On average, an American will drink two cups of coffee a day to get their mind moving. While many of these Americans favor well-known brands, some coffee lovers get their caffeine hit from a different long-standing brand: Café Bustelo.
This Cuban coffee has been in the States for a long time, but what makes this coffee so special? What’s the best way to learn how to make Café Bustelo and have it taste good? It turns out that, with Café Bustelo, simplicity might be the key.
What’s Café Bustelo?
Café Bustelo has become a popular brand of coffee. Here’s a little bit about what this coffee is like and where it came from:
Café Bustelo and Its Popularity
You can find containers of Café Bustelo coffee in most supermarkets, and for good reason. The coffee satisfies a lot of the same caffeine and taste preferences that espresso drinkers like, but without the need for special equipment. You can Café Bustelo with regular drip coffee gear, not to mention all the other ways folks have brewed this coffee over the years.
It also helps that the coffee tends to be cheaper than most espresso brands, too. Café Bustelo tends to be a lot less per ounce than espresso beans in the United States, making it an easy choice for folks looking to have a coffee experience similar to what espresso offers.
History in a Cup
The Café Bustelo brand goes back nearly a century to 1931. Founded by Gregorio Bustelo, a Spanish immigrant, the brand initially had a small storefront in New York City. Inspired by the various types of coffee he had found in his wanderings in Latin America, Gregorio wanted to bring these coffees to America and share his delight with others.
Still, even before that storefront, Gregorio and his wife Angelina sold the fresh-brewed coffee to moviegoers and folks living in their apartment building, saving up to set up a store. The coffee they brewed came from Cuba and offered a taste of home, especially to Cuban exiles looking for something from their homeland.
Café Bustelo hit a spike of popularity in the 1990s and 2000s, where it began to be recognized in artistic circles. References to the coffee can be found in music and movies from that era, further cementing the brand’s popularity.
Since that time, Café Bustelo has changed corporate hands a couple of times, with it now residing under the J.M. Smucker Company as of 2011. Still, the coffee has lasted nearly a century and continues to bring a distinct flavor to coffee lovers across the country.
What Does Café Bustelo Taste Like?
Much like espresso, Café Bustelo is a dark roast coffee with a deep flavor. Many folks describe dark roast coffee like this as being similar to toasted nuts, caramel, and other rich, nutty flavors. Chocolate comes up sometimes too, but not as much with Café Bustelo.
Basically, Café Bustelo tastes like most other rich, deep coffee profiles out there. Because the coffee contains so many different kinds of organic compounds, the exact flavor of Café Bustelo is hard to describe without relating it to something else. Still, most folks agree: however someone describes it, they can agree it tastes great!
Is Cafe Bustelo Espresso or Coffee?
Technically speaking, Café Bustelo is not espresso. Rather, Café Bustelo is a coffee product made from finely ground coffee beans from Cuba. When you buy this pre-ground coffee, the fine grounds remind a lot of folks of espresso, which is ground to a similar consistency.
However, espresso has a specific method that you brew the coffee with. On the other hand, Café Bustelo has been brewed through many methods over its century in America, making it distinct from espresso.
Understanding the Process
When you brew Café Bustelo, you do the same kinds of things to the coffee that other types of coffee have done to them. Ultimately, all coffees come from some form of adding water to the coffee grounds to extract the drink.
When you brew coffee, what you do is force all of the various organic compounds inside the coffee out of the beans. These compounds dissolve into the water and help give coffee its distinct taste and aroma. It’s said that there are over 1,000 different compounds in coffee, which all contribute to its tastes and smell.
We use water because of how easy it is to get and how readily the coffee compounds dissolve into hot water. Because water can soak up a lot of heat, it makes for a great way to warm up the ground beans and convince those delicious coffee flavors to come out of the beans.
That’s why the general advice is to grind your own coffee beans if you have the time. Those compounds can escape from the coffee grounds, meaning you can keep them trapped inside the beans for longer if you leave the coffee whole and sealed. Café Bustelo usually comes pre-ground, but vacuum seals the packaging to trap the coffee organics in with the grounds.
Can I Use Cafe Bustelo in a Regular Coffee Maker?
One of the reasons Café Bustelo is popular is thanks to its versatility. All sorts of brewing methods exist out there for this coffee. Each method makes a great cup of coffee, so you won’t have to worry about sacrificing taste if you don’t have the right gear.
Still, if all you have is a drip coffee maker, then you can make Café Bustelo. In fact, let’s take a look at how you go about doing just that.
How to Make the Perfect Café Bustelo
Café Bustelo works well with a regular drip coffee maker. If you haven’t made a cafecito with this gear before, let’s go over what you’ll need and what you should do to get a great cup of coffee.
First, you’ll need to get your coffee and everything else in order. Here’s the list of things you’ll need to get to make Café Bustelo:
- Café Bustelo ground coffee
- Filtered water, cold or room temperature
- Drip coffee maker of your choice
- Basket coffee filter (#4 size, reusable and paper filters are both fine)
You’ll notice there’s no recommendation for what kind of drip coffee maker to use when you make Café Bustelo. As long as you have a drip coffee maker that will work without being harmed or clogged by the Café Bustelo, you’ll be good to go.
Also, having a paper or cloth filter of some kind to go into the coffee maker is important. Without it, you’ll end up with a muddy cup of coffee!
Make sure you have a clean coffee maker before you make any new coffee. Coffee makers can get dirty over time, so check it out for any mineral buildups or other sources of contamination before you make Café Bustelo.
Step 1: Setting the Stage
Place your coffee pot underneath the drip faucet. Also, place your #4 size filter into the filter basket of the coffee maker for the grounds.
Step 2: Measure and Add Water
Add the filtered water to the reservoir of your coffee maker. Feel free to add as much water as you like, but measure it out before you do. Café Bustelo is best made when you half a tablespoon of coffee grounds per cup of water you put into the reservoir. So, you need to know how much water you will use!
Either way, once you add the water, add the Café Bustelo to the filter housing and close the lid for the filter basket.
Step 3: Brew Your Coffee
With everything set, turn on the drip coffee maker and let it do its thing. The machine will steadily heat the water and drip it over the Café Bustelo, creating fresh coffee in the pot underneath the drip faucet over time.
Step 4: Enjoy the Cafecito
Once your coffee is ready, enjoy it how you like! Most Café Bustelo drinkers prefer to drink the coffee as it is, but don’t feel that you have to do this. Add in what you like, such as milk or sugar, to suit your tastes.
It’s your cafecito, so make the drink you most enjoy!
How to Make Cafe Bustelo Without a Coffee Maker
If you don’t have a drip coffee maker, then good news! Café Bustelo works well with a lot of other brewing methods.
How to Make Cafe Bustelo in a Moka Pot
The Moka pot is second only to the drip coffee maker as the method folks use to make their Café Bustelo. But, why is that?
Secrets of the Moka Pot
Believe it or not, the Moka pot gets close to how coffees like Café Bustelo and espresso were brewed before the high-pressure espresso machines and electric drip coffee makers came out.
The Moka pot creates a similar amount of pressure as the old espresso pots did in the early 1900s. In other words, the coffee that brews inside of a Moka pot is close to old espresso since you’re getting similar conditions to how espresso used to be made.
If you want to enjoy your Café Bustelo from the stove, you’ll substitute out the drip coffee maker and filters from early and follow these steps instead:
- Fill the water reservoir of the Moka pot until the water sits just below the safety valve.
- Place the Café Bustelo coffee ground into the funnel of the Moka pot and level the grounds with a knife. Don’t pack them down!
- Place the funnel into the pot and screw down the reservoir into the pot.
- Set the Moka pot on a burner set to medium heat and serve when you hear the coffee finish bubbling over.
How to Make Cafe Bustelo Without a Coffee Maker (Sock Method)
Before electric drip coffee makers, one of the most common ways to make coffee in Latin America and Asia was to use a sock filter, also called a sock.
Rather than use a literal sock, brewers would instead use a cloth filter attached to a circular wire with a handle. That way, the coffee brewer could remove the coffee grounds from the water once the coffee finished brewing.
To capture that historical feeling with a sock filter, try out these brewing steps:
- Place the sock filter into a drinking glass and add the coffee to the sock.
- Heat water to just below boiling.
- Pour the hot water over the coffee and allow the coffee to sit in the water for three to four minutes.
- Remove the sock and the coffee grounds from the drinking glass and enjoy your coffee!
How to Brew Café Bustelo in the French Press
Given the expense of espresso machines, many coffee lovers instead pick up a French Press to get something approaching espresso at home without the price tag. You can brew Café Bustelo inside of a French Press and get some of the same flavors as espresso.
Things to Consider Before Using Café Bustelo in a French Press
Many methods of brewing coffee across the world leave behind some of the coffee grounds. While most modern coffee drinkers don’t look for that texture in their coffee, some drinkers out there do.
If you want to replicate that mouthfeel, then a French Press is the way to go. It’s not the right choice for every coffee drinker, but it can make for a different coffee experience than what you’ll get from most other home or café experiences.
To make Café Bustelo with a French Press, follow along with these steps:
- Scoop one-half of a tablespoon of Café Bustelo into your French Press per cup of water you want to use.
- Heat water on your stovetop to just below boiling temperature.
- Slowly add the water to the French Press and gently stir the water and coffee together.
- Place the plunger onto the French Press and wait four to five minutes before depressing the plunger.
- When pressing the plunger, squeeze harder than you normally would for coarser coffee grounds to make sure you get as much of the grounds out of the coffee as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the common questions out there about Café Bustelo and how to make Café Bustelo taste great:
How many scoops are in a Cafe Bustelo Cup?
The common recommendation is to use one scoop of coffee grounds (around one-half of a tablespoon) per cup of water used to brew the coffee. This gives you a strong coffee flavor without going overboard on the coffee grounds.
How does Cafe Bustelo smell so good?
In addition to using fresh Cuban coffee, Café Bustelo vacuum seals the coffee into the package before shipping it out. That way, none of the organic compounds from the coffee grounds can escape before reaching you.
Why is Cafe Bustelo so cheap?
Café Bustelo doesn’t have to be processed too much to create a delicious coffee bean. By cutting back on processing requirements, Café Bustelo stays cheap despite being an imported coffee.
Is Cafe Bustelo Espresso Ground Coffee instant?
The Café Bustelo Espresso Ground Coffee is not instant, but rather a variation of Café Bustelo meant to be brewed like espresso. Café Bustelo does make instant coffees out of their other products, though.
If I like Cafe Bustelo, what other coffees/types of coffee should I try?
Almost any lover of Café Bustelo will love other dark roast coffees and espressos. The complex flavor and rich taste of a dark roast will remind many folks of Café Bustelo.
Café Bustelo has stuck around for almost 100 years thanks to its delicious taste and focus on bringing Latin American tastes to the coffee lover. No matter how you go about brewing this caffeinated delight, Café Bustelo will satisfy anyone looking for a strong cup of coffee with a deep flavor.