The coffee culture in Cuba is unrivaled. Cubans drink coffee as a social activity with friends, and it’s so much more than a drink.

To make true Cuban coffee, you have to embrace that culture and use the right ingredients and process.

It’s my passion to make coffee from around the world, and I have experience making Cuban coffee.

In this guide, I’ll explain how to make Cuban coffee and share the recipe so you can recreate the deep, dark, and indulgent Cuban delicacy.

Cuban coffee is uniquely dark and intense. You can use it for a regular morning coffee, but I recommend it for later in the day.

You must use the right ingredients and equipment and follow the correct process for authentic Cuban flavor.

Below is my tried and tested Cuban coffee recipe for making the perfect Cuban coffee. The prep time is 10-15 minutes, and the recipe is simple.

Ingredients

These are the essential ingredients for a chocolatey, smokey, and tobacco-tasting café Cubano.

  • Cuban coffee:
    Using a Cuban brand like Cafe Bustelo or Cafe La Llave is essential. It must be finely ground coffee, so you can buy Cuban coffee grounds or grind whole Cuban coffee beans yourself.
  • Sugar:
    Cubans use Demerara sugar (a minimally processed raw sugar), and it will give you the most authentic taste.[1] In a pinch, you can use brown sugar or granulated white sugar instead.
  • Milk:
    There's no milk in a traditional Cuban espresso shot, but some other Cuban-style coffee drinks require it. I recommend using whole milk if making a Cafe con Lech or Cortadito.

Equipment

This is how to make a Cuban coffee at home. The recipe below gives you all the steps to follow, but you can adjust the brew time, coffee volume, and sugar amount based on your tastes:

1. Grind the coffee beans (optional)

If using whole beans, grind them to a fine grind. It should be slightly coarser than an espresso grind.[2]

2. Start brewing

Open your Moka pot or stovetop espresso maker and load the finely ground coffee.

Every Moka pot is different, but it should fit 3-4 spoons of coffee.

Then, open the other compartment and pour in your water.

Place the Moka pot/stovetop espresso maker on medium-high heat to brew the espresso. Make sure the safety valve is shut.

3. Measure your sugar

Put 4 or 5 teaspoons of sugar in your measuring cup or jug (or more if you have a sweet tooth).

Add half a spoonful of dark-ground coffee to the top of the sugar.

4. Drip some coffee into the sugar

After your Cuban espresso has been brewing for 5-6 minutes, take the Moka pot off the stove and pour a few drops into the cup of sugar.

The first few drops are the strongest and will add flavor to the sugar paste.

Place the Moka pot back on the stove on medium heat to continue brewing.

5. Create the sugar foam/sugar paste

Use your whisk to vigorously beat the sugar in the cup. After a few minutes, it should create a light brown sugar foam.

The trick is to create a thick foam that doesn't stick, so you may need to add a few more drops of water.

This step takes a bit of work, and my arm was sore afterward - but it's worth it. The sugar paste is a huge part of Cuban coffee drinks and creates a unique flavor.

Make sure you do this before you finish brewing the coffee.

6. Combine the sugar and coffee

Once your Moka pot coffee maker/espresso maker has finished brewing, pour the Cuban coffee into the sugar foam in the glass measuring cup. Stir together slowly with a spoon.

As you stir to combine, you should notice the Cuban coffee getting thicker as the granulated sugar melts into the coffee. Continue to stir until your coffee has a syrup-like texture.

7. Add milk to create a Cortadito or Cafe con Leche (optional)

You now have a Café Cubano! This is the traditional Cuban coffee, and drinking Cuban coffee black is typical.

However, you can add milk to your brewed espresso to create different Cuban coffee drinks.

Adding a few drops of steamed milk will create a Cuban Cortadito, and adding 3-4oz of steamed milk creates a Cafe con Leche.

8. Enjoy your Cuban coffee!

Serve immediately and enjoy your rich coffee.

Drinking and Storage

In Cuban culture, brewed coffee is typically shared with friends, and I recommend you enjoy it that way.

Split your café Cubano into thimble-sized espresso cups between a few friends so you all get a sip. It’s so strong that you only need a small amount of this sweet espresso drink anyway.

Drinking your Café Cubano alone? No problem, just keep your serving size small.

Your Café Cubano should not be stored because it will develop a bitter aftertaste. I like to pour it from the Moka pot espresso maker into an ice tray and create Cuban espresso ice cubes.

These are perfect for iced coffee on a hot day.


What Are Different Types Of Cuban Coffee?

I’ve shown you how to make Cuban coffee the traditional way, but you can order different varieties of coffee from Cuban restaurants, coffee shops, and ventanitas (coffee windows).

Here are the 4 most popular Cuban coffee options:

Café Cubano

The Cafe Cubano is a traditional brewed coffee.

It’s a Cuban espresso mixed with sugar beaten into a thick paste. This is the best coffee for those who want a real Cuban coffee at home.

Café con Leche

This Cuban coffee is similar to a latte. It combines the delicious dark roast coffee with granulated sugar (like a cafe Cubano) and then topped with steamed milk in a 1-1 ratio.

This mix of espresso, sugar, and milk is popular with tourists. In some areas, the milk is served in a separate cup so you can control the recipe and create your own perfect Cuban coffee.

Cortadito

A Cortadito coffee is similar to a Cafe con Leche. The only difference is that it has less milk.

It’s traditionally just a Cafe Cubano with a few drops of milk, though some recipes alter the volume of milk added.

A Cortadito is slightly smoother than a regular Cuban coffee and is an amazing morning drink.

Colada

A Colada is a very strong 4oz coffee with sugar foam. It's made to be shared and comes in a styrofoam cup with mini plastic cups for serving.

The rich colada is split into the cups, giving everyone a small amount. It's delicious but strong, so don't try to stomach a larger serving.

The recipe is popular in South Florida (particularly Miami), and people often buy it for drinking with friends.


How To Serve Cuban Coffee (Just Like In Havana)

Cuban servings of coffee are small, but how you drink depends on whether you’re enjoying it alone or with friends.

  • If drinking alone, the Cuban coffee is served in individual demitasse cups. You then drink it as a shot (like a regular espresso). If you’re ordering a Cafe con Leche, you’ll typically get a separate cup of milk.
  • If drinking with friends, you order a coffee in a large styrofoam cup. You then carefully pour it into thimble-sized cups for everyone to have just a few sips of the espresso coffee.

Want to serve your coffee like a Cuban? Use some small cups for you and your friends, and keep the milk separate from the brewed Cuban-style espresso.


Get To Know The Cuban Coffee Culture & History!

Cuban coffee is famous for its smokey and deep flavor.

The origins of Cuban coffee date back to 1748 when the Spanish settlers planted the first coffee trees.

However, it wasn’t until the French came to Cuba in 1790 that Cuban coffee production started.

By the mid-1800s, sugar and coffee plantations were found all over Cuba, growing Arabica and Robusta beans.

Cubans had cheap access to sugar and coffee crops and used them to create their signature coffee with a bitter flavor and sugary finish.

Unfortunately, the coffee industry in Cuba had some real challenges, too.

The nationalization of production in the 1960s made processing coffee very challenging.[3] This was combined with export issues as America implemented a trade embargo with Cuba.

Cuba turned to the USSR for trade, and the Soviet Union became the biggest importer of Cuban coffee. However, when the Soviet Union fell, the export market for Cuba fell too.

It wasn't until relations started to improve with the USA that the export market opened up.[4]

Cuba is now the 36th largest coffee producer in the world, and coffee remains integral to Cuban life.

Many Cubans drink Cafe Cubano multiple times daily, and sharing coffee is a part of their social activity.


Common Making Cuban Coffee Questions

What coffee is used in Cuban coffee?

Cuban coffee drinks are typically made with very dark roast Cuban coffee and brewed using a stove-top espresso maker or Moka pot. Popular Cuban brands include Cafe Bustelo, Cafe Pilon, and Cafe La Llave.

Is Cuban coffee stronger than Starbucks?

Cuban coffee is stronger than American coffee and can have almost three times as much caffeine. However, Starbucks has some strong coffees, so I recommend you check the nutrition facts/nutrition information to see the comparable caffeine levels.


Summary

Cuban coffee tastes unique, and the coffee culture is unrivaled. Cubans respect and appreciate coffee, and it’s at the heart of their social interactions.

Making Cuban coffee at home is easy, but it takes some effort.

You'll get the best results by using Cuban beans and a stove-top Moka pot instead of a regular coffee maker, and remember to always add the sugar.

Hopefully, this guide has shown you how to make Cuban coffee yourself, and you’re ready to recreate this delicious brew at home.

References:

  1. https://www.thespruceeats.com/what-is-demerara-sugar-5204675
  2. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/coffee-grind-size-chart
  3. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/defaultinterstitial.cms
  4. https://www.history.com/news/timeline-us-cuba-relations

Kim Fernandez

Author

Kim Fernandez
Kim offers a unique perspective on coffee culture and trends. Kim's writing is personal and experiential, providing readers with firsthand advice on the latest in coffee. Beyond her writing, Kim is an avid explorer of new coffee trends and spots, always seeking to share the most genuine advice and latest trends. True to her love for coffee, you'll often find her in a café, immersed in a book with a freshly brewed cup of joe.

My favorite drink? I'd go with... A freshly brewed cup of joe

See Our Editorial Processes

Meet Our Team

Share Feedback

Leave a Comment