Real Café con Leche Recipe: Traditional Spanish Coffee With Milk
If you’re a fan of rich, flavorful coffees with creamy milk textures, look no further than Cafe con Leche.
As someone deeply passionate about Spanish cuisine, I’m excited to show you a recipe that brings together 3 common ingredients – milk, sugar, coffee – in the most delightful way possible.
With easy-to-follow steps and equipment readily available in your home pantry, join me as we explore how to create a traditional cafe con leche.
What is a Café con leche?
A cafe con leche literally translates to coffee with milk. Its roots can be traced back to Spain, but the exact details as to when and who created this coffee favorite remains unclear. Nowadays, you’ll commonly find this sweet caffeine drink in Spain and Latin American countries/communities around the world.
Now making an authentic café con leche isn’t as simple as just adding milk to espresso. There are several steps along the way, but the entire process shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes. The result will be a tasty, balanced blend of sweetness and richness that’ll make your taste buds tingle.
This is one of the few types of coffee where you don’t need to freshly grind your beans. The milk and espuma overpower the taste of what specialty coffee would bring, so go for any type of dark roast, even the canned Café Bustello if you like.
I regularly drink cafe con leche on vacations to Miami, where we visit small cafecitos serving rich, dark brews paired with sandwiches. I think this recipe is worthy of being served in a cafecito as well.
Equipment and Ingredients
- La Greca, or the Moka Pot – is a type of Italian stovetop coffee maker that the Spanish and Latin Americans use widely.
- 15 g of finely ground coffee – with an espresso roast profile is the main ingredient for creating strong and bold coffee. The amount can vary based on the size of the moka pot you use.
- 90 ml water or as needed to fill the pot – for steam
- Bowl or container- for mixing sugar with the first drops of brewed coffee to create espumita/espuma
- 1-2 tbsp of sugar – serves as the sweetener.
- 180 ml of whole milk and evaporated milk or as needed for the pot – is specifically for cafe con leche, which gives it a milder taste.
- Salt – is the secret ingredient to a perfect cafe con leche.
Step-by-step Guide to Making a Café con leche
Let me walk you through creating an authentic taste right from Miami’s vibrant food culture.
1. Fill the moka pot with water
Unscrew the La Greca before filling it with water. There’s no fill line in some, so you must measure the water using the safety valve inside the pot. Be sure to stay under the valve, or unwanted spills, or even an explosion may occur due to excess pressure build-up during brewing.
2. Put ground coffee into the filter basket
Fill the filter basket of the moka pot with as much coffee as it takes. Don’t pack it like an espresso, just level it off.
Now reassemble the moka pot.
3. Add sugar to a small mixing bowl
Put about 1-2 tablespoons of sugar into a bowl, depending on how sweet you want your coffee to be.
4. Place the moka pot on the stovetop over medium-high heat
It’s optional, but I like to open the lid of my moka pot while brewing to get a better look at the first drops of coffee to come out.
5. Pour the first drops of freshly brewed coffee into the container and mix
Once about 10ml of coffee comes out, pour it onto your sugar, and put the moka pot back on the heat to finish brewing.
Now beat the coffee and sugar vigorously until it forms a caramelized foam topping. This is your espuma, or espumita.
Barista Tip: Most recipes won’t include the espumita. However, to replicate my first-ever taste of cafe con leche, we’re adding it. Besides, it only makes my cup more flavorful.
6. Pour the rest of the coffee into the container
Once all brewed coffee has flowed into the upper compartment and it starts sputtering, pour it into the sugar container and stir gently.
This is the base coffee of your café con leche, not for the milk.
7. For a cafe con Leche, add steamed milk or evaporated milk
Boil milk at medium-high heat in a separate pot until the lactoderm or nata forms on top.
Once the milk rises, take the pot off the heat and stir it gently to bring it down.
Be careful with too high heat, you can easy burn the milk. It’s best to stir it non-stop to avoid this.
8. Mix brewed coffee with milk
- Pour milk first into glass cups
- Than the coffee
- And stir with a spoon.
The coffee-milk ratio of café con lecher should be at least 1:2, meaning 1 part coffee to 2 parts milk. Its color should be a much lighter color than a cortadito, which is Cuban espresso that’s one part milk and one part coffee.
9. Add salt to serve and enjoy
Those who enjoy a little extra kick in their drinks can add salt – something that is often done by grandmothers who’ve passed down traditions through generations. It might sound strange at first, but trust me; salt does wonders to anything sweet.
What kind of cup should a Café con leche be served in?
Cafe con leche is typically served in glass or ceramic mugs.
Helpful Tips for Brewing a Café con Leche
Here are some insights to make your cup even better:
- Evaporated milk gives a richer texture, so I add it to the milk if I have some at home. You don’t really need it though.
- Do not microwave the milk. It doesn’t bring out the natural sweetness of the milk, unlike steaming it in a pot.
- A pot also brings out the milk fat or lactoderm, which some say adds to the richer flavor profile.
- This drink is often served as a dessert alternative during lunches, but you can enjoy it anytime. I like mine with tortillas for breakfast.
- It goes well with either sweet pastries like cakes and cookies or savory snacks like tapas or sandwiches.
Cafe con leche is a delicious and traditional Spanish beverage that can be made quickly with the correct technique and equipment. It’s perfect for those who want something sweet yet strong enough to give them a caffeine kick in the morning or afternoon.
Whether you prefer it with more milk than usual, this drink will surely satisfy your cravings. Try this recipe today, and don’t forget to share your thoughts on how best to enjoy cafe con leche.