How To Make Cuban Coffee: A Comprehensive Guide

Cuban coffee, also known as cafecito or Cuban espresso, is a delicious and potent brew that is an integral part of Cuban culture. It is a rich and sweet espresso made with finely ground coffee beans and sugar. This article will provide a detailed guide on how to make authentic Cuban coffee, exploring its history, required ingredients and tools, and step-by-step instructions for brewing this delightful beverage.

Cuban coffee holds a significant place in the hearts of many who have tasted its unique and intensely flavorful brew. The preparation and consumption of Cuban coffee is not just a daily routine, but a social custom deeply embedded in Cuban tradition. The drink is often enjoyed in small, strong shots and is a symbol of hospitality and community. Learning how to make Cuban coffee allows one to experience the cherished cultural heritage and the tantalizing taste of this beloved beverage.

Quick Answer: How To Make Cuban Coffee

To brew a perfect cup of Cuban coffee, you will need finely ground Cuban coffee beans, sugar, a stovetop espresso maker (such as a Moka pot), and a small metal pitcher. Here’s a quick overview of the process:

  1. Fill the bottom chamber of the stovetop espresso maker with water and place it on the stove.
  2. Add finely ground coffee to the coffee filter basket, followed by sugar.
  3. Assemble the espresso maker and heat it on the stovetop until the coffee starts to percolate.
  4. Pour the first few drops of the brew, which contain the concentrated sweetened coffee, into a small metal pitcher.
  5. Stir vigorously to create a thick and creamy layer of espuma.
  6. Pour the remaining coffee into small cups, and top it off with the espuma.

History Of Cuban Coffee

The tradition of coffee consumption in Cuba dates back to the 18th century when coffee was first introduced to the island by French immigrants. Over time, coffee became an essential part of Cuban daily life, and by the mid-19th century, Cuba was one of the world’s largest coffee-producing nations.

The way in which Cuban coffee is prepared and enjoyed today has its roots in the influence of Spanish immigrants and the introduction of espresso machines to the island. The iconic method of brewing Cuban coffee evolved, blending the techniques of Spanish espresso with the addition of sugar, resulting in the distinctive flavor profile that sets Cuban coffee apart.

The preparation of Cuban coffee became entrenched in social gatherings, where it fostered community and conversation. Today, the tradition of making and sharing Cuban coffee remains an integral part of Cuban culture, both on the island and within Cuban communities around the world.

Required Ingredients And Tools


  • Cuban Coffee Beans: Cuban coffee is typically made from a blend of Arabica and Robusta coffee beans, roasted to a deep and rich flavor profile. Look for finely ground Cuban coffee or dark espresso roast from a reputable source.
  • Sugar: Traditional Cuban coffee uses granulated white sugar, but some variations may include raw sugar or even sweetened condensed milk for added richness.
  • Water: Use clean, filtered water for the best flavor.


  • Stovetop Espresso Maker (Moka Pot): This classic coffee brewing device is essential for making Cuban coffee. It consists of a bottom chamber for water, a middle chamber for coffee grounds, and a top chamber for the brewed coffee.
  • Small Metal Pitcher: Known as a "cucharita" or "molinillo" in Cuban culture, this small pitcher is used to mix the first few drops of brewed coffee with sugar, creating the delicious creamy layer called espuma.
  • Coffee Grinder: If using whole coffee beans, a grinder is necessary to achieve the fine grind required for Cuban coffee.

Step-by-Step Guide To Making Cuban Coffee

Step 1: Prepare The Moka Pot

  1. Start by unscrewing the Moka pot and removing the filter basket. Fill the bottom chamber of the Moka pot with water up to the safety valve, making sure not to overfill.
  2. Insert the filter basket into the bottom chamber and fill it with finely ground Cuban coffee, ensuring it is evenly distributed without packing it down.
  3. Add sugar to the coffee in the filter basket according to your desired sweetness. The traditional Cuban recipe uses approximately one to two teaspoons of sugar for every two tablespoons of coffee, but you can adjust this to suit your preference.

Step 2: Assemble And Heat The Moka Pot

  1. Screw the top chamber onto the bottom chamber tightly, ensuring a secure seal.
  2. Place the Moka pot on the stove over medium heat. It is best to use a heat source that matches the size of the bottom of the Moka pot to ensure even brewing. Keep the lid of the Moka pot open during the brewing process.

Step 3: Brew The Coffee

  1. As the Moka pot heats up, the water will begin to boil and pass through the coffee grounds, creating a rich, concentrated coffee.
  2. Keep an eye on the Moka pot as the coffee starts to percolate into the upper chamber. Once the coffee starts to brew, lower the heat to prevent scorching the coffee.
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Step 4: Prepare The Espuma

  1. As the first few drops of coffee start to come out of the Moka pot, carefully pour them into the small metal pitcher. This first portion of the brew will be highly concentrated and sweetened from the added sugar, and it forms the basis of the espuma.
  2. Using a spoon, stir the coffee and sugar vigorously in the small metal pitcher to create a creamy layer known as espuma. This layer adds a delightful richness and sweetness to the final cup.

Step 5: Pour And Serve

  1. Once the remaining coffee has brewed into the top chamber of the Moka pot, it is ready to serve. Pour the coffee into small cups, filling them to about two-thirds full.
  2. Top off each cup with the espuma, using a spoon to evenly distribute it across the top of the coffee.
  3. The brewed Cuban coffee is now ready to enjoy. Serve it alongside a glass of cold water, as is customary in Cuban culture, to cleanse the palate between sips.

The art of making Cuban coffee is a time-honored tradition that represents the fusion of culture, history, and a rich, intense flavor that captivates the senses. The process of brewing this delightful beverage is as much about the preparation as it is the enjoyment of the end result. By following the detailed steps and using quality ingredients and tools, you can experience the authentic taste and cultural significance of Cuban coffee, creating a connection to the warmth and camaraderie of Cuban tradition with every sip.

Choosing The Right Type Of Coffee

Cuban coffee, also known as café Cubano, is a rich and flavorful beverage that has become an integral part of Cuban culture. This strong and sweet espresso-style coffee is known for its bold flavor and the creamy layer of foam on top, called crema. Making Cuban coffee at home allows you to enjoy this unique and delicious beverage whenever you like.

To make authentic Cuban coffee, it is essential to use the right type of coffee beans. Traditionally, a dark roast coffee with a strong flavor profile is preferred. Look for beans that are specifically labeled as Cuban or espresso roasts. These beans have a robust and intense taste that pairs well with the addition of sugar. Alternatively, you can choose a medium roast coffee if you prefer a slightly milder flavor.

While purchasing pre-ground coffee is convenient, it is recommended to use freshly ground coffee beans for the best results. This will ensure maximum flavor and aroma in your Cuban coffee. If possible, invest in a good quality burr grinder to grind the beans right before use.

Preparing The Coffee Beans

Once you have selected the right type of coffee beans, it’s time to prepare them for brewing. Start by measuring the desired amount of coffee. As a general guideline, use 1 tablespoon of ground coffee for every 2 ounces of water. This ratio can be adjusted to suit your personal taste preferences.

If you are using whole beans, grind them to a fine consistency. The grounds should be similar in texture to granulated sugar. This fine grind is crucial to creating the strong and concentrated flavor of Cuban coffee. Remember to grind only the amount of coffee you need at the moment to preserve freshness.

Understanding The Importance Of Crema

The crema is the hallmark of a well-made Cuban coffee. It is a layer of foam that forms on top of the coffee shot during the brewing process. This creamy layer adds richness and enhances the flavor profile of the coffee. Achieving a thick and velvety crema requires a specific brewing method and a little practice.

The key to a good crema lies in the sugar. Traditional Cuban coffee is sweetened by adding a small amount of sugar during the brewing process. The sugar is mixed with the first few drips of espresso, creating a thick syrup-like consistency. As the coffee continues to brew, the crema forms on top of the cup.

Tips For Achieving Authentic Cuban Flavor

Now that you understand the basics of making Cuban coffee let’s delve into some tips and techniques to achieve the authentic flavor:

  1. Use a Moka Pot: A Moka pot, also known as a stovetop espresso maker, is the traditional tool used to make Cuban coffee. It consists of a bottom chamber for water, a middle chamber for coffee grounds, and a top chamber for the brewed coffee. This brewing method helps create a strong and robust coffee similar to espresso.

  2. Preheat the Moka Pot: Before adding the water and coffee, preheat the Moka pot by rinsing it with hot water. This step helps maintain a consistent brewing temperature and prevents the coffee from tasting burnt.

  3. Add Sugar to the Coffee Grounds: To achieve the desired level of sweetness and create the essential crema, add sugar to the coffee grounds in the Moka pot. For a single cup of Cuban coffee, use about 1-2 teaspoons of sugar. Adjust the amount based on your taste preferences.

  4. Use Filtered or Spring Water: The quality of water used can greatly impact the taste of your coffee. Using filtered or spring water ensures a clean and pure flavor profile, allowing the coffee’s distinct characteristics to shine.

  5. Heat the Water Properly: Heat the water on low to medium heat to ensure a slow and steady brewing process. Avoid using high heat, as it can extract bitter flavors from the coffee grounds. The aim is to brew the coffee slowly to allow the flavors to fully develop.

  6. Watch the Brew: Keep an eye on the brewing process and remove the Moka pot from the heat source as soon as you hear a gurgling sound. This indicates that all the water has been pushed up through the coffee grounds. Leaving the Moka pot on the heat for too long can result in over-extraction, leading to a bitter taste.

  7. Stir the Crema: Once the coffee is brewed, use a small spoon to gently stir the crema into the coffee. This step helps distribute the crema throughout the cup, adding a velvety texture and enhancing the overall flavor.

  8. Serve in Demitasse Cups: Traditional Cuban coffee is served in small demitasse cups. These small cups are designed to showcase the concentrated flavor and the beautiful crema. The ritual of sipping small amounts of coffee allows you to fully appreciate its richness.

Making Cuban coffee at home is an art form that requires attention to detail and a little practice. From choosing the right type of coffee beans to understanding the brewing process, each step contributes to the unique and delicious flavor of this iconic beverage. By following the tips and techniques outlined in this article, you can create authentic Cuban coffee that will transport you to the streets of Havana with every sip. So, grab your Moka pot, select the finest coffee beans, and get ready to indulge in a cup of pure Cuban delight.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

Cuban coffee, also known as café cubano, is a rich and sweet espresso beverage that is a staple in Cuban culture. It is made by brewing espresso with sugar and creating a thick and sweet layer of foam, known as espuma, on top. Cuban coffee is strong, flavorful, and a delightful way to start the day or enjoy as an afternoon pick-me-up.

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To ensure you make the perfect cup of Cuban coffee, it’s important to know the common mistakes to avoid. Here are some pitfalls to watch out for:

1. Using The Wrong Coffee Beans

Cuban coffee requires a specific type of espresso roast coffee beans. Look for a dark roast with a bold and rich flavor. Avoid using regular drip coffee beans or light roasts, as they will not give you the desired intensity and flavor profile.

2. Grinding The Coffee Beans Too Finely

The fineness of the coffee grind is crucial in getting the right extraction and achieving the perfect balance of flavors. If the coffee is ground too fine, it can lead to an over-extracted and bitter taste. Use a burr grinder set to a medium-fine setting to get the ideal grind for Cuban coffee.

3. Using The Wrong Coffee-to-water Ratio

Cuban coffee is traditionally brewed using a stovetop espresso maker called a moka pot. The recommended coffee-to-water ratio is 1:2, meaning for every tablespoon of ground coffee, you should use two tablespoons of water. Using too much or too little coffee can result in an imbalanced flavor.

4. Not Adding Sugar During The Brewing Process

One of the key characteristics of Cuban coffee is its sweetness. Sugar is an essential ingredient that is added to the coffee grounds before brewing. Typically, a teaspoon of sugar is added per shot of espresso. Failing to add sugar during the brewing process will result in a less authentic and less enjoyable cup of Cuban coffee.

5. Not Properly Frothing The Coffee

The distinctive layer of foam, or espuma, on top of Cuban coffee is achieved by vigorously stirring the first few drops of brewed coffee with the sugar. This creates a creamy and flavorful foam that adds to the overall experience of drinking Cuban coffee. If you don’t froth the coffee properly, you will miss out on this essential element.

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Serving And Enjoying Cuban Coffee

Once you have brewed a delicious cup of Cuban coffee, it’s time to serve and enjoy it. Here are some tips to enhance your experience:

1. Serve In Demitasse Cups

Cuban coffee is traditionally served in small demitasse cups, which are smaller than regular coffee cups. These cups allow you to savor the strong and concentrated flavor of the coffee. They also help retain the heat, ensuring your coffee stays warm throughout the enjoyment.

2. Add A Slice Of Lime

In Cuba, it is common to serve Cuban coffee with a slice of lime. The lime is meant to be rubbed on the edge of the cup before each sip. This ritual is believed to enhance the flavor and balance the sweetness of the coffee.

3. Enjoy With A Side Of Pastelitos Or Croquetas

Cuban coffee pairs wonderfully with traditional Cuban pastries such as pastelitos (sweet pastries filled with guava or cream cheese) or croquetas (small fried rolls filled with ham, cheese, or chicken). The combination of the rich and sweet coffee with these savory pastries creates a delightful contrast of flavors.

4. Take Small Sips And Savor The Flavors

Cuban coffee is strong and intense, so it’s best to take small sips and savor the flavors. Allow the coffee to linger on your palate and appreciate the richness and sweetness that comes with each sip. Remember, Cuban coffee is meant to be enjoyed slowly and savored.

Variation: Adding A Dash Of Rum

If you’re looking to elevate your Cuban coffee experience, consider adding a dash of rum. This variation, known as café cubano con ron, adds a hint of complexity and a touch of sweetness to the already delicious coffee. Here’s how to make it:

  1. Brew a shot of Cuban coffee following the steps outlined above.
  2. In a separate glass, pour 1 ounce (30 ml) of your preferred rum.
  3. Slowly pour the brewed Cuban coffee into the glass with the rum, stirring gently to combine.
  4. Optionally, garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon or a twist of orange peel for added aroma and flavor.
  5. Serve and enjoy!

The addition of rum to Cuban coffee creates a delightful fusion of flavors, showcasing the richness of the coffee and the smoothness of the rum. It’s a perfect treat for special occasions or when you want to indulge in a unique twist on the traditional Cuban coffee experience.


Making Cuban coffee at home is an art form that requires attention to detail and respect for tradition. By avoiding common mistakes and following the right techniques, you can enjoy a rich and flavorful cup of Cuban coffee that captures the essence of this beloved beverage. Remember to use the right coffee beans, grind them to the correct consistency, add sugar during the brewing process, froth the coffee properly, and serve in demitasse cups. Consider adding a slice of lime or pairing the coffee with traditional Cuban pastries for an authentic experience. And if you’re feeling adventurous, try adding a dash of rum for a delightful variation. So go ahead, grab your moka pot, and start brewing some authentic Cuban coffee right at home.

FAQS On How To Make Cuban Coffee

What Is Cuban Coffee?

Cuban coffee or cafecito, is a strong and sweet espresso-based coffee drink that is popular in Cuba and among Cuban communities around the world.

What Kind Of Coffee Beans Are Used To Make Cuban Coffee?

Traditionally, Cuban coffee is made using dark roasted, finely ground espresso beans. However, any dark or medium-dark roast coffee can be used.

What Equipment Do I Need To Make Cuban Coffee?

To make authentic Cuban coffee, you will need a stovetop espresso maker called a cafetera or moka pot, demerara sugar (or white sugar as a substitute), and espresso cups.

How Do I Make Cuban Coffee?

To make Cuban coffee, fill the bottom half of the cafetera with water and place the ground coffee in the filter basket. Screw on the top half and heat the cafetera on the stove until the coffee starts to brew. Add sugar to the espresso cups, pour in the coffee, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Serve immediately.

Can I Add Milk To Cuban Coffee?

Traditional Cuban coffee is served without milk. However, some variations do include milk, such as cafe con leche, which is equal parts coffee and steamed milk, similar to a latte. It is a matter of personal preference.