How to Make Traditional Cafezinho: A Recipe for Brazilian Coffee

Joshua Allerton
February 21, 2024

I've always been a huge fan of exploring coffee cultures from around the world, and today, I'm thrilled to share a slice of Brazil with you through the iconic cafezinho. This isn't just any coffee; it's a beloved Brazilian tradition, a symbol of hospitality and warmth.

Making cafezinho at home is simpler than you might think, and it's a fantastic way to bring a taste of Brazil into your kitchen. Say goodbye to your local coffee shop queues and hello to a delicious, aromatic experience that'll transport you straight to the heart of Rio, all from the comfort of your own home. Let's dive into how you can create this delightful drink with ease.

Understanding Cafezinho

When I first encountered cafezinho during my travels in Brazil, I was fascinated by its profound cultural significance. This isn't just a cup of coffee; it's a warm gesture of hospitality. Let me take you through the essence of what makes cafezinho a cherished tradition in Brazil.

Cafezinho, quite literally translating to "little coffee," is more than its diminutive name suggests. This brew is a strong, sweet symbol of Brazilian warmth and welcomeness, often served to guests upon arrival at homes and businesses alike. What stands out about cafezinho is not just the drink itself but the ritual surrounding it. It's about taking a moment out of your day to connect with others, sharing stories over a small but potent cup of coffee.

Preparing cafezinho at home is delightfully straightforward and does not require any fancy equipment. In essence, you only need quality ground coffee, sugar, and water. The traditional method involves brewing the coffee directly in the sugar-water mixture, creating a sweet and strong concoction that is then strained and served immediately.

Here's a simple guide on how to make cafezinho:

  • Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons of finely ground coffee
  • 2 cups of water
  • 4 teaspoons of sugar (adjust to taste)
  • Steps:
  1. Add the sugar and water to a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. As soon as the sugar-water mixture starts boiling, add the ground coffee. Do not stir. Let it boil for about 30 seconds to let the coffee infuse the sugar-water mixture.
  3. Remove from heat and let the grounds settle for a bit.
  4. Strain the coffee using a fine sieve or a traditional cloth filter if you have one.

The beauty of cafezinho lies in its simplicity and the joy it brings to those who share it. Whether starting your morning with a moment of reflection or offering it as a sign of presence and friendliness, making cafezinho at home invites a piece of Brazilian culture into your life.

Ingredients You'll Need

When diving into the authentic world of making cafezinho, it's essential to start with the basics. Trust me, you won't be needing an extensive shopping list for this one. The beauty of cafezinho lies in its simplicity, both in preparation and in the ingredients required. Here's what you'll need to get started:

  • Freshly Ground Coffee: The cornerstone of any good cup of coffee, and for cafezinho, it's no different. Opt for finely ground coffee to achieve that rich, full flavour. Brazilian coffee is ideal, but any high-quality coffee will do.
  • Cold Water: Simplicity at its best. Ensuring it's cold can enhance the brewing process, allowing for a gradual extraction of flavors.
  • Sugar: This is where cafezinho takes a unique turn. Unlike your average coffee, cafezinho boasts a sweet profile. You’ll want to adjust the amount based on your taste, but a good starting point is about a teaspoon per cup.

Here's how you'll put it all together:

  1. Begin by adding sugar to cold water in a saucepan. The trick here is to start with the sugar - this will form the base of your flavour profile.
  2. Heat the mixture just until the sugar fully dissolves. No need to bring it to a boil; you're aiming for a gentle warmth that's just right.
  3. Next, stir in your finely ground coffee. This is where the magic begins. The amount of coffee can vary depending on your taste preference, but a good rule of thumb is one tablespoon per cup.
  4. Let the mixture simmer for a few minutes. This isn't about rushing; it's about giving the coffee time to release its full spectrum of flavors into the water.
  5. Finally, strain your cafezinho into cups. The traditional method involves using a cloth filter, but any fine strainer will work.

The secret to a perfect cup of cafezinho isn't just in the ingredients but in the love and care put into its preparation. Welcoming guests with a small cup of this delightful brew is a gesture of hospitality that transcends language and culture. Time to put the kettle on and immerse yourself in the Brazilian tradition that brings people together, one sweet and strong cup at a time.

Step-by-Step Guide to Making Cafezinho

When it comes to brewing a perfect cup of cafezinho, I've learned that simplicity and precision are key. I'm here to walk you through the process, ensuring you can enjoy this delightful Brazilian coffee tradition right at home. So, let's dive in.


  • Freshly ground coffee (preferably dark roast)
  • Cold water
  • Sugar (optional, but traditional)


  • A small saucepan or a traditional cloth coffee filter

1. Measure Your Ingredients

For one serving, I usually start with about a tablespoon of coffee and a cup (about 240 ml) of cold water. If you're adding sugar, about a teaspoon is enough, but you can adjust to taste.

2. Combine Water and Sugar

In a small saucepan, I mix the cold water with sugar over medium heat. It's crucial to stir until the sugar completely dissolves before it comes to a boil. This step is what gives cafezinho its signature sweetness.

3. Add the Coffee

Once the water is just about to boil, I add the freshly ground coffee directly to the pan. Then, I remove it from the heat immediately to prevent over-extraction, which can lead to bitterness.

4. Let It Steep

I let the mixture steep for about a minute. This allows all those rich and bold flavors to fully infuse, creating the deep, robust essence that cafezinho is famous for.

5. Strain and Serve

Finally, I pour the coffee through a fine strainer or traditional cloth filter directly into a small cup. This step ensures a smooth, sediment-free texture, making each sip simply perfect.

Preparing cafezinho is more than just making coffee; it's about embracing a cherished Brazilian tradition. By following these steps, I ensure each cup captures the essence and hospitality that this delightful brew stands for. Whether you're offering it to a guest or enjoying a quiet moment alone, cafezinho is sure to transport you right to the heart of Brazil.

Tips for a Perfect Brew

Making cafezinho isn't just about following a recipe; it's an art. To ensure you're crafting a brew that's as authentic as it is delightful, I've gathered some insider tips that'll make all the difference.

First off, the choice of coffee is paramount. Brazilians mostly use a finely ground blend that's dark roasted, offering that signature bold flavour. If you're aiming for genuine taste, stick to Brazilian coffee brands, as they provide the closest experience to the cafezinhos served in the streets of São Paulo or Rio.

Water quality can't be overlooked either. Tap water, with its potential chlorine and other chemical tastes, might overshadow the coffee's nuanced flavours. Opting for filtered or bottled water ensures your cafezinho tastes as pure as intended.

While the traditional method doesn't usually involve filtering, I've found that a fine mesh sieve or even a piece of clean cloth works wonders for removing any grounds that might slip into the brew. This step is about marrying tradition with a hint of personal preference for clarity.

Temperature control is another critical factor. Bringing your water to a near-boil brings out coffee's bold flavours without burning them, striking that perfect balance between richness and bitterness.

Lastly, ratio matters. Too much coffee and you might find yourself with a brew that's overly strong; too little, and it could end up watery. Finding that perfect middle ground is key. For me, a ratio of 1:10 (coffee to water) strikes just the right note.

Coffee1 part
Water10 parts

Remember, the essence of making an exquisite cafezinho lies not just in the ingredients or the technique, but in the passion you put into it. Adjust and experiment until you find what best suits your taste. After all, part of the joy comes from the process itself.

Embracing the Brazilian Coffee Culture

When I first ventured into the world of Brazilian coffee, or cafezinho as it's affectionately known, I quickly learned it’s much more than just a drink; it’s a celebration of community and hospitality. This realization transformed my approach to coffee, inviting me to not only embrace the unique flavors but also the cultural significance behind each cup.

To truly appreciate cafezinho, understanding its roots is essential. In Brazil, serving this strong and sweet coffee is an act of welcome, often accompanied by engaging conversations. Imagine walking into a Brazilian home or office and being greeted with a small, potent cup of cafezinho; it's a gesture that says, "You're family here."

Preparing cafezinho is simplistic, mirroring the Brazilian ethos of enjoying life without complication. Here's how I make it, ensuring I pay homage to this rich tradition:

  1. Choose the Right Coffee: Opt for a finely ground dark roasted Brazilian coffee blend. The richness and intensity are key to an authentic experience.
  2. Water Quality Matters: Use filtered or bottled water to make sure the coffee's flavor isn't compromised.
  3. The Brew:
  • Boil water and let it cool for about 30 seconds to reach the optimal brewing temperature.
  • Measure 2 tablespoons of coffee per cup into your filter of choice. The traditional method uses a cloth filter, but a fine mesh sieve works as well.
  • Pour the hot water over the coffee slowly, ensuring all the grounds are evenly saturated.
  1. Sweeten it Up: Traditionally, cafezinho is served very sweet. Add sugar to the filter before brewing to allow the coffee to absorb the sweetness thoroughly.
  2. Serve Immediately: Cafezinho is best enjoyed fresh and hot, typically in small, delicate cups that encourage savoring each sip.

I've found that it's not just the preparation of cafezinho that matters, but the spirit in which it's served. It’s about pausing to enjoy the moment, whether I'm alone or with friends.


I've shared the essence of brewing and enjoying a traditional cafezinho, underscoring its profound cultural significance in Brazil. It's not just about the method but also about embracing the spirit of warmth and hospitality it represents. Remember, the perfect cafezinho is as much about the quality of the coffee and water as it is about the joy of sharing it with others. So next time you prepare this delightful beverage, think of it as an opportunity to connect and create moments, be it in solitude or in company. Let's keep the tradition alive, one cup at a time.

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