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What is Colada (Cuban) Coffee?

Many people associate coffee with central Europe, mainly Italy. However, South America has a rich history of coffee trade, production and creative recipes! 

The Colada coffee is a Cuban drink that combines brown sugar with a small amount of coffee to form a sweet paste. The first few drops of coffee from an espresso shot or moka pot are used as they are the strongest, and are then worked into the rest of the coffee to create a delicious drink! 

This is a mainstay in Latin culture and is consumed all the time down in Miami and Cuba. But, what exactly makes a Colada coffee so special, and how can you make one for yourself? Well, let’s find out! 

Origins of Colada Coffee

Colada coffee comes from Cuba, and is often consumed on an afternoon coffee break by workers in areas like Miami, Tampa and Florida Keys, all of which have strong Cuban communities.  

Colada coffee is generally made using the strong coffee of an espresso machine, or more commonly, a moka pot. Colada coffee is also sometimes known as cafe cubano, but the two are essentially the same thing, 

The idea is that the first few drops of coffee produced by either of these brewing methods is the strongest, since hot water and steam are forced through the finely ground beans. 

Therefore, combining this strong, hot liquid with brown demerara sugar creates a bittersweet paste. This takes a bit of the abrasiveness out of the coffee, and makes it a more rounded drinking experience. 

So, let’s dive into a step by step guide of how you can make a Cuban, Colada coffee for yourself! 

How to Make Colada Coffee

There are a couple of different ways to brew a colada coffee, using either a moka pot or an espresso machine. 

Both yield great results, but I’ll run through each of these here so no matter which you choose, you’ll be able to make the perfect Cuban coffee from the comfort of your own home! 

If you don’t have an espresso machine to hand, check out these 7 ways to make espresso without a machine!

Generally speaking, darker, more bitter beans are used for traditional Cuban coffee. If you are deciding which beans to buy, go for a Spanish or Italian medium roast Arabica, or a dark roasted Arabica from the country of your choice. 

Making Colada Coffee Using an Espresso Machine

Using an espresso machine to make colada coffee is a great way to maximise the flavour, boldness and contrast between concentrated coffee and sweet sugar. 

Step 1: Grind Your Beans

The first step in creating Colada coffee with an espresso machine, is to grind your coffee beans nice and fine. This will ensure your coffee is perfectly extracted whilst steam and hot water is applied! 

Step 2: Brew Your Espresso

Next, prepare your puck by adding your finely ground coffee, distribute it evenly (to remove clumps) and tamp for an even extraction. Make sure you are ready and waiting with your cup of sugar and a fast hand to continue pulling your espresso shot into another cup! 

Step 3: Combine Your First Drops of Espresso with Sugar

Allow the first few drops of your espresso to hit the surface of your brown sugar, and then quickly put another cup underneath your shot to catch the rest of it. 

Once your shot of espresso is complete, you can move onto the next step

Step 4: Mix/Whisk Your Coffee and Sugar Mixture

Next, whilst your espresso is settling, vigorously mix up your sugar and coffee mixture, until a light paste is formed. It should be light and almost foamy in texture, signifying that you’ve incorporated plenty of air into the mixture. 

This will form the basis of your Colada coffee. 

Step 6: Pour over the rest of your espresso shot and Enjoy! 

Once your sugar and coffee mixture (espuma) is fully incorporated, pour over the rest of your espresso shot and mix to combine. You should have a nice crema on top of your drink and a delicious sweetness to accompany the bitterness of your strong espresso shot! 

Making Colada Coffee Using a Moka Pot

Traditionally, a moka pot is used to create colada coffee, as it is a much more accessible method of brewing high quality, strong coffee than an espresso machine. Steam powered espresso machines have only been in the mainstream culture for the past 50 years or so, but colada coffee has been drunk for longer than that! 

Step 1: Grind Your Beans

First, you’ll need to grind your beans. The grind size for a moka pot should be a little more coarse than that used in espresso, but still pretty fine compared to a french press grind for example. 

Step 2: Prepare Your Moka Pot

Next, you’ll need to prepare your moka pot. 

It may seem like an unnecessary step, but use boiling water rather than cold water when filling up the base chamber of your moka pot. This will ensure you get a more even coffee extraction throughout the brewing process. 

Be careful and use a tea towel when handling the base chamber as it will be very hot! 

Step 3: Brew Your Coffee

The next step is to brew your coffee! 

The key here is to keep an eye on your brew, so you can immediately see the first few drops of coffee and add them to your cup of sugar. 

You can brew with the lid of the moka pot open to see what is going on, but only do this if you are a confident brewer! 

Step 4: Combine Your First Drops Coffee with Sugar

When the first few drops of coffee start to emerge from the spout of your moka pot’s upper chamber, close down the lid and remove from the heat. Pour this small amount of coffee over your sugar and then place your moka pot back onto the heat. 

Step 5: Mix/Whisk Your Coffee and Sugar Mixture

Mix your coffee and sugar together to form a light paste that resembles a batter-like, almost foamy consistency. Make sure both the coffee and sugar are fully combined, so there are no clumps of hard sugar remaining. 

Step 6: Pour Over the Rest of Your Moka Pot Coffee 

By this time, your moka pot coffee should be fully brewed, and you can now pour it over in your desired cup size. 

Since a moka pot will yield more coffee than a shot of espresso, you can choose how much coffee you want to combine with your espuma (sugar and coffee mixture). 

Step 7: Stir and Enjoy! 

Finally, stir it all together and enjoy! This is a bittersweet treat that you won’t have to travel to Cuba to enjoy! 

Colada Coffee Alternatives (From Cuba)

Cuban coffee is actually pretty popular in parts of America, and for good reason! Here are a couple of alternative Cuban coffee drinks that you should try if you like the idea of a colada! 


A cortadito is a small but mighty coffee that is somewhat similar to a traditional Spanish Cortado. Cortaditos use steamed milk like a cortado, but are also often served with condensed milk for a sweeter taste. 

Cafe Con Leche

Finally, the cafe con leche is a traditional Cuban coffee with the steamed (or textured) milk served on the side. This way, the drinker can add as much milk as they like to their shot or two of espresso, and adjust the strength of the coffee to their liking. 


Overall, the colada coffee is a delicious drink that uses a unique technique of combining sugar and a small amount of coffee, when it is brewed at its strongest. This is then combined with the rest of the brewed, strong coffee and then traditionally enjoyed as a late afternoon treat! 

Related Questions

Is Colada Coffee Strong? 

Despite the fact it tastes so sweet, Colada coffee is definitely strong! Both methods of brewing use (espresso and moka pot) produce bitter, highly concentrated coffee. Therefore, Colada coffee is definitely strong in terms of taste, and caffeine content. 


Frequently Asked Questions

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