Get our FREE Coffee Lover Newsletter

Sign up for a free newsletter to help you brew amazing coffee at home.

We respect your privacy and you can unsubscribe at any time.
  • Café Bustelo Review: Best Poor-Man’s Specialty Coffee?

    CLICK HERE to subscribe to our weekly emails on finding and brewing amazing coffee!

    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. 

    Just so you know, if you click on a product on RoastyCoffee.com and decide to buy it, we may earn a small commission.

    Café Bustelo review

    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.

    The Products

    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.

    Our Thoughts

    Affordability

    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. 

    Availability

    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. 

    Cupping

    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. 

    Taste

    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. 

    Strength

    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. 

    Body

    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 Options

    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

    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

    There’s no shame there. We actually have a whole guide curated just for you; check it out here. But the short answer here is you should probably check out Folgers If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you. or Medaglia D’Oro If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

    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.

    Happy Caffeinating!

    Recommended Reading

    Coffee Bros. Coffee Review
    One of the newer roasters to emerge from the New York coffee scene, Coffee Bros. Coffee has been producing some of the most delicious coffee on the market, and we got the chance to taste it for ourselves. Check out our full review right here!
    Nicaraguan Coffee: From Buying to Brewing
    From a country bursting with natural resources and cultural heritage, Nicaraguan coffee is one of the top regionals available. Read about our favorites!
    Breville Precision Brewer Review: Drip it Your Way
    Been on the hunt for a drip brewer that'll let you craft and customize your coffee to perfection? This Breville Precision Brewer review might have some exciting news for you! Read on for the full scoop.
    Best Moka Pot: What’s the Top Stovetop Espresso Maker?
    Absolutely addicted to espresso? Us too. But we get that not everyone can afford a real-deal espresso machine. So, our team at Roasty has put together a guide on the best moka pot you can buy. That way, you can get great espresso-style coffee without killing your budget.
    Best De’Longhi Espresso Machine to Grace Your Countertop
    If you're on the market for an espresso machine, you should probably be considering De'Longhi's products. When you're dealing with this kind of quality, it can be hard to figure out which one is the best De'Longhi espresso machine for you. But don't worry; we've got everything you need to know right here on Roasty.
    Best Powdered Coffee Cream To Make The Taste Last Longer
    Coffee creamer is all about the taste and flavor it adds to a brew. Check out our reviews of the top powdered coffee creamer for your cup.
    Roasty Coffee

    Learn to Make Barista-Level Coffee From The Comfort of Your Home

    The Home Barista Coffee Course 14-lesson video course about brewing consistently amazing coffee at home. Stream or download the entire course to learn how to make coffee as good as your local barista for a fraction of the cost.

    Click Here To Learn More