Cuban coffee 101

Miami runs on coffee — but don’t come here looking for that tall, non-fat latte with a caramel drizzle.

Cuban coffee is the center of our universe.

Don’t call it an espresso, either. Whipping spoonfuls of sugar into those first few of drops of freshly brewed café forms the syrupy goodness that makes café cubano the original Red Bull. It’s hot, sweet — and strong.

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If you’re new to Miami or here on vacation, you may have already discovered our devotion to “ventanitas,” the ubiquitous walk-up windows where a coffee queen will whip up a cup of jet fuel while calling you cariño or mi amor. (One guy even spent a summer visiting more than 100 of them across Miami.)

There’s a right way to order coffee in Miami that won’t earn you a strange look. Locals know there are only four acceptable coffee drinks to order at the ventanita:

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.

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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.

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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.


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

    • Amelia’s 1931, 13695 SW 26th St., Miami, 305-554-4949
    • Cacique’s Corner, 100 W. Flagler St., Miami (downtown), 305-371-8317
    • Chicos, 4070 W. 12th Ave., Hialeah, 305-556-8907
    • David’s Café, 919 Alton Rd., South Beach, 305-534-8736
    • El Pub, 1548 SW 8th St., Miami (Little Havana), 305-642-9942
    • Enriqueta’s, 2830 NE 2nd Ave., Miami (Wynwood), 305-573-4681
    • Islas Canarias, 13695 SW 26th St, Miami, 305-559-6666
    • 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
    • La Fragua, 7931 NW 2nd St., Miami, 305-266-3226
    • La Minuta, 14615 W. Dixie Hwy., North Miami, 305-949-2471
    • Los Pinareños Fruteria, 1334 SW 8th St., Miami (Little Havana), 305-285-1135
    • Latin American Bakery & Cafe, 9608 SW 72nd St., Miami (West Miami-Dade County), 305-279-4353
    • Latin Café 2000, 875 NW 42nd Ave., Miami, 305-642-4700
    • Manolo and Rene Grill, 188 NE 3rd Ave., Miami (downtown, new location)
    • Molina’s, 4090 E. 8th Ave., Hialeah, 305-693-0806
    • Tinta y Café, 1315 Ponce De Leon Blvd, Coral Gables, 305-285-0101
    • Versailles, 3555 SW 8th St., Miami (Little Havana), 305-444-0240
Miami Herald food editor Carlos Frías won the 2018 James Beard award for excellence in covering the food industry. A Miami native, he’s also the author of “Take Me With You: A Secret Search for Family in a Forbidden Cuba.”