Cafe Con Leche Recipe

Spanish-Style Cafe con Leche

The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 15 mins
Serving: 1 serving
Yield: 1 drink
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
84 Calories
4g Fat
8g Carbs
4g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1
Amount per serving
Calories 84
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 4g 5%
Saturated Fat 2g 12%
Cholesterol 12mg 4%
Sodium 67mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 8g 3%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 0mg 1%
Calcium 140mg 11%
Iron 0mg 1%
Potassium 280mg 6%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Cafe con leche is a Spanish-style espresso drink with equal amounts of coffee and steamed milk that's popular throughout Spain, Latin America, and beyond. Cafe con leche simply means "coffee with milk" in Spanish, and it's a very easy drink to make at home in about 10 minutes.

There are no special tricks for making coffee house quality cafe con leche in your own kitchen. You don't need a big expensive espresso machine, either. This coffee recipe requires nothing more than a stovetop espresso maker or moka pot to brew the coffee and a small pot for heating milk.

Once you learn how easy it is to prepare cafe con leche, you'll want to make it more often. It's a satisfying morning coffee drink, a tasty afternoon pick-me-up, and a quick way to serve guests a great cup of coffee. A three-cup espresso maker makes one small latte-sized drink or two to three demitasse cups. You can brew a larger batch or add flavor—cinnamon is a favorite in Spain.

The Ingredients for a Perfect Cafe Con Leche

  • Coffee: For the best cafe con leche, grind whole coffee beans using a manual or electric coffee grinder. An espresso roast will give your cafe con leche a wonderfully robust flavor, but feel free to experiment with various roasts and different types of beans. Grind the beans on the fine setting just before brewing. If you don't have a grinder or prefer to use ground coffee, look for a fine grind—Café Bustelo is a popular and excellent choice!
  • Milk: Whole cow's milk is traditional, and while you can certainly make cafe con leche with skim or reduced fat milk, you won't get that classic rich flavor. The same goes for alternative milks, like oat, soy, and almond—you can use them but expect your drink to have a different flavor profile and mouthfeel.
  • Sugar (Optional): If you order a cafe con leche in a Cuban or Puerto Rican establishment, it may be already be sweetened. If you like your coffee sweet, you can add sugar to the milk while it's heating or stir it into the drink after you've combined the coffee and milk.

Cafe Con Leche vs. Cappuccino vs. Latte

While cafe con leche, cappuccinos and lattes are all made of espresso and milk, there are a few differences.

Steamed vs. foamed milk: While cafe con leche is made with steamed milk, cappuccinos and lattes are made with frothed milk.

Coffee to milk ratio: The ratio of coffee to milk is the other big differentiator: The traditional cafe con leche recipe uses equal parts of freshly brewed espresso and steamed milk, whereas cappuccino is a 1:2 ratio and lattes are typically a 1:3 ratio.

Tips for an Amazing Cafe Con Leche

  • Starting with 1/2 cup (4 ounces) each of water and milk results in 3 1/2 ounces each for a 7-ounce drink. When increasing the recipe, take into account that small loss from the heating process.
  • Use a larger espresso pot to make a few drinks at once. Increase the amount of steamed milk in proportion.
  • Turn on the heat for both the coffee and milk simultaneously and they'll be ready at the same time.
  • If you don't have an espresso maker, you can use strong coffee brewed in a French press, pour-over brewer, or a similar nonelectric brewing method.

"I made this recipe using my stovetop espresso pot, freshly ground espresso beans, and whole milk and it turned out perfectly. A warm cup of cafe con leche was a fantastic way to start the day." - Megan O. Steintrager

Cafe Con Leche tester image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


For the Espresso:

  • 2 tablespoons (10 grams) finely ground coffee, or amount needed for pot

  • 1/2 cup water, or amount needed for pot

For Cafe Con Leche:

  • 3 1/2 ounces freshly brewed espresso

  • 1/2 cup whole milk

  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar, optional and to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Cafe con Leche
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  2. Pour hot water into the serving cup to heat it while the coffee's brewing.

    Heat Coffee Cup With Hot Water
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios 
  3. In a 3-cup stovetop espresso maker, add finely ground coffee and water according to the manufacturer's instructions. Heat on the stove to brew.

    Filling Moka Pot With Finely Ground Coffee
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  4. In a small saucepan over low heat, pour the milk and heat gently until it steams and there are small bubbles around the edges. Do not let it boil. Stir occasionally to prevent a film from forming on the top.

    Steaming Milk for Cafe con Leche
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  5. When the espresso has brewed, dump the water from the serving cup. Fill it halfway with freshly brewed espresso.

    Making Cafe con Leche With Fresh Espresso
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  6. Slowly pour the steamed milk over the espresso and stir to incorporate. Add sugar to taste. Serve and enjoy.

    Spanish Cafe con Leche
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios

Recipe Variations

  • Add a dusting of ground cinnamon to the finished cafe con leche.
  • For even more flavor, add 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon or 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg on top of the coffee grounds before brewing.
  • In Spain, a leche manchada uses the same method, but with two parts steamed milk to one part espresso.
  • For a popular Cuban version of cafe con leche, add about 2 teaspoons of sugar to the milk while steaming. Then add the espresso to the pot with the milk and gently steam the mixture again before serving.