With this café de olla recipe, you’ll experience a delightful blend of coffee’s richness, piloncillo’s sweetness, and the warm spiciness of cinnamon and cloves, resulting in an authentic and easy-to-make Mexican coffee that’s perfect for kickstarting your day.
Café de olla is a Mexican traditional beverage made of ground coffee, cinnamon, and piloncillo. The recipe takes its name from the utensil where it is prepared, a clay pot (olla de barro, in Spanish).
This hot drink has a unique and distinct taste profile, characterized by a combination of earthy spices and sweet flavors. The dark coffee brings out bold notes that are characteristic of Mexican coffee, and the spices elevate the flavor, adding complexity and depth to the brew.
From the very first sip, you’ll experience an immediate sense of warmth, both from the temperature of the coffee and the comforting spices used.
The recipe is really easy to make and is perfect to pair with chicken tamales, pan dulce, and pretty much any Mexican breakfast!
Additionally, I’ve provided various creative suggestions to personalize this classic drink, offering you even more ways to savor your beloved cafecito.
- Coffee: Choose a good quality dark roast coffee with a coarse grind. Coffee varieties from Mexico like Oaxacan or Veracruz beans work perfectly for this recipe. You can also use another type of ground coffee.
- Piloncillo: This is unrefined cane sugar cones that add sweetness and a caramel-like taste to the coffee. You can order it online or use molasses or dark brown sugar in a pinch.
- Cinnamon: Cinnamon (canela) is a key component of café de olla and adds a warm and aromatic flavor to the brew. You can find Mexican canela in any Mexican grocery store or on Amazon.
- Anise star: This ingredient adds a distinctive flavor and aroma, which is similar to regular anise, but slightly more intense and sweeter.
- Whole cloves: Optional, but it adds an earthy aroma and subtly sweet flavor.
How To Make Café de Olla
This is a visual overview of the steps to make this recipe. See the detailed list of ingredients & instructions in the recipe card below.
Place the water in an olla de barro or regular pot. Make sure is big enough to hold about 8 cups of liquid.
Add the piloncillo (or sugar, molasses), the cinnamon sticks, anise star, and the cloves. Stir well.
Bring the water to a boil and then let it simmer for about 5 minutes while stirring to allow the piloncillo to dissolve and the spices to release their aroma.
Mix in the coffee. Cover the pot and immediately turn off the heat. Let the coffee steep for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how strong you would like it.
Top tip: For regular strength, let the coffee steep for 5-6 minutes, for a stronger taste, let it steep for 8-10 minutes.
Pour through a strainer or cheesecloth to serve into mugs. Or keep it warm and serve later.
Expert Tips & Notes
- Use an olla if possible: If you can, use a traditional olla de barro to make this spiced coffee— you can order online here. The porous nature of clay enhances the flavors and gives the coffee a distinct character. If you don’t have one, a regular pot will do, but the result might be slightly different.
- Simmer slowly: Allow the spices and piloncillo to simmer slowly over medium-low heat. This gradual process helps extract the flavors and aromas of the spices.
- Experiment: While the classic café de olla recipe uses cinnamon and star anise, you can get creative and try adding other ingredients like orange peel, chocolate, or a pinch of nutmeg.
- Strain: Once the coffee is ready, strain it through a fine-mesh sieve or a coffee filter to remove any leftover coffee grounds and spices.
- Want to grind your own coffee to make this recipe? Check out and chose the best coffee grinder that suits you.
- Leftovers: Got some leftovers? Store in the fridge for up to 3 days and enjoy iced coffee with whipped cream!
For an authentic Mexican drink experience, use clay mugs to serve this drink, you can find those at Mexican markets or on Amazon under the name of jarritos or jarritos para café.
What does café de olla mean in English?
Café de olla means “coffee from the pot” in English. Café means “coffee,” and olla translates to “pot” in Spanish. The name refers to the traditional method of preparing this Mexican coffee drink using a clay or earthenware pot.
Is café de olla strong?
While café de olla is not particularly stronger in terms of caffeine, its distinctive flavor can be bold and intense because of the spices used. This may be perceived as strong by those who are accustomed to milder coffee preparations.
Who invented café de olla?
It is believed, café de olla was invented during the Mexican Revolution in the early 20th century by the Adelitas (woman soldiers) who improved a coffee recipe simmering spices and dark coffee to provide a hot and comforting drink to the soldiers during the cold nights.
More Mexican Hot Drinks
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Authentic Café de Olla
- 8 Tablespoons ground coffee
- 5 ½ oz piloncillo (or brown sugar)
- 8 ¼ cups water
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- 2 anise star
- 2 whole cloves
- Place the water on a medium pot.
- Add the piloncillo (or sugar), cinnamon, anise star, and whole cloves.
- Bring the water to a boil and then turn the heat to medium-low.
- Let the water with the ingredients simmer for about 5 minutes while stirring from time to time to allow the piloncillo to dissolve and the spices to release their aroma.
- Add the ground coffee and stir well. Cover the pot and turn off the heat.
- Let everything infuse for 5 to 10 minutes, depends how strong you’d like your coffee.
- Pour through a fine strainer or cheesecloth to serve into mugs and enjoy.
- If you can, use a traditional olla de barro to make this spiced coffee. The porous nature of clay enhances the flavors and gives the coffee a distinct character.
- While the classic café de olla recipe uses cinnamon and star anise, you can get creative and try adding other ingredients like orange peel or chocolate.
- Enjoy leftovers serving the coffee chilled with whipped cream!
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Maricruz Avalos Flores is a Mexican cook and photographer living in Italy where she shares authentic Mexican & Italian recipes that can be easily made at home using easy-to-find ingredients.