The Cuban Coffee Maker

What most people call a Cuban coffee maker is in fact an ordinary stovetop espresso maker. Stovetop espresso makers originate from Italy but they gained popularity all across the world. They are cheap, easy to use and they produce a strong robust espresso-style coffee. So no wonder that they are used by most Cuban families.

So, what makes a stovetop espresso maker into a Cuban coffee maker? Well, it's the way it is used. When you make Cuban coffee you add raw sugar to the coffee grounds before brewing. The sugar gets lightly caramelized during the brewing process and this is what gives Cuban coffee its distinct flavor. The caramelized sugar also creates the hallmark of Cuban coffee: espumita - a crema like foam that floats on the top of the brew.

There are two schools of thought about making Cuban coffee. One calls for putting the sugar directly to the coffee grounds as described above.

The second one recommends taking the first drops of espresso and immediately mixing it with raw sugar to make a paste. You then pour the rest of the espresso slowly over the paste that will create a brownish foam that is similar (but not indentical) to the espumita created by adding the sugar directly to the grounds.

I would recommend that you use the second method if you are using an espresso machine instead of the stovetop espresso maker (even though there are some people who add sugar directly to the portafilter).
Bialetti Moka Express stovetop espresso maker

Cuban coffee maker tips

Different styles of Cuban coffee

Ready to use your stovetop coffee maker or espresso machine to try Cuban coffee? Here are some options:

Cafecito
This is the standard Cuban coffee drink - just black coffee with sugar without any milk added. The translation is simply "little coffee".

Cortadito
A cortadito (translated as "little cut") is a cafecito blended about half and half with milk.

Cafe con leche
This coffee/milk drink is often served as a cafecito next to a cup of steamed milk. You can then mix it to your taste. It also traditionally contains a pinch of salt and a pinch of butter which gives it a unique flavor.

Colada
A Colada is simply several shots of cafecito served in one big cup surrounded by demitasse glasses. It's an elegant way to share coffee with a crowd.

Regardless of which Cuban coffee maker drink you choose, be sure to enjoy it slowly and in good health. Buena suerte!

Further Reading

Stovetop Espresso Maker: Tips
How Do Moka Pots Work
Stainless Steel Stovetop Espresso Maker
Electric Moka Pots