How to Make Cortadito Coffee: A Guide to Perfecting Your Cup

As a coffee enthusiast, I've always been intrigued by the rich, bold flavours of Cuban coffee. That's why I'm excited to share my go-to recipe for making cortadito coffee at home. It's a delightful blend of strong espresso and sweet, steamed milk that's sure to transport you to the vibrant streets of Havana with just one sip.

Making cortadito coffee doesn't require a trip to a café. With a few simple steps and some basic ingredients, you can create this Cuban classic in the comfort of your own kitchen. Let's dive into the art of crafting the perfect cortadito, ensuring you get that authentic taste every time.

Why Cortadito Coffee is a Cuban Classic

When I first sipped a cortadito in the heart of Havana, I knew I'd found something special. It's not just a coffee; it's a taste of Cuban culture and history in every sip. Cortadito brings people together, served traditionally in small cups that encourage sharing and socialising. This custom reflects the Cuban spirit of community and conviviality, qualities that are central to the country's identity.

Cortadito's unique blend of strong espresso with a hint of sweet, steamed milk captures the essence of the Cuban coffee tradition. It's a balance of boldness and sweetness, mirroring the vibrant life on the island. Historically, coffee in Cuba has always been more than just a beverage. It's a ritual, from the careful selection of beans to the precise brewing method. The incorporation of sugar directly into the espresso shot during brewing highlights the Cuban knack for adding a touch of sweetness to everyday life.

Moreover, the method of making cortadito has been passed down through generations, making it a cherished tradition in Cuban households. This heritage adds to the drink's allure, making it a timeless classic. It's fascinating how a simple cup of coffee can tell a story of culture, history, and community. Whether it's savoured in the quiet early hours of the morning or as an afternoon delight, cortadito always offers a moment of joy and connection.

  1. Brew a strong espresso. Aim for a rich and robust flavour, which is the backbone of any good cortadito.
  2. While your espresso is brewing, heat and froth your milk. You're looking for steamed milk with a bit of foam but not as much as a cappuccino would have.
  3. In a separate cup, mix a teaspoon of sugar with a little bit of the freshly brewed espresso to create a thick, sweet paste.
  4. Pour the remaining espresso over this sweet paste and mix well, ensuring the sugar is fully dissolved and integrated into the coffee.
  5. Gently add the steamed milk to your sweetened espresso, creating a perfect balance of rich coffee and velvety milk.
  6. Optional: For

Ingredients You'll Need

Before diving into the simple yet precise process of making a Cortadito coffee, let's make sure you've got all the necessities on hand. I've always believed in the magic of preparing, and when it comes to Cortadito, the blend of strong espresso with that sweet, steamed milk, every ingredient counts. Having the right items at your disposal not only ensures a smooth preparation but enhances the overall experience and taste.

Here’s what you’ll need:

To ensure you're all set, here's a quick checklist:

Preparing your own Cortadito at home is about embracing the ritual while pouring a piece of your heart into each step. Remember, each element plays a crucial role in bringing together a taste that's not just satisfying but also steeped in tradition. Whether it's the robustness of the espresso, the sweetness and texture of the milk, or the meticulous process that pays homage to Cuban coffee culture, every detail matters. As I guide you through the steps to brew this beloved beverage, keep in mind that making Cortadito is more than just preparing a coffee—it's about crafting an experience that connects you to centuries of tradition and a vibrant culture.

Step-by-Step Guide to Making Cortadito Coffee

Making a Cortadito coffee is like crafting a small piece of Havana right in your kitchen. I'm here to guide you through the process, ensuring you get that authentic taste and experience. The beauty of this Cuban coffee lies in its simplicity and the rich tradition it carries.

Ingredients & Equipment

Before we dive into the steps, make sure you've got everything you need:

You'll also need an espresso maker and a small whisk or spoon for frothing.

Brewing The Coffee

  1. Preheat your espresso maker. This ensures your coffee is hot and flavourful. Fill the water reservoir and turn it on a few minutes before brewing.
  2. Add the coffee. Follow your machine's guidelines for how much coffee to use. For a standard espresso maker, it's typically one tablespoon per shot.
  3. Brew the espresso directly into a large cup or a carafe; you'll need room to mix in the sugar.

Creating the Espuma

  1. Mix sugar with coffee. For a single serving, take about one tablespoon of sugar (adjust to taste) and mix it with a small amount of hot espresso. The goal is to create a thick, light brown paste.
  2. Whisk vigorously. Use a small whisk or a spoon to beat the sugar and coffee mix. It takes a bit of elbow grease, but you're looking for a frothy, creamy texture.
  1. Pour in the rest of the coffee. Slowly add the brewed espresso to your sugar mixture, stirring gently. You'll see the rich, thick espuma forming on top.
  2. Heat the milk. While traditional Cortadito is served with steamed milk, you can gently heat it on the stove or in the microwave if you don’t have a steamer.
  3. Combine milk and coffee. Add the heated milk to your coffee-espuma mix. The ratio should be about 50/50, but feel free to adjust to your taste.

Tips for Achieving the Perfect Balance of Espresso and Milk

When I'm crafting a Cortadito, the harmony between espresso and milk is crucial. It's this delicate balance that transports you straight to a café in Havana. Let me share some insider tips to nail that perfect blend every time.

First, the espresso strength plays a pivotal role. For a Cortadito that sings with authenticity, strong espresso is non-negotiable. I recommend using a dark roast coffee, ground finely to ensure the espresso packs the punch we're looking for. If you're unsure about the strength, a good benchmark is to aim for a brew ratio of 1:2, meaning for every gram of coffee, you'll want to extract two grams of espresso.

Next, temperature matters more than most think. The milk should be heated but not boiling. Ideally, aim for around 60-65°C. At this temperature, the milk is hot enough to blend seamlessly with the espresso without overshadowing its robust flavour. It also ensures the milk retains its sweetness, which complements the sugary espuma perfectly.

The ratio of espresso to milk can make or break your Cortadito. The traditional ratio is one part espresso to one part milk. However, this can be adjusted slightly depending on personal preference. If you prefer a stronger coffee taste, lean towards a higher proportion of espresso. For those who favour a milder beverage, increase the milk just a tad. Here's a basic guideline:

Espresso1 part
Milk1 part

Lastly, the method of mixing is as important as the ingredients themselves. Always add the milk to the espresso, not the other way around. This technique allows the milk to gently fold into the espresso, preserving the delicate espuma that's been whisked into perfection. And remember, in the world of Cortadito, patience is a virtue. Gently warm the milk while constantly stirring to avoid scalding. Once it's at the right temperature, pour it slowly into your espresso-espuma mix, and watch as they come together in harmonious delight.

Enjoying Your Homemade Cortadito Coffee

Once you've mastered the art of making a Cortadito, the next step is enjoying this delightful beverage to its fullest. I'll guide you through the finer points on how to truly appreciate your homemade Cortadito.

Firstly, choosing the right mug is more important than you might think. For a traditional experience, opt for a small, thick-walled glass or ceramic cup. This keeps your coffee warmer for longer, enhancing the flavours as you sip.

Setting the scene plays a big part in the enjoyment. The best Cortadito is enjoyed in good company or with a moment of peace in a cosy nook. Whether it's alongside a hearty breakfast or as an afternoon pick-me-up, make sure you're in a place where you can savour each sip.

Then, there's the sipping technique. Don't rush through your Cortadito. Instead, take small sips, allowing the coffee to roll over your tongue, acquainting your palate with the bold espresso mellowed by the silky milk. I find that closing my eyes with the first sip enhances the experience, focusing my senses on the rich aromas and complex flavours.

Pairing your Cortadito with a bite to eat can elevate the experience. A traditional Cuban pastry or a simple slice of buttered toast can complement the rich, creamy coffee perfectly, balancing the strong espresso with a touch of sweetness or savoury goodness.

Finally, don't be afraid to experiment. Adjusting the espresso to milk ratio, experimenting with different types of milk, or even sprinkling a pinch of cinnamon or cocoa powder on top can transform your Cortadito experience. Each variation brings a new depth of flavour and a personal touch to your cup.

Remember, making Cortadito coffee at home is not just about following a recipe to the letter; it's about creating a moment of enjoyment, tailored to your taste preferences and savouring it to the last drop.


Crafting a Cortadito at home isn't just about following a recipe to the letter. It's about embracing the process and making it your own. From selecting the perfect mug that keeps your coffee warm to finding the right pace for sipping, every detail adds to the richness of the experience. Don't shy away from experimenting with different milks or toppings to discover what delights your taste buds the most. Remember, the ultimate goal is to create a moment of enjoyment that's uniquely yours. So take your time, enjoy the process, and let every sip of your homemade Cortadito transport you to a world of flavour and warmth.

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