Barcelona's coffee culture: all the ins and outs

Spain is a coffee country par excellence, and Barcelona is no exception. Locals don’t usually have their coffee at home and many don’t even own a coffee machine, but they do have their daily dose of caffeine in a bar or on a terrace. The average local will have a cup of coffee on the way to work, or during the early coffee break. After the extensive lunch he or she may order another one and around 5-6pm (the ‘merienda time’) it’s coffee time again, this time with something sweet.

El Magnífico: a classic

Overall coffee is good in Barcelona, but there are some places coffee lovers especially appreciate. El Magnífico (Carrer de l’Argenteria 64) is a classic. It’s the oldest coffee shop in town and a place where locals buy their freshly harvested beans. But you can just order a cup of coffee, although choosing may not be that simple. They can prepare your coffee in almost every possible way: espresso machine, filter coffee, aeropress, to name a few. According to some this is even the best coffee shop in the whole of Spain. Satan’s Coffee Corner (Carrer de l’Arc de Sant Ramon del Call and several other places) has been around for a few years. As the name suggest, Satan’s is usually a corner within a shop. The coffee they serve is on the go and comes straight from El Magnífico and other fine brewers, so quality is guaranteed. And don’t worry, you won’t go to hell drinking this coffee.

Seasonal roasts

A relatively new coffee place in town is Nomad Coffee Lab & Shop (Passatge del Sert 6 and Carrer de Pujades 95), from the beginning a pilgrimage destination for coffee freaks. Nomad Coffee is an initiative from award-winning baristas Jordi Mestre from Spain and Kim Ossenblok from Belgium. Here you’ll find only rotating seasonal roasts.

MeetJune Blog: Barcelona's coffee culture: all the ins and outs, Barista

Order your coffee

All Spaniards have their own way of drinking coffee and it is perfectly normal to order exactly what you want. For example, a ‘café con leche’ with warm milk but not that hot and served in a glass instead of a cup. Trust me, waiters won’t get angry. Or a ‘cortado largo de café’, an espresso with milk but with more coffee than milk.

Café solo (cafè sol). This is comparable to the Italian espresso, a small cup of strong coffee. Some locals may, regardless the hour, order a ‘carajillo’, which means adding something stronger, such as rum. Typically in this city it is the perfumed coffee with anise in it, a ‘perfumat’.

Café con leche (cafè amb llet). This is not a cappuccino, since foamed milk is not appreciated by everyone in Spain. ‘Cafe con leche’ is coffee with hot milk, similar what most people know as café latte, but with a bit less milk. Let the waiter know if you want the milk to be warm, cold, hot or very hot. You can also order a ‘café con leche corto de café’ (less coffee) or ‘largo de café’ (more coffee).

Cortado (cafè tallat). ‘Cortar’ literally means breaking or cutting: in this case the bitter coffee (espresso) is being cut with a little amount of milk. Don’t be surprised if your cortado is served in a glass on a saucer. Also in this case you can ask the waiter to add a liqueur, usually rum. Locals know this drink as a ‘trifásico’.

Cafe americano (cafè america). ‘American coffee’ isn’t, contrary to what many think, filter coffee. It’s espresso diluted with water. The unconfirmed story goes that this is an invention dating back to World War II, when the American soldiers were fighting in Europe. They are said to have added water, to make the coffee overseas taste like the filter coffee they were used to at home. It is very common to ask in advance to have a lot or just a little bit of water.

Bombón (cafè Bombo). This is the indicated coffee for sugarfreaks. A bombón is a short coffee, served in a glass, just like a ‘cortado’, but instead of normal milk it comes with condensed milk. This variant is originally from Valencia and is also called ‘café goloso’, which means something like ‘coffee for sugarlovers’. It looks beautiful, because the coffee remains as an elegant layer on top of creamy milk.

Café con hielo (cafè amb gel). When it is very hot in summer, you can order your coffee with ice. This goes for any type of coffee. Whenever you order café ‘con hielo’ you’ll get your coffee and a glass with some ice cubes. The idea is to poor the coffee into the glass of ice cubes (it sounds easier then it is so make sure to have a steady hand). Do not stir too long and drink immediately otherwise it is too watery. If you add sugar to your coffee, add it before you poor your drink into the glass of ice cubes.

Go on a coffee tour with host Stephanie! Coffee drinking is a trend in Barcelona and besides the many authentic places that have been there for ages, cool places to experience, share and enjoy the coffee tradition pop up as mushrooms from the ground. The city even hosts an Independent Coffee Festival. Host Stephanie is originally from France and a huge coffee lover. She has been living in Barcelona for the last eight years and offers coffee loving travellers the chance to experience the city through its coffee culture.
MeetJune, Meet:Annebeth

Written by Annebeth

Annebeth is originally from the Netherlands and she has been living and working in Barcelona since 2002. As a travel guide author and blogger she is passionate about her new home city and always looking out for new trends and places. With her insider tips your experience will only become more local.

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