Café de Olla (Mexican Spiced Coffee)

Café de Olla (Mexican Spiced Coffee)

By Cristian Palomo


Café de olla is a traditional Mexican coffee spiced with cinnamon and sweetened with piloncillo. Although traditionally made in a Mexican olla de barro, or clay pot, this spiced, aromatic coffee can be made in any medium saucepan to brighten up your morning or warm up your night.

Image of an ivory Mano Art Co. coffee cup filled with café de olla. Half and half milk is being streamed into the café.

My earliest memory of café de olla is from visiting my great grandparents in León, Guanajuato when I was 7 years old. Late in the evenings, my aunts, uncles, and cousins gathered in my great grandma’s kitchen, where the scent of the café slowly filled the room. Everyone enjoyed their decaf café with some pan dulce before calling it a night.

I don’t make coffee at home very often, but when I do, I love making café de olla. It’s a small way to stay connected to those memories and to one of the things that’s most important to me and to the family - our food.


What You’ll Need

Picture of the ingredients needed for café - piloncillo, cinnamon sticks, and coffee grounds - sitting on a wooden cutting board.


Ground Coffee
A freshly ground medium-to-dark roast works best, but feel free to use any ground coffee (excluding instant coffee) that you have at home. One of my favorites is Joshua Tree Coffee’s Delicious Decaf.
    This is raw, or unrefined, pure cane sugar that is commonly used in Mexico and throughout Central America. Although sometimes called a “Mexican brown sugar,” piloncillo has a more complex flavor that includes notes of caramel and even coffee in addition to molasses.
      Cinnamon Sticks
      Look for Mexican cinnamon sticks, or canela. These cinnamon sticks belong to a variety of cinnamon called Cinnamomum verum, which is considered to be true cinnamon with a light and floral flavor (powdered cinnamon is actually Cassia, a punchier, spicier variety).
        This one is self-explanatory. For four servings of coffee, you’ll need four cups of water.


          Olla de Barro or Medium Saucepan
          As mentioned before, café de olla is traditionally made in a olla de barro, but you can use any medium-sized saucepan that you have at home.
            Fine Mesh Strainer or Cheesecloth
            After steeping, you’ll need to strain off the finished café and toss your grounds and cinnamon sticks. Either way, make sure your strainer or cheesecloth is fine enough to catch your coffee grounds.
              Coffee Cup or Mug
              This is the time to use your favorite coffee cup or mug. If you don’t have one already, or if you’re looking to add another to your collection, check out the coffee cups and mugs in the Mano Art Co. shop.


                How to Make Café de Olla


                4 cups water

                3 oz. piloncillo (about 1/3 cup)

                1 stick of Mexican cinnamon

                4 tbsp ground coffee


                1. Add the water, piloncillo, and cinnamon to a medium saucepan and heat over medium, stirring frequently until the piloncillo dissolves and the mixture comes to a boil.

                Image of a medium sauce pan on the stove. In the sauce pan is one cinnamon stick, 3 ounces of piloncillo, and 4 cups of water slowly coming to a boil. Image of a medium sauce pan on the stove. The cinnamon stick, piloncillo, and water mixture is boiling.


                2. Once boiling, remove the pot from the heat. Add the ground coffee, stir to combine, and cover. Let the coffee steep for 6 minutes. 

                Image of 4 tablespoons of coffee grounds being poured into the medium sauce pan with the boiling cinnamon stick, piloncillo, and water mixture. Image of the medium sauce pan covered with a lid and steeping off of the heat.


                3. Pour the coffee through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth into a coffee cup or mug.

                An image of a fine mesh sieve placed over a large mason jar and lined with a piece of cheese cloth. The café mixture has been poured through the sieve and cheese cloth, catching the coffee grounds and cinnamon stick. An image of an ivory Mano Art Co. coffee cup filled with the finished café.


                4. Enjoy as is or with a milk or milk alternative of your choosing.



                  • If you’re having trouble cutting your piloncillo, pop it in the microwave for a few seconds. This will soften the piloncillo and make it much easier to cut.
                  • Having trouble finding piloncillo? Use brown sugar in the same amount. While the flavor won’t be as complex, it will still provide a molasses-y sweetness.



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