Café Cubano (Cuban coffee, Cuban espresso, cafecito, Cuban pull, Cuban shot) is a type of espresso which originated in Cuba after espresso machines were first imported there from Italy. Specifically, it refers to an espresso shot which is sweetened with demerara sugar as it is being brewed, but the name covers other drinks that use Cuban espresso as their base.
Drinking café cubano remains a prominent social and cultural activity within Cuba as well as the Cuban exile community.
Traditional Cuban-style espresso is made by adding demerara sugar to the container into which the espresso will drip, allowing the espresso to mix with the sugar as it is brewed – compare Vietnamese coffee preparation. Some people believe that this results in a smooth, sweet espresso.
A method commonly used to prepare a café cubano is to initially add only the first few drops of espresso to the sugar and mix vigorously. This results in a creamy, light brown paste. The remaining espresso is then added to this paste and mixed, creating a light brown foam layer, or espumita, atop the coffee. A proper cafecito can be made using either an espresso machine or an Italian moka pot, macchinetta.
The heat from the coffee-making process will hydrolize some of the sucrose, thereby creating a sweeter and different tasting result than adding sugar at the end. It may also affect the extraction process in the coffeebrewing itself.
It is common for Cubans to drink café cubano first thing in the morning, after meals and sometimes as a social and cultural activity. Whether someone comes to visit your home, or a chance meeting on the street, following the initial "hello," an offer is always extended to have a "café."
Gourmet Cuban restaurants will serve a patron a glass of water to cleanse the palate before drinking the espresso, although some Cubans think the water is to dilute the café once it hits your digestive system. For purist coffee drinkers, drinking water after the espresso brands one as a non-appreciative espresso drinker. In some circles, an acceptable end to a Cuban espresso is to lightly dunk the tip of a Cuban cigar in the bottom of the demitasse and then light it up.