How to Make Authentic Cuban Coffee With a Moka Pot

By | Last Updated: March 1, 2024

Imagine waking up to the rich aroma and bold flavor of Cuban coffee, capturing the essence of Cuba’s vibrant culture in a delightful little cup. 

With its distinct taste profile and unique brewing process, Cuban coffee, the “Cafecito Cubano“, is truly something every coffee enthusiast should try at least once.

Thankfully, mastering the art of making perfect Cuban coffee using a Moka pot is simpler than you might think! 

Here, we will guide you through the essential steps for brewing an authentic Café Cubano at home while offering helpful tips and variations to enhance your experience.

Key Takeaways

  • Cuban coffee is a strong, sweet espresso-like drink made using a Moka pot and two key ingredients: dark roast espresso and sugar.
  • The Moka pot plays a significant role in making authentic Cuban coffee by extracting bold flavors from dark roast beans and producing crema-like foam.
  • To make the perfect cup of Cuban coffee with a Moka Pot, select the right coffee beans, grind them properly, measure your ratios carefully, experiment with different roasts and grinds, perfect the coffee-sugar ratio, and ensure optimal brew time & temperature.
  • Perfecting your Cuban coffee-making skills takes practice, but with patience and these tips, anyone can become an expert at brewing delicious cups of traditional Café Cubano.

The Cuban Coffee and the Moka Pot

Cuban coffee has an intriguing history rooted in the island’s rich culture and tradition. 

The cultivation of coffee in Cuba dates back to the 18th century when French settlers brought it from Haiti.

While many associate Cuban coffee with bold, dark flavors and foamy sugar toppings, historically, Cubans had limited access to dairy products due to economic constraints. 

As a result, they developed inventive ways of brewing their coffee.

A notable innovation was mixing sugar directly into the grounds within a Moka pot – an Italian stovetop espresso maker invented by Alfonso Bialetti in 1933.

Over time, Cuban coffee transformed into what we know as Café Cubano: strong, dark-roast espresso topped with frothy espuma de café (coffee foam). 

It remains deeply embedded into Cuban culture as locals and visitors enjoy it across homes and cozy cafés.

Importance Of Strong, Dark Roast Espresso And Sugar

The rich, bold flavor that epitomizes Cuban coffee can be attributed to two key components: strong, dark roast espresso and sugar. 

A well-crafted cup of Cuban coffee must start with a foundation of time-honored dark roast beans, which lend their distinctive taste to the final brew.

Sugar is essential in creating authentic Cuban espresso drinks by contributing sweetness that balances the potent bitterness naturally in strong coffee.

The signature foam that tops off many traditional recipes like café Cubano or Cortadito is formed when sugar mingles with brewed espresso during preparation, enhancing taste and adding a unique texture.

The Role of the Moka Pot in Cuban Coffee Making

The Moka Pot is important in Cuban coffee making, as it is essential for brewing the perfect cup. 

Invented by Alfonso Bialetti in 1933, this stovetop coffee maker quickly became an icon of coffee culture throughout Europe, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

The lower chamber contains water that heats up and turns into steam when placed on a stove; this pressurized steam then passes through finely-ground coffee beans in the filter basket within the middle chamber.

As more pressure builds up from the boiling process below, liquid espresso rises into the upper chamber, where it can be poured directly into your demitasse cups or combined with sugar foam to create authentic Cuban coffee.

This unique brewing method using a Moka pot helps extract bold flavors from dark roast beans while producing crema-like foam on top – vital elements that make Cuban espresso stand out among other varieties.

How To Make Cuban Coffee With A Moka Pot

To make Cuban Coffee with a Moka Pot, grind dark roasted coffee beans and fill the bottom chamber of the Moka Pot with water, then add finely-ground coffee to the filter basket and screw on the upper chamber before placing it on a stove over medium heat.


  • Dark roasted coffee beans
  • Water
  • Sugar
  • Arabica coffee beans (Optional)
  • Robusta coffee beans (Optional)
  • Cafe Bustelo (Optional)


  • Moka pot
  • Burr grinder or coffee shop grinder
  • Stove
  • Demitasse cup or small mug
  • Spoon

1. Selecting The Right Coffee Beans

Choosing the right coffee beans is crucial when making a delicious cup of Cuban coffee using a Moka Pot. 

You want to choose a medium or dark roasted bean, with Arabica and Robusta varieties preferred.

Cafe Bustelo is a medium-dark roast coffee that combines Arabica and Robusta beans. It is a popular choice for making Cuban coffee using a Moka Pot.

It’s also important to buy whole-bean coffee and grind it yourself before brewing, ensuring maximum freshness and flavor. 

Make sure your grinder has different settings so that you can adjust the coarseness of the grounds according to your taste.

2. Grinding The Coffee And Preparing The Moka Pot

To prepare the perfect cup of Cuban coffee, it’s essential to grind your beans properly and prepare your Moka pot for brewing. 

Select a fine to medium-fine grind size for best results.

You can achieve this using a high-quality burr grinder or grinding beans at your local coffee shop.

Next, fill the bottom chamber of your Moka pot with hot water up to just below the safety valve. 

Place the filled basket onto the bottom chamber and screw on the top chamber tightly but not forcefully so it doesn’t leak.

Tip: To avoid bitterness, don’t tamp down or overfill your basket, as this can cause over-extraction, leading to an overly bitter taste in your brews.

3. Brewing and Creating the Signature Sugar Foam 

To brew the perfect cup of Cuban coffee using a Moka pot, grind your coffee beans and fill the bottom chamber with water. 

Add your ground coffee to the filter basket, careful not to press it down too tightly.

Once everything is in place, heat your stove and place the Moka pot on top.

Once you have your freshly brewed espresso, it’s time to create that signature sugar foam that makes Cuban coffee so beloved. 

Mix 1 tablespoon of sugar with 1 teaspoon of espresso in a large cup until it forms a thick paste.

When you pour your freshly brewed espresso into this mixture, be sure to pour slowly and from a distance so that it bubbles up into a layer on top.

4. Mixing The Perfect Cup

Once your coffee is brewed and the sugar foam has been created, it’s time to mix it all for the perfect cup of Cuban coffee. 

The key is to achieve a balanced ratio between the strong espresso and the sweetened foam on top.

First, pour the espresso into a demitasse cup or small mug. 

Then, use a spoon to scoop up some sugar foam and gently place it on the espresso.

To enhance your experience with Cuban coffee, try experimenting with different roasts and grind sizes until you find what works best for you. 

Don’t be afraid to adjust the sugar in your recipe until you find the right balance between sweetness and bitterness.

Tips For Brewing the Perfect Café Cubano

To achieve the perfect cup of Cuban coffee, don’t miss out on these tips to elevate your Cuban coffee-making game!

1. Perfecting The Coffee-Sugar Ratio

The perfect balance between sweetness and strength is the hallmark of great Cuban coffee. 

The coffee-sugar ratio plays a crucial role in achieving this balance. 

While there is no standard formula for the ideal ratio, it is generally recommended to use one teaspoon of sugar per serving of coffee.

Adding sugar to the measuring cup before brewing with the Moka pot method is another common technique for perfecting the coffee-sugar ratio. 

This allows the sugar to dissolve as it’s brewed with the coffee grounds, creating a rich crema on the espresso shot.

Experimenting with different roasts and grinds can also help achieve that perfect balance between flavor and strength in your Cuban coffee since darker roasts tend to be stronger. 

In contrast, lighter ones are milder, sweeter flavored.

2. Measuring The Coffee And Water Ratios

Balancing the coffee and water ratios is the key to brewing a perfect cup of Cuban coffee with a Moka Pot. 

The suggested ratio is 1:10 or 1:12, which means using 1 gram of coffee for every 10-12 grams of water.

This ensures that you get a balanced and flavorful cup without overpowering bitterness. 

Measuring the coffee and water carefully ensures consistency in your brews.

Once you’ve determined your preferred ratios, it’s a good idea to stick with them for consistent results each time.

3. Optimal Brew Time And Temperature

To get the perfect Cuban coffee, it’s essential to brew at the right temperature and for the optimal amount of time. 

For dark roasts, experts recommend using water around 185℉ / 85℃ and brewing the coffee for no more than five minutes.

This ensures a robust flavor without any bitterness.

It’s all about finding what works best for your taste buds through experimentation. 

Don’t be afraid to try different temperatures or adjust brewing times until you find your ideal cup of Cuban coffee.

4. Experimenting With Roasts And Grinds

To perfect your Cuban coffee, it is essential to experiment with different roasts and grinds. 

Most Cubans prefer dark roast coffee for its bold flavor and bitter taste, but you may find that a medium or light roast suits your palate better.

The type of grind used also plays a vital role in the flavor profile of your coffee.

If you want to add some variety to your cup of Joe, try using flavored coffees such as hazelnut or vanilla. 

However, be careful not to overpower the traditional flavors of the Cafecito Cubano with too much sweetness or artificial taste.

Remember that authentic Cuban coffee relies on time-honored dark roasts and quality ingredients for its rich and satisfying taste.

Variations Of Cuban Coffee Recipes

Create your unique twist on the classic Cafecito Cubano with variations like Café con leche (espresso with steamed milk), Cortadito (espresso with a touch of milk), Café bombón (espresso served over condensed milk), and Colada.

1. Café Con Leche

Café con leche is a traditional morning beverage in Cuba enjoyed with Cuban toast. 

It consists of strong Cuban espresso, whole milk, and sugar. 

To make café con leche, you’ll need a stovetop espresso maker or Moka Pot to brew the coffee and a small pot for heating the milk.

The recipe starts by brewing a strong shot of Cuban coffee using the Moka Pot method, then steaming the milk on the stove until it’s hot and frothy. 

Next, mix equal parts of coffee and steamed milk before adding more sugar to taste.

2. Cortadito

Cortadito is a traditional Cuban coffee drink brewed as a single serving using the Moka pot method. 

The word “cortado” means “cut” in Spanish, referring to the shot of espresso being “cut” with steamed whole milk.

It’s typically served in a demitasse cup and enjoyed mid-morning or after lunch as a pick-me-up.

To make Cortadito, you must brew a strong and rich espresso using finely ground coffee beans and the Moka pot method outlined earlier. 

Once your espresso is ready, heat up some whole milk on the stove until it reaches around 150°F, then use a steam wand to create frothy steamed milk.

3. Café Bombón

One of the most popular Cuban coffee variations is the Café Bombón, which uses a one-to-one ratio of espresso and sweetened condensed milk. 

This drink is typically served in a small glass or demitasse cup and has a rich, creamy flavor that’s perfect for satisfying your sweet tooth.

To make this delicious concoction with a Moka Pot, fill the bottom chamber of your pot with water and add ground coffee to the filter basket. 

Next, pour the sweetened condensed milk into a separate container and warm it slightly on the stove or microwave.

Once your coffee is brewed, pour it over the warmed condensed milk to create a beautiful layering effect.

The Café Bombón showcases how versatile traditional Cuban coffee recipes can be when made with a Moka Pot. 

While many might think there’s only one way to enjoy Cuban-style coffee, this variation demonstrates how easy it is to get creative at home with simple ingredients like espresso and sweetened condensed milk.

4. Colada

Colada is a unique Cuban coffee tradition that embodies the communal aspect of coffee drinking in Cuban culture.

Unlike the individual servings of Café Cubano or Cortadito, a Colada is meant to be shared among friends or family.

It involves brewing a larger quantity of Cuban espresso, served in a larger cup or container accompanied by smaller shot cups.

The key to a perfect Colada is its preparation, ensuring the coffee is strong enough to be divided among several people without losing its rich, bold flavor.

To make a Colada using a Moka Pot, you must follow the standard procedure for brewing Cuban coffee but increase the quantities to accommodate the number of servings.

After brewing, the espresso is poured into a larger container, traditionally a styrofoam cup, and served with smaller cups for sharing.

To brew an ideal colada, follow these guidelines:

  • Aim for a stronger coffee concentration to ensure the flavor remains potent, even in larger volumes.
  • Opt for a larger Moka Pot to accommodate the necessary amount of coffee for group enjoyment.
  • Serve the coffee by pouring a modest amount into each shot cup, allowing all participants to savor the espresso’s crema.
  • Colada is generally sweeter than Café Cubano. Adjust the sugar to suit the taste preferences and the number of servings.

In essence, Colada transcends mere coffee drinking, fostering a sense of unity and shared experience through its traditional preparation and enjoyment.

Final Thoughts

Mastering the Moka Pot method of brewing Cuban coffees is a skill that takes practice and patience. 

With the right tools and ingredients, anyone can enjoy a delicious cup of authentic Cafecito Cubano in their home.

Remember to use dark roasted coffee beans, grind them finely, and use a Moka pot to produce a strong espresso-like coffee. 

And don’t forget the sugar foam! Experiment with different roasts and ratios until you find your perfect cup.


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