If you’ve traveled to Cuba or areas of Florida, you will likely have noticed colada coffee on sale in some outlets. This delicious coffee beverage has been enjoyed for generations and has experienced a revival in recent years beyond its origins. But how did it come about? What exactly is it? And, perhaps most importantly, how can you make it at home?
This article will delve into the world of colada coffee to discover more about the popular Cuban drink, whether you’re a domestic brewing expert or just on the lookout for something new.
- Colada coffee is often enjoyed as a social drink in Cuban culture, with the drink served in a large cup for distribution among shot-sized cups among friends and family.
- The main ingredients of colada coffee are espresso-style coffee and sugar.
- The flavor of colada coffee is strong and sweet, with a bold coffee taste and a touch of sweetness.
- This drink is from Cuba and has a long and rich cultural history.
- There are several ways to make colada coffee, including using an espresso machine or a Moka pot.
What Is Colada Coffee?
Colada coffee is a traditional Cuban espresso often shared among friends and family. It is known for its strong and sweet taste thanks to the addition of sugar that interacts with the strongest drops of the espresso. Having sampled it, I can attest that the result is delicious – a perfect balance of a caffeine hit with a satisfying sweetness.
How Is Colada Coffee Made?
The drink is made by adding a small amount of espresso during brewing to sugar, which is then mixed to create a foam called espumita. This helps create a delicious sweet and caramel-like flavor and the crema (or azuquita) on top of the drink. It is made in a batch of between four and six servings before being distributed in the shot-sized cups.
History of Cuban Coffee
Cuban coffee’s origins can be traced to the late 18th century when coffee was introduced to it by French colonists. By the mid-19th century, coffee production began to increase, with exports to the US and Europe. 
By the early 20th century, there were over 150 cafes in the country’s capital, Havana. However, the Cuban revolution of 1959 saw coffee consumption limited. Ever resourceful, locals began serving the coffee they did have in smaller cups and used toasted chickpeas to bulk up their rations – a practice that came back into use several years ago in a cost-saving move. 
That left the coffee bitter, though, so sugar was added to their beverages to balance it. Eventually, the practice of mixing the sugar with the coffee during the brewing process was introduced, which led to colada coffee.
How To Make a Coffee Colada
Moka pot or espresso machine – using an espresso machine to make colada coffee is perfectly fine, but I always use a Moka pot for a more authentic experience. Because of the methods needed to make the coffee, it is also a less finickity option.
Metal pitcher or jug – you’ll need this to mix the sugar and espresso. Make sure it’s tall enough not to make a mess while combining the two ingredients.
Small cups for serving – It wouldn’t be colada coffee without several small shot-sized cups or glasses for serving with friends or family.
Spoon and fork (optional) – the spoon can help measure the espresso and sugar for mixing into the all-important espumita. You may prefer a fork to combine the ingredients effectively.
Coffee grinder (if using whole beans) – you’ll need an espresso grind size, preferably using a high-quality ceramic burr grinder.
4 tbsp of finely ground coffee – choose dark roasted Cuban Arabica beans such as Mayorga, Café Bustelo or Café Pilon.
¼ cup of sugar – brown sugar is the best option for the caramel-like taste. However, white granulated sugar is acceptable otherwise.
Water – filtered water is the best option for the drink. Although not the most environmentally friendly, you can consider bottled water if you are unsure you have the optimal water type at home.
- Finely grind your beans or use pre-ground dark-roasted Cuban beans.
- Fill the portafilter of the Moka pot with the grounds and tamp.
- Attach the top of the Moka pot and begin heating it on the stovetop.
- Add the sugar to the metal pitcher or jug.
- When the first drops of coffee appear, add them to the sugar and whip the mixture with a fork to create the espumita – this is a crucial step as it sets colada coffee apart from other drinks.
- Pour the rest of the brewed coffee over the mixture and gently stir to ensure the coffee is mixed thoroughly with the espumita.
- Pour the delicious colada coffee into the small shot glasses and serve with friends and family.
Tips and variations:
- Add more coffee grounds to the filter basket or portafilter for a stronger coffee and tightly pack it into the basket.
- For a sweeter coffee, add more sugar to the grounds.
- If you don’t have a Moka pot or an espresso machine, you can make a similar espresso-style drink using an AeroPress.
- You can also experiment with different types of coffee beans and roasts to create a unique flavor profile.
- Mix the coffee and sugar vigorously to create the perfect espumita.
Colada Coffee Recipe
- Espresso Machine or Moka pot
- Espresso cups or shot glasses
- Metal pitcher
- Spoon or fork
- 4 tbsps finely ground coffee Based on the capacity of your moka pot
- 1/4 cup brown or granulated white sugar
- Grind the beans and add them to the portafilter and tamp.
- Heat the moka pot on a stove.
- Add sugar into a pitcher.
- As coffee emerges, combine the espresso with sugar in the pitcher
- Froth the mixture with a fork and create the espumita.
- Add the rest of the coffee to the mixture, stir and serve
Two Main Ways To Make Colada Coffee
As I suggested earlier, there are two main ways to make colada coffee: using an espresso machine or a Moka pot. The above recipe was tailored to the Moka pot, but to use an espresso machine, start by adding a tablespoon of sugar to the bottom of an espresso cup.
Next, extract a double shot of espresso and from it, spoon some into the cup with sugar and mix to create the espumita. The result should be a thick, sweet and brown foam. Pour the remaining coffee over the mixture and stir.
Whichever method you use, they are relatively simple and easy to do.
Colada Coffee vs Other Cuban Coffees
As well as colada coffee, there are three other main coffees that originated in Cuba – café Cubano (or cafecito), cortadito and café con leche.
Café Cubano is similar to colada coffee insofar as it is made by mixing espresso and sugar to create a sweet espresso coffee that’s served in small cups. The main difference between the two is the more social aspect of colada coffee, which is poured into a larger cup for consumers to share among friends in smaller espresso-sized cups.
We shared a recipe on how to make Cuban coffee. It’s very similar to making colada coffee.
Cortadito differs from colada coffee in one significant way – it always has milk, whereas colada coffee doesn’t. Indeed, cortadito has a 1:1 milk-to-espresso ratio, meaning it often doesn’t require as much sugar. It is also usually made with sweetened condensed milk.
Café con leche is more akin to a cappuccino because it’s predominantly milk-based (80:20 ratio). Typically an order of cafe con leche will consist of a cup of café Cubano with a glass of steamed milk on the side, which the consumer can then add to their requirements. A pinch of salt is also added to the drink to accentuate the sweetness.
In this section, we will answer some common questions about colada coffee.
When making colada coffee, it’s best to use a medium or dark roast coffee that has been finely ground. The coffee should be strong and bold to balance out the sweetness of the sugar. Cuban coffee blends or Latin American coffee blends are great options for colada coffee.
A Colada coffee is usually served in a communal cup and is meant to be shared among a group of people. The amount of coffee in a colada can vary depending on the size of the cup and the number of people drinking it. However, between four and six servings are typical.
Colada coffee is a beloved and unique coffee style with deep cultural roots in Cuba. It is a coffee meant to be shared among friends and family, which is why it is often served in larger quantities than other Cuban coffee styles.
In addition, the strong and sweet flavor profile of colada coffee makes it a popular choice for those who love a bold coffee taste and a touch of sweetness.
Whether you prefer to make colada coffee with an espresso machine or a Moka pot, the recipe is simple and easy to follow, while there’s plenty of scope for tweaking your recipe to suit your taste preferences – you can even experiment with a coffee liqueur for an pina colada-style drink!
-  Coffee production in Cuba – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coffee_production_in_Cuba
-  Cuba blends peas and coffee again in cost-saving move – https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-13277174
-  Café cubano – https://www.britannica.com/topic/Cafe-Cubano