brass. It is used to vigorously whisk the coffee and sugar together to create the foam.

Step-by-Step Process

  1. Take a cazuelilla and add a spoonful of coffee from your prepared Spanish coffee. Ensure that both the coffee and the cazuelilla are hot.
  2. Add a teaspoon of sugar to the cazuelilla and use the molienda to vigorously whisk the coffee and sugar together.
  3. Continue whisking vigorously in a circular motion until a thick foam forms on the surface. This can take a few moments of whisking, so be patient.
  4. Once your foam has reached the desired consistency, carefully scoop it out with a spoon and gently place it on top of your Spanish coffee.
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By using traditional tools and following this step-by-step process, you can achieve the perfect foam on top of your Spanish coffee, just like they do in local cafes all around Spain.

Understanding The Importance Of Espresso In Spanish Coffee

Espresso plays a crucial role in Spanish coffee, as it forms the base for this aromatic beverage. The concentrated and intense flavor of espresso serves as the foundation for the robust and flavorful Spanish coffee. Unlike drip coffee, which is brewed slowly, espresso is prepared by forcing hot water through finely ground coffee beans under high pressure. This rapid extraction process enhances the extraction of oils and flavors, resulting in a rich and bold cup of coffee.

In Spain, espresso is made using a moka pot, as mentioned earlier. The moka pot provides a method for brewing espresso-style coffee at home, mirroring the taste and intensity of coffee made in professional espresso machines. The moka pot brews coffee by passing hot water through the coffee grounds, similar to how espresso machines work. This makes it a suitable tool for making Spanish coffee as it captures the key attributes of espresso.

The use of espresso in Spanish coffee not only contributes to its distinctive taste but also provides a strong caffeine kick. Due to its concentrated nature, a small cup of Spanish coffee can be quite energizing and is often enjoyed as a morning pick-me-up or an afternoon indulgence.

Exploring Variations Of Spanish Coffee: Café Bombón, Café Cortado, And More

While traditional Spanish coffee is cherished for its simplicity and bold flavors, there are intriguing variations that have gained popularity within Spain and beyond. Let’s explore a few notable variations of Spanish coffee:

1. Café Bombón

Café Bombón is a popular Spanish coffee variation that combines espresso with sweetened condensed milk. To prepare Café Bombón, follow these steps:

  1. Fill a glass or cup with about 1-2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk.
  2. Brew a shot of espresso using a moka pot or an espresso machine.
  3. Pour the freshly brewed espresso over the sweetened condensed milk, allowing the two layers to gently mix.
  4. Serve the Café Bombón with a spoon to stir the layers together before drinking.

This variation creates a delightfully rich and creamy drink with a perfect balance of sweetness. It is often enjoyed as a dessert coffee in Spain.

2. Café Cortado

Café Cortado is another popular variation of Spanish coffee that combines espresso with a small amount of steamed milk. To prepare Café Cortado:

  1. Brew a shot of espresso using a moka pot or an espresso machine.
  2. Heat a small amount of milk in a saucepan or microwave until steaming hot but not boiling.
  3. Pour a small amount of steamed milk into the espresso, adjusting the ratio of milk to coffee according to personal preference.
  4. Serve the Café Cortado in a small cup or glass.

Café Cortado strikes a perfect balance between the intense espresso and the creamy milk. It is often enjoyed as a mid-morning or post-meal coffee.

3. Carajillo

Carajillo is a popular Spanish coffee variation that adds a kick of alcohol to the mix. It is typically made with brandy or whiskey and is a favorite choice for those looking for an extra boost. To prepare Carajillo:

  1. Brew a shot of espresso using a moka pot or an espresso machine.
  2. Pour a shot of brandy or whiskey into a glass.
  3. Add a teaspoon of sugar to the glass and stir until dissolved.
  4. Pour the freshly brewed espresso into the glass and stir to combine.
  5. Serve the Carajillo in a glass or cup.

The addition of alcohol adds complexity and depth to the coffee, making it a popular choice for after-dinner indulgence or a festive occasion.

These are just a few examples of the many variations of Spanish coffee that can be enjoyed. Feel free to experiment with different ingredients and ratios to create your own unique twist on this beloved beverage.

Spanish coffee, with its strong and bold flavors, is a true delight for coffee lovers. By following the step-by-step guide provided in this article, you can brew your own authentic Spanish coffee using a moka pot and a few simple ingredients. Remember to focus on achieving the perfect foam on top using traditional tools such as the cazuelilla and molienda. Understand the importance of espresso in Spanish coffee and explore different variations like Café Bombón, Café Cortado, and Carajillo to discover new and exciting flavors. So, go ahead and embark on a coffee adventure as you savor the rich aroma and taste of Spanish coffee. ¡Salud!

Pairing Spanish Coffee With Traditional Pastries And Desserts

Spanish coffee, or café español, is a delicious and bold beverage that is revered for its strong flavor and serving traditions. It is a popular drink among the locals and visitors alike in Spain, and it can easily be recreated in the comfort of your own home.

Spanish coffee is often enjoyed with a variety of traditional pastries and desserts. The rich and robust flavor of the coffee pairs beautifully with the sweetness and richness of these treats. Here are some classic Spanish pastries that you can enjoy with your cup of Spanish coffee:

  • Churros: These deep-fried dough sticks are a beloved Spanish delicacy. They are often dipped in melted chocolate and enjoyed with a cup of café español. The slightly crispy exterior of the churros complements the strong coffee perfectly.

  • Tarta de Santiago: This traditional Spanish almond cake is made with ground almonds, sugar, eggs, and lemon zest. Its moist texture and nutty flavor make it an ideal pairing with Spanish coffee.

  • Natillas: Natillas are a type of Spanish custard made with milk, eggs, sugar, and cinnamon. The smooth and creamy texture of the custard pairs wonderfully with the bold flavor of Spanish coffee.

  • Flan: Flan is a caramel custard dessert that is popular in Spain. Its sweet and silky texture balances the bitterness of the coffee and creates a delightful combination.

When enjoying Spanish coffee with these pastries and desserts, it is common to dunk them into the coffee. This enhances the flavors and adds an extra layer of indulgence to the experience.

Combining Spanish Coffee With Alcohol: Recipes For Café Con Miel And Carajillo

In addition to enjoying Spanish coffee with sweet treats, it is also common to add a splash of alcohol to create unique and delicious variations. Here are two popular alcohol-infused recipes that you can try:

  • Café con Miel: Café con Miel is a Spanish coffee drink that combines coffee, honey, and brandy. To make this delightful concoction, start by brewing a strong cup of Spanish coffee. Then, add a teaspoon of honey and a shot of brandy to the coffee. Stir well to ensure that the honey is fully dissolved. The sweetness of the honey and the kick of the brandy complement the bold coffee flavor beautifully.

  • Carajillo: Carajillo is a fiery Spanish coffee cocktail that combines coffee and a spirit, typically rum or brandy. To make a traditional carajillo, start by brewing a cup of strong Spanish coffee. Then, add a shot of rum or brandy to the coffee. You can also add a touch of sugar or a sprinkle of cinnamon for extra flavor. Stir well and serve. The addition of alcohol adds depth and complexity to the coffee, making it a truly unique and enticing beverage.

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These alcohol-infused variations of Spanish coffee are often enjoyed as an after-dinner drink or as a way to unwind and relax during social gatherings. They bring an extra layer of warmth and flavor to the traditional coffee experience.

Modern Twists On Traditional Spanish Coffee: Cold Brew And Flavored Syrups

While Spanish coffee is traditionally known for its bold and strong flavor, there are modern twists that can be applied to create unique and refreshing variations. Two such variations are cold brew and flavored syrups:

  • Cold Brew Spanish Coffee: Cold brew coffee is a trendy technique that involves brewing coffee with cold water over an extended period of time. To make a cold brew Spanish coffee, start by coarsely grinding your coffee beans. Combine the ground coffee with cold water in a container and let it steep in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours. Once steeped, strain the coffee and serve it over ice. Cold brew Spanish coffee has a smoother and less acidic flavor compared to traditionally brewed coffee. It’s a perfect option for hot summer days or for those who prefer a milder coffee taste.

  • Flavored Syrups: Another modern twist on Spanish coffee is the addition of flavored syrups. These syrups come in a variety of flavors, such as vanilla, caramel, hazelnut, or cinnamon. To use flavored syrups, simply brew a cup of Spanish coffee and add a teaspoon or two of your chosen syrup. Stir well to ensure that the syrup is fully mixed into the coffee. The flavored syrup adds a touch of sweetness and an additional layer of complexity to the beverage.

These modern twists on Spanish coffee offer a fresh take on the traditional beverage, allowing you to customize the flavors to your liking and explore new combinations.

Serving And Enjoying Spanish Coffee: Etiquette And Traditions To Know

In Spain, the process of serving and enjoying Spanish coffee is steeped in traditions and etiquette. Here are a few important customs to keep in mind:

  • Serving Style: Spanish coffee is usually served in small ceramic cups known as "tazas." The cups are small to encourage savoring the strong flavor rather than consuming large quantities. The coffee is typically served black, without milk or cream. Sugar can be added according to personal preference.

  • Sipping: Spanish coffee is meant to be sipped slowly and savored. It is common to take small sips while enjoying conversation or a moment of relaxation. Rushing through a cup of Spanish coffee is not in line with the cultural tradition of taking time to appreciate the beverage.

  • Ordering a "Cortado": When ordering Spanish coffee in a café or restaurant, it is useful to know the term "cortado," which means "cut" in Spanish. A cortado refers to a small cup of Spanish coffee with a small amount of milk or cream added. This option is for those who prefer a slightly milder flavor.

  • Accompanying Rituals: In some regions of Spain, it is common to serve Spanish coffee with a small glass of water. The water is meant to cleanse the palate before enjoying the coffee. It is also common to serve a small biscuit or a piece of chocolate alongside the coffee for a sweet accompaniment.

By adhering to these serving customs and traditions, you can fully immerse yourself in the Spanish coffee experience and appreciate the cultural significance of the beverage.


Spanish coffee, or café español, is a beloved drink in Spain and can be easily made at home. Whether enjoyed with traditional pastries, infused with alcohol, or served with modern twists, Spanish coffee offers a bold and flavorful experience. By understanding the customs and traditions associated with serving and enjoying Spanish coffee, you can fully embrace the cultural significance of this delightful beverage. So, gather your ingredients and embark on a journey to create your own perfect cup of Spanish coffee. Salud!

FAQS On How To Make Spanish Coffee

What Is Spanish Coffee?

Spanish coffee is a delicious and aromatic coffee drink that originated in Spain. It is usually made by mixing espresso or strong coffee with various ingredients and toppings to create a rich and unique flavor.

What Ingredients Are Used To Make Spanish Coffee?

While there are many variations, the basic ingredients for Spanish coffee include espresso or strong coffee, liquor such as brandy or rum, sugar, and toppings like whipped cream or cinnamon.

How Do I Make Spanish Coffee At Home?

To make Spanish coffee at home, start by brewing a strong cup of coffee or espresso. In a glass or mug, mix the coffee with your preferred liquor and sweetener to taste. Top it off with whipped cream and other toppings as desired.

Can I Use Any Type Of Liquor For Spanish Coffee?

While brandy and rum are the traditional choices for Spanish coffee, you can use any type of liquor you prefer. Some popular alternatives include Kahlua, amaretto, or Baileys Irish Cream.

Is There A Non-alcoholic Version Of Spanish Coffee?

Yes, you can make a non-alcoholic version of Spanish coffee by omitting the liquor and using flavored syrups or extracts for added flavor. You can also substitute the coffee with decaf or use a coffee alternative such as chicory root.