Need advice on machine for Cuban espresso

Recommendations for buyers and upgraders from the site's members.

#1: Post by 996ttderm »

Wife and I are looking for machine to make Cuban espresso at our vacation home in the Keys. We have noticed that there is quite a bit of variation in the quality of the Cuban coffees we drink at various places throughout the Keys and South Florida. I am looking for the machine that consistently makes great Cuban coffee. Also would like a machine that has some aesthetic appeal, so we can set it on its own small table near the kitchen. Initially started looking online at the Elektra Mini Verticale, but then seemed to read some good reviews on the Elektra T1 Sixties. We will only use the machine maybe once each month. Occasionally we entertain and may want to crank out the coffee for groups of 6-8 friends. I am concerned about ease of maintenance and reliability. It looks like a lot of the more beautiful and popular machines are Italian and if these machines are anything like the cars that come out of Italy then I have no doubt that I would hate them because they are unreliable and a pain to operate. I fricking hate lots of maintenance and unreliability. Gave up driving the Porsche for a Ford F350 because of frequency and expense of always having to deal with maintenance and breakdowns of the 911. Am I painting a picture here?

So with these criteria in mind, and not wanting to spend more than say $6-7,000, what machines would you guys recommend I look at? I have no problem with plumbing or dedicated wiring. Thank you for your advice.

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#2: Post by redbone »

You can go:
German with an ECM \ Profitec. [Synchronika ($$) or Controvento ($$$)]
Dutch with Kees van der Westen. [Speedster]
American with Slayer. [Slayer Single Group]
American with Synesso espresso. [MVP Hydra]

An Italian high end small commercial machine with good support and representation in the U.S. would be the GS3.

* You will also need a good low retention grinder with the any of the above machines.
Low retention for me would be <3g or less.
Between order and chaos there is espresso.
Semper discens.

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#3: Post by Thermosiphon »

If you like the Elektra Sixties T1, go for it. You can dial the espresso temperature similar to a dual boiler and is EXTREMELY easy to maintain. If it breaks -- which shouldn't happen -- you can open it up and fix it yourself with a screwdriver and a hex wrench. There is lots of room for your hands inside the case, as it is a heat exchanger rather than a DB, but with a nice PID so you can dial the temperature of your coffee nicely (at the expense of steam pressure).

The build is of commercial quality, and fit for a cafe which might make 100 shots a day. At the same time, its internal configuration is simple enough that there aren't really any super delicate parts. I doubt you will break it at home.

You should look at the maintenance costs and schedule of a La Marzocco or Slayer machine very closely before buying, if you prefer a machine that doesn't require much in the way of maintenance costs. I own a La Marzocco and love it. I would recommend a La Marzocco machine to anyone, but it's NOT what I would consider "low maintenance" as far as espresso machines go.

Best of all, you can pick an Elektra T1 up for half of your budget ($3500 or less), and use the rest to invest in a beautiful grinder or perhaps a nice bar for serving your friends.

I have an Elektra T1 from 2016 in my apartment currently. PM me if you have any questions.


#4: Post by gimpy »

My son is stationed at the base there in Key West. I found a place called "Glazed Donuts" that make a pretty good shot of espresso in addition to good donuts. They are also a micro roaster. Two doors down from them is a place (internet cafe) called "Sippin Coffee". Wife and I went in there one time and the "old" man made me a nice little "Cuban coffee".

I'm not sure of how he made it "premade or what, I don't know), it was just for me to try.

Awful narrow streets for an F350 :mrgreen:

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#5: Post by Nunas »

Unless you're talking about something entirely different, Cuban espresso is a common misnomer; it's actually a type of mocha (moka). Most Cubans call it café cubano. It's made with a mocha maker, not an espresso maker. Bialetti and Primula are the most common brands; there are countless clones on the market for less. Plus, there are some nice stainless ones (that's what we use to make Cuban coffee). It's tricky to make it consistently good until you have lots of practice. Here's how we make it. Fill the mocha maker with your finely ground coffee, the darker the better. Put a goodly amount of muscovado sugar (If you don't have muscovado use demerara) in a tall metal container with a spout (we cheat and use a pre-heated glass measuring cup). Put the mocha maker over moderate heat with the lid open and keep your eye on it. As soon as the very first coffee starts to enter the reservoir, remove it from the heat and pour about 1/2 tablespoon of coffee over the sugar and beat the heck out of it (return the espresso maker to the heat to finish making). Your sugar/coffee mix should be a thick, creamy brownish paste with lots of air in it. The most common errors are not enough sugar or too much coffee. Pour the finished mocha into the beaten sugar. Only stir very lightly. You don't want to mix the sugar entirely into the coffee or you'll destroy the foamy crema-like stuff. Serve in tacitas (really small cups).

I guess you could use espresso from a machine too (I suppose that's what coffee shops must do), but that would not really be café cubano, at least as we know it. If you do that, you would put the sugar into the serving cup and pull straight into the sugar. I've never tried that, so can't vouch for how it would turn out.


#6: Post by Javier »

Unless you're talking about something entirely different, Cuban espresso is a common misnomer; it's actually a type of mocha (moka). Most Cubans call it café cubano. It's made with a mocha maker, not an espresso maker.
+ 1 !!!

EDIT - Every so often, I have seen it being prepared with an espresso machine, and adding the sugar at the end. But that will be at some Cuban restaurants (i.e., don't have the time to use a Moka pot). However, it is my understanding café cubano is mainly prepared at home using a Moka pot (and using the method described above). We prepare it at home, and it is delicious.
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#7: Post by TomC »

I've seen this often made with any basic espresso machine, no tamping, nothing fancy, dark roasted cheap espresso pulled directly into a metal pouring cup that has a ton of sugar in the bottom. Dead simple, strong coffee. You can make it with any machine.
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#8: Post by RockyIII »

For once a month use, I don't think I would get a closed boiler espresso machine. After letting the machine sit there unused for a month, I would want to drain and refill the boiler(s) and wash the fresh water reservoir, which would be rather laborious.

I'm not very familiar with the Elektra Vertical, but maybe it would be easy enough to dump the boiler water between monthly sessions. If you don't need to steam milk, then I think an open boiler design lever machine like the Strietman CT1 would be an excellent choice for such occasional use.


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#9: Post by dominico »

When I was in the keys two years ago all the cuban coffee I had was pulled exactly as Tom described: using a standard commercial espresso machine and pulled into a small metal pitcher with sugar already in it.
Il caffè è un piacere, se non è buono che piacere è?