Besides ruining a perfectly good espresso shot, is there any reason not to pour a raw sugar in with the grinds? Some coffee shops do it and some won't. My thinking is that as long as the sugar is sandwiched in between the grinds and not actually touching the screen, it shouldn't cause any damage to our holy La Marzocco. Thoughts?

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I believe that sugar is only a problem in a machine that is not properly maintained.

Sugar is water soluble. Very easily. If you are backflushing on schedule, you shouldn't have a problem.

The only place it would go is the group valve, or the brew chamber. The brew chamber is flushed quite often. The group valve is flushed at the end of a shot.

Unless every shot is a cubano, or the machine is not maintained, sugar should not pose a problem.
I was a machine tech for awhile.

I'm not claiming to be an expert, but I've done quite a bit of work on machines.
I still wouldn't put sugar in my own portafilters. ;)

It was definitely an educating experience. But every time I did work on a machine, I just kept thinking about how I would rather be the barista on that machine rather than repairing it or performing scheduled maintenance.
How is it that you were abe to tell the difference between wear and tear and the damage done by the 'sugar'?
So, are we also to make our grinds finer so we can tamp lighter to save the baskets and make them last longer?

Baskets, Gaskets and Screens are all meant to be replaced. What's the overhead/profit of drinks requiring cubanos and that of the price of screens/gaskets/baskets of one grouphead...
Isn't caramelized sugar fun?
You can't--unless there's a grouphead dedicated to nothing but espresso, one dedicated to nothing but cubano shots, and one that's mixed.

I don't totally agree with the leading statement. Sugar is a condiment, and when used that way, can make a coffee/coffee-based drink pretty freaking amazing.

I love espresso, and I don't think loving that sweet nectar precludes using sugar from the menu. It's one thing to eliminate sugar because you're a purist--that's cool. If sugar is eliminated because "everybody else is doing it," well, that's another thing. It's something else altogether when sugar (specifically, in a cubano shot) is eliminated because you don't know how to use it. That's fear. Specialty coffee is high end cuisine, and I think with that there's plenty of room for experimentation: with the portafilter, with coffee, with sugar.

I also have a high respect for my tools, and I wouldn't subject them (the machine in particular) to anything that it couldn't handle. Sugar is totally handleable.
I've spent a lot of time in Miami, arguably the home of Cuban coffee, and I've never seen anyone prepare the hundreds of Cubanos I've consume there in such a manner. They always put the sugar in the cup and stir vigorously as the shot is being poured.

Can someone enlighten me as to what the benefit of adding sugar to the portafilter would be? Sugar caramelizes at 320 deg F, so that couldn't be it.
I saw someone sandwiching the sugar in my Cubano two days ago for the first time in my life. Being Cuban myself and growing up in Miami this was the strangest thing I had ever seen. The only way to make a Cubano is to put just shy of 1 Tablespoon of sugar per shot of espresso in a container (I use a tiny steaming pitcher), collect the first bit of the espresso in the container and then collect the rest of the shots in shot glasses, and whip the sugar and small bit of espresso until it becaomes a cream colored thick paste. That's called "espumita". Add the rest of the shots to the caramelized sugar and THAT is a Cubano.
Those last two posts add a valuable piece to the puzzle. Seems to me like the bottom line is:

1. If you want an "authentic" cubano (or are worried about POSSIBLE damage to your machine and want another reason not to put it in the PF), make the drink using the "espumita" method.

2. If you prefer the taste of the sugar-in-the-PF method and don't believe that it will harm your machine (and its ok with the boss) do the sugar in grinds approach.

Aww no, don't tell me that another thread has come down to a "to each his own" conclusion again... that's just no fun.
Sure it is.

Live and let live. As long as quality is the universal goal, there is nothing to argue about.
I had a customer convince me I should have this on the menu, which I succumbed and then the customer moved away. I actually forgot it was on our menu and said, huh? when asked by another customer what is a Cubano? We did not do well in this product offerring. So I changed version. Dbl shot with whip on top sprinkled with a pinch of brown sugar. I went from 0 to 2-4 sales per day. Hopefully I am not offending the purist.

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