Espresso-Sugar (Cubano) Discussion

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks for making espresso.
daris98

#1: Post by daris98 »

Hi home-barista-ers. I hope you all are doing well.

Excuse my newbieness here, I just got into the espresso game not long ago. I came into this video which I watched recently from The Sprometheus:
I find his approach very interesting, and also approachable. If you are not willing to watch the video, I'll recap it for you. Basically he makes the Cubano by layering a thin layer of sugar on top of a tamped-puck and brew it through an espresso machine. I have not seen this before, and maybe that's just because how new I am to the game. But I want to ask you seasoned home-baristas about the practicality and taste of this method. Is it the best method? The Cubano I've seen before mixes sugar after brewing, so I'm curious if this method is better than the more "common" or "traditional" method. I can also think of another method, which is to mix the sugar with the brewing water first. According to your experience, which of the three method is best?

Oh yes, If you don't have definite answers and are curious as well, I can try all three methods and find it out myself, but I reckon I should ask the experts first before trying anything like this.

Smo

#2: Post by Smo »

daris98 wrote: I can also think of another method, which is to mix the sugar with the brewing water first.
If you have a Flair 58x you can experiment this way. And for the rest of the coffee machines, this is a way to hand them over for repair.

daris98 (original poster)

#3: Post by daris98 (original poster) » replying to Smo »

Yep, I tailored the "idea" for the tools available with me. I know putting sugary water in common espresso machines is a dumb idea :mrgreen:, but I think the question still stands, what method is the best?

jdrobison

#4: Post by jdrobison »

I've made a Cubano this way a few times. Delicious! Unlike adding sugar later, with this method you're cooking the sugar which has a really nice flavor. Make sure to give your machine an especially good cleaning right after. I also use a puck screen, which may help some in keeping the machine clean. Perhaps a paper filter on top, would help some.

Nunas
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#5: Post by Nunas »

I beg to disagree. The video calls this café Cubano; this may be similar (but I doubt it), it may be what some espresso shops do, and it may be a nice drink if you like sweet coffee beverages, but it isn't café Cubano as most Cuban people would define it. This discussion came up about five years ago here Need advice on machine for Cuban espresso Please read my post in the reference thread. That said, you can make a close approximation of café Cubano with your espresso maker, without the danger of sucking caramelized sugar back up into the group. Put your sugar into a foaming jug. Pull the first bit of really strong coffee into the jug, the quickly switch the jug for a separate container for the rest. Whisk the crap out of the sugar/coffee in the jug until you get a golden, thick, aerated mixture. This is the key to true café Cubano, and it's the missing step in the video. Whisking a bit of really strong coffee into the sugar, is what creates the espumita (Cuban for foam), that characterizes true Cuban coffee; you can't get this by simply chucking some sugar into your portafilter. To finish the drink, add hot water to the coffee in the other container to your liking (i.e., make a strong Americano out of it). Then pour the resultant coffee into the espumita. Call me a purist (or snob if you wish), but I maintain that true Cuban coffee should be made in a moka pot :)

Mikeprican

#6: Post by Mikeprican »

Old school method here :




daris98 (original poster)

#7: Post by daris98 (original poster) »

jdrobison wrote:I've made a Cubano this way a few times. Delicious! Unlike adding sugar later, with this method you're cooking the sugar which has a really nice flavor. Make sure to give your machine an especially good cleaning right after. I also use a puck screen, which may help some in keeping the machine clean. Perhaps a paper filter on top, would help some.
I think I can try that, I'm using the Flair 58x, so I can worry less than you do :D

Thanks for your answer!
Nunas wrote:I beg to disagree. The video calls this café Cubano; this may be similar (but I doubt it), it may be what some espresso shops do, and it may be a nice drink if you like sweet coffee beverages, but it isn't café Cubano as most Cuban people would define it. This discussion came up about five years ago here Need advice on machine for Cuban espresso Please read my post in the reference thread. That said, you can make a close approximation of café Cubano with your espresso maker, without the danger of sucking caramelized sugar back up into the group. Put your sugar into a foaming jug. Pull the first bit of really strong coffee into the jug, the quickly switch the jug for a separate container for the rest. Whisk the crap out of the sugar/coffee in the jug until you get a golden, thick, aerated mixture. This is the key to true café Cubano, and it's the missing step in the video. Whisking a bit of really strong coffee into the sugar, is what creates the espumita (Cuban for foam), that characterizes true Cuban coffee; you can't get this by simply chucking some sugar into your portafilter. To finish the drink, add hot water to the coffee in the other container to your liking (i.e., make a strong Americano out of it). Then pour the resultant coffee into the espumita. Call me a purist (or snob if you wish), but I maintain that true Cuban coffee should be made in a moka pot :)
I feel like you are going to go deeper than how I initially thought the discussion will be, but I understand your point that The Sprometheus' method "is not Cubano". Even though this isn't the answer I expected, I think you have a valid point. I think to clarify things a bit - I did not originally intend to make Cubano, I just wanted to know the best way to make espresso-sugar or to mix (or you can call, emulsify) espresso with sugar. It was just how The Sprometheus called his "Cubano" Cubano that made me bring that word into this discussion.

Thanks for your answer as well!

baldheadracing
Team HB

#8: Post by baldheadracing »

I've heard of two distinct ways of making this drink; for convenience I'll call one mostly Miami, and the other one mostly Havana. They are different drinks and I don't think that one is better or more authentic than another.

The mostly Havana version is putting unrefined cane sugar on top of the coffee puck in the portafilter and pulling the combination on an espresso machine. This is the version that I've gotten from local restaurants run by Cuban ex-pats.

The mostly Miami version is where a bit of 'espresso' is poured onto the unrefined cane sugar, and the combination whipped to form "espuma" foam, and then a shot of 'espresso' is poured into this foam. I have 'espresso' in quotes as this recipe typically uses coffee from a moka pot, although espresso machines are also used. This is the version that I see from USA sources.

Why these differences exist is perhaps best left to a discussion of pre-1959 vs. post-1959 Cuban emigration, the changing technology of espresso machines around that time, the making of the drink in homes vs. hotels (espresso machines were/are mostly in Cuban hotels), etc.

Drink what you like, and don't worry about what people call it. It isn't like the difference between Cuban cigars and cigars with Cuban labels 8).
-"Good quality brings happiness as you use it" - Nobuho Miya, Kamasada

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sosha
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#9: Post by sosha »

I put dark Muscovado sugar on top of the tamped puck and pull. Was taught that method by a barista at Chromatic Coffee in San Jose. Been using an E61 at home for a few years, and it hasn't caused any problems with the machine. At work, I use the Robot; shots are stellar with the same technique.

HTH.
LMWDP #440
www.kelpfish.com

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slybarman

#10: Post by slybarman »

baldheadracing wrote: The mostly Miami version is where a bit of 'espresso' is poured onto the unrefined cane sugar, and the combination whipped to form "espuma" foam, and then a shot of 'espresso' is poured into this foam. I have 'espresso' in quotes as this recipe typically uses coffee from a moka pot, although espresso machines are also used. This is the version that I see from USA sources.
This is how I've always had it and seen it made, but makes sense because i was living in Miami.