Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cubano: The Shot

Last night, I was studying and in need of some serious pick-me-up. My usual lately has been the Traditional 6oz Americano which is comprised of espresso and a small amount of hot water (the recommended drink this past week), but I wanted to shake it up a bit. Now, it's not going to be what you want to hear- I didn't finally cave in and buy one of those sugar filled, dairy based, coffee blasphemies. I did use sugar though.

No, I didn't simply dump in some refined sugar and stir it up a bit. I asked for the Cubano shot. What in the world is that? This is a shot of espresso that is pulled through natural raw sugar granules. There are many ways of going about this process, but I have developed a method that I think works the best, so that is what I will describe to you now.

First off, you'll need to take your portafilter, like one of mine pictured here, and fill it with espresso grounds. Your grounds will not need to be ground any finer for this shot- this is contrary to what many would say, but my reasoning will be apparent soon. After using your tamper to pack in the espresso contents into the portafilter, you are ready to add the natural or "raw" sugar granules.

After spreading these (not more than a tablespoon for a double shot) raw sugar granules fairly evenly over the surface of your packed coffee, insert the portafilter into the espresso machine and pull your shots (about 20-30 seconds). Because I added the sugar granules after I packed my ground espresso, the shot extraction will not change at all. If I were to add the sugar first, this would disrupt the usual flow of water through the packed grounds; I would need to compensate with a finer grind. Adding the sugar last allows the barista to avoid the process of refining the grind back and forth for this single shot, making the process much more efficient. From a shop manager's standpoint, this increase in efficiency is gold. Plus, this method does not decrease the overall quality outcome of the Cubano shot.

The finished product of the Cubano shot is an extra sweet espresso shot. You may say, "EXTRA sweet? Espresso is not sweet at all in the first place!" If you are one of the unfortunates saying this very thing, you have not had good espresso yet. A good espresso is barely bitter in the first place. A good espresso tastes just like fresh coffee smells, but this is a discussion for another day.

For me, the Cubano shot was a good way to shake things up a bit. Personally, I prefer the regular shots, but the occasional sweet tooth soother isn't too bad of a thing. The Traditional Americano Cubano is satisfying because it encapsulates all the essential natures of espresso, while softening the blow of espresso shock. The Cubano aspect livens the taste buds to the already existing sweeter side of the shot. I recommend this type of shot to the coffee enthusiast who could notice and appreciate the sweet emphasis- albeit once in a while.

Lord, thank you for the gift of great coffee. Keep my head deflated and on straight. Here we go.

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