How To Make The Perfect Café Con Leche Coffee

Last Updated: by: Amanda T

Cafe Con Leche

Cafe con leche isn’t a very common drink on American cafe menus. However, those who are a fan of this Latin drink like it because of the bold espresso taste with the combination of scalded milk. It is a traditional Spanish and Cuban style coffee. Follow along with us as we make the perfect cafe con leche at home, and teach you to do the same!

Crafting Café Con Leche at Home

First, we have listed everything you will need to create a cafe con leche. Then, we have outlined the steps to create a perfect cup from your own kitchen!

supplies

Ingredients:

  • Filtered water measured in proportion with the grounds
  • Espresso grounds measured in proportion to water
  • About 1/2 cup milk
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons sugar

Supplies:

  • Equipment for espresso brewing method: espresso machine, moka pot, etc.
  • Measuring cup
  • A heating element for the milk; frother, microwave, stovetop
  • Optional: a container for the sugar mixture

Steps:

  1. Prepare your espresso grounds

This means grind your beans if you need to and then measure the grounds if necessary.

  1. Scald the milk in a separate measuring cup or glass container

milk

This can be done with a milk steamer by using a steam wand or a frother that heats the milk. The milk for this recipe doesn’t need any aeration. Aeration makes foam, which isn’t standard for a cafe con leche. If you don’t have a frother or steam wand, don’t worry, the milk just needs to be hot. You can also heat the milk up to the boiling point on the stove for 5-8 minutes or in the microwave for about 1 minute. Make sure not to boil the milk.

  1. Pull or pour your espresso shots into your coffee mug

pouring espresso shot in mug

If you make espresso at home often you already know how to get it into your mug! In this case, make it like you normally would. If you aren’t familiar with the process, we have included a step by step outline for making espresso with a moka pot further in the post.

  1. Pour the scalded milk over the espresso shots in your mug.

pouring milk on espresso

This doesn’t have to be done with any specific technique. To give you an idea of the amount of milk to use, the espresso should only be 1/3 of the drink and the milk should be the other 2/3.

The Optional Step

While not everyone likes their coffee with something sweet, the cafe con leche is traditionally served in Cuba with sugar in it or on top. This isn’t so much the case in Spain however, so you are welcome to choose which variation you would like to enjoy. We will explain how to make the sugar slurry so you can add it if you wish.

  1. Put 2 tablespoons of sugar in a separate container and add about 2 teaspoons, of espresso to it.
  2. Stir this until it makes sort of a sugar paste. This is called espuma.
  3. After it is stirred thoroughly, you can put one or two spoonfuls of this sugar mixture on top of your drink.or mix it in.

Now you’re finished making an authentic cafe con leche at home, enjoy!

Making Espresso at Home

Now that we have given you the good stuff on how to make the entire drink, let’s focus on the first step of the process; making espresso. As mentioned above, you can create your espresso with any at-home espresso brewing method; espresso machine, Moka pot, etc. If you are familiar with the steps to create espresso at home, you can follow your normal routine and skip reading this step outline. If you are wanting to make this drink at home, and just bought a stovetop espresso maker you are probably new to making your own espresso. We have the steps outlined for you.

Making espresso with a stovetop espresso maker/Moka pot:

1. Start with your reservoirs for the stovetop espresso maker separated. Without measuring, fill the bottom reservoir with water.

filtered water

2. Fill the middle reservoir with espresso grounds, fine grind. Don’t worry about measuring, just fill it to the top. No need to tamp your grounds for this method.

espresso ground on moka pot

3. Place the grounds reservoir inside the water reservoir. Then screw the top portion back on. Now you should be ready to brew.

moka pot

4. Put your stovetop espresso maker on the stove on medium heat. It will heat up until the water gets hot enough to go into the top chamber, and eventually fill it with coffee. Don’t let your water boil! It can give you a bitter espresso. You will know it’s done when you hear air leaking and the top of the pot is full. Sometimes steam comes out of the top of the moka pot. This process will take about 10 minutes

moka pot on stovetop

Tips for a good Cafe Con Leche

  • Use a dark roast to give a very strong flavor to your espresso. Remember, Latin America like their coffee strong. The stronger the espresso, the more authentic it probably is for your cafe con leche.
  • Whole milk is what is authentic to this drink. If you want to use 2% that will also work.
  • Espuma is the most authentic way to enjoy cafe con leche, but putting just a spoonful of sugar on top also works if you don’t want to make espuma.

Conclusion

Congrats! Now you know all the secrets of a perfect cafe con leche. Go ahead and try it out, make one for yourself at home. This Cuban combination of strong espresso, scalded milk, and the occasional sugary espuma makes a great start to the morning, and now you can have one whenever you want.

NOTE: we also wrote a step-by-step guide on how to brew cafe bustelo. You can find the guide here.


Header image credit: Jeremy Keith, Flickr