How to Order and Discuss Coffee in Spanish
Imagine taste-testing fresh coffee in Spanish-speaking countries all over Latin America.
The thought alone evokes images of sprawling, tropical plantations and a strong smell of dry-roasted coffee beans.
More than a dozen Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America are top exporters of this irresistible bean and Spanish is an ideal language for conversing about this iconic morning brew.
From One Coffee Lover to Another
When I was at college I used to drink around 8 coffees a day. It wasn’t gourmet at all—and it was probably too much—but since then, coffee is an essential part of my daily routine.
I cannot imagine starting my day without holding a coffee mug!
After I moved to Spain and later to Mexico, I learned how to distinguish between different types of coffee as well as distinct types of grain. I discovered how to appreciate different flavors and soon, I had my personal favorites.
If you’re here, you’re likely a big fan of coffee like me—so from one coffee lover to another, let’s talk about everything related to coffee in Spanish.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the most popular types of coffee in Spanish-speaking countries and what they include. We’ll cover vocabulary and common phrases necessary for ordering coffee in Spanish and by the end, you’ll check your understanding by reading a couple of short dialogues.
Ready to go? Grab your coffee and let’s start.
Un café, por favor.
Ok, so you want to order a coffee in Spanish. A good question to ask first is what type of coffee you want, and later we’ll get into other options to consider.
Want a tip from a seasoned coffee adventurer? Don’t stay in your comfort zone.
I know that going to the nearest Starbucks in Mexico City to order a coffee in Spanish is tempting, but believe me, it’s a crime in Spanish-speaking countries—and especially in Latin America.
Instead, encourage yourself to go to local cafés where you sit, relax, linger, and chat with the other patrons. In fact, you might get a strange look from both the barista and the clients if you ask for a cup to go. Don’t rush out! Rather, enjoy the moment as you casually sip and savor your potent black drink.
It’s not only about the consumption, but about enjoying the true coffee culture that Latin America provides.
So, now you know how to act at a coffee shop, but how do you know what to order?
Let’s forget for a moment about cappuccinos, frappes, and macchiatos, and let’s have a look at the most popular types of coffee in Spanish.
Most Popular Coffee in Spanish
The following is a general guide to the most popular types of coffee that you’ll find in restaurants and cafés all around Central and South America. Keep in mind that considering how the Spanish language varies around the world, some of the coffees mentioned below could have a different regional name.
Café solo (only coffee)
This is the coffee you should ask for when in a hurry. It’s small, black, and intense. Like an espresso shot. You can drink it quickly in one gulp at a coffee shop, or taste it in little sips if you feel like it.
Café doble (double coffee)
What’s stronger than an espresso? Two espressos. And this is what you’ll get if you say: Café doble, por favor. It’s really hot, so be careful.
Café cortado (cut coffee)
El café cortado is for those who consider the previous options too strong but still want to enjoy a strong flavor. It’s simply an espresso with some drops of leche al vapor (steamed milk). In Spain, it’s called manchado, or “coffee stained with milk.”
Café americano (American coffee)
Some coffee aficionados look down on this version of the drink. Why? It’s an espresso diluted with water that resembles the stereotypical version of traditional American coffee. However, others praise the prolonged pleasure you get with a bigger cup in comparison to a simple cortado.
Café con leche (coffee with milk)
This is my favorite one! It’s stronger than a typical latte as it gets equal proportions of espresso and milk. It’s usually one shot of coffee and one shot of hot milk. A perfect combination to enjoy in good company.
Café con hielo (coffee with ice)
You’ll love this option on a hot summer day. Espresso over rocks can really wake you up.
Café descafeinado (decaffeinated coffee)
If you love the taste of coffee but too much caffeine doesn’t sit well with you, you can ask for café descafeinado. Not all the places you go will have it (be prepared for some instant Nescafé beverage), but if you’re lucky you can get descafeinado de maquina, which has some real flavor.
If you’d like to expand your knowledge to discover what coffee is drunk in Mexico, Guatemala, and Colombia, read all about the typical Latin American Breakfast Foods—and get ready to hear your belly roar.
Ingredients for Coffee in Spanish
The classic ingredients for any coffee are azúcar y leche. While sugar and milk are the basic ingredients to add to your coffee, you can switch it up in so many different ways.
El azúcar (sugar)
You can have your coffee in Spanish con azúcar (with sugar), sin azúcar (without sugar) or even con doble azúcar (with double amount of sugar).
If you’re a diabetic or simply on a diet, you’ll say con sacarina (in Spain) or con Svetia (Latin America) to get your coffee with a sweetener.
In some places, you can get it con miel (with honey), but don’t expect to find it everywhere. You can also ask for it con mascabado to get your non-refined cane sugar.
La leche (milk)
Obviously, you can have your coffee sin leche (without milk) but if you ask for it con leche (with milk), it will lead to another question:
¿Y cómo quiere su leche?
And how do you want your milk?
You can have it caliente (hot) or muy caliente (very hot), templada or tibia (lukewarm) or simply fría (cold).
You can also ask for leche entera (whole milk), desnatada (skim) or semidesnatada (reduced fat).
If leche de vaca (cow’s milk) is not an option, but you still want some milk in your coffee in Spanish, you can try your luck and ask for leche de soya (soy milk), leche de almendra (almond milk), leche de avellana (hazelnut milk)—or even leche de cabra (goat’s milk).
While these options seem exciting, they’re not as widespread as you’d think. If you happen to find a fancy café in a bigger city, your barista may surprise you with a full array of options.
Thoughtful Additions to Your Coffee Experience
Do you want to drink your coffee from una taza (mug) or un vaso (clear glass)?
You might be used to enjoying a cappuccino in a glass, meanwhile other types of coffee you’d drink from a mug. Surprisingly, clear glass is more popular than mugs in Spain—although younger generations are starting to prefer mugs. However, older people generally prefer glass and some bars won’t serve it otherwise, arguing that it’s the only way you can see everything: quantity, colors, and density.
Would you like your drink con canela (with cinnamon) or sin canela (without cinnamon)?
This option is popular in Mexico, as this is the most common spice added to a coffee since the Mexican Revolution.
Give It a Try
Ready for a challenge? Read the following sentence to see if you understand what this coffee patron is ordering:
Un café americano descafeinado con leche templada de soya, con svetia y canela, por favor.
Did you catch that?
Here’s the English translation: A decaffeinated American coffee with lukewarm soy milk, a sweetener, and cinnamon, please.
Other Vocabulary and Useful Phrases
Now that you know how you want your coffee in Spanish, let’s have a look at some other expressions and useful phrases.
El barista (barista) may ask you where you’d like your coffee served, be it:
- Adentro – inside the coffee shop
- Afuera – outside the coffee shop
- En la barra – at the bar of the coffee shop
- En la terraza – on the terrace
Additionally, you can ask for it para llevar (to go) but prepare to receive it in a non-fancy styrofoam cup. Not the most pleasant experience.
Depending on the country you’re in, the verb you use varies:
You can tomar café in Latin America or beber café in Spain, both of which mean “to drink coffee.”
If you want to buy your coffee to prepare it yourself at home, you’ll probably buy café molido (ground coffee). However, you may also ask for una bolsa de café en grano (a bag of coffee beans) to grind it in your own molinillo (grinder).
Let’s have a look at some phrases you may hear or say to order your coffee in Spanish:
Un café con leche por favor.
A coffee with milk, please.
Me da un cortado, por favor.
An espresso, please.
Me lo da en vaso para llevar, por favor?
Can I have it in a cup to take away, please?
¿Qué quiere tomar?
What do you want to drink?
¿Cómo quiere su café?
How do you want your coffee?
¿Para tomar adentro o afuera?
Do you want to drink it inside or outside?
Sample Conversations About Coffee in Spanish
Now that you know some vocabulary and phrases that you can use to talk about coffee in Spanish, check to see how much you understand in these simple dialogues at a café!
Barista: Buenos días.
Cliente: Buenos días. Me gustaría tomar un café
Barista: ¿Y cómo quiere su café?
Cliente: Con leche y azúcar mascabado, por favor.
Barista: ¿Leche de vaca?
Cliente: Sí, por favor. ¿Tiene leche desnatada?
Barista: Me temo que no. Lo siento. ¿Lo va a tomar en la barra?
Cliente: No, prefería afuera.
Barista: Claro que sí. En seguida se lo sirvo.
Barista: De nada.
Did you get it all?
Barista: Good morning.
Patron: Good morning. I would like to have a coffee.
Barista: And how would you like your coffee?
Patron: With milk and Muscovado sugar, please.
Barista: Cow’s milk?
Patron: Yes please, do you have milk reduced in fat?
Barista: I’m afraid not. I’m sorry. Do you want to drink it at the bar?
Patron: No, I would prefer outside.
Barista: Of course. I´ll get it for you in a moment.
Patron: Thank you.
Barista: You’re welcome.
Let’s go for another, more challenging dialogue:
Tomás: Hola Ana.
Ana: Hola Tomás.
Tomás: ¿Has ido a la nueva cafetería?
Ana: No, ¿por qué?
Tomás: ¡Es lo mejor! Tienen todos los tipos de café para tomar ahí y también puedes pedir para llevar. Venden solamente café preparado con granos de café de plantaciones locales y puedes comprar una bolsa para llevar a casa! Molido o en grano!
Ana: Súper! ¿Dónde está?
Tomás: Aquí cerquita. ¿Vamos?
I’m sure you understood everything now, but let’s check it just in case:
Tomás: Hi Ana
Ana: Hi Tomás.
Tomás: Have you been to the new café?
Ana: No, Why?
Tomás: It’s the best! They have all kinds of coffee to drink there and you can also order to go. They only sell coffee made with coffee beans from local plantations and you can buy a bag to take home! Ground or grain!
Ana: Super! Where’s it?
Tomás: Here nearby Let’s go?
Ana: Let’s go!
You’re now an expert about everything related to coffee in Spanish! You can understand, order, and talk about this delicious beverage. If you’re ready to take your skills to the next level and have a live, 1-on-1 conversation with a native Spanish-speaking professional, sign up today for a free class where you can actively apply all of the knowledge you’ve gained. Our teachers are coffee lovers and they’ll be delighted to have an engaging conversation with you con una taza de café.
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