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The Shot Pulled 'Round the World

This week's featured coffee style: Café Cubano

It's time to shake up your regular coffee routine and learn a little about how our favorite beverage is consumed around the world. Today, we're going to dive into the rich realm of café Cubano, or cafecito. Small, dark, and stronger than a mule kick; if Bilbo and company had been drinking cafecitos, they wouldn't have needed three movies to kill Smaug.

A traditional Cubano is a strong shot of heavily sweetened espresso. A small amount of the first drips of espresso is mixed with sugar and whisked into a decadent, frothy, caramel-colored espumita paste. The rest of the espresso is then poured over the espumita, which rises to the top of the cup. This creates a sweeter, thicker brew than if the sugar is added after pouring. Sip it slowly or take it in a single shot, you'll get your full day's load of sweet, rich, caffeinated goodness in one small cup.

There are a few optional takes on the original shot if it's too strong or too sweet: order it cortadito to have steamed milk added to the cup, or take hot milk on the side as cafe con leche.

Drinking Cuban coffee is a social occasion. Want to be the most popular person in your cube farm? Buy a colada, a large coffee served with several small cups to be poured out and shared among friends. Productivity should increase markedly, at least until the sugar crash.

If you want to try making café Cubano at home, you can either use an espresso machine or a stovetop moka pot for the most authenticity.  Two of the most popular brands of Cuban coffee are Bustelo and Pilon, but our Ainsworth Espresso or Guatemala Bella Carmona would add a nice flavor here. Use roughly 5 tablespoons finely ground coffee to 1 cup of water and 4-6 teaspoons of sugar (white, brown, raw--any kind you like).

For an espresso machine: Pour the sugar into the espresso pitcher. When the espresso is ready, drip the first tablespoon or so into the sugar, then swap a second pot or cup under the spout to catch the remainder of the brew. Whisk the sugar-espresso mix thoroughly until you have a nice foamy caramel paste. Pour the rest of the espresso shot over this espumita and watch it float to the top.

If using a moka pot, simply add the sugar to a large cup. Watch until the first bit of coffee begins to come out into the top section, and whisk that into the sugar.  Let the brew finish and then pour in the rest.  Serve as either a 2 or 4 ounce shot, depending on the state of your nervous system. Strength and sweetness. That's what makes a true cafecito!

Here are a couple of videos showing the moka pot method: This one has awesome music, and this one adds a very tasty after-dinner-drink twist to the process. 

If you feel really health-conscious, you can make it sin azucar, without sugar, but that's a bit off the point of trying out a new type of coffee. An unsweetened cafecito might just as well be plain old espresso. I suggest moderation in all things, including moderation. ¡Salud!


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