You might need food and water to survive, but as a mom, if you don’t have coffee, you’ll barely be functioning. And cafecito, or Cuban coffee, or miracle sips from heaven, is the coffee you need to make.
Whether it’s for a morning boost or a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, Cuban coffee has the unique ability to go with literally everything and satisfy even the most discerning coffee snob.
This coffee is strong, syrupy, and oh-so-good. It’s also not challenging to make once you know a few trade tricks from the pros. And by pros, we mean the Abuelas and tias. They have passed down their trusted café Cubano recipes for generations as a part of the lifeblood that ties Latino families together.
Most Cuban coffees include the same three simple ingredients: coffee, water, and sugar.
You’ll also need some sort of Espresso maker (pick your appliance or tool of choice). There are a few versions of Cuban coffee to be familiar with, varying mainly in the quantity of sugar used and if you add any milk. At the end of the day, it’s really a matter of preference, but trust us, stick to the tried and true ingredients and don’t skip any of the preparation steps — there’s a reason these traditional Cuban coffees have been made the same way for decades. They are perfectly simple, and they get the job done.
Cafecito, or Café Cubano
This traditional Cuban coffee is the Cuban version of espresso, but don’t you dare call it espresso. It is espresso coffee (many Cubans swear by Café Bustelo) mixed with espuma or a sugar water mixture that creates a perfectly sweet, frothy consistency. You make espuma by combining the first drops of Cuban coffee (about a 1/2 teaspoon) with sugar to create a foam that is then mixed into the brewed coffee.
It takes a couple of minutes to get the mixture just right, but it’s so worth it.
Remember that you cannot over-mix the espuma, but you can certainly under-mix it, so don’t worry about whisking for too long. Once the coffee is brewing, pour it over the sugar mixture, stir gently, and then pour it into espresso cups once the foam floats on top.
Think of this coffee as a cafecito, but you’re cutting the coffee’s strength with steamed milk. Simply make some steamed milk (evaporated milk is traditional, but any milk will do), and add a couple of tablespoons of frothy, steamed milk to your Cuban coffee.
Cafe Con Leche
This is really just a latte but with the deliciously strong flavor of Cuban coffee. Instead of just a couple of tablespoons of steamed milk, add a cup (or so) of milk and any extra sugar you’d like to taste. Some restaurants or Cuban cafes will serve steamed milk alongside Cuban coffee so you can prepare it to your liking. And a cafe con leche pairs perfectly with pastelitos (Cuban guava and cheese pastries) and Cuban buttered toast.