Cafe Con Leche Recipe [An Authentic Spanish Recipe]

Cafe Con Leche Recipe [An Authentic Spanish Recipe]

Last updated on May 22nd, 2024 at 14:12

This classic Spanish cafe con leche recipe replicates the drink as closely as possible. To do that it requires you to make scalded milk instead of steamed milk and use a whole fat UHT milk as this is what they use in Spanish coffee shops.

This is something that I can attest to as I have worked for many years as a Barista in Spain.

Keep reading for a great recipe for a great Spanish coffee drink.

Café Con Leche Recipe – What Is Café Con Leche?

A café con leche is a popular Spanish coffee drink that you will get everywhere in Spain and everywhere all over Central and South America. It’s a strong coffee, usually a shot of espresso and equal amount of scalded milk.

The amount of milk can vary depending on what the drinker requires café con leche oscuro (dark) has less milk, while café con leche clarito (light) has more milk.

Sugar is added to taste.

Now we are clear on what a café con leche is, let’s get making one!

Cafe Con Leche Recipe
Cafe Con Leche Recipe

Read: Cuban cafe con leche

Ingredients Needed To Make A Perfect Café Con Leche

  • 1 Oz (30 ml) of a well-brewed strong espresso or extra strong coffee.
  • 1 Oz (30 ml) of whole fat milk.
  • Sugar optional.

If you don’t have an espresso machine a moka pot or Aeropress are great options.


Let’s get making this rather lovely and European style cup of coffee.

Step 1: Prepare Your Coffee

If you have an espresso machine, use it to make your shot of espresso. If you don’t have one, it is not a big deal. You can make the strong coffee that you need by using a moka pot, and Aeropres or a French press coffee maker.

Step 2: Steam Your Milk

If you have an espresso coffee maker, use the milk wand to scald your milk. Simply steam it without frothing it.

If you have no steaming wand available, heat your milk on the stove as hot as it can be without bringing it to the boiling point.

Step 3: Pour It!

Pour your scalded milk over your hot coffee.

Serve and enjoy your café con leche. Add sugar as needed.

What Makes The Best Café Con Leche?

To make the best and a more authentic café con leche a shot of espresso is needed. Moka pot and Aeropress coffee produce espresso like coffee but is not espresso. Filter coffee will not be strong enough.

The leche made is not steamed milk, it’s scaled milk and unique.

Scalded milk is milk that has been heated to 180F (83C). This temperature kills all the enzymes and bacteria are killed and many, but not all, of the proteins are denatured.

For a more authentic experience, use UHT pasteurized milk as fresh milk is rare in Spain and most, and having worked in coffee shops in Spain I can absolutely tell you that no coffee shop uses fresh milk.

UHT pasteurized milk
Use UHT Pasteurized Milk

Read: How to make cafe con leche

How Is A Spanish Café Con Leche Served?

This Spanish coffee drink is served all day long from very early in the morning from as early as 5 am to late in the evening, very late, after 10 pm as an after dinner drink.

You will often see it served with a small mini-chocolate or see people enjoying it with a Spanish tortilla or a pastry of some description.

Café Con Leche Vs Latte

A Spanish style café con leche is very similar to a latte with a few key differences. A latte is made with fresh whole milk and has a coffee to milk ratio of 1:2, twice as much milk as there is coffee.

Also, a latte used steamed milk and has a very fine layer of microfoam.

A Spanish café con leche, like a latte is made with a strong espresso but uses UHT pasteurized milk in a ratio of 1:1 with equal amounts of milk.

A Spanish café con leche is made with scalded milk and not steamed milk and has no cap of foam.

Café Con Leche Vs Cappuccino

There is a notable difference between a café con leche and a cappuccino. A cappuccino is made with a shot of espresso and has coffee and steamed milk in equal amounts. It also has an equal amount of foam added.

The typical ratio of a cappuccino is 1:1:1 with equal parts of coffee, milk and foam.

A café con leche has a shot of espresso and scalded milk in equal amounts.

A cappuccino without foam is a café con leche.

Frequently Asked Questions About Café Con Leche Recipe

What Is The Difference Between A Latte And Café Con Leche?

The main difference between a café con leche and a latte is the amount of milk used to make the two beverages. A latte has more milk. Both are made in a very similar way and with a shot of espresso. A latte has a thin layer of microfoam on top; its Spanish counterpart has no thin layer of microfoam.

A café con leche is creamier and thicker, even though less milk is used. The milk used for a café con leche is richer and creamier.

Trust me, there is a difference, only a slight one. I’ve lived and worked in Spain as a barista and served this coffee beverage several hundred times – maybe even a few thousand times!

A café con leche directly translates to coffee with milk in the Spanish language. It’s a strong coffee drink made with scalded milk and a quality espresso shot. This coffee beverage has its origins in Spain and is popular all over Latin America and uses an equal amount of coffee and milk.

In Spain the base coffee is always a quality espresso shot and is similar to the café au lait served across the border in France.

What Is A Cuban Café Con Leche?

A Cuban café con leche is, translates to a Cuban coffee with milk, is a coffee beverage enjoyed in the mornings and is elaborated using strong cuban espresso and scalded milk. Traditionally, a Cuban café con leche is made using a café Bustelo, whole milk and sugar is added depending on personal preference.

It is very much the same as the Spanish version, only it is made with Cuban coffee grounds and not always made with a shot of espresso.

What Kind Of Milk Is Used In Café Con Leche?

Steamed whole fat milk is used to make café con leche. By request, the client, the drinker can make it with alternate types of milk including nonfat, low fat, soy milk, oat milk, almond milk etc.

Changing the milk changes the texture and taste.

A café con leche is known for its strong aroma, rich taste and heavenly flavors is due to the strong espresso shot and scalded milk and rich silky texture. The equal balance of coffee and milk is what makes it so good.

The steamed milk and the amount used is what sets apart a café con leche from cappuccino and a latte.

It is neither a latte nor a cappuccino. All three drinks are made with fresh-brewed espresso. Here is how they are different:

  • Latte: Shot of espresso and twice as much steamed milk and a thin layer of microfoam.
  • Café con leche: An espresso shot with an equal amount of scalded milk and no microfoam.
  • Cappuccino: A shot of espresso with an equal amount of steamed milk and an equal amount of microfoam on top.

Final Thoughts – Café Con Leche Recipe 

I hope that you enjoyed making this very Spanish cafe con leche recipe and enjoyed it in true Spanish style with a nice little slice of tortilla. 

Join our fun, active and vibrant coffee community on Facebook/Meta and take part by sharing your café con leche creations. 

Derek Marshall, a certified barista by the Specialty Coffee Association possesses over two decades of experience in specialty coffee shops. He holds professional certifications for coffee brewing and barista skills. Derek is also an author with authoritative books covering various coffee topics including specialty coffee, sustainability and coffee, coffee brewing, coffee recipes, coffee cocktails and books focusing on Brazilian coffee, Vietnamese coffee, Indonesian coffee and Malaysian coffee. As a barista for over two decades, Derek Marshall has worked in specialty coffee shops across the United Kingdom, Spain, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. His expertise extends to the distinct coffee cultures, specialty beverages, and brewing techniques of each nation. Functioning as a coffee consultant, Derek charges US$50 per hour. To learn more about Derek Marshall and Latte Love Brew, visit his About Me Page. For coffee inquiries, contact him at +34-639-410-375 or, mentioning your name and location

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