How to Make Mexican Coffee
Forget the boozy recipes you’ve seen online. This is the real deal. A traditional Mexican coffee, known as café de olla, is a far cry from the Kahlua-laden cocktails that often bear the same name. Strong, sweet, and spiced, this is the true taste of Mexico.
And you can make it at home with this simple Mexican coffee recipe.
WHAT YOU NEED
- 4 cups water
- 4 tablespoons ground coffee (preferably dark roast)
- 3 oz piloncillo (panela) or brown sugar
- 1 stick Mexican cinnamon
- 1 star anise (optional)
- 1 clove (optional)
- Peel from ½ an orange (optional)
AT A GLANCE
Café de olla
This drink is known in Mexico as café de olla, which translates to “coffee from a pot”. This refers to the clay pot in which they make the drink. It’s not just traditional but is also said to add flavor to the brew. And like all traditional recipes, the exact drink will vary from region to region and home to home.
Café de olla exists on a spectrum, not just of sweetness… but also in how it’s prepared.
Regardless of where you drink this Mexican coffee, you’ll find the recipe always includes the basics of coffee, piloncillo, and cinnamon sticks. Still, other spices and orange zest are common additions.
What is piloncillo?
Piloncillo is the traditional sweetener for café de olla. In other parts of South America, you may see this referred to as panela or rapadura. It’s a kind of unrefined sugar made by boiling down cane juice, which is then left to harden in cone shapes (1).
If you can’t get your hands on true piloncillo, brown sugar or jaggery would be good substitutes.
The taste is rich like molasses, with a hint of bitterness.
Which coffee to use?
Most Mexican coffee recipes will call for a medium-dark roast, but beyond that, there are no special requirements for the best coffee to use. If you’re undecided, can we suggest some of our favorites from Amazon? Of course, we always recommend buying whole beans and grinding as you need them. Set your grinder to medium coarseness, or you’ll end up with too much sediment in your cup.
Mexican coffee cocktail: yes, it’s a thing.
If you search for “Mexican coffee recipe”, you’re probably going to be greeted with a long list of cocktail recipes. This dessert-like drink has some variations but is usually a mix of brewed coffee, brown sugar, Kahlua, and tequila. The whole delicious thing has a whipped cream on top and garnished with cinnamon or grated chocolate.
If you’re looking for more alcoholic brews, we’ve created a complete guide to our favorite coffee cocktail recipes.
How to Make Mexican Coffee
There’s nothing complicated about making this Mexican coffee. With just a few ingredients (or simple pantry substitutes) you can create a taste of Mexico in 15 minutes.
Heat your flavorings
Add your water, cinnamon, and piloncillo to the pot. Also, add any other spices or orange peel if using. Place over medium-high heat until the water comes to a gentle boil and the piloncillo is dissolved. You’ll probably need to stir the mix occasionally to break down any lumps in the sugar.
Pro tip: If you don’t have an olla, you can use any medium pot, but an enameled Dutch oven is a great alternative.
Add your coffee
Once the piloncillo has dissolved, stir in the ground beans and immediately remove the pot from the heat. Cover with a lid and leave this to sit for 5 minutes. This is where the actual brewing occurs, making it an immersion/steeping method (like the French press) rather than the more ancient decoction method.
Pro tip: Grind your beans while the water is heating for an extra fresh-tasting coffee.
Strain and serve
Once it has finished steeping, it’s time to strain the hot coffee into your favorite cup and enjoy! Using a Mexican clay mug (like a smaller version of the olla) is the most authentic and will add to the taste. But any ceramic mug will do. Mexican coffee is served black.
Pro tip: To remove most sediment, try straining the coffee through a double layer of cheesecloth.
If you’re a fan of sweet or spiced drinks, a Mexican coffee can be a great way to break up your caffeine routine. It requires some extra ingredients, but once you have them on hand, it’s easy to make it a regular treat.
There are a few differences between Mexican coffee and Cubano coffee though they are both strong and sweet. Mexican coffee contains spices and is brewed by steeping, while Cubano coffee is produced more like an espresso.
Mexico grows around 4.5 million bags of coffee per year, but less than half of this is available for export. The country grows Arabica beans predominately, with only 4% Robusta crops (2).
- Kenyon, C. (2020, July 17). Learn how Piloncillo is used in Authentic Mexican recipes. Retrieved from https://www.thespruceeats.com/how-to-use-piloncillo-2343039
- Harper, J. (2020, May 12). Coffee origins: A guide to Mexico. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2020/03/coffee-origins-a-guide-to-mexico/
- Hutson, C. (2019, November 21). How much caffeine is in a cup of COFFEE?: Atlas Coffee Club. Retrieved from https://club.atlascoffeeclub.com/caffeine-cup-coffee/