Café Cubano

Cuban Coffee

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Eating Cuban

Eating Cuban

By Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs

Published 2006

  • About

Cubans like their coffee strong, hot, and sweet, and have very definite ideas about how to brew it. The coffee itself is dark roasted and more finely ground than Italian espresso. You may grind it yourself using dark-roasted beans, preferably arabica beans, or buy one of the brands of Cuban-style ground coffees, such as Bustello, Pilón, El Pico, or La Llave, sold in the international coffee section of grocery stores in the United States.

Here are three ways to brew the perfect cup of Cuban coffee: the traditional method and the now more common methods using a stovetop espresso pot or electric espresso machine.

Small demitasse cups of sweet black coffee are consumed throughout the day and particularly at the end of a meal. Those who don’t like it as strong ask for a cortadito, a small cup with a little hot milk added. For breakfast, Cuban adults and children often drink café con leche, in a large cup. The general proportions are ½ to ¾ cup hot milk to ¼ cup hot coffee.


  • 3 cups water
  • 3 to 5 tablespoons dark-roasted, finely ground coffee, or to taste
  • 8 teaspoons sugar, or to taste


The traditional brewing method: In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring 3 cups water to a boil. Add the coffee and boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Place the sugar in a coffee serving pot. Set a cotton straining cone (sold in Cuban grocery stores) in the top of the pot. Pour the coffee mixture into the cone and let it drip into the pot. After the first 2 to 3 teaspoons of coffee are brewed, stir the coffee and sugar together to make a smooth paste. Let the remaining coffee drip into the pot and stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Serve in demitasse cups.

The espresso pot method: Fill the bottom half of a two-part Moka coffeepot to the “MAX” line with cold water. Fill the top half loosely with coffee. Place the pot over medium heat. Put the sugar in a separate coffee serving pot, or a large heatproof glass measuring cup. When the coffee begins to bubble up into the top of the pot, add the first 2 to 3 teaspoons of brewed coffee to the sugar and stir to make a paste. When the remaining coffee rises to the top of the pot, pour it into the serving pot and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Serve in demitasse cups.

The espresso machine method: Follow the instructions for your machine, but add sugar to the pitcher the coffee drips into and stir it together with the first 2 to 3 teaspoons of brewed coffee. Fill with the remaining coffee and stir until the sugar dissolves. Serve in demitasse cups.