Don’t let the sweetness of café Cubano (aka cafecito or Cuban coffee) fool you. This stuff is hardcore—which is why we’re guilty of drinking at least one a day to keep us energized. But not all Cuban coffee is made the same, which is why it’s imperative that you have the right tools and follow the right recipe.
That’s why we tapped Ariete chef Devin Braddock for her go-to recipe. First thing’s first: You’ll need a stovetop espresso maker (we like the Bialetti Express Moka Pot). You’ll also want to load up on brown and white sugar. Lots and lots of sugar.
And before you start brewing, it’s important to note that the best Cuban coffee has a layer of frothy espumita floating on top of a robust espresso—so start flexing those arm muscles because you’re going to need ‘em. A colada is a larger version of this drink, typically made with a few more shots, and, well, more sugar.
“I use Café Bustelo (which is my favorite!), but any ground dark roast will do,” says Braddock. “I also use a mix of 50/50 natural brown sugar for sweet molasses notes and white granulated sugar to make the espumita (foam). I mostly do this by eye instead of weight, just like my grandmother does—however, I’d say about ¼ cup sugar mix will suffice.”
- Ground espresso
- ⅛ cup or 2 tablespoons white sugar
- ⅛ cup or 2 tablespoons brown sugar
1. Fill a 6-cup stovetop espresso maker with water and coffee according to manufacturer’s instructions, making sure to pack down the coffee grounds.
2. Begin brewing the espresso on the stovetop until the very first 3 to 4 teaspoons have been brewed. Then, use that to make the espumita in a creamer pot or other tall container with a spout (like a liquid measuring cup) by stirring the liquid and sugar vigorously with a spoon or whisk until the sugar dissolves and creates a very thick foam. This might take a couple of minutes.
3. If your espumita is granular in texture, add a little more espresso.
4. After the remaining espresso has brewed, remove from heat and gently pour into espumita mixture in creamer pot.
5. Pour into espresso cups and serve immediately or add steamed milk for a cortadito. If you're feeling the fall spices, add a little fresh grated cinnamon stick over top and always have tostada nearby.
Special technique: “[In step two], my grandmother would sometimes add one egg yolk to this to really help emulsify the espumita and create a nice decadent ‘crema’ on the Cafecito,” says Braddock. “I have grown to love this technique when making cafecito at home.”