Posted in Food, Stories Around the World

Coffee, Sugar and a Twist

One of the big benefits of work-from-home option, are the ease of getting a slow mornings. With a large chunk of time, saved from missing the commute, one can savour the first bite of coffee, the afternoon aroma of the beans and the night experimentation with newer styles. Though one downside is that, too many regular coffee or the plain espresso, makes one want to grab for a cafe made latte for a change. With the present situation, as one can’t go to the cafe, the quest is on to bring the cafe home. The subsequent research for cafe-made coffees to be experimented at home lead to plenty of “aha” moments.

“Come on, don’t you ever stop and smell the coffee?” Justina Chen Headley

Getting into mood of completing the daily work requirements, the daily shot in different shades of black to brown is what keeps the morning work to the grind. So with the home espresso machine in tow, the regular morning shot was had with a small twist the past couple of days. When the bite of coffee needs to be mellowed a tinge, the regular shot of espresso can be diluted by little milk (less than 100ml) for the Manilo, which is actually a flat-white but lot smaller.

Going towards the Cuban tradition to drink coffee strong and sweet where the sugar is often mixed with the coffee beans prior to the latter being brewed, making the homemade Cuban espresso involves knowing the traditional way. The traditional method of brewing coffee was the filter method using a cloth cone; but the modern brewing recipes prefer a moka pot than the espresso machine. Made best using the darker roasts (preferably Italian or Spanish), a little of the the espresso shot is taken, sweetened with natural brown sugar and then the whole mix whipped. The mixture is then added to the remaining espresso and vigorously mixed into a creamy foam, the espuma or espumita. A sweeter and more viscous coffee is made by this method, than by adding the normal brown sugar to the espresso. This espresso brewed with sugar goes by various cafe names like the Café Cubano, Cuban coffee, Cuban espresso, cafecito, Cuban pull, or Cuban shot. Another technique is to place the sugar (white or brown) in the cup as the coffee is dripped into it; the whole mix then stirred into a froth. Adapting to the takeaway option, “the Cuban Colada” is 3–6 shots of Cuban-style espresso in a cup along with small demitasses to take to work.

Though deceptively simple, this Miami café Cubano has few variations. One is the cortado, made of an espresso mixed with a roughly equal amount of warm or steamed milk to reduce the acidity. The milk is not frothy and “texturized”. The Cuban cortadito is generally mixed with heated sweetened condensed milk. Other styles include the café con leche condensada or bombón (espresso with condensed milk) and the leche y leche. The latter is made with condensed milk integrated throughout and a dollop of cream resting on top. The café cortado (espresso with a dash of milk) is almost similar to the Italian macchiato or the French noisette (hot milk to espresso is 1:2 ratio).

Another style is the Café con leche which literally translated from Spanish means “coffee with milk”. Originating as an Spanish coffee beverage, the espresso (strong and bold) is mixed with scalded milk in an approximate 1:1 ratio. If the amount of milk is higher, it becomes the café con leche en vaso or café con leche de desayuno. This preparation is closer to the Italian caffè latte or latte, than the French café au lait. The Cuban “Café con leche” is made when the espresso (without the sugar) is poured to the desired darkness into the cup of hot or steamed milk.

Researching on the Cuban coffee style alone resulted a whole new set of recipes and ideas being unlocked. Adding a personal variation based on the time of the day, especially iced for the noon makes for an nice twist to the usual. In the midst of all these concoctions, the only requirement is the mix being drinkable. That being the must, the rest is purely on the recipe, imagination and what is at hand. With all this being there, little reason why the lock-down hasn’t resulted in being a drag so far. Letting this first phase of the “espresso specialties” sink in, the next few days would result in plenty of interesting trials as well as errors.

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