Craving some homemade Cuban coffee? Learn how to make this delicious beverage at home with three simple ingredients. There's no need to go to Miami or Cuba to get an amazing cup of café Cubano!
Café Cubano is a traditional Cuban drink made from stovetop espresso sweetened with sugar and topped with a delicious sugar foam. This strong, black coffee is served in small cups and enjoyed with buttered and toasted Cuban bread, pan dulces, and other breakfast foods.
Café Cubano is known to be extra strong and bitter since it's prepared from dark roast beans that have been ground quite finely. Since this drink is bitter on its own, a lot of sugar is added. Due to rationing, Cubans have had to enjoy coffee in small quantities. "Cuban coffee" refers to the brewing style, not the origin of the beans.
Why This Recipe Works
- We're using Cuban-style ground coffee. Choose your favorite brand (whether it's Café Bustelo, Pilon, La Llave, or another brand) and enjoy a wonderful flavor from this special dark roast, finely ground coffee.
- We're using a stovetop espresso pot. Traditional Cuban coffee isn't made with an espresso machine; it's made with an Italian coffee pot called a moka pot.
- The grounds aren't tamped. Packing the grounds into the moka pot filter will result in a poor quality brew. Simply spoon them into the filter, tap to remove air pockets, and level with a knife.
- The espumita is whisked until it's trebled in volume. The sugar foam on top of the coffee is called the espumita, and you'll know when to stop mixing it once it is pale and has trebled in volume.
Let's talk about the key ingredients. You won't need much to make this delicious recipe! You will need a traditional stovetop espresso maker, so here's some tips for brewing wonderful moka pot coffee.
- Coffee: Start with Cuban-style ground beans, such as Café Bustelo, Pilon, or La Llave. If you can't find one of these brands, use medium roast, single origin beans that you grind yourself. Unfortunately, you likely won't be able to use Cuban-grown beans, as they are hard to find outside of that country.
- Water: Use filtered water for the best flavor.
- Sugar: Use white sugar, brown sugar, or a mixture of the two, and measure out one tablespoon of sugar per cup (i.e. 6 tablespoons for a 6-cup moka pot).
See recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.
- Cafecito (Little Coffee): Simply pour the brewed coffee and espumita into demitasse cups and enjoy.
- Cortadito (Little Cut): A demitasse serving of Cuban coffee mixed with steamed but not foamed milk in a 2:1 ratio of coffee to milk. It's a smaller Cuban version of the Spanish cortado.
- Café con Leche (Coffee with Millk): A larger serving of Cuban coffee that's equal parts coffee and steamed milk. Sometimes the milk can be foamed.
- Colada: This is the takeout version of cafecito, and is served in a Styrofoam cup with a few smaller, disposable thimble-sized cups. The coffee is poured into the small cups and shared with others, usually on a break from work.
- Try using leche evaporada (evaporated milk) instead of regular milk for a delightful flavor.
How to Make
Gather the ingredients for Cuban coffee.
- Fill the lower chamber of the moka pot with boiling water to just under the steam valve.
- Use a spoon to fill the funnel with ground coffee, tapping the side to remove air pockets. Do not pack in the grounds, or you'll have an inferior brew. Level the top with a knife.
3. Drop the funnel into the lower chamber, then screw on the upper chamber and place over low heat with the lid open.
4. In a few minutes, you'll hear the water boiling in the moka pot, and shortly the first few drops of espresso will come out. Watch it carefully!
5. Pour the first couple tablespoons of espresso into the sugar and stir to moisten. Don't add too much, or the espumita will not foam properly.
6. Place the moka pot back on the heat with the lid open and beat the sugar vigorously with a spoon (or a handheld electric mixer if you own one). Stop when it is a light caramel color, thickened, and trebled in volume.
7. When the stream of coffee is honey colored, close the lid and remove the moka pot from the heat.
8. Pour the espresso into the espumita and stir to combine. Let it stand for a minute to allow the espumita to float to the top.
9. Pour the café Cubano into small cups, making sure each cup gets some espumita.
10. Enjoy immediately!
Traditional café Cubano is dark roast espresso that has been sweetened with sugar and is topped with a layer of foam called the espumita. This espresso drink is often served after dinner, or with a glass of hot milk (café con leche) and enjoyed at breakfast with buttered, toasted Cuban bread. It's popular among Cubans and Cuban Americans.
Café Cubano consists simply of brewed stovetop espresso mixed with sugar. The sugar is frothed with the first few drops of the brew to make a foam called espumita that floats on top of the espresso.
Its most unique features are its strong, bitter taste and dark color. Since the beans are roasted longer and ground finer, it has a rich, bitter flavor that needs sugar to balance it out.
Espresso is brewed under a lot more pressure than the traditional moka pot brewing method used for café Cubano, creating a crema (thin layer of foam) on top of the espresso, and it isn't sweetened until after brewing. Café Cubano is brewed in a moka pot rather than an espresso machine, is sweetened during the brewing, and its foam comes from sugar whipped with coffee rather than from high pressure.
If you want to serve café Cubano traditionally, give guests a glass of water to sip before the coffee to cleanse the palate, and serve another glass afterward if desired. Cubans enjoy this type of coffee at any time during the day, but it's especially popular at breakfast with pastelitos (little pastries) like these pastelitos de guayaba, croquetas, or a piece of Cuban bread toasted in the traditional way.
Cuban coffee should be consumed right away for the best flavor. You can refrigerate leftovers for up to 24 hours, but leftover coffee won't taste as good.
- Fill the lower chamber with boiling water instead of cold water for less bitter java and faster brewing time.
- When adding the grounds to the funnel, tap the side to level the grounds and remove air pockets. Don't tamp or pack them in.
- Use 1 tablespoon of sugar per cup (I did about 9 tablespoons for my 9-cup moka pot).
- Don't add too much espresso to the espumita at first; just enough to moisten it is good to start, then add a little more if needed.
- Want to make café con leche? Serve each cafecito with a taza (cup) of steamed milk to allow everyone to mix the espresso with milk to their preference.
Other Coffee Drinks You'll Love
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Cuban Coffee (Café Cubano)
- 1.6 oz ground Cuban coffee, or medium-ground coffee
- 2 cups filtered water
- ½ cup white or brown sugar, or a mixture of the two
- Fill the lower chamber of the moka pot with boiling water to just below the valve, then fill the funnel with ground coffee, tap the side to remove air pockets, and level the top with a knife. Do not tamp the grounds.
- Screw on the upper chamber and place the moka pot over low heat. (If you're using a gas stove, keep the flame smaller than the base of the moka pot.) After a few minutes, you'll hear the water begin to boil, and the espresso will start to come out of the top.
- While the water is heating, measure the sugar for the espumita into the creamer or a glass measuring cup. As soon as the first drops of espresso come out of the top of the moka pot, pour enough into the sugar to moisten it, then put the pot back on the heat. Whip the mixture with a spoon or an electric mixer until the espumita is light brown, thickened, and trebled in volume.
- Once the stream of espresso in the moka pot is honey colored, remove it from the heat and immediately pour the espresso into the creamer with the espumita. Stir to combine.
- Let the mixture stand until the espumita has floated to the top, then pour into tacitas (demitasse cups) and serve immediately.
- The ingredient measurements here are for a 9-cup moka pot. If you're using a 3 or 6-cup pot, you won't need as much of each ingredient.
- Use 1 tablespoon of sugar per cup (I did about 9 tablespoons for my 9-cup moka pot).
- Don't add too much coffee to the espumita at first; just enough to moisten it is good to start, then add a little more if needed.
- Want to make café con leche? Serve each cafecito with a tazo (cup) of steamed milk to allow everyone to mix it with milk to their preference.
- Get more tips for making a great moka pot brew in our blog post.
Serving sizes and nutritional information are only an estimate and may vary from your results.