Cuban Coffee

Every weekend ‘la cafetera’ was brewing away on my mother’s stove. We would wake up to the smell of cafe (coffee), it was her breakfast. More like her crack, she could not and can not function without her morning cafe. As we grew older we learned how to make my mother’s cafe. It was of course Dominican style cafe, a much lighter version to Cuban coffee. A shot of Cuban coffee will knock the crazy out of you. It does not play, and I usually do not or really ever just take a shot of that strong espresso. Except this once, just for you.

I only drink Cuban coffee when it’s swimming in a cup of milk. Cafe con leche, now that’s something I can handle. Just enough of a kick from the espresso, and the soothing feel of the warm milk. In my last job at Florida there was a Cuban cafeteria just steps away. Nothing beat walking in to pick up a little cafe con leche. The minute you open the door it hits you. Cafe. Remnants of freshly ground cafe were sprinkled on the counter. The little metal tasita ready with sugar for the first few drops of cafe to be whipped into espumita (foam). And the large metal cup of whole milk ready to be frothed sitting next to the espresso machine.

I rarely went to grab cafe con leche alone. A co-worker would join me, or I would be grabbing an extra cafe con leche for someone in the office. There is just something about it that brings people around. A little gossiping around the break room, or at someone’s desk. And at some point laughter. This is why I love the ritual of having a “cafecito”. It was always when the conversation was getting good that my mother would offer coffee to our guest.


  • 5-7 tablespoons of dark roast ground coffee, special for espresso (preferred brand is Cafe Bustelo)
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of water


  1. Place the 1/2 cup of water in the cafetera base
  2. In the removable filter cup, place the tablespoons of coffee and press them down as you add tablespoon by tablespoon. The best tool is one I bought from Crate and Barrel, an espresso pusher. Fits the filter of the espresso stovetop maker perfectly to aid in pressing the coffee grounds down. Push as many tablespoons are you can, the coffee grounds should top the rim.
  3. Place the filter in the base, and seal the top tightly (very tightly)
  4. Place on your stove and heat on high
  5. Right after placing the espresso maker on the stove, add the sugar to a metal cup
  6. Partially open the lid of the espresso maker and watch for the first few drops of coffee
  7. Once you have about 1 tablespoon of the fresh brewed coffee, pour them into your metal cup with the sugar
  8. Place the espresso maker back on the stove, close the lid and let it brew
  9. In the mean time, using a metal spoon whip the sugar and coffee mixture. Press the sugar against the inside of the cup and keep whipping until all the coffee has brewed. You should have a foamy sugar mixture.
  10. Pour the brewed coffee into the sugar mixture and serve.