Want to try our slightly different espresso-based drink with milk than the regular Lattes and Cappuccinos? Try the popular Spanish coffee drink Cafe Con Leche, which most Spaniards drink at least thrice daily, even before bed.
Read our detailed article to familiarize yourself completely with Cafe Con Leche!
What is Cafe Con Leche?
Cafe Con Leche is a coffee drink that is very popular in Spain and Latin American countries. Traditionally, it uses a very strong coffee, usually espresso, mixed with scalded milk in equal proportions.
Scalded is hot milk heated to 83 °C. At his temperature, the bacteria gets killed, many of the proteins are denatured, and enzymes are destroyed. The scalding process changes its consistency and other cooking interactions. In Latte, you don’t go to this temperature; otherwise, the microform structure will not be possible.
Cafe Con Leche, in Spanish, means “coffee with milk.” In simple terms, it is a Spanish coffee beverage consisting of 1:1 coffee and scalded milk, usually served with sugar and cinnamon. It may be considered analogous to Italian caffè latte and French café au lait.
If you order “café con leche de Desayuno,” which means con leche coffee for breakfast, or “café con leche en vaso,” which implies con leche coffee in a glass, you will get coffees with higher milk content.
Origin of Cafe Con Leche
Cafe Con Leche originated in Spain, though actual timelines are not clear. It is popular in most Spanish-speaking countries and areas like Mexico, Latin America, and Spain. It is even served on walk-up counters in Cuban restaurants in Florida.
It is mostly used as a breakfast drink in these countries as it is considered more fulfilling than other coffee drinks.
The Cuban version of the drink contains a much stronger and more concentrated coffee mixed with steamed milk instead of the scalded version and a large amount of sugar.
What does cafe con leche taste like?
All the espresso-based drinks have the same base, the espresso. What makes them different is the ratio of espresso to other elements like milk and water, which results in different flavors and makes the drink softer and more balanced.
As traditional con Leche has espresso and milk in equal proportions, the coffee is strong, with little milk and sugar to taste. It is preferred by the middle-aged and older populations in the areas listed above. The specialty coffee shops will normally present their own variations of the drink.
Current Use and Serving Styles
As stated earlier, cafe con leche is consumed as a breakfast drink in most countries. Preparing espresso shots using an espresso maker or moka pot and scalding milk using the steam wand is usual. The sugar is added to the milk while heating and the milk is poured over espresso with a continuous stir.
If less milk is added, the drink is dark and is referred to as “obscurito.” While the drink with more milk results in a light color and is called “clarito.” These coffees are much stronger than any American coffee version, like Latte.
Spanish people sometimes also add salt to the drink. You can use the variations in the type and amount of milk and sugar. For example, you can use other dairy types, non-dairy milk, or milk alternatives instead of the usual whole milk. You can also have it as an iced coffee.
If you order a cafe con leche yo lo prepare, you will get separate servings of espresso and steamed milk. You need to mix them to your liking.
If you use single-serve coffee makers, you can get the Café con Leche Flavored K-Cup Pods. It is even available as a Café con Leche Artificially Flavored Instant Coffee Beverage Mix and canned coffee.
Café Con Leche Recipe
Traditional Café Con Leche uses a double-shot espresso and an equal part of milk heated beyond the onset of the scalding stage but below the boiling point. For best results, you can use a thermometer and take the milk off the heat when it touches 83 °C temperature. Some coffee lovers recommend having a slightly stronger double shot for Con Leche than your regular double espresso.
Use the whole milk
The traditional way to prepare a Café Con Leche to get the perfect Spanish flavor is by scalding whole milk and not just steaming it. You can use the stovetop or microwave for the purpose. You don’t need to froth the milk and should not boil it. If you are using a saucepan, use medium heat, stir it regularly, and remove it from the heat when bubbling starts on the sides.
You can choose the other types of milk, milk substitutes, or go dairy free with oat milk.
What do you need to make Café Con Leche?
As you know, medium or dark-roasted finely ground beans that give a strong taste are best suited for preparing delicious espresso shots at home.
- 0.5 to 0.75 oz (16 to 23 g) of finely ground coffee beans.
- Double espresso Shot (1.5 to 2 fl. oz), 45 to 60 ml.
- Scalded milk – 45 to 60 ml or more, if you like clarito.
- 2 Nos. of cinnamon sticks.
- A teaspoon of sugar, or to taste.
- Espresso Machine or Moka Pot.
- Digital measure.
How To Make Cafe Con Leche
If you have an espresso machine, pull two shots of espresso using your choice’s finely ground espresso coffee after measuring the weight of the coffee grounds. If you don’t have the machine, you can go in for a stovetop coffee maker or Moka pot. We have described the instructions in detail in our article for this step.
While traditional drink uses espresso, you can try a strong coffee drink from your French press if you do not prefer espresso.
You can use low heat for your milk while you are making the coffee and stir it regularly.
To brew the final drink, pour the espresso into your coffee cup, followed by the hot milk, and add sugar to taste. Some coffee lovers prefer to use about two teaspoons of sweetened condensed milk before pulling the shots. Or you can sprinkle some cinnamon powder or ground nutmeg.
As Spaniards and Cubans drink Cafe Con Leche with breakfast, it is quite common to have buttered toast or toast with olive oil, tomato, or cucumber with salt.
Nutrition Calories (per serving)
One eight-fl-oz cup of traditional Cafe Con Leche made with whole milk and a double shot of espresso will carry about 70 calories, 8 g sugars, 2 g saturated fat, and 130 mg caffeine content.
What is the difference between a Latte and a Cafe Con Leche?
The first difference is in the quantity of milk. A cappuccino has the milk to espresso ratio of 2: 1, i.e., it has two parts milk to one part espresso. Latte, on the other hand, has the milk to espresso ratio of 3:1. While the Cafe Con Leche has milk in a 1:1 proportion. Hence, it is a much stronger drink than the other two.
Secondly, both Cappuccino and Latte use thick milk foam, and the milk is just steamed at much lower temperatures; otherwise, the microform structure will not form and will not be stable. In Con Leche, the milk is scalded at 83°C as the foam is not required in its traditional form.
Hope you used this guide to prepare your own Cafe Con Leche and enjoyed it. Do share your experiences in the comment section below.