Spanish Café con Leche
For me, the pleasures in life are in the simplest things, and a cup of Spanish café con leche is just that. It is the most popular hot beverage in my house—in Venezuela.
As you may know, Venezuela — and most South American countries — were colonized by Spanish people. Because of that, we have a ton of recipes that are highly influenced by the Spanish cuisine.
In Venezuela, we drink coffee as Spanish do: Dark and rich espresso but we also drink Americano. But in this recipe, if you want to achieve the taste of a cup of cafe con leche in the streets of Madrid, we need to use espresso as a base.
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What is the difference between an Espresso and an Americano?
An espresso is a highly concentrated coffee that requires a machine that forces steam into the coffee grinds. The result is a strong and kind of thick coffee that has foam on the top because of the pressure. If you don’t have an espresso machine in your house, you can make it with an inexpensive Moka pot.
The espresso was created in Italy, therefore, most European countries — Including Spain— tend to drink coffee this way. This is the base of the deep and rich flavor of a good cafe con leche.
An Americano is basically ⅓ espresso and ⅔ warm water. It’s a diluted version of espresso and it has a softer flavor.
Usually, I drink American on my daily basis because an espresso can be too harsh for me.
What about the milk?
In Spain, they often use UHT pasteurized milk instead of fresh milk. This kind of milk is put through high temperatures to kill bacteria. It tastes slightly different from regular pasteurized milk. But if you want the full European experience, this type of milk is the one to choose.
Personally, I prefer this type of milk in my house. It’s super convenient that I can buy 6-8 liters of milk and store them out of the fridge for months and they are ready to use. That is the main benefit of UHT pasteurized milk: high stability and food security.
Also, to make a café con leche you need to have a milk frother. Don’t worry because if you can not afford a 30 dollars milk frother, you can get a hand milk frother — like the one I have — for less than 10 dollars.
First, you need to warm your milk without making it boil. Then, with the help of the milk, frother to create the characteristic foam.
How to make café con leche?
Now comes the fun part. Pick your favorite mug and place one tbsp of dark espresso on the bottom, then pour some creamy milk and with the help of a spoon cover the top with milk foam. The amount of sugar is up to you— also you can use stevia or your favorite type of sweetener — and if you want to make things a little bit interesting, a sprinkle of cinnamon will make the magic.
In many “cafeterias” the use of cinnamon is quite common and it’s my favorite way to prepare my daily cafe con leche.
Also, this type of hot beverage matches perfectly with a piece of cake, cookies or bread.
Some ideas to take with you café con leche
Learn how to make an authentic Spanish café con leche that it's just as good as in any "cafeteria" in Madrid. The perfect breakfast coffee!
- 2 mugs
- 2 tbsp espresso
- 1 cup milk
- Cinnamon optional but highly recommended
Put 1 tbsp of espresso in each mug.
Pour ½ cup of milk per mug and with the help of a spoon cover the top with milk foam.
Add sugar to taste and sprinkle with cinnamon.