You have probably heard of Cuban cigars or Cuban rum. Maybe you’ve seen pictures of their colorful buildings and cars preserved for years. Cuba is an island located in the Caribbean with a complex, rich history. There is so much to cover about the island, so we are going to focus on what we know best: Cuban coffee.
Cuban Coffee Culture
We cannot talk about the current Cuban Coffee culture without discussing their past. There was a time when coffee was rationed by the Cuban government, beginning in the 1960s. This meant that everyone received the same amount of coffee, and that amount was not always plentiful. It was easy for everyone to try coffee, even if it was not always the best of quality.
The rations were “cut with ground chicharo beans” to have a larger quantity that was cheaper to make for so many people. This led to some creative recipes, and the effort to get as much out of as little coffee as possible. If people had the means, they could add more high-quality coffee to the ration—but that was not always the case. A vast majority of people worked with that they had, and they sure made something amazing with it.
With a perfected Cuban espresso in hand, coffee is a big part of interacting with neighbors and friends. It is not a grab-and-go society but rather a sit-and-stay place. Even with their coffees being smaller, they still savor them over a friendly conversation—making the drink and good times last. Americans could take a note on that when they order the local version of a Cafe Cubano. Better yet, we could make a Cafe Cubano at home and enjoy it with some friends.
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What is Cafe Cubano?
Cafe Cubano is espresso with some a little of sugar. It is not called a Cafe Cubano in Cuba, but instead just referred to as espresso. Coffee shops in America are going to provide some variety in Cafe Cubanos, such as a coffee or latte with sweetened condensed milk, but always ask for details before ordering what a place is advertising as a Cuban coffee.
Cafe Cubanos are normally made with a stovetop espresso maker or, more ideally, a Moka pot (Read our piece on Moka Pots to learn more about those). This makes for a small, strong coffee. The following recipe was adapted from Casablanca Cooks.
- Cuban coffee (or another coffee ground for espresso)
- Water (make sure it is good quality)
- Granulated sugar
- Fill the bottom of the Moka pot with water.
- Add coffee to the filter, pressing down gently. Make sure that it is level to ensure an even extraction!
- Place the filter in the chamber of the Moka pot.
- Place the Moka on the stove over medium heat. Leave the Moka pot lid open, which we will come back to very shortly.
- Measure out the sugar in a measuring cup. This is to taste, but it is normally about 1/2 tablespoon to 1 tablespoon per 2 ounces that your Moka pot holds. This measurement will also depend on how sweet you want your Cafe Cubano.
- Once the coffee starts brewing out in the Moka, pour about a tablespoon of it into the measuring cup with the sugar. Pour slowly because you do not want too much espresso in this step.
- Return the Moka to the stove, and immediately stir the sugar/espresso mixture. It should form a thick paste.
- When the coffee is made, pour it back into the measuring cup with the paste. The foam will be created from the sugar that rises, so look for that.
- Serve in an espresso cup!
There are sure to be varieties of this recipe out there, all resulting in a simple espresso with a dash of sweetness. We think this one is an excellent representation of what a Cafe Cubano is supposed to be, with some flexibility to make it your own. This rids the complications of adding milk or syrups, plus the added benefit of just some great flavor. Behind the cultural significance of a Cafe Cubano is a great drink for a variety of people to like.
Try this Moka Pot we use here @CoffeeSesh HQ
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Thank you for reading up our brewing guide to Cuban coffee and learning how to brew a Cafe Cubano. It might be time to crack out the Moka Pot and make some ASAP. We love exploring the world through coffee, but let us know what you think about it! Check out our Brazilian Coffee Guide to continue your journey down south.
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We’ll brew ya later! ☕️