What Is a Colada?

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Cuban coffee or a Colada is best known for its strength and bitterness – one of the reasons why a Colada is split between a group of friends. But what is a Colada?

What Is A Colada?

A Colada is four ounces of extremely strong and sweet coffee typically served in a Styrofoam cup. It comes with mini-cups since it is meant to be shared among a group of people.

Here’s how you make one:

Colada in a plastic cup

Ingredients Required

  • Sugar (preferably granulated); and
  • Ground espresso. Any dark roast will do, but if you want the Colada to be as authentic as possible, use Cuban ground coffee.

Things You Need

  • An espresso machine. A stove-top espresso maker will also work.
  • A metal cup, measuring cup, or creamer cup
  • Another cup to pour the coffee in.
  • A metal spoon.
  • Four cups to serve the coffee in.

Step #1: Put the Grounds in the Handle

The first step to making a Colada is to put the grounds in the handle of your espresso machine.

The right way of going about this is to fill the handle a little over its maximum capacity and gently run your finger across the opening to leave a little dome of coffee.

Next, you must grab a tamper and gently press the coffee into the handle. Filling the handle correctly is critical if you want your coffee to taste right. Putting too much coffee into the handle or pressing the tamp too hard will make the coffee unpalatable.

The One Mistake That Will Ruin Your Coffee

You never want to pack as much coffee into the handle as you can. Using more grounds will not make your coffee tastier or punchier.

Packing too much coffee into the handle will only compress the grounds to the point where water cannot seep through the grounds. When the water cannot move through the grounds at the right speed, the coffee will become a lot bitter – something you want to avoid with already bitter Cuban coffee grounds.

There’s also a chance of the coffee grounds in the handle burning due to being packed too tight. Don’t go overboard with packing the handle, experimenting is not worth it.

Coffee beans in a metal cup


If you don’t know how to handle your coffee machine, you can visit the brand’s office and enquire about a free training session. You can also choose to attend a one-day barista training course.

Step #2: Capture the First Drops of Espresso

Add four teaspoons of sugar into your metal, measuring, or creamer cup. Next, turn on the espresso machine and pour the first few drops of the espresso into the cup.

The first few drops of espresso are usually the strongest and most flavorful. Pouring them over the sugar will moisten it up.

After capturing the first few drops of coffee in the metal, measuring, or creamer cup, quickly replace it with the other cup and capture the rest of the espresso.

Step #3: Foam the Sugar

As the espresso maker continues to brew the rest of the grounds, grab the cup you added the sugar in.

Take the metal spoon, and stir the sugar-espresso mixture vigorously. As you stir the mix, it will begin to form a thick, pale foam. When it turns light brown, you aren’t finished. Keep stirring until the color of the foam gets deeper.

If you’ve never foamed sugar before, don’t worry if the mix doesn’t foam up well. Learning to do this well takes practice.

Being mindful of the amount of espresso you add to the sugar every time you make coffee will help you figure out how much of it you need to whip up the perfect sugar foam.

Step #4: Pour the Espresso

Take the other cup with the rest of the coffee, and pour it into the cup with the foam slowly.

Use the spoon to stir the coffee until all of the foam and sugar dissolves into it. Pour the Colada in small quantities in four cups, and serve immediately.

Fresh coffee coming out of an espresso machine

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Use Brown Sugar Instead of Granulated Sugar to Make A Colada?

You can use brown sugar instead of granulated sugar to make a Colada. You can also mix two teaspoons of brown sugar with two teaspoons of granulated sugar to make a Colada.

But you must bear in mind that using brown sugar will make the foam noticeably thicker and make the drink a lot sweeter. If you prefer sweeter coffee, using brown sugar isn’t a bad idea.

What Is the Difference Between A Colada and Cafecito?

As mentioned earlier, a Colada is four small servings of strong, sweet coffee. On the other hand, a Cafecito is a quarter-portion of a Colada, meant to be consumed by one person.

Are Coladas and Café Con Leche the Same?

A Café Con Leche is a Cafecito (a quarter portion of Colada) mixed with steamed milk. It is less bitter, making it easier to drink. Café Con Leche is also known to be frothy, so if you enjoy a frothy cup of coffee, it’s the right Cuban coffee to try.

Café Con Leche is typically served at breakfast with buttered Cuban toast that is best-enjoyed dipped in the coffee.

Non Alcoholic Drinks


If you were to walk up to a ventanita and ask for a Colada, you would notice a thick layer of crema on top of the coffee. The crema is a mark of authenticity.

You may not be able to replicate the layer of crema yourself, but since it is proven that fresh coffee produces more crema, buying freshly ground Cuban coffee gives you a better chance at making the most authentic Colada.

Over two billion cups of coffee are indulged in every day. what’s more fascinating to think about is that every country and culture brews its coffee differently.

Remember that you have to share the coffee – offering cups of it to your family, friends, or coworkers and taking a moment to catch up with them is the traditional (and arguably the best) way to enjoy Colada.

Nathaniel Lee is an avid cook, drawing on his decades of home cooking and fine dining experience. He is a contributing chef at Mashed, and his recipes and contributions have been featured in Tasting Table, Edible Arrangements, Insanely Good Recipes, and The Daily Meal.