Café Manchado: what it is and how it is made

Café Manchado is one of the most popular drinks or types of coffee in Spain, but also one of the most controversial and debated about its preparation and proportion of ingredients. We are sure you will be pleased to know what a Café Manchado is like in Spain, and you may be curious to know the different theories and variants of this very popular coffee.

What exactly is Café Manchado?

Café Manchado is a mixed coffee and milk drink, with a higher proportion of milk and less coffee than in a latte. “Very little coffee and a lot of milk“, so that we understand each other. It is served in a glass or cup, depending on the custom of the establishment of the customer’s taste. If we order it in a glass, we can appreciate its characteristic light brown colour, almost beige.

Cafe Manchado in a crystal glass

Café Manchado or Leche Manchada?

This is a question of great controversy because in most regions of Spain, especially in the south of the country, a Café Manchado is asked to refer to a short espresso with a large amount of milk. In other words, a shorter coffee drink than the traditional latte.

In other places, however, the custom is to order a “leche manchada” for this same preparation. That is, a glass almost full of lightly stained milk with very little coffee. In these places, if you ask for a Café Manchado, what you get is just the opposite: a very long coffee stained with a little bit of milk. In other words, a long coffee cut. The equivalent of the Italian macchiato.

So now you know, before ordering a “Café Manchado” outside your city, make sure you know what the local custom is, what is the Café Manchado in that place, or specify exactly how much milk and coffee you want to avoid getting a surprise.

The secrets of Café Manchado: How to make it step by step

The truth is that there is no universal formula or standardised recipe for Café Manchado, as it is usually served in coffee shops customised to the consumer’s taste. If there are no previous indications, a good reference is to serve 25% coffee and 75% milk in the cup, which will generally be large if the spotted coffee is drunk for breakfast, and medium in the rest of the cases.

As for the composition of coffee and milk, there are different theories. Generally, coffee would be served with an espresso, or even a little less if the consumer so desires. The milk is usually hot or lukewarm, but some people expressly indicate that it should be served cold, either for taste or because they are in a hurry and have to drink the coffee quickly.

In the authentic Café Manchado, the coffee is poured into the cup first, and then the milk is added according to the quantity and temperature of your choice. However, there are exceptions, such as the aforementioned Leche Manchada, in which the proportion of ingredients is the same, but the order varies.

There are theories to suit all tastes: some say that if the amount of coffee and milk is the same in both drinks, the flavour will also be the same. But there are also those who claim that by reversing the order, the characteristics of the mixture will differ: it is not the same to serve milk over coffee as it is to serve a little coffee over milk.

Difference between Café Manchado and Macchiato

Macchiato is a black coffee with a little bit of milk.

Manchado is just the opposite: a very short coffee with a lot of milk.

Are Café Manchado and Latte Macchiato the same thing?

Absolutely not. The difference is very obvious: Spanish Café Manchado is made in the same way as Latte, just by varying the proportions of coffee and milk.

Latte Macchiato, which is the literal translation of spotted milk in Italian, is a different brew, with a larger volume than the Spanish Manchado, which in addition to milk also has a layer of milk foam, and which must be served in a tall transparent glass in order to clearly distinguish the three layers of colours that characterise it.  In short: nothing to see. Here you can see a traditional Latte Macchiato in its glass:

Latte macchiato