What is a café Manchado and how is it prepared?

To explain what a Café Manchado is and how it is prepared, I will use my childhood memories and explain my first experience with coffee in Spain.

About 3 decades ago, when I was just a child of 8 or 9, I spent my summers in my parents’ town, where all my cousins met for about two or three months. Those days were full of adventures and new experiences, and Café Manchado was the protagonist of one of those summers.

One morning one of my cousins from Seville (southern Spain) asked my aunt for a Café Manchado for breakfast, creating a mixture of confusion and surprise in me since my cousin was even younger than me and was going to drink coffee. However, when I looked at that coffee, it was nothing like adults’ espressos.

What is a café Manchado?

The Café Manchado is a medium-sized glass of hot milk to which a few drops or a very light splash of coffee is added; a minimal amount but enough to “stain the milk” gave rise to the Café Manchado, also known as Leche Manchada (Stained Milk).

That coffee was nothing more than a glass of milk to which coffee flavor was added since the amount was so small that it would barely contribute caffeine to the beverage. However, the aroma, flavor, and aftertaste are incorporated to the hot milk almost magically, and much more in a child’s palate.

When one drinks a Café Manchado, you can feel similar stimulation and concentration effects to those of an espresso despite the absence of caffeine. This is explained by several scientific studies and has to do with the impact of the aroma of coffee:

We show that people in a coffee-scented environment (compared to an unscented environment) perform better on an analytical reasoning task due to higher performance expectations.

The impact of coffee aroma on expectations and performance.

What does a Café Manchado taste like?

One of the advantages of Café Manchado, or Leche Manchada, over other types of coffee is the high percentage of milk in the beverage. Thus, if you use different types of milk, the flavor of Café Manchado will change completely.

If you use cow’s milk rich in fat, you will notice that thick texture, typical of this type of milk when heated. On the other hand, skimmed milk will give it more fluidity, especially if it is cold.

In that article, I analyzed rice, oat, peanut, coconut, chestnut, and almond milk, evaluating each milk its flavor, texture, and compatibility with Latte Art. From this study, I concluded that the vegetable milk that goes best with coffee is almond milk (apart from soy milk, which is my favorite and the one I drink daily).

Differences between a café Manchado and a Café Cortado

These two coffee drinks are opposites. While the Café Manchado is all milk with a splash of coffee, the Café Cortado is all coffee with a splash of milk. Therefore, in the Manchado, the milk flavor predominates, and in the Cortado, the coffee flavor predominates.

There are also differences in the size of the cup in which they are served, being the cups of the Manchado are larger than those of the Cortado. For a Café Cortado, we use glass cups of 30 – 45ml; for a Café Manchado, we use cups of about 110 – 150ml.

Differences between a café Manchado and a Macchiato

Many confuse Café Manchado with Macchiato because of the words used to name both beverages. The word Macchiato means stained in Italian. What happens is that the Italians refer to “staining the coffee” while the Spaniards refer to “staining the milk”.

So the Macchiato is very similar to the Cortado and nothing like the Manchado since the Manchado is almost all milk (without frothing), and the cup size is larger.

The Macchiato is prepared in a cup of about 60 to 75ml, combining a double espresso (or the same amount of coffee prepared with an Italian coffee maker) with a small amount of frothed milk on the surface.

➡️ Check here to prepare a Latte Macchiato.


Café Manchado is ideal for those who are just getting into the world of coffee and wish to do it progressively. With a predominantly milky flavor, Manchado is easy to drink by anyone and in any situation.

A Manchado has a negligible amount of caffeine. However, the coffee aroma can produce effects similar to espresso.

Remember that in Spanish coffee shops, you should ask for a Café Manchado or a Leche Manchado, but never a Cortado or a Macchiato since they are different coffees.

Written by Pablo Barrantes Nevado
I am Pablo Barrantes, a coffee lover. I decided to start this website to solve all the doubts that arise every day when preparing our favorite drink: coffee. I am an industrial engineer by profession, but I have worked in coffee shops for many years, where I have learned all the secrets about coffee machines and coffee. My passion for coffee has led me to investigate and study beyond the obvious, and thanks to this, I can offer solutions and give news about coffee and coffee makers. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I research, document and write here.

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