Do any of you drink espresso after dinner? Don’t think that it’s limited to your regular espresso. My father makes an amazing Cuban coffee, which is essentially an espresso that is sweetened with sugar as it brews.  He adds a kick of spices to it — nutmeg, cinnamon, sometimes a little cayenne…Delicious!!  Now you would think he learned this from say, a Cuban chef, while he was on an expedition in Cuba. But no, he learned this from my crazy Uncle Bob down in Florida. Not Cuban. Not a chef. Actually, he’s more of a comedian. (Ask me about “Pastor Gas” another time…) And my father has never been to Cuba. But by the way this coffee tastes, you could never tell.

You have to have a stove top espresso maker.  There are two sizes, 2-cup and 4-cup.  Stainless steel is safer and better than aluminum.  The aluminum kind corrodes after a while.

My father uses Cafe Bustelo ground espresso roast coffee to make this drink. The spices give it a unique and pleasant flavor. Okay, to start you put 3 heaping spoonfuls of sugar (either white or “natural”) in a frothing cup for a 4-cup espresso maker. See below if you don’t know what a frothing cup is. You know those things Starbucks pours your milk into to make your coffee? That’s a frothing cup.

Fill up the coffee maker water chamber to the steam release button.

Put the coffee filter in the base.  Add in 2 ½ or 3 spoonfuls of coffee.  Do not pack down!!  Grate nutmeg so a thin layer covers the coffee (about 1/8 teaspoon) and add in 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon. Spread the spices in a thin layer.  Add additional coffee to the top.  Do not pack down!  You want the water to flow freely through the coffee.

Put the coffee maker itself on a small burner on high heat. Make sure the steam spout (the “button”) is away from you! Keep the lid open to watch for the first signs of coffee coming out of the pot.  That contains the first oil from the coffee beans.  As soon as there is about a teaspoon or so of coffee appearing in the top chamber, pour a little bit of that immediately into the sugar and put the coffee maker back on the burner.  The amount you pour is critical–too much will make a soupy sugar mixture and it won’t make the “crema” that settles on top of the espresso in the cup.  Too little, and the mixture will be too dry, but you can always add a little more.

The goal is to stir the sugar with a spoon so vigorously that it turns white-ish in color and is thick but will run slowly off the spoon, like caramel.   You can’t over-beat it.  Beating it incorporates air into the sugar so that it makes a thick layer of crema on top of the cup of espresso.  By the time the sugar is beaten and is thick and light colored, the rest of the coffee in the maker should have stopped percolating.

When it has stopped, the coffee from the maker is poured into the frothing cup with the sugar mixture, thoroughly mixed with a spoon, and then poured immediately into small espresso cups.  The crema should settle on the top and make it look like there’s a thin layer of cream on top.

Serve this coffee with little shortbread cookies (maybe the ones from Miette!) in lieu of a heavy dessert, especially after a large dinner.  For those of you concerned about staying up all night (we’re so old…), decaf works just fine!