Cafe Cubano with Espumita (Photo/Courtesy of Bren Herrera)

How to make: the perfect café cubano

August is National Coffee Month and there’s not a better way to celebrate than by enjoying an authentic cafecito. Here, blogger and private chef Bren Herrera shares her secrets to a perfect café cubano.

If you’ve ever set foot inside a Cuban home, no matter where in the world, you’re sure to have been offered, within the first few minutes, a fresh taza de café. This typically comes in the form of a single two-ounce shot that may have made you think: Where’s the rest of the coffee? But you can be certain that small, concentrated serving is complete and contains enough sugar to put you into a happy coma.

And that’s just the café in its simplest form. There are souped-up versions too: The cortado–equal parts espresso and evaporated milk–and the con leche, which is when a cup of steaming milk comes separate from the café and its up to you to pour one into the other and stir. For all the variation, however, the straight shot is the most real deal. In fact, if you arrived at the aforementioned Cuban home and weren’t offered one, you may want to question your host’s authenticity. Or whether they actually like you.

Click here to see the recipe for Mexican-style café con leche.

While accepting your robust cafecito, there is one major element you should to keep an eye out for because it’s particularly special and unique: the espumita, a sweet, creamy froth that tops the café. Now this is nothing like the steamed milk foam that tops the drinks at certain national coffee-making empire chains, and nothing like what tops an Italian espresso. Cuban espumita is different because it’s made not from milk but from sugar. (Yes, more sugar!) It’s the espumita’s sweetness that cuts the acidity and bitterness of the café. And it’s maximum decadence in a cup.

There’s a simple yet methodical way of accomplishing the perfect espumita for your cafecito. While it takes a little elbow grease to make, a cup of coffee will never again taste the same without it, whether you’re having a single shot or enjoying the middle ground of a cortadito or going soft with café con leche.

Tell us: how do you like your cafecito?

 Café cubano with espumita

4-5 teaspoons finely ground espresso


5 heaping teaspoons of white granulated sugar

1 teaspoon of brewed espresso (preferably the very 1st drippings from the espresso maker)

1. Using a 8-cup stove top espresso maker (like the one in the photo above) begin by making your espresso. Fill the bottom with cold water up to the line seen inside. Drop in the filter. Fill filter with ground espresso without over-heaping. Remove any excess with butter knife. Screw on top, place on stove top and brew on high.

2. Using a tin cup, (such as the blue one pictured above) add sugar. When espresso maker releases first drippings, quickly add one teaspoon of coffee to cup. Return espresso maker to stove and to finish brewing.

3. Using a stainless steel teaspoon, stir rigorously until sugar starts to thicken into a paste-like consistency, about 2 minutes. Pour brewed espresso into cup and stir well. Foam will rise to the top and cover your cup. Pour back into espresso maker.

4. Serve in individual demitasse for single shots or cortaditos. Scoop out some espumita from espresso maker and top your shot if desired. Pour into mug for café con leche.

 Bren Herrera is a private chef and freelance lifestyle writer based in Washington, D.C. and Atlanta. She blogs at her award-winning and drinks about eight shots of Cuban espresso every day.

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