Cafe Con Leche vs Cafe Au Lait

Cafe Con Leche vs Cafe Au Lait

Do you prefer your coffee with milk? Some coffee fans want their brew black and strong but some people also want a generous serving of milk along with their coffee. Coffee with milk comes in many names across various countries of the world and among the popular ones include cafe con leche and cafe au lait. Although they both mean the same, there are differences between them. Read on and let us get to know these contrasts.

Cafe con leche vs Cafe au lait: What are the differences?

These are the differences between Cafe con leche vs Cafe au lait:

1. Cafe con leche is Spanish while Cafe au lait is French in origin.

Cafe con leche which means coffee with milk is a Spanish coffee beverage. This drink is made up of strong coffee, usually, an espresso, which is then mixed with scalded milk in equal parts.  The amount of milk may vary and sugar is added to taste. On the other hand, Cafe au lait is the French equivalent which also means coffee with milk. 

2. They differ in the brewing method used.

As mentioned, Cafe con leche is usually made of espresso while Cafe au lait is made with drip coffee although some also use espresso for it. 

3. They differ in the way milk is prepared. 

The milk used in Cafe con leche is usually scalded milk which is dairy milk that is heated at around 83 degrees Centigrade or 181 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, proteins are denatured, milk enzymes are destroyed and bacteria are killed. Meanwhile, Cafe au lait uses steamed milk which is created by exposing milk to steam until the fats break down and expand, creating tiny microbubbles called microfoam. This results in silky smooth-textured milk. 

  1. They are served differently. 

Cafe con leche is usually served in cups which is the common practice while Cafe au lait is typically served in a small bowl because it provides easier dipping for croissants that the French pair with their coffee. However, for American Cafe au lait, it is usually served in cups. 

Cafe con leche vs Cafe au lait: Origin and other facts 

Cafe con leche 

Cafe con leche originated in Spain but it was uncertain who first created this beverage.  It became popular not only in Spain but in other Spanish- speaking countries as well like Cuba and Latin America. It is considered a breakfast drink and it is more filling than other coffee-based beverages because of the milk. It is made with espresso and scalded milk while sugar is added as milk is being heated. 

It is typically served hot but others serve it iced and added with a little salt. It can be clarito or light since there is more milk or oscurito which means dark to signify that there is less milk. Whole dairy milk is often used although other dairy and non-dairy milk can be utilized but with considerable changes in taste and texture. Also, the amount of sugar may vary depending on your preference. 

Cafe au lait

Cafe au lait originated in France and it is made by adding steamed milk to drip coffee or espresso in equal portions. It is topped with little or no foam but in the USA it is made by adding steamed milk to concentrated drip brewed or French pressed coffee. 

During earlier times, American cafe au lait had chicory in the coffee and this was mainly due to the shortage of coffee during the American Civil War. Chicory was used then as a coffee substitute although this is still practiced in recent years. Chicory is a flowering plant in the dandelion family and chicory coffee tastes similar to coffee but with a flavor that is slightly woody and nutty.

It is a popular drink in New Orleans and coffee shops like Cafe Du Monde serve it to their customers. In this area, it is mixed with chicory and paired with pastries. 

Other names for coffee with milk 

Here are the other names for coffee with milk:

  • Caffe latte in Italy 
  • Kawa biala in Poland
  • Milchkaffee in Germany 
  • Tejeskave  in Hungary 
  • Koffie verkeerd in Netherlands and Flanders
  • Cafe com leite in Portugal and Brazil 


There are considerable differences in Cafe con leche vs Cafe au lait although they both mean the same thing, coffee with milk. They are both prepared using equal parts of coffee and milk. However, they are different since Cafe con leche originated from Spain while Cafe au lait came from France.  They are different in the brewing method and how they are served but most of all, there is a strong contrast in the way milk is prepared for these drinks. 

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