Drinks/ Recipes

cafe cubano



I’ve had a little too much coffee this morning. I really shouldn’t be trusted with sharp objects. Or a blank WordPress post.

The coffee I speak of is Cuban coffee. Man, is that stuff ever S-T-R-O-N-G. I’m pretty sure one shot of cuban espresso equals, like, six cups of normal coffee.

I drink it every day. It’s amazing.

This morning I wanted to write a little “how-to” post for how I make my coffee every morning. I don’t own a coffee machine and my second French press broke six months ago (picture shattered glass + coffee all over my floor). After that, I drove myself down to the TJ Maxx and bought myself a little ten dollar stovetop espresso maker. It works like an absolute dream and now I can never, ever go back.

I found my favorite brand of espresso at Target, of all places! Growing up in South Florida, I’ve had my fair share of Cuban coffee and, in my opinion, it’s the best stuff on earth. Oh, and cafe con leche? I swoon.

To make one stroonnnnnggggggg cup o’ joe you’ll need a small stovetop espresso maker. Unscrew the bottom portion and fill it with cold water up to the bolt. Then, place the little gasket inside and fill the gasket up with ground espresso. Like so:

Be careful not to overfill the bottom portion with water or else you will have a little coffee explosion happening. Eyeball an invisible line inside right where that bolt is and don’t go over. As for the ground espresso, no need to pack. Just fill ‘er up then smooth over the top with a spoon or butter knife.

Then, screw the top on and add a spoonful of sugar inside.

Close the lid, place it on the stove and you’re in business. Crank the heat to medium high and in about six minutes, you’ll hear the most beautiful noise on earth: your cafe cubano gurgling and bubbling up through the percolator.

You’ll thank me later.

Mmmmmmmm pour into your favorite little mug or espresso cup and drink.it.down. It’s going to be strong! You can add a little milk if you like but then technically it becomes a cafe con leche.

I recommend hunting this Cafe Bustelo brand down at Target! One big bag only costs about $3.00 and it lasts a good while in the fridge. You can find stovetop espresso makers at TJ Maxx, Sur la Table, William Sonoma or your local cooking store.


(warning/disclaimer: do not handle sharp objects after drinking this coffee)


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  • Jenn from Much to My Delight
    January 7, 2012 at 6:31 am

    This is a great post! I’ve always looked at those percolators with curiosity and wondered how to actually use them. Cafe con leche sounds pretty fantastic right about now!

  • Cait's Plate
    January 7, 2012 at 6:40 am

    That sounds like my kinda stuff. Also? Farmer’s Markets and walks in the sunshine!??! I AM SO JEALOUS! I’m currently sitting in front of a fireplace wrapped in a robe trying to defrost the ice off my toes! πŸ™‚ Enjoy your Saturday!

  • Mallory
    January 7, 2012 at 6:42 am

    This is great! I love coffee and the stronger the better! Will have to purchase a stove top espresso maker soon! Have a great weekend!

  • Doris @ vanillacocoberry
    January 7, 2012 at 6:42 am

    do you seriously always drink your coffee black? ewwww .. I hate black coffee!! The best coffee for me is infact when it doesnt taste like coffee anymore. Think adding tons of vanilla soy milk hehehe!

  • Sarah Jane MacMillan
    January 7, 2012 at 6:48 am

    that is blasphemy putting sugar inside your moka!!!!!!!!!!!!! the italians would faint

    • Katia
      January 10, 2012 at 6:52 am

      would they? caffe con zucchero is my favorite kind of italian espresso. no one batted an eye when i ordered it daily in Florence….

    • Bren
      February 28, 2013 at 7:39 pm

      yes girl! I’m with Sarah Jane. I’m Cuban and drink this 4 times a day. It’s the only coffee I drink. You may or may not recall me having w/drawals in St. Croix. Please, please don’t put sugar in the espresso maker! πŸ˜‰ Any Cuban would pass out reading this. I kind of did. But, so glad you shared with your readers. I’ve been doing some posts on Cuban everything related to coffee lately.

  • Kristy
    January 7, 2012 at 7:04 am

    I had my coffee like this when I was in Spain last week! Only, it was random Spanish coffee in the supermarket. It was lovely, and I didn’t miss my espresso machine at all! If only I had read this beforehand and not experienced said coffeesplosion after overfilling the first time….

  • Jenni
    January 7, 2012 at 7:28 am

    Sunshine? Another reason I should move to Cali. I love coffee, but I’ve traditionally hear that it’s a trigger for headaches and migraines. That’s not an issue for you? (I know you’ve suffered from them in the past). I’m glad that it’s not either way!

  • Devon @FastFoodie
    January 7, 2012 at 7:38 am

    I need to use my stovetop espresso maker more often. I have one but never use it. We use a Chemex.

    Coffee should never be kept in the fridge or freezer, ever. The temperature and moisture will β€œshrink” the oils and crack the beans (thus making it degrade faster not slower). An airtight container at room temperature is ideal. We just buy a small bag of four barrel to cover our few days of coffee drinking each week.

  • Urban Wife
    January 7, 2012 at 7:47 am

    Cafe cubano es mi vida! I have laid off it though in the past few years (one too many episodes of sweaty hands and racing heart after several cups of coladitos!) and occasionally will indulge in a decaf cafe con leche. My gringo husband swears by Bustelo now and won’t buy anything else ~ love it! Have a great weekend. πŸ™‚

  • Teacher Girl
    January 7, 2012 at 8:15 am

    This is how I make my coffee every morning too, except I don’t put sugar in the coffee maker because I make mine with steamed milk and I put the sugar in the warm milk. One thing to note, espresso or Cuban coffee actually has LESS caffeine than most regular drip coffees. The method of brewing gives less caffeine. The reason you usually feel that it is “stronger” is because of the taste and the sugar. It tripped me out when I learned this, because I always thought that my Cuban coffee was the strongest thing ever, but alas, it is not. Which makes sense since American coffee makes me sick and Cuban doesn’t. I think French Press might be even stronger, but don’t quote me on that.

  • Ella, RD
    January 7, 2012 at 8:41 am

    Love. I made espresso like this every morning while studying abroad in Italy 8 years ago. My signora taught me. However, we would never put sugar inside! Like Sarah Jane said, blasphemy! But I always put sugar in the cup before drinking so what’s the difference I suppose?!

  • Bee
    January 7, 2012 at 8:42 am

    Oh you do have these in the USA! I’ve always wondered because I’m from Slovenia (in Europe) and these are found in pretty much every home. Although I can’t believe you drink the whole thing! I make two coffees out of it (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) and I always add milk because as you said… it makes incredibly strong coffee. But hey more power to you for drinking the whole thing!

  • Dee
    January 7, 2012 at 9:06 am

    I love Cafe Bustelo! Interestingly enough, they make THE best instant coffee I’ve ever had. Better than starbucks. NOM! πŸ™‚

  • Anne
    January 7, 2012 at 9:07 am

    Prefer to use fair trade coffee, 3$ for a good size bag doesn’t sound like fair trade πŸ˜‰

  • Lauren @ What Lauren Likes
    January 7, 2012 at 9:19 am

    haha great post!! Looks great πŸ˜€

  • Ashley L
    January 7, 2012 at 9:22 am

    My husband who cant stand coffee went to Florida on a business trip and fell in love with cuban coffee. So I just started cracking up when I saw your post this morning. I’m sure I would love it to but my stomach can only handle tea no coffee πŸ™‚ Enjoy the farmers market and your walk. I’ll be doing that tomorrow.

  • nora
    January 7, 2012 at 9:42 am

    AHHHH, cafe Cubano…
    This is how I start each day with my tasita. I also add sugar to the pot as it dissolves better.
    I have taken other coffee beans, ground them to the fine powder of the expresso grind and put them in the expresso maker. Using Jamacan Blue Mountain this way is the elixir from the heavens…
    My parents would drink a tasita of Bustelo expresso each evening and then go to sleep. I don’t know how!
    Enjoy, Jenna!

  • Hillary [Nutrition Nut on the Run]
    January 7, 2012 at 9:55 am

    yummy — I’m going to look for that espresso at Tar-jay πŸ™‚

  • Tee @ She Writes, Bites, and Window Shops
    January 7, 2012 at 10:06 am

    LOVE Cafe Bustelo – we add a scoop of it into the coffee maker when we make regular coffee and it makes the taste so much better! And gives it a kick πŸ™‚

  • Molly @ RDexposed
    January 7, 2012 at 10:09 am

    I can feel my heart begin to pitter-patter just thinking about this coffee. Oh boy.

  • Mel @ Post Grad Mel
    January 7, 2012 at 10:44 am

    Oh yum, I love strong coffee.

    Funny story: When I studied abroad in Florence, my best friend who did a home stay became OBSESSED with Italian coffee to the point that she couldn’t imagine life in the States without Italian coffee. So she bought an espresso maker and took home an entire suitcase full of Italian coffee…only to find out that they sell the same stuff at World Market. Hahaha…I’ve never had Cuban coffee before though, but it sounds delectable. I usually just make my coffee in a french press.

  • kristen @ verbs and vignettes
    January 7, 2012 at 10:52 am

    coffee posts always make me swoon. i haven’t brewed a *perfect* cup in a while, but i still had the best morning of my week… just sitting at my kitchen table, sipping from my mug of coffee. <3

    AND, i am headed to target tomorrow morning. it's a little bit like fate.

  • Sarah
    January 7, 2012 at 10:58 am

    I love strong coffee but I cannot drink that stuff….it makes me shake all day long. Maybe I need to build a tolerance to it!

  • amanda
    January 7, 2012 at 11:00 am

    eh, we had one of these at first, but it really doesn’t make enough coffee (even the grande size percolator we had) for two people who can drink two full mugs a morning. glad you like it though.

  • De
    January 7, 2012 at 11:01 am

    My very favorite coffee. I worked at Starbucks for years and most canned and store bought coffees taste like dirt… Until I found cafe bustello. The decaf is just as good… But hard to find!

    • Jen
      January 7, 2012 at 1:12 pm

      Ditto on Starbucks. It’s so over-rated in my opinion. (although I still venture there at times πŸ˜‰ ), but I’d prefer the coffee at the convenience store over it!

  • Allison (Allison's Delicious Life)
    January 7, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Hahah so funny. I’ll be on the lookout at TJ MAxx

  • Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga
    January 7, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Thanks for the great coffee post. I love coffee. And the stronger the better!

    I don’t ever make stovetop espresso like this though…but my grandma used to make coffee like this and now that I read this, I realize in hindsight what she was doing and why her coffee was different than my moms.

    And yes, that coffee is a GREAT value. I will check my local Target and see if they have it. Some grocery stores here carry it, too.

  • Sarah
    January 7, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    I am such a coffee lover so I will definitely have to try this out!

  • Carley
    January 7, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Vietnamese Iced Coffee, or cafe sua da is my favorite! And I’ve always had the same stovetop espresso maker, but never knew how to use it until now! Thanks!

  • Katie
    January 7, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    I have the exact same little espresso pot – I’m obsessed! I love that you put sugar in the top…trying that out tomorrow morning.

  • Liz
    January 7, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    I have that espresso maker, too. I previously commented (when you showed this pot in a photo) about how a book I have on the top 100 designs of the twentieth century included the Bialetti espresso maker! I love to use it – I feel very European (afterall, it is a European design and owned by some giant percentage of Italian households) – plus it looks great sitting on my stovetop when not in use. Alas, I paid about $35 for it at Target… should have checked TJ Maxx!

    I have to say, though, that you should NOT put sugar in the top of the pot. That pot is actually not even supposed to be washed with soap – just hot water. But in addition, adding sugar is a good way to shorten the life of the pot and also potentially clog the oh-so-important safety valve in the bottom part.

    Averie – this is not the same as a stovetop coffee percolator. The main difference is the serious pressure which builds up in the bottom section of the pot, and which creates the authentic “froth” in the espresso. If the bottom portion of the pot, with the water, is not perfectly screwed onto the upper portion, the pot will not work at all because pressure will not be able to build up. That’s different from a one-piece pot which has a basket for grounds inside.

    Jenna – if you get a new French press, try frothing heated milk in it. With the French press, you can get even 100% fat-free milk to froth nicely, and when combined with the espresso, you have an amazingly authentic European-tasting cappuccino. Of course you can also buy French press-like things designed just for milk frothing, or even one of those little electric wands for milk frothing.

  • Liz
    January 7, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    Also – despite a myth to the contrary, espresso actually DOES have more caffeine than regular coffee, per unit volume, despite the beans themselves being less caffeinated. It is considerably more concentrated, which is what makes it more caffeinated than regular, per unit volume. Still, because the typical serving size is much smaller than a regular cup of coffee, a serving of espresso usually has much less caffeine than a serving of coffee. But, if you were to drink as large a serving of pure espresso as you do of pure coffee, you will be very wired!

  • Angela @ Happy Fit Mama
    January 7, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    I’m so not a black coffee drinker. I’d have to add lots of milk for my taste. I’ll let my husband try it – he likes his coffee dark and strong!

  • Melissa
    January 7, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    I am totally “Pinning” this post to save for when I’m not nursing my son anymore. I can’t drink as much caffeine as espresso has in it right now, but I love the idea of a stove-top espresso maker (I am a french-pressed coffee lover too). I drove by the Santa Rosa Farmer’s Market this evening and vowed to make it there next weekend FOR SURE!

  • Ashley Lavin
    January 7, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    Haha I love Cuban coffee! I’m actually Cuban myself and also grew up in South Florida (Miami!)….I didn’t know you grew up down there too!?

  • Gillian G. @ When Bread Is Broken
    January 7, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    Aaaah, you have a Bialetti! I adore them. I discovered them when I lived in Italy, where it is a top 3 household staple. (The first 2 being a stove and running water. Who needs a refrigerator when amazing coffee is on the line?) I would like to reiterate that these make THE BEST coffee/espresso in the whole world. Whole Foods carries them as well.

  • Lauren @ the talking kitchen
    January 7, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    just came back from miami and had so many cortaditos, they are amazing! cuban coffee is the best. i’m heading to my tjmaxx and target right now. Thanks!

  • Kimberly
    January 8, 2012 at 1:16 am

    This is how my husband and I make coffee – no drip machine in our house! We swear by it. Glad to see other Americans enjoy a REAL cup of coffee – I didn’t know what one was until I moved overseas!

  • Juliane @ C'est moi Γ  Paris
    January 8, 2012 at 3:17 am

    I am absolutely with you with travelling, PARIS, red wine and strong coffee.
    I am enjoying Paris and coffee right now!

  • Emily
    January 8, 2012 at 8:31 am

    I visited Italy last autumn and absolutely could NOT stomach American coffee when I came home – I got a Starbucks in the airport on the way home and it tasted like dishwater!! I’ve since grown reaccustomed to it – gross – but we did bring home one of these percolators and use it occasionally. My dad drinks a TON of coffee, though, so our drip machine is simply more practical for our family.
    Anyway, this post actually caught me right before I was about to head to Target, so I went ahead and picked up some of this espresso… oh.my.goodness. is it ever wonderful. I drank the whole thing as soon as I made it… at 4PM… and I was wondering why I couldn’t fall asleep last night! Yeesh. Thanks for the post, Jenna!

  • Kayla
    January 8, 2012 at 9:13 am

    I am just getting on the coffee train! I am realizing how crappy my morning coffee is tasting and I want to try getting some better stuff brewing in the morning! Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Teri
    January 8, 2012 at 11:10 am

    Jenna, saw this video on “doga” and thought of you. Had to share it as a suggestion of something you might enjoy with your yoga classes. πŸ˜‰


    You might have to copy and paste that, I’m not sure.

  • Jill
    January 8, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    We are coffee twins! Except I have not tried it with the added sugar. Best espresso in town–and yes, that sound is music to my morning ears!

  • Andrea @ The Skinny Chronicles
    January 8, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    I’ve never been a coffee drinking, but ironically just this morning I was thinking I might like to try a cup for the first time. We must be on the same wavelength today (kind of). Happy Sunday.

  • Gwen
    January 8, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    I had this while in the Dominican Republic years ago, but never knew how to make it. Thanks you!

  • Allison W
    January 8, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    Off topic, but are you going to the Yoga Journal Conference? Been reading your blog forever now and my best friend (also a reader!) will be traveling to San Fran for the weekend. Know you’re into yoga; thought I’d ask (Baron Baptiste will be there!). πŸ™‚

  • amy walters, aDESIGNdock
    January 9, 2012 at 8:14 am

    I like coffee…but don’t feel it’s worth buying a coffee maker for just me. Must try this out! Thx Jenna!

  • Sabrina @ Radioactive Runner
    January 9, 2012 at 8:17 am

    oh yum! I love Cuban coffee… and you can never go wrong with cafe con leche!

  • Rachael @ FreshlyMinted
    January 9, 2012 at 8:54 am

    Thank you!

    My best friend brought me back one of these from Italy and it has been sitting in a cupboard because I had no idea how to use it…. I’m enlightened.

    Can’t wait to try it!

  • Amanda
    January 9, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    Mmmmmm french press coffee. I have a keurig and will still make french press coffee from time-to-time…. nothing beats it.

  • Charise
    January 10, 2012 at 5:35 am

    I love my moka pot! We bought it after honeymooning in Italy and having one in our apartment there. I’m a usually-weekends-only caffeine girl, and I love a shot of this + little warmed vanilla soy milk! How big is your pot? Maybe it seems strong if you are drinking the whole thing – ours is supposed to be 3 servings, and we get 2 out of it that is PLENTY of caffeine for each of us.

  • Jazz
    January 10, 2012 at 8:53 am

    So I’m kind of obsessed with Cuban coffee, especially after I did my study abroad in Havana. We had cafe con leche every morning (black coffee in the afternoon) but the milk there is a little thicker and sweeter and I had the hardest time recreating it when I got back. After months of trying (obsessing might not be incorrect here) I finally found that milk with a spoonful of sweetened condensed milk made the perfect recreation- you have to try it!

  • Chels R.
    January 10, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    Love that coffee too! Delicioso!

  • Penny @ Big Spoon, Little Spoon
    January 10, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Oh yes, Ive used these for years; they’re the best! Especially when I came to the US and found the coffee not nearly as strong as I need it….Many an early morning butt-kicker has my little percolator made!

  • Pam
    January 10, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    I have the same stovetop espresso maker and used to make cafe con leche all of the time! My husband and I got a Breville espresso maker for a wedding gift, and we use Pilon espresso coffee, so good!! I might dust off my stovetop espresso maker in your honor πŸ™‚

  • Kimberly (Sketch the Ebb and Flow)
    January 11, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    Even though I’ve been an avid coffee drinking for…10 years now (worked in a coffee shop when I was 16) I’ve never used a French Press or an Espresso Maker. Must try this!

  • doodles
    January 14, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    my fondest memory of living in the Keys was Cuban cafe!!! and plantains and cuban sandwiches. whew I’m finished now. I do treat myself now and then.

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  • Whitney
    February 2, 2012 at 7:45 am

    I love coffee and have several different devices that I rotate between. I’ve been using Cafe Bustello espresso for a few weeks now and it’s delicious. For Christmas I got a red stovetop espresso from TJ Maxx and I haven’t yet used it! You gave me the inspiration to finally figure it out!

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  • pull « verbs and vignettes
    May 2, 2012 at 8:25 pm

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  • Becky McWhorter
    March 21, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    I’m Cuban and my mother made this all the time. We add the sugar after boiling, not during πŸ™‚