Cafe Cubano

Cafe Cubano, how to make Cafe Cubano, what is Cafe Cubano, Cuban espresso, how to make Cuban espresso

What is Cafe Cubano?

Cafe Cubano, also known as Cuban espresso, is Cuba’s famous espresso-based coffee with a unique texture provided by a layer of sweet sugary espuma (foam) on top.

You prepare it by combining espresso with demerara sugar, which gives it its signature sweet and robust flavor. The traditional way to prepare the coffee is to use a stovetop espresso maker, but you can also use an espresso machine or other coffee maker.

While an authentic Cuban Espresso is dairy-free, a few other popular Cuban coffee drinks include milk. So we’ve got a few alternative beverages that’ll make good use of your can of Café Bustelo. And don’t worry if you don’t have a coffee machine. There are plenty of ways to brew a great espresso – even without a coffee maker!

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About Cafe Cubano

Coffee Baseespresso
Added Waterno
Cupglass espresso cup
Coffee : Milk Ration/a
Type of Milkn/a
Suppliesespresso, demerara sugar (or other sugar)
Sugar or Added Flavorsa sugary foam (espuma) is made with demerara sugar (or alternative sugar)
Noteswhisk or milk frother is handy to make the sugary foam
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Ingredients for Cafe Cubano

Making Cafe Cubano or Cuban Espresso at home requires three things:

  1. Two ounces (double shot) of espresso
  2. Demerara sugar
  3. Whisk or milk frother


You want that authentic Cuban flavor in your cup, and Café Bustelo will do the trick.

Café Bustelo is actually an American company but was founded in 1928 by Gregorio Menendez Bustelo, a native Spaniard who spent time in Cuba. Today, Café Bustelo is under the J.M. Smucker umbrella. However, it’s still a favorite – Cuban heritage or not, as it’s a high-quality espresso with a rich, bold flavor.

You might know Café Bustelo from its signature yellow and red can, which was exclusively for stovetop and machine espresso-making for decades. But, these days, the brand accommodates a wide range of techniques. You’ll find beans, ground, capsules, and even K-Cups and coffee sticks. So, if you don’t have a coffee maker, you can still make a Café Cubano by dissolving a coffee stick in hot water.

Recommended: Coffee Sticks – The Magic of Microgrounds

how to make Cafe Cubano, how to make Cuban espresso
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demerara sugar, demerara sugar for Cafe Cubano
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Demerara Sugar

Don’t let this ingredient deter you. There are alternatives, even if you’ve never heard of demerara sugar, let alone have it stocked in your pantry.

Demerara sugar is a coarse cane sugar in a beautiful light tan color – lighter than brown sugar. The flavor is similar to brown, but demerara has a bit of a crunch to it. So, yes, you could substitute brown sugar. However, there’s a better alternative, and that’s turbinado sugar.

Alternatives to Demerara Sugar

Turbinado is similar to demerara but has slightly more molasses. In the US, you might be familiar with it under the “Sugar in the Raw” brand.

So, demerara is preferred, but if you don’t have demerara, try turbinado. You can turn to good old brown or white sugars when all else fails. You’ll love the result, regardless.

Whisk or Milk Frother

Are you curious about why you need a whisk or milk frother if milk isn’t on the ingredients list? That’s because you’ll whip the sugar into a beautiful topper characteristic of authentic Cuban espresso.

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making espuma, coffee froth
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How to Make a Café Cubano – Step-by-Step

Gather your three ingredients and a beautiful espresso cup – preferably glass- so you can see the layers.

1. Prepare 2 ounces of espresso for one serving of Cuban espresso – the preferred method is stovetop in a Moka pot. Still, you can use a Nespresso, Espresso machine, or other coffee makers, like AeroPress. If you don’t have any means to brew espresso, we recommend Café Bustelo coffee sticks.

2. Take a tablespoon of the prepared espresso and combine it with a tablespoon of demerara sugar (or turbinado, brown, or white sugar)

3. The espresso-sugar combination is for the espuma. So, grab your whisk or milk frother and whip them together into foamy deliciousness. You can always adjust the 1:1 ratio to suit your taste, with less sugar if you’re not a fan of sweet coffee, or add more espresso if the mixture is too thick.

4. Spoon the foam on top of the remaining espresso. Give it a gentle stir to disperse some sweetness while keeping the foam intact.

That’s all there is to it!

The traditional way to make a Cuban Espresso is to use demerara sugar for the espuma, but you can substitute turbinado sugar – “sugar in the raw”

Other Cuban Coffee Variations

A Café Cubano is a delicious way to get that caffeine boost, but other Cuban coffee twists will let you experiment with your Café Bustelo.


A Cortadito is a Cuban Cortado. A Cortado is equal parts espresso and steamed milk, while the Cortadito is a sweeter alternative made with sugar (again, demerara is the way to go if you can get your hands on it) and evaporated milk.

Café con leche

Café con leche translates to coffee with milk. However, it’s not just any coffee with milk. Instead, it’s espresso served alongside a cup of hot or steaming milk. The espresso is then poured into the cup of hot milk until it has reached a pleasing strength and color.

Colada Coffee

Instead of different preparation, Colada coffee is a Café’ Cubano prepared for a group. It’s made specifically for sharing and is like the non-alcoholic version of taking a shot.

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Espresso-Making Options

Spillin’ the Beans Espresso Making Alternatives

Moka Pot


Cezve (or Ibrik)

Nespresso machine

Coffee sticks

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Frequently Asked Questions About Cafe Cubano

What is Cafe Cubano?

Cafe Cubano is Cuban Espresso. It’s a rich, sweet coffee drink consisting of espresso topped with a sweet foam made by whisking a small bit of espresso with demerara sugar.

Is there a specific cup you should use for Cafe Cubano?

While any espresso or demitasse cup works for Cuban espresso, it’s best to use a glass cup. It allows you to see the beautiful two-layered beverage.

Do you put milk in Cafe Cubano?

Traditional Cafe Cubano is not made with milk. If you’re looking for a milk-based espresso, you might want to try a Cortadito. The Cuban twist on the Cortado is espresso combined with steamed evaporated milk and demerara sugar.

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