How to make Cuban coffee

In today’s post, we are going to wear the apron. Without being a precedent, where we dress up as kitchens and show you how to prepare Cuban coffee. A traditional and delicious recipe, which is not entirely known everywhere. So let’s do our bit to introduce it.

We all know more or less how to make coffee (at least we think we do) in the traditional way, but it is always important to discover new preparations that expand the nuances and range of flavours of our favourite drink.

Cuban coffee has three main characteristics: it is prepared with a Moka pot, it is an espresso of strong intensity, and above all, it is very sweet. If you like soft coffees or coffees with little sugar, then Cuban coffee is not for you.

What is Cuban coffee?

Cuban coffee is a special version of the traditional espresso that started to be made in Cuba (of course) when the first espresso machines arrived on the island imported from Italy. For this reason, traditional Cuban coffee is prepared with a traditional Italian coffee machine or mocha machine. It is much better if it is handmade to preserve all the spirit and essence of this traditional drink.

The ritual of drinking Cuban coffee is part of the society and customs not only of Cuba but also of some metropolitan areas of Florida (United States of America) where large communities of Cuban population reside.

Cuban coffee is identical to Italian espresso, the only difference being that brown sugar is added directly to the ground coffee filter. It is also usually drunk with a small proportion of milk.

cuban coffee ingredients

What do I need to prepare Cuban coffee?

To make an authentic Cuban coffee at home, you only need four things:

  • An Italian coffee maker (the Bialetti Moka Express or any of the cheap Moka coffee makers will do).
  • Authentic Cuban ground coffee. For example, Bustelo coffee or Pilon coffee. If you cannot get Cuban coffee, use heavily roasted Colombian or Spanish coffee.
  • Sugar.
  • Water.

It isn’t easy to get Cuban-style ground coffee, if not from specialist shops or imports. On Amazon, however, you can get it without problems and in large quantities. In this section, you have some shopping links for the well-known Bustelo Coffee or the Pilón, which are the two most popular brands of Cuban ground coffee.

The hallmark of Cuban ground coffee is the Dark Roast warning. If you do not have Cuban-style ground coffee at home, try to use a variety that comes as close as possible to these characteristics.

How is Cuban coffee made?

We will explain it to you step by step so that there is no room for doubt:

  1. The first thing we’ll do is mix the coffee beans (already ground) with the sugar. It is important that it is white sugar and not brown sugar because if not, we will not get the texture and consistency needed to achieve a traditional Cuban coffee. If you prefer to use brown sugar or another type of sugar, no problem. But all the preparation we are going to explain is made with white sugar. The proportion of sugar goes to the taste, but what Cubans really like is that the coffee is very sweet. As a guideline, you can consider two small spoonfuls of brown sugar for each cup of coffee you are going to extract.
  2. Fill the bottom of your mocha (or Italian coffee machine) with as much cold water as you like. Use the normal ratio depending on the number of cups of coffee you want to make.
  3. Fill the filter of the coffee machine with the mixture of coffee and brown sugar that we have prepared in step 1. Important: to prepare Cuban coffee pour as much of the mixture as you can (real Cuban coffee has a very intense flavour), but do not press it. Or try to press it as little as possible.
  4. Put the two parts of your coffee machine together, seal them well and put the coffee machine on the stove as if you were making a normal espresso. If possible, use a low, very gentle heat.
  5. When the Cuban coffee has reached the top of the pot, please remove it from the heat and serve it immediately. Preferably in very small cups, such as Italian espressos.

How to prepare Cuban coffee: Alternative

Another alternative method of preparing Cuban coffee is to add only the first drops of coffee (very few drops!) directly onto the sugar. If you stir this mixture generously, you will see how the sugar has turned into a very thick, brown paste, similar to caramel.

Then prepare your espresso in the normal way (without sugar), and when it’s ready, pour it over the sugar paste we made earlier. This way, we will get the sweet froth we are looking for to melt with our coffee. Stir this mixture strongly, and the result will be similar to what we have described in the previous step-by-step process.

The main quality of Cuban coffee, besides its intensity and sweet taste, is that the heat of the fire hydrolyzes the sucrose present in the sugar, making it release components that will give the coffee a much more oily and deep texture than if we pour the sugar directly over the final preparation.

Cuban espresso coffee

Cuban coffee: Videos

And since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are a couple of demonstration videos to help you learn how to make authentic Cuban coffee without any confusion.

In the first of these, they use white sugar, and we see to perfection how the sweet foam that will give shape to our Cuban coffee is formed. Just what we have described in the “alternative method” in the previous section.

We can also see this process in the following video. Observe the importance of making the mixture of the coffee with the sugar (the paste that generates later the sweet foam) in a container or small metal jar.

Do you like Cuban coffee? Do you use a different preparation than the one we have shown here?