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Mexican-style mocha – the Mexicano

This recipe builds on the cardamom coffee recipe I wrote about, not only instructions but also in how I came to discover the drink in the first place.

As with much of my cooking, I go with inspiration based on experience and love of ingredients and preparation styles. I invent many dishes this way, but it’s hell on my ability to repeat something – I’m not yet a disciplined recipe maker. That’s one reason I am writing these down now, to capture more of the process and result, to freely share the ideas, and to encourage myself to become a better recipe writer.

So the idea for this recipe just came to me one day when preparing cardamom coffee. The ingredients were all present in my cupboard, and I think they remain the best choices for this drink. In particular, the use of raw cacao nibs is essential in making the best version of this drink you can. I’ve tried it with high-quality cocoa powder, and it settles to the bottom of the drink in a very unsatisfying way. Using the raw nibs and grinding them with the coffee means they pass all their chocolate-y goodness in to the brew juice with none of the bean matter. Working from the whole bean means you have a fresh ingredient (instead of heavily processed), cocoa butter included with the cocoa flavor, and every other flavonoid/antioxident awesomeness is present, not stripped out in processing.

I call this a Mexicano mocha as it combines flavors I like in a Mexican hot chocolate (chocolate, cinnamon, cardamom – recipes vary, these are what I like) with espresso-style coffee and extra hot water (aka an Americano.)

  1. In your coffee grinder put your measure of roasted coffee beans, quantity to taste.
  2. Take one to three green cardamom pods and crush them on the counter. Separate the seeds from the green skin, put the seeds in the grinder with your beans. (I found three pods works for me, some people prefer two pods, use one pod if you want a lighter taste or just as starting place to work up from. For me, four pods per cup was too much, but I can see people who would prefer more pods. For a taste more like original Mexican hot chocolate, omit the cardamom entirely.)
  3. Add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon chips. I keep this form of cinnamon because it is small enough to easily grind, but large enough to have many flavorful oils trapped in the unground parts.
  4. Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon raw cacao nibs.
  5. Grind the coffee beans, cardamom seeds, cinnamon chips, and cacao nibs together until the coffee is the grind level you want to work with.
  6. Brew the coffee the way you prefer.
  7. The resulting brew will be very bitter because of the raw, unsweetened cocoa from the cacao nibs. You might like it if you like extreme bitterness, but I want a more balanced flavor than that. Other than a big dose of cream or milk to lighten and sweeten, I also use an equal amount of honey to the amount of cacao nibs in the original recipe. (If you split your mocha to two cups, don’t add the equal amount of honey to each cup unless you want it too sweet.) If using a different sweetener, adjust amount to taste.

I have used cocoa powder when I was out of cacao nibs, so a tip: add the cocoa powder after the drink has been filtered entirely. The very small powder will clog any filtering mechanism, slowing or stopping any brewing. (In a French press, I reckon it would just sink to the bottom.) Cocoa powder clogged my Bialetti moka and made it whistle from the escape steam valve.