Are you the kind of person who needs their coffee to hit you as hard as a Monday morning? Or maybe you are just a sucker for a good deal. Either way, we think we may have a coffee brand for you to try.
Introducing Café Bustelo: the Latin America inspired espresso-style coffee made to be cost-accessible for just about anyone. Is this the right brand for you? Read on to find out.
About Café Bustelo
Let’s start with the ethos of the brand itself. Café Bustelo was started in New York by a young Spanish immigrant almost a century ago. His name was Gregorio Bustelo and his ambition was to bring a unique Latin American coffee profile to East Harlem (and beyond).
This type of coffee profile is far out of the go-to palate for in most areas of the United States. But Gregorio had been inspired by the taste of the coffee he had encountered during his travels, particularly that of Cuba, and there was no going back.
Gregorio first opened a storefront in 1928 and drummed up interest by going door to door in nearby neighborhoods. Eventually the brand grew and spread all the way to Miami. Now, you can find it almost everywhere and Café Bustelo is a household name within the Latin coffee community.
Ground: “El Original”
Their basic ground espresso line is sold in can, canister, and brick form. They also sell a “Supreme” line in cans, bricks, and bags as well as a Decaf product sold in cans. (The Supreme Espresso is also available in a whole bean option)
Café Bustelo’s Supreme pre-ground or whole bean coffee is made with 100% Arabica beans. As a result, it has less of a caffeine kick but is also less bitter. However, it still has the distinctive full body of the regular blend.
Instant: “Sabor Latino al Instante”
In addition to their popular ground coffee, Café Bustelo is just as well-known for their instant coffee. This line is available in single serve packets, small containers, and larger freeze dried canisters. Like the ground range, the instant line up includes decaf.
The instant range also includes a couple of flavored coffees: Café con Leche and Café con Chocolate. Overall, the instant line-up seems to have less of the bitter aftertaste of Bustelo’s original line.
Single Serve Cups: “Listo Para Tu Taza”
To capitalize on their promise of strength and convenience, Café Bustelo has also broken into the capsule market. They sell 4 different k-cup flavors in addition to selling their product in espresso capsule form.
Obviously, this is where Café Bustelo really shines. A long-time favorite of the money conscious and broke college students alike, Café Bustelo is one of the most affordable brands you are going to find.
Online you can usually find this brand for less than $.40 per ounce, meaning you can typically get a pound of it for well under $10.
This category goes hand-in-hand with the previous one. Because Café Bustelo is so affordable, you can find it just about everywhere. Visit their website for a full line-up, or for just the basics, head over to simply go to Amazon or even most grocery stores, local markets, or pharmacies.
Here are our two cents on the original flavor of Café Bustelo. Keep in mind that the “Supreme” line is 100% Arabica and so has a significantly different flavor (and price). While the general feedback on the Supreme line is positive, many Bustelo fans recommend just sticking with the tried and true Original and saving the extra cash.
A point of contention on the quality of Bustelo is actually the taste. The cup is bold and intensely bitter with the slightest hint of raisin-like fruit underneath. This almost overbearing flavor is distinctive of Latin American coffee culture and is known for being a rather divisive profile, particularly for American audiences.
Here is another point where Café Bustelo has won over plenty of coffee fans. Because this brand uses Robusta beans as the main component of most of their products, they tend to pack an incredible caffeine punch.
While this decision hurts their performance in other areas, the strength of this brew is definitely enough to out hair on your chest in the morning. This also means it stands up very well against a healthy addition of milk.
On the flip side, this is where many people hedge their complaints against this brand. The body of these brews tends to be quite heavy. And for someone unused to a denser cup, this brew can end up feeling a bit oppressive.
However, you can combat this feature by switching up your brewing methods. If you have an issue with sipping on a heavier brew, try opting for a method that involves a paper filter. This will keep some of the thicker oils from making it into your final cup.
Best Way to Brew: Classic Cafecito
Brewing Café Bustelo’s coffee as a Cafecito, or Cuban coffee, does justice to its distinctly Latin American roots and profile. All this method requires is the coffee, some sugar, and a moka pot.
To make it, simply brew a batch of coffee in the moka pot (or make strong brewed coffee with whatever you have on hand). Then measure 1 tablespoon of brewed coffee and mix it with an equal amount of sugar. Repeat for the number of servings you want (2 servings=2 tablespoons of each etc.).
You should get a syrupy mixture that you will then distribute into espresso cups (demitasse). Pour the rest of the brewed coffee on top and enjoy this strong, sweet treat.
Alternative Serving Method
If you aren’t interested in sweetening things up too much. You can also simply take the moka pot brew and cut it with a bit of cream and serve. The flavor is plenty strong enough to stand up the the milk, but the addition will help tame the rougher edge of the brew.
Other Brands to Try
If Café Bustelo sounds like it might be a close fit but you’re wonder what else is out there, here are a few of our other favorites.
Pilon has a similar brand style to Café Bustelo, selling both a standard and gourmet line and offering their products in the distinctive “bricks,” cans, and canisters. They also have decaf and instant options.
Café La Llave
Another Latin-inspired brand. This one makes a point to emphasize sustainability. It’s a bit harder to find in the US than the other two options, but the company’s roots actually trace back to Cuba. Additionally, this brand likely uses a mix of Arabica and Robust beans, lending the flavor some interesting woody notes.
For That One Person Who Wants Instant
These are two fan-favorites in the instant coffee world. The latter can also be used as an espresso powder in baking!
Should You Buy?
Do you love Cuban-style coffee? Or just crave the intensity of a black (or near-black) coffee in the morning? Maybe you’re just looking to save a bit of cash on your on-the-go pick? Then Café Bustelo is a great choice for you.
If you aren’t into more overpowering, bitter profiles and would prefer the more delicate, complex flavors of an inoffensive medium roast, skip this one.