Cortadito Coffee: A Cup of Cuban Sweetness

Picture of Cortadito Coffee

Espresso is a popular Italian beverage that can be traced back to the late 1800s. With its distinct taste and thick honey-like consistency, it gained popularity all over the world and found its way into the U.S in the 1950s. In fact, it is commonly consumed today throughout Europe, South Africa, and Australia.

Along with the rise of the espresso came various mixtures like lattes and cappuccinos. Cortadito coffee, a sweet and popular Cuban coffee drink, is also an example of an espresso mixture. Essentially, Cortadito is a sweet double shot of espresso topped off with steamed milk. Considered to be a dessert drink, there are also variations of this drink that one can try at home. Preparation methods can also vary as either a Moka pot or an espresso machine can be used.

Making Cortadito Coffee

Espresso that is made in Cuba, also known as Café Cubano, is traditionally brewed using a Moka pot and is also sweetened. This is done by whipping natural brown sugar with the first few strong drops of brewed espresso. This process makes what is referred to as an espuma, or a light and fluffy foam.

Once the rest of the brewed espresso is finished brewing, it is poured on top of the espuma. The heat from the espresso melts the sugar and stirring the beverage fuses the sugary sweetness with the caffeinated shot. 

Traditionally, Cortadito is topped off with an equal amount of steamed milk. Ideally, the ratio of espresso to milk should be 1:1. This means, the finished beverage will be around 4 fl oz when completely assembled (2 oz of espresso and 2 oz of steamed milk).

Detailed 10-Step Instructions

To experience this unique and sweet caffeinated beverage, you will need a 2-cup Moka pot, fine ground coffee, kettle, water, microwave-safe container, milk, thermometer, sugar, and a drinking cup. While there are many steps to this process, which takes patience and time, the finished product is well worth it.

  1. Preheat your water on the stove using a kettle. Once it comes to a boil, remove it from the heat. (Preheating the water that will be used in the Moka pot speeds up the brewing time and makes your espresso less metallic or burnt tasting.)
  2. Fill the filter basket of the Moka pot with fresh ground coffee. The consistency should be fine, but not powdery. Fill the basket up to the top, smooth out the surface, and wipe any coffee grounds from the outer lip. (Do not pack or tamp down on the coffee grounds.)
  3. Take the pre-heated water and fill the water chamber up to the bottom of the safety valve. Place the filter basket on top of the water chamber. Double check there are no coffee grinds on the lip of the filter basket, as you want the top part of the Moka pot to seal.
  4. Secure the top portion of the Moka pot (where the coffee collects). 
  5. Place the Moka pot on the stove over medium heat. 
  6. While you are waiting for the brew to begin, place 2 teaspoons of brown sugar into your drinking cup. 
  7. When the first few drops of espresso collect in the top of the Moka pot, remove the appliance from the stove and pour the small amount onto the sugar. Immediately place the Moka pot back onto the stove to finish brewing. Turn your attention to the cup and whip the sugary concoction until it is light and fluffy.
  8. When the brew is finished, pour it into your cup and mix to make sure the sugary espuma is incorporated with the espresso.
  9. In a microwave-safe container, steam 2 fl oz of milk in the microwave. Heat for 20 to 30 seconds and then check the temperature with your thermometer. Repeat this process until the milk reaches 150°F. 
  10. Top the espresso with the freshly steamed milk and enjoy!


With Cortadito coffee’s rise in popularity, variations have also developed. For instance, instead of brewing espresso with a Moka pot, some people brew theirs with an espresso machine. Others choose to use an AeroPress or a French press.

Instead of using brown sugar to make the espuma, some people suggest using white sugar. Another variation requires the sugar to be placed on top of the coffee grounds in the filter basket. This results in the espresso being sweetened during the brewing process. 

Instead of making espuma to sweeten the espresso, some recipes call for the addition of sweetened condensed milk with the brewed espresso. Others also play around with the ratio of espresso and milk, having a 75% to 25% blend to lessen the amount of milk in the beverage.

Caffeine, Carbs, & Calories

Traditionally made with dark roasted coffee beans, a double shot of Cortadito has approximately 25 mg of caffeine. Although there can be some variation in how the beverage is sweetened, Cortadito has roughly 5 grams of carbs and 21 calories.


This sweet and thick caffeinated Cuban coffee beverage is enjoyed mainly in Cuba and in Cuban American households in the U.S. Traditionally made by sweetening the first few drops of espresso with sugar and topping off the beverage with steamed milk, Cortadito has since undergone many experiments, and several variations have been born.

While traditional brewing methods call for the use of a Moka pot, people have since relied on other appliances for the process of brewing their espresso. Regardless of how you reach the desired outcome, Cortadito is a decadent beverage often enjoyed as a dessert.

If you love experimenting with flavor and sweetness, and you have the necessary equipment to produce this Cuban coffee beverage, it’s definitely worth all ten steps to get there.