Café Cubano / Cuban Espresso

Cuban Coffee, Cuban pull, Cuban shot, Cafecito

… these are all names for the same sweet drink.

Café Cubano is Espresso coffee brewed over natural brown sugar called Demerara. It has been made ever since Espresso machines were brought from Italy to Latin America. Imagine a daily ritual of Cuban men playing domino or spanish guitar and smoking cigars in cafeterías. It’s not just a coffee, it’s a culture.

Popular regions that enjoy this drink nowadays are Cuba (of course) and any areas with high populations of Cuban-American people, like Florida.

In cafés, the coffee is usually served with a glass of water. Water is an excellent way to prepare your taste buds and to dilute the coffee once it’s in your digestive system. Cuban coffee usually has higher concentrations of caffeine than other coffee drinks and that’s why it is served in tacitas – small coffee cups that average on size between a thimble and demitase cup (ristreto cups).

Variations of Cubano

Café Cubano can also be referred to other coffee drinks that have a Cuban shot base.

Café con Leche, literally “coffee with milk”, is a Cubano based drink very similar to Caffè Latte. It is actually Cuban Espresso poured into steamed or hot whole milk. You get the coffee and milk in separate cups and mix it together just before you’re ready to drink. It is popular to serve this drink for breakfast and dunk toasted bread or cuban crackers with butter into it. A later variation of this is Café con Leche with a pinch of salt and a tiny bit of butter, which gives the drink a very distinctive taste.

Cortadito is similar to Spanish Cortado. The difference is that Cortadito is pre-sweetened and the ratio of milk and coffee isn’t strictly 1:1.

Colada is a way to share Cuban Coffee with family and friends. Colada is served in carafe or large cup with the lid on and empty demitase cups to drink from.

How to make Cuban Espresso

To make your Cubano at home buy Colombian-roast espresso blend. Popular brands are Pilon, Bustelo, Serrano, Turquino or La Llave. They are known for having a fine, almost powdery texture.

  • Prepare a carafe.
  • Add sugar to the bottom (not powdered). 1 teaspoon for a Cubano shot (or 1 tablespoon for each shot of Espresso).
  • Brew the chosen Espresso selection into the carafe.
  • Some baristas create a light foam – espumita by stirring the sugar and little bit of coffee brew on the bottom first, instead of brewing it all at once. But the coffee will taste just as good even if you skip this step.
  • When the brewing process is finished, stir it briskly.
  • Serve in several demitase cups.
  • Note: Some people like to add sugar right into the filter on Espresso machine. I wouldn’t recommend this, because the sugar may cause damage to your machine.

2 Responses so far.

  1. Zesati says:

    Thanks for the wonderful article!! I certainly loved every part of it. I have you bookmarked to catch any further material.

  2. norman horobin says:

    I like your instruction – “add sugar to the bottom”

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