How to Make Cafe Bustelo? (a Perfect and Simple Guide)

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how to make cafe bustelo

Wondering how to make Cafe Bustelo? Learn all about Bustelo coffee and prepare it at home with our simple step-by-step instructions.

Cuban coffee is one of the most unique coffees in the world.

It’s strong, bitter, sweet, and thick. How can it be all of those things?

I’ll show you. After a customer passed along his recipe to me four years ago, I’m passing it along to you.

I’ll explain how to make Cafe Bustelo in just about any brewer.

But I’ll start with a brief overview of what Cafe Bustelo and Cuban-style coffee are.

Let’s get to it!

Cafe Bustelo: The Basics

Cafe Bustelo is a hallmark of Latin American coffee. Gregorio Bustelo started the coffee brand in 1928 after falling in love with the strong and syrupy taste of Cuban coffee in his travels.

He brought the strong coffee back to East Harlem, and the brand and Cuban-style coffee took off.

These days, you can find Cafe Bustelo and the coffee it inspired mostly in Miami.

Cafe Bustelo has a small line of Latin American-style coffees: Original, Supreme, and Decaf. They have a few other single-origin coffees sometimes, but fans of the brand will say to stick with Original for the most traditional taste.

But Cafe Bustelo is the name of a brand? Yes. But these days, it’s almost synonymous with a classic cafecito or Cubano coffee.

And yes, Cafe Bustelo is the gold standard when making a Miami Cubano.

Original Cafe Bustelo uses mostly Robusta dark roast coffee beans. That gives the coffee its distinct heavy body, bitter flavor, and overwhelming intensity. It’s a pretty classic Latin American profile that often isn’t palatable for an average American coffee drinker.

Cafe Bustelo Supreme is made with 100% Arabica beans. That takes some of the stings out of the body and intensity, but it also takes some of the characters out of the coffee.

Cafe Bustelo: How To Brew The Perfect Cup

moka pot and mug
Moka pot and mug

The first time I came across this recipe was while I was a barista in Denver, Colorado. A regular customer asked me one day if I’d ever had a Cubano.

After saying I hadn’t, he told me to hold on, and he’d be right back. Ten minutes later, he walked in holding three espresso cups and poured us each a cafecito.

It was one of the most incredible moments I’ve ever had with coffee. And he shared this recipe with me.

Keep in mind, though, that I’m not from Latin America. 

I’m just a barista who was given this recipe and told I could share it.

So that’s what I’m doing:

What Ingredients Do I Use

For this recipe, we’re keeping it pretty simple:

  • Cafe Bustelo Original (or Supreme if you want a less bitter coffee)
  • Water
  • Raw Sugar

You can use any type of sugar. I have found, though, that raw sugar provides the best texture and taste for the final coffee. White sugar doesn’t integrate the espresso in the same way raw sugar does.

What Equipment Do I Prefer

Photo from: @lmorive

The actual brewing method doesn’t matter too much for this recipe. But I’d recommend using a coffee maker you’re comfortable with.

I prefer using:

I’ll cover a few of the alternative options in a later section. But you should be able to follow these instructions with any brewer.

Cafecito: The Step-by-Step Instructions

Alright, let’s brew!

Here’s how I make a perfect cafecito with Cafe Bustelo:

  1. Fill the filter to the brim with Cafe Bustelo. I know I usually include weights or measurements. However, this should be a looser recipe.
  2. Fill the chamber about halfway or ⅔ with water. Add a little more for a weaker coffee, and add a little less for a stronger one.
  3. Assemble the Moka Pot.
  4. Put 2-3 tablespoons of raw sugar in the Moka Pot. Do not skip this step. This is a sugary drink, so don’t skimp, either.
  5. Place the Moka Pot on the stove and set the heat to high.
  6. Listen for the Moka Pot to finish bubbling and remove it from the heat. The bubbling will crescendo and then fall off pretty fast. Once the bubbling falls off, you can take the Moka Pot off the heat.
  7. Immediately open the Moka Pot and use the spoon to integrate the sugar with the espresso. The sugar should have already started dissolving in the coffee, but make sure there are no chunks. The texture should be thick and syrupy.
  8. Pour into small cups and share!

The Cafecito or Cubano is meant to be shared and consumed on its own.

If you find the coffee is too bold or too strong, simply adjust the amount of coffee you use. Don’t make too drastic a change, though, and remember that this coffee is meant to be bitter and strong.

Another option is simply adding more sugar.

The perfect Cafe Bustelo Cubano will balance the intensity of the Robusta coffee with the sweet smoothness of the raw sugar.

And yes, it takes some getting used to, especially if you’re used to American-style coffees!

How To Use Other Methods To Brew Cafe Bustelo

coffee in aeropress
You can follow this recipe with an AeroPress pretty easily

If you don’t have a Moka Pot, don’t worry!

You can follow this recipe with an AeroPress pretty easily.

You can even modify an existing AeroPress recipe to fit nicely with the Cafe Bustelo cafecito coffee.

Here’s how:

  1. Assemble and prepare your AeroPress.
  2. Add about 3-4 tablespoons of Cafe Bustelo Original.
  3. Add about 3-4 tablespoons of sugar to your mug or mason jar. These measurements aren’t hard and fast rules. They are just simple guidelines.
  4. Place your AeroPress on the mug or jar.
  5. Fill with water to just under the number 2 on the AeroPress.
  6. Wait 30 seconds and then press. Press everything, don’t stop when you hear the air come through the filter. You’re trying to get as much as you can out of the coffee.
  7. Immediately finish integrating the sugar and the coffee.
  8. Share and enjoy!

Another way to think about brewing Cafe Bustelo coffee is by ratio.

The benefit of thinking about brewing Cubanos as ratios is that it’s repeatable in any brewer. But the downside is that it becomes more of a science than a ritual.

Think of brewing Cafecitos as a 1:1:1.5 ratio of coffee: sugar: water.

Yes, it sounds like a lot of sugar. And yes, it actually is a lot of sugar. But that’s what it’s supposed to be. So don’t you dare skimp on the sugar. 

How To Brew Non-Cafecito Cafe Bustelo

If you really enjoy the taste of Cafe Bustelo but don’t want the make a cafecito, don’t worry!

You can use Bustelo ground coffee as you would any other coffee brand. You can make it in a drip coffee maker, a pour-over, a French press, or an espresso machine.

You can even make a cold brew or iced coffee with Bustelo coffee grounds.

It is, after all, just coffee.

You should note, though, that it will taste very bitter and very strong. I’d recommend using a little less coffee than you normally would.

Cafe Bustelo also has instant coffee in its assortment. So if you are lazy or don’t have a coffee maker, you can have Cafe Bustelo espresso instant coffee in a matter of minutes. However, don’t be fooled by the name. It doesn’t come near real espresso.

FAQs About How to Make Cafe Bustelo

Alright, let’s clear up a few burning questions you probably still have about Cafe Bustelo.

Is Café Bustelo stronger than regular coffee?

Yes. Absolutely.

Cafe Bustelo is much stronger than regular coffee because it’s made with Robusta beans instead of Arabica beans. Robusta beans have a bitter taste and higher caffeine content.

Get Cafe Bustelo Supreme if you want a slightly weaker version of Cafe Bustelo.

Is Café Bustelo high acid?


Because Cafe Bustelo is mostly the Robusta coffee bean, it will actually be less acidic than other coffees with Arabica beans.

Is Café Bustelo stronger than Folgers?

Yes. Folgers uses a blend of Arabica and Robusta beans to smooth out the flavor of the coffee. But it’s also recommended that you brew
Folgers are weaker than you do Cafe Bustelo.

So by both measures, Cafe Bustelo is stronger than Folgers.

My Final Thoughts

I love Cafecitos. The smooth sweetness mixes perfectly with the bitter Robusta coffee of Cafe Bustelo.

Plus, it’s meant to be shared! What’s better than a coffee that’s meant to be shared?

And it’s actually easy to make. Just brew up a strong, 1:1.5  coffee-to-water brew and mix in some raw sugar.

And you’ll be sharing a Cafe Bustelo cafecito in no time.

Want to try another island-inspired coffee? Check out our article on how to make a barraquito!

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Craig Carey
Craig spent a year as a barista in Denver's specialty coffee world. He spends his days rock climbing, cycling, drinking espresso, and hanging around the Rocky Mountains. He still lives in Colorado.