How to order coffee in Portugal


Coffee drinking is a serious business in Portugal. There’s no way you can go to Portugal and not have to order a coffee at some point, so here is some essential information i have found on the right way to order coffee in Portugal.

These are general guidelines. No two cups of coffee will ever be identical no matter what words you use.

The most popular coffee is an espresso. In Lisbon you would order um bica and in Porto um cimbalinho. Elsewhere um café.

There are infinite variations on how it comes, so don’t be shy about being specific about your needs. Cheia is a full espresso cup, tres- quartas 3/4 full, a ristretto is called um italiano (small, strong, the first few seconds of the machine’s coffee). You could ask for it não quente (not hot) and they’ll put a dash of cold water in it for you.

You will also come across um italianoum bica and um cortado. In Portugal a cortado is a standard measure from the ‘small cup’ button on the machine, not to be confused with a spanish cortado (cut with milk).

Staying with the small cup theme, your poison may be um pingo also called um pingado, an espresso with a drop of milk (sometimes hot milk, sometimes not). Um garoto has more milk, about 50/50 coffee-to-milk ratio but still in a small cup. In Spain this is known as a corto or a cortado. Uma carioca is the opposite of a ristretto – a full small cup minus the strongest first two seconds of an espresso.

For a long black, or a large black coffee, you would order um abatanado. This could be also called um café americano, but ordering an americano may get you an instant coffee in some places. If that’s what you want then order um nescafe. If you’d like a double espresso, order um café duplo.

Going the milky way, um galão is served in a tall glass and is about 3/4 milk. Traditionally a galão is made with a second passing of coffee from the machine and is very weak. If you want something more like a caffe latte than coffee flavoured milk, order a um galão directo. You can also ask for a dark one escuro or a light one claro. Ordering a galão after midday will provoke funny looks, unless you’re over 80. It’s either for breakfast or it’s a nanna’s drink. You might save face by ordering uma meia de leite which is half milk in a regular cup.