How to Make Café Cubano at Home: A Guide to Perfect Sips

Joshua Allerton
February 21, 2024

Ever wondered how to bring the vibrant energy of a Cuban coffee shop into your kitchen? I've got you covered. Making a Café Cubano at home is easier than you might think, and I'm here to guide you through every step.

With just a few simple ingredients and a bit of know-how, you'll be sipping on this rich, sweet espresso in no time. It's all about mastering the art of the perfect espuma, and I promise, it's going to change your coffee game forever. Let's dive in and get that café-quality taste without stepping foot outside your door.

Selecting the Right Coffee Beans

When diving into the world of Café Cubano, the quest starts with choosing the right coffee beans. This step is crucial as it sets the tone for the rich, robust flavor characteristic of this iconic beverage. From my experience, here’s what you need to know:

Firstly, Café Cubano traditionally uses dark roasted beans. These beans are the backbone of the beverage, imparting a strong, slightly smoky taste that's unmistakably bold. When shopping, look for labels that mention 'Espresso' or 'Dark Roast', as these will get you closest to the authentic taste.

Secondly, origin matters. Cuban coffee beans, when you can find them, are ideal due to their unique soil and climate conditions which contribute to their distinctive taste profile. However, given their limited availability in some regions, beans from Colombia or Brazil make excellent substitutes. These regions produce beans with a similar flavor intensity and richness that complements the Café Cubano perfectly.

Here's a quick breakdown of what to look for:

  • Roast Type: Dark or Espresso
  • Origin: Cuban (ideal), Colombian, or Brazilian
  • Grind: Fine (espresso grind)

After selecting the perfect beans, ensure they are freshly ground to a fine powder right before brewing. This preserves the oils and flavors, ensuring every cup of Café Cubano you make is as authentic as possible.

Armed with the right coffee beans, you’re now ready to move on to mastering the brewing technique and, most importantly, the creation of the perfect espuma.

Gathering the Necessary Ingredients

Before we dive right into the brewing process, let's make sure we've got all our ducks—or in this case, ingredients—in a row. The beauty of Café Cubano lies in its simplicity and the richness of its few components. Here's what you'll need to replicate that authentic Cuban coffee magic at home:

  • Dark roasted coffee beans: As mentioned earlier, the selection of beans is crucial. Aim for Cuban, Colombian, or Brazilian beans for that unmistakable bold flavour.
  • Sugar: This isn't just any coffee; it's sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. The sugar works together with the coffee to create the iconic espuma (foam) that Café Cubano is famous for.
  • Water: Fresh, cold water is your best bet for brewing the perfect cup.

With these ingredients at the ready, you're just steps away from enjoying your own Café Cubano.

  1. Grind your coffee beans: Aim for a fine grind, as you would for espresso. The finer the grind, the more flavor you'll extract.
  2. Prepare your sugar: Place sugar in a cup where you'll be ready to add a bit of coffee to create the espuma. The amount of sugar can vary depending on taste, but a good starting point is about a tablespoon per demitasse of coffee.
  3. Brew the coffee: Using an espresso maker or a Moka pot, start brewing your coffee. The key here is to catch the first few drops of coffee and mix them with the sugar you've prepared. This mixture is what creates the rich, sweet foam.
  4. Complete the brew: Continue brewing the coffee and pour it over the sugar mixture, stirring vigorously to ensure the foam builds up nicely.

Remember, precision in the brewing process and a vigorous stir are your best friends in achieving that rich, creamy espuma.

Preparing Your Moka Pot

Before we dive into the brewing process, it's crucial to set up our Moka pot correctly. I've found that a little preparation goes a long way in making a perfect Café Cubano.

First off, let's talk about assembling the Moka pot. If you're like me and you tend to jump straight into brewing, remember that ensuring each part is clean and properly fitted will make all the difference. Here's a quick rundown:

  • Water Chamber: Fill the lower chamber with fresh, cold water up to the safety valve. Don't go over this line, as it's vital for pressure build-up.
  • Coffee Filter: Grind your coffee beans to a fine consistency, akin to table salt. This texture is crucial for extracting all the flavours without ending up with a brew that's too bitter or too weak. Fill the filter basket with the ground coffee, but don't tamp it down. Just level it gently with a knife or your finger to ensure even water distribution.
  • Assembly: Place the coffee filter into the water chamber. Then, screw on the top chamber securely but without using Hercules strength. It needs to be tight enough to prevent steam from escaping but not so tight that you can’t open it later.

With your Moka pot assembled, you’re almost ready to start the brewing. The beauty of using a Moka pot for Café Cubano lies in its ability to simulate an espresso-like extraction, which is critical for achieving that strong, bold base we’re after.

Let’s move on to heating. Place your Moka pot on a heat source at a medium setting. Too high a heat can burn the coffee, while too low can result in under-extraction. Finding that sweet spot is key.

As the water heats, you'll want to stay close. The Moka pot works quickly once it gets going, and you'll need to be ready to remove it from the heat as soon as you hear a hissing, bubbling sound, signaling that the brewing is complete. This step is vital to prevent over-extraction, which could turn your perfectly prepared coffee into a bitter disappointment.

Now that our Moka pot is all set and we understand the importance of each step, we’re well on our way to making a delightful Café Cubano.

Brewing the Perfect Cafe Cubano

Now that we've got our Moka pot set up, it's time to dive into the heart of the matter: brewing the perfect Café Cubano. I've experimented quite a bit to get this just right, and I'm excited to share my method with you.

Preparing Your Espresso

First things first, let's get our espresso brewing. Café Cubano's unique taste comes from its strong espresso base mixed with sugar to create a sweet, thick foam known as 'espuma'. Here's how I do it:

  1. Start Heating Water: Before even touching your Moka pot, start with heating about 2 tablespoons of water. You'll see why in a bit.
  2. Brew Your Coffee: Place your prepared Moka pot on the stove over a medium heat. Remember, patience is key here; we don't want to rush the extraction process.

Creating the Espuma

While your espresso is brewing, it's the perfect time to prepare the espuma. This step is what sets Café Cubano apart from your regular espresso shot.

  • Sugar Mixture: In a large cup, mix 1-2 tablespoons of white sugar with the 2 tablespoons of hot water you heated earlier. The goal is to create a thick sugary paste. The finer the sugar, the easier it'll dissolve, so I usually opt for caster sugar.
  • Listen for the Coffee: Once you hear that iconic Moka pot gurgling sound, indicating your coffee is nearly done, it's time to act quickly.
  • First Drops: Take a teaspoon of the first coffee that comes out of the pot and mix it vigorously with your sugar paste. This is when the magic happens, transforming your mixture into a light brown, thick foam.

Incorporating the Espresso

As soon as your coffee is fully brewed:

  • Combine: Pour the rest of the espresso over your sugar foam mixture, slowly stirring as you go. The goal is to maintain the frothiness while ensuring the sugar is fully dissolved.
  • Serve Immediately: Café Cubano is best enjoyed fresh, so pour it into your serving cup and enjoy the rich, sweet taste of this iconic drink.

Enjoying Your Homemade Cafe Cubano

Once you've mastered the art of brewing your own Café Cubano, the next step is to fully immerse yourself in the experience of enjoying it. I've found that the way you serve and sip your Café Cubano can greatly enhance your enjoyment. Here's how I love to do it:

Serve It Right

First off, Café Cubano is traditionally served in small cups, known as tacitas, which are slightly larger than espresso cups. This isn't just about tradition; the small size helps to concentrate the flavour and aroma, giving you a more intense experience. If you don't have tacitas, any small espresso cups will do.

Sharing Is Caring

In Cuba, coffee is a reason to come together. Serving Café Cubano is often a communal event, shared among friends and family throughout the day. So, don't hesitate to invite some mates over and share this delightful experience. It's a fantastic conversation starter and a great way to bond.

Sipping Solo?

If you're enjoying your Café Cubano solo, take a moment to really savour it. I like to find a quiet spot where I can relax and take in the rich aromas and bold flavours without distractions. It's a small but meaningful way to practise mindfulness and appreciate the finer things in life.

Pair It With a Sweet Snack

Café Cubano is known for its strong and sweet flavour. To complement this, pair it with a light and sweet snack. Traditional Cuban pastries or even a simple slice of buttered, toasted bread work wonderfully. The sweetness of the snack will balance the robustness of the coffee, creating a harmonious taste experience.

By taking the time to serve and enjoy your Café Cubano in these ways, you'll not only treat yourself to a delicious beverage but also celebrate a rich cultural tradition. Dive into the ritual, share it with friends or take a moment for yourself, and most importantly, enjoy every sip.


Crafting Café Cubano at home isn't just about the drink itself; it's about embracing a tradition that turns a simple coffee into an event. By serving it in small cups, you're not only enhancing the flavour but also inviting a moment of pause in your day. Whether you're sharing this robust beverage with friends or enjoying it by yourself, it's an opportunity to slow down and appreciate the finer details in life. Pairing it with a sweet snack further elevates the experience, creating a perfect balance of flavours. So next time you brew a Café Cubano, remember it's more than just coffee—it's a ritual that celebrates culture, connection, and the simple joy of a well-made cup.

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