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What is Galao (aka Portuguese Coffee)?

The galao coffee is Portugal’s answer to the latte or cafe au lait. It’s a base of espresso topped with three parts of foamed milk and served in a tall glass. The galao is traditionally served at breakfast, but you can enjoy it any time of day with our simple recipe.

Here’s everything you need to know about the galao.

What is Galao coffee?

Where does the Galao come from?

The galao comes from Portugal, where it’s a popular cafe drink served at breakfast time. A galao comprises one part espresso and three parts frothed milk, making it very similar to a latte.

You’ll find that Portuguese people often serve coffee with plenty of sugar or milk. This is due to the tradition of using a blend with a high proportion of Robusta beans, giving the coffee added strength and bitterness.

Tip for ordering: Galão (pronounced ga-lah-oh) is for one coffee, but the plural is galões (gah-lo-es).

How to prepare a Galao?

Preparing a galao is easy with an espresso machine. If you’re familiar with making a latte, you know all the steps already.

WHAT YOU NEED

  • Coffee beans
  • Water
  • Milk
  • Coffee grinder
  • Espresso machine
  • Glass to serve

AT A GLANCE:

BREW TIME

5-7 minutes

YIELD

1 cup

1. Grind your beans

Grind your beans to a medium-fine grind as you would typically for espresso. Your favourite espresso beans will be suitable, but Portuguese coffees are usually made with dark roast beans.

2. Pull the shot

You can make this drink with a regular shot, but Portuguese espresso is often prepared more as a lungo. Add the amount of ground coffee you’d usually use for a single shot, then extend the extraction time until you have 1.5-2 oz coffee.

RelatedWhat is Bica cafe?

3. Foam the milk

The proportions of a galao are similar to a latte. But, when preparing the milk, you’re aiming for something more like cappuccino froth than steamed milk.

Like many cafe-style drinks, the galao is simply a variation in the ratio between espresso and hot milk. If you’re looking for a unique way to prepare coffee, check out this flaming Spanish coffee recipe, or the Home Grounds list of coffee drinks worldwide.

What is the difference between a galao and a latte?

The difference between a galao and a latte is the milk texture and the milk-to-coffee ratio. A galao is one part espresso topped by three parts frothed milk. A latte has slightly less milk than a galao, with one espresso and two milk parts. The milk used for a latte is usually steamed rather than frothed, with just a tiny layer of foam added to the top.

What is the difference between a galao and a meia de leite?

The difference between a galao and a meia de leite (meaning “half milk”) is the ratio of coffee to milk. The galao has a ratio of 1:3, while the meia de leite uses a ratio of 1:1. This gives the meia de leite a much stronger espresso taste. The meia de leite is a smaller drink often served in a cup rather than a glass.

The meia de leite is equivalent to the Spanish cortado. You can learn how to make a cortado here.

FAQs

To make a galao at home without a machine, you will need a way to make strong coffee and heat and froth milk. For the coffee part, try using a Moka pot or Aeropress. Once you heat the milk, you can use various methods to froth it, including a whisk or handheld frother. Alternatively, choose a milk frother that will also heat your milk.

The galao has around 80-105 calories, depending on how much milk you use. For a recipe using 1.5 oz espresso and 4.5 oz frothed milk, one galao will have approximately 80 calories. A galao made with 2 oz espresso and 6 oz frothed milk will have around 105 calories. 

When made with a single espresso shot, the galao has around 70-80 mg of caffeine. The caffeine content will be around 140-160mg for a double shot. If you need to restrict your caffeine intake, try a galao coffee made with decaf beans containing just 3-16 mg of caffeine.

Kashmir Brummel
Growing up in a coffee-free household, the discovery of the Moka pot as a teen was something of a revelation. I’ve now upgraded to the AeroPress for my daily brew, with a Hario V60 on hand for lazy weekend mornings.

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