Cafe con leche is a delicious Spanish coffee drink that mixes equal parts strong coffee and milk! Here’s how to make it at home.

Cafe Con Leche

Love a good cup of café con leche? This Spanish-style drink is popular in Spain and Latin America, and the blend of bittersweet coffee and rich milk true perfection. As a student in Madrid during university, I used to order these on the regular. The intensely strong coffee was always served in a glass and aggressively sweetened. This recipe is a replica of the cafe con leche I remember, and it’s incredibly easy to to make at home!

What is cafe con leche?

Cafe con leche (“coffee with milk” in Spanish) is a coffee drink made of strong coffee or espresso and steamed milk. The drink originated in Spain and is popular in Latin America, and uses equal parts coffee and milk. It’s similar to the French cafe au lait, but it’s usually served sweetened. Here’s what you’ll need to make cafe con leche:

  • Strong coffee or espresso
  • Whole milk
  • Sugar

The cafe con leche ratio is typically equal parts coffee and milk, but it can vary based on the barista. You can vary this ratio to taste.

Moka pot

For the coffee, use Moka Pot or espresso

What’s the best coffee for a cafe con leche? Strong coffee. The coffee in Spain is much stronger than American coffee. You’ll want to use a dark roast bean here. If you have it, a Moka Pot or Bialetti is the best bet for the strength of coffee you can get in Spain. Or, you can use espresso! We like using Moka Pot here because it’s closest to the Spanish flavor I remember, but it’s also delicious with espresso. Here are the best coffee methods:

Use whole milk for best flavor

The best milk for cafe con leche? Whole milk. It’s the ideal richness for pairing with the bittersweet coffee. Of course, American milk tastes a little different than Spanish milk, in a way I can’t quite quantify. But it’s the closest match: and it steams the best.

Want to make dairy free cafe con leche? Oat milk is your best bet. It’s the dairy-free milk that froths the best. It won’t taste quite the same, but it’s still delicious.

How to froth milk with a milk frother

Steam or froth the milk

One advantage to cafe con leche is that the quality of the steamed milk is much less important than in a latte. In a latte, you’re looking for the perfect paint-like microfoam texture, especially if you’re making latte art. But for cafe con leche, you can simply steam or froth the milk using whatever method you’d like: it doesn’t have to achieve a precise texture. It’s a looser and more laid-back drink. Here are some options:

  • Froth the milk with a hand-held frother, French press, or whisk. The best tool is a frother if you have it, but a French press also works great. A whisk makes very large bubbles in the foam, but it works for cafe con leche. Go to How to Froth Milk.
  • Steam the milk using an espresso machine. Use the instructions for stretching the milk to 20 to 25% in height. Go to How to Steam Milk.
Cafe Con Leche

How to sweeten cafe con leche

You can sweeten cafe con leche to taste, depending on your preference! The cafe con leche I got in Spain was always pretty sweet, to balance the strength of the coffee. But go with your gut! Here’s a rule of thumb:

  • 2 teaspoons sugar has the most traditional flavor; it’s pretty sweet and a nice balance with the bitter coffee
  • 1 teaspoon sugar is subtly sweet and still provides a nice balanced flavor

Feel free to sweeten based on your tastes! If you want to use a natural sweetener, try honey, maple syrup or agave.

More coffee drinks

There are so many tasty coffee drinks to make at home! Here are a few more in our barista series:

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Cafe con leche

Cafe con Leche


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

Cafe con leche is a delicious Spanish coffee drink that mixes equal parts strong coffee and milk! Here’s how to make it at home.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 4 ounces (½ cup) strong coffee or espresso
  • 4 ounces (½ cup) steamed or frothed whole milk (or oat milk for dairy free)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar*

Instructions

  1. Make the coffee using a Moka Pot, or make the espresso (using any of the listed methods).
  2. Steam the milk with an espresso machine (stretching the milk to 20 to 25% in height), or froth the milk with a frother, French press or whisk.
  3. Pour the coffee in a cup and stir in the sugar. Add the steamed milk and serve immediately.

Notes

*2 teaspoons tastes closest to Spanish cafe con leche; 1 teaspoon is subtly sweet.

  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Coffee
  • Cuisine: Coffee

Keywords: Cafe con leche

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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