Making the perfect Dominican coffee involves true art and a touch of science. Luckily, it starts with great quality, in the shape of Dominican-grown coffee beans. Here's all you need to know about Dominican coffee and how to make coffee that'd make Grandma proud.
Why we ❤️ it
There's a special bond between our people and one of the country's main export products. Coffee is one of the main pillars of the Dominican economy and has become an intrinsic part of our everyday life, customs, and culture. It cuts across all social classes: It's rare to find a Dominican who doesn't love it.
You'll be welcomed with a cup of coffee in the humblest Dominican home, and it's considered impolite to refuse such an offer. People who have next to nothing will always have some coffee to offer the visitor. Even if strong, very sweet coffee is not your thing, it's never easy to turn down a cup in these circumstances.
Coffee, a plant native to Africa, was introduced to the Dominican Republic by the Spaniards in the early 18th century. The country started exporting coffee beans in the late 19th century and along with sugar, cacao, and bananas, coffee became and still remains one of the Dominican Republic's leading export crops.
Other Caribbean countries with a coffee-growing tradition include Haiti and Jamaica. The Dominican Republic is now known for being an exporter of some of the finest quality coffee products in the world. The main varietals grown here are Arabica and to a much lesser extent, Robusta.
The best-known Dominican Republic coffee brands include Café Santo Domingo.
Coffee growing regions
The country has the perfect conditions for cultivating excellent coffee cherries that produce the best quality Dominican coffee beans, especially when grown at high altitudes, in areas like the Cibao, in the highlands of Moca, and in the Jarabacoa region with their relatively cool microclimates.
Coffee is also grown in the mountain ranges of Barahona, Ocoa, Neyba, Azua, Bani, and San Cristóbal in the southwest of the country. The best coffee is cultivated at a high altitude with plenty of shade trees on the coffee slopes.
In recent years, Dominican coffee farmers have entered the organic coffee and fair trade coffee markets. In fact, coffee is considered an environmentally sustainable crop because traditional coffee farms, where coffee is grown under a shady canopy of native trees, halt deforestation and the associated negative consequences for humans and the natural world.
Some coffee farms welcome visitors and offer tours with explanations of the process involved in converting coffee from berries to roasted beans. Check out "coffee tours" or "La ruta del café."
Is coffee from the Dominican Republic good?
Before visiting the Dominican Republic, I'd been unimpressed with the quality of coffee served in other coffee-producing countries. It seemed that the good stuff was always reserved for the export market.
It came as a welcome surprise that the Dominican Republic breaks that mold. With its smooth, rich flavor, the coffee here is remarkably good. The best-known popular brand (Cafe Santo Domingo coffee) is all you can ask for, which means you don't have to spend more on premium brands for high-quality coffee. There are also several brands of organic coffee, grown at high elevations, they are slightly more expensive and exceptionally good quality.
Dominican whole bean coffee, and café con leche.
How do Dominicans take their coffee?
These days Dominicans drink coffee in every conceivable way, owing to the influence of international chains, especially in the big cities. Here, though, we concentrate on the more traditional ways of preparing coffee in Dominican homes, workplaces, and cafeterias.
Café or "cafecito"
Coffee may be served with or in place of breakfast – some Pan de agua is a popular option. Some people prefer café con leche for breakfast. Some prefer black coffee. Black coffee can also be served after lunch and for large gatherings where budget is a consideration, like "horas santas" and funerals.
The most common way of consuming coffee is strong, black, and sweet coffee, and when you are offered "un cafe" or "un cafecito" this is what you will get. It's always made in a "greca" - an aluminum stovetop coffee maker - and served in a small cup. If no sugar has been added it's called "café amargo" - bitter coffee. Note that coffee will almost always be served sweet by default.
A cup of standard Dominican black coffee is comparable to espresso coffee in size, consistency, and strength. The most common variety is Arabica coffee, medium roast, with a taste described as hints of chocolate and vanilla.
For a traditional Dominican coffee recipe, add an aromatic touch of spice in the shape of ground nutmeg - nuez moscada - or cinnamon - canela - to the ground coffee before brewing. Some Dominican coffee brands offer flavored varieties.
I fell for it the first time. My husband took me to La Cafetera del Conde and asked me what I wanted, "coffee", I answered. He asked for "a 'medio pollo'" with a mischievous smile. Of course, my reaction was "what the hell are you doing ordering chicken at 10 in the morning?"
Some of you are sure to smile too; for the others who don't know it "medio pollo" (half a chicken), for some obscure reason, is what Dominicans call a certain combination of coffee and milk.
Café con leche
Apart from medio pollo, "café con leche" is another combination of coffee and milk, the difference is that medio pollo is a small cup of strong espresso with a little bit of milk, while café con leche is a big cup of less concentrated coffee, with about the equal amount of milk.
Dominican coffee makers
Consider by some the best Dominican coffees, the traditional Dominican Coffee brewing method in the campo was not with the usual "greca" but with a colador, a filter resembling a small butterfly net that brews the coffee in hot water.
Greca is the aluminum stove-top coffee maker commonly used in Spanish, Italian, and French kitchens. "Cafe colado" may be weaker than "greca" coffee, and I've heard that it's comparable to coffee made in a cafetière (French press).
Tips for the perfect Dominican coffee
- Like everything, obtaining the perfect Dominican Coffee is a question of practice and a few secrets.
- Beans, once roasted, should be stored air-tight or frozen to deter oxidation, which is deadly. Beans should be ground just before brewing. Grinding exponentially increases the surface area exposed to oxygen; ground beans will go stale in a matter of hours. It is hard to emphasize this strongly enough. Even beans kept airtight or frozen will become stale in weeks.
- The problem is that when coffee is ground, the surface area exposed to oxygen increases enormously (think a loaf of bread versus bread crumbs), so you are starting at a disadvantage if you have more ground coffee than you are going to brew at the time.
- This is why, in many Dominican households, especially in rural areas and small towns, people tend to buy their coffee in "sobrecitos" - small packets - with one serving at a time.
- Nevertheless, if you prefer the convenience of pre-ground coffee, it is considerably better to store it frozen. Freezing substantially slows oxidation, just as it does for other foods. Coffee is, after all, a baked vegetable product.
- Aside from drinking it, which is – let's be honest – how must people take their coffee, you can try some non-traditional recipes to use your coffee, like this coffee flan, a coffee panna cotta, this healthy coffee cake, or just serve it alongside any of our traditional Dominican desserts.
How to make coffee in a greca.
There are three basic elements to brewing great coffee:
- Freshly roasted coffee beans.
- Good water and clean equipment.
- Proper water temperature
The best brew possible will be made from freshly-roasted beans which are ground just before brewing. Use enough coffee - at a minimum a ratio of 3+ oz (35 g) of beans to 64 oz (1.9 l) of water. Adjust to personal taste.
The water must be just off-boiling, in order to get proper extraction of flavor. That is why the ubiquitous greca ("long espresso" brewer) used in the DR is so good, as it uses steam pressure to push boiling water up the pipe and into the bed of ground beans.
Warning: Never put milk in the greca. Not only will it damage the mechanism, but it also clogs up the pressure valve and could cause an explosion.
Serve the coffee in espresso cups with sugar to taste.
Don't miss our complete guide to Dominican drinks. And if you have a trick for Dominican coffee, let us know in the comments!
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How to Make the Perfect Dominican Coffee (Greca and Colador)
Cafe de greca dominicano
Cafe de colador dominicano
- ¾ cup ground Dominican coffee, [44 grams]
- 4 cups boiling water, [1 liter]
- Sugar, (to taste)
How to make greca coffee
- In a large espresso greca (enough for 4 espresso cups), fill water below the valve (1⅓ cups) in the lower water recipient.Add coffee to the middle coffee basket, packing if necessary to keeping at an even level. Add the nutmeg and press to even it.
- Assemble the coffee maker, screwing the top tightly.Place on a stable burner and boil over medium heat until the coffee stops rising.
- Serve with sugar to taste.
How to make colador coffee
- Put the ground coffee in the bag ("sock") and place it on the base. Place a pitcher under to catch the coffee as it brews.Pour the boiling water into the sock until it has all drained into the pitcher.
- Serve with sugar to taste.
Tips and Notes
Nutritional information is calculated automatically based on ingredients listed. Please consult your doctor if you need precise nutrition information.