Cuban coffee 101

Preparing coffee the Miami way. Photo: Roberto Koltun for Miami.com

Be still for un momento. Hear a hum? It’s not our resident blood-thirsty mosquitoes. It’s the sound of Miami on a perpetual Bustelo buzz. Cuban coffee, a distinctive molasses-sweet espresso, is the octane that fuels South Florida. The sweet, caramel-coated foam at the top of your cup — a creamy head that Cubans call espumita — is the magical result of the first drops of brew pounded with sugar into a syrup.

Sipping at cafecito counters is a daily social event in every Miami neighborhood. It’s a cheap thrill that costs 60 cents to $1, depending on what part of town you’re standing in. But the walk-up window experience can be intimidating if you don’t know the lingo and the lady at the counter is impatiently drumming her fingers.

A quick guide:

Cafecito or Café Cubano

A small but potent dose of Cuban coffee served in a thimble-sized cup. Twice as strong as American coffee and super sweet, you can sip or down it like a shot.

Colada

This is what you order when you want to make friends. It typically comes in a large Styrofoam cup, with a stack of four or more small plastic cups. Pour and pass around at the counter or bring it back to the office. You may get that raise after all.

Café con leche

A Latin latte – hot, steamed milk with a shot of Cuban coffee. If you’re watching your sugar intake, ask for sin azucar (without sugar) and add the sweet stuff to your own taste. Good for breakfast or as a comforting cup of warmth on one of Miami’s rain-soaked afternoons.

Cortadito

Cuban coffee with a few tablespoons of milk (a short café con leche). This is a good introduction to cafecito if the straight stuff seems too strong at first.

Top Picks: Cuban Coffee Counters

  • Los Pinarenos Fruteria, 1334 SW 8th St., Miami (Little Havana), 305-285-1135.
  • El Pub, 1548 SW 8th St., Miami (Little Havana), 305-642-9942.
  • Versailles, 3555 SW 8th St., Miami (Little Havana), 305-444-0240.
  • David’s Café, 919 Alton Rd., South Beach, 305-534-8736.
  • Enriqueta’s, 2830 NE 2nd Ave., Miami (Wynwood), 305-573-4681.
  • Cacique’s Corner, 100 W. Flagler St., Miami (downtown), 305-371-8317.
  • La Fragua, 7931 NW 2nd St., Miami, 305-266-3226.
  • La Minuta, 14615 W. Dixie Hwy., North Miami, 305-949-2471.
  • Chicos, 4070 W. 12th Ave., Hialeah, 305-556-8907
  • Molina’s, 4090 E. 8th Ave., Hialeah, 305-693-0806.
  • Latin American Cafeteria, 9608 SW 72nd St., Miami (West Miami-Dade County), 305-279-4353.
  • La Carreta, nine locations throughout Miami-Dade County, including a sublime one on Key Biscayne, 12 Crandon Blvd., 305-365-1177, and a convenient stop at Miami International Airport, 305-871-3003.

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