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Home » A Guide to Bica Coffee (aka Portuguese Espresso)

A Guide to Bica Coffee (aka Portuguese Espresso)

Bica coffee is Portugal’s version of espresso served in a Demitasse cup with a complimentary sugar packet on the side. The name “Bica” means “drink this with sugar.” You are supposed to drink it as a short, sweet coffee. Bica has a notable hazelnut-coloured cream, a quality of being smooth and velvety in taste, and a distinct sharpness with balanced notes.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about Bica coffee.

Bica coffee

Where Does Bica Coffee (Aka Espresso Portugal) Come From?

Bica coffee comes from Portugal. Many Lisbon locals believe “Bica” to stand for “Beba isso com açúcar,” so as the name suggests, they drink this coffee with sugar. The term “Bica” also comes from the way that this type of coffee falls into a cup on a tray from an espresso machine, which is analogous to the Portuguese words for “fountain” or “water spring” to capture liquid flowing. Bica is traditionally used in many Portuguese coffee-based drinks like the café com cheirinho.

For a quick guide on how to order Bica coffee in Portugal, check out this YouTube video.

How To Make Bica Coffee (Aka Portuguese Cafe)?

To make Bica coffee:

  1. Brew a double shot of espresso with a Portuguese Arabica-Robusta light roast blend using an espresso machine.
  2. Stir 2 to 3 tbsps of a Portuguese liquor, or Beirão, into the hot coffee (1).
  3. Add granulated white sugar to taste and enjoy the drink served plain or with some whipped cream topping.

If you want to make an iced coffee version with complimentary sweet honey, tart lemon, and full-bodied notes, check out our Mazagran coffee recipe. The Portuguese variation of this recipe encourages the further use of Bica coffee with mint leaves and white rum shots.

For a non-alcoholic version, add more sweetener plus cinnamon and mint leaves to mimic the complex earthy-dominated liquor flavour profile.

Curious to know about what other espresso variations there are to discover globally for some new recipe ideas? Check out this list of coffee drinks from different parts of the world.

What Is The Difference Between Portuguese Espresso And Italian Espresso?

The difference between Portuguese espresso and Italian espresso is that Portuguese espresso has a larger extraction volume than Italian espresso, or lungo, as Italians call it. This is due to the lighter Portuguese roasting process.

Italian espresso also differs from Portuguese espresso based on the palette it satisfies (2).

[Italian espresso] is bitter and flavourless, and there is zero fruit or acidity

Italian and Portuguese espressos are Arabica-Robusta blends designed to be strong and enjoyed quickly in the mornings.

Final Thoughts

Now you know, Bica coffee is a short and sweet espresso treat that comes from Portugal and is enjoyed quickly with sugar. It’s an unforgettably strong Arabica-Robusta blend that coffee lovers are guaranteed to enjoy. Have you tried it?


Portuguese Galao coffee is like a latte, but with a greater milk-to-coffee ratio. Three-quarters of this drink consists of frothed milk with one-quarter espresso. It is traditionally served at breakfast in Portugal with a lot of milk or sugar to counteract the bitterness of the coffee beans.

Pingado coffee is a Brazilian invention, and it refers to coffee served in an espresso glass with a splash of hot or cold milk. This is best to try if you are not a black coffee lover yet still want a bit of that traditional Portuguese espresso experience. If you are ever in Portugal, order one by saying, “um café pingado” (3).

The most popular coffee in Portugal is espresso, or a Bica coffee as it is more commonly known, which is strong, short, and full of chocolatey goodness (4). If you want to order one in Portugal, you say, “um café.”

  1. Eddy. (2019, June 9). Portuguese Bica with Beirão Liqueur Recipe. Retrieved August 11, 2022, from https://portugueserecipes.ca/recipe/1042/3/Portuguese-Bica-Coffee-with-Beir%C3%A3o-Liqueur-Recipe
  2. Charles, S. (2021, July 12). Exploring Italian coffee culture and the third wave. Retrieved August 11, 2022, from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2021/07/exploring-italian-coffee-culture-and-the-third-wave/
  3. Devour Tours. (2022, February 28). How to Order Coffee in Portugal Like a Local. Retrieved August 11, 2022, from https://devourtours.com/blog/order-coffee-in-portugal/?cnt=CA
  4. Cave, J. (2022, June). Coffee in Portugal: What to Order & How. Retrieved August 11, 2022, from https://www.portugalist.com/portugal-ordering-coffee/
Dasha Toptygina
I am a writer who delves into all manner of things related to coffee, cats, and characters. I started drinking coffee daily in university and now my entire work, life, and personality all revolve around procuring the perfect brew. I start every morning with yoga, French Press coffee, and some special creative time devoted to working on a magical cat café story... but, more on that later.

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