Cafe Bustelo Espresso Style K-Cups Review
Cafe Bustelo is a brand which, until recently, was a brand mainly known only to the latin community as it’s been a staple in bodegas for about the past 80 years or so. The brand had hit a slump until it underwent a rebranding a few years ago which aimed new products such as canned iced coffee (Bustelo Cool) as well as the brand itself towards a younger generation. Today the brand is popular amongst hipsters & those who simply enjoy a good, strong coffee. It’s also been gaining popularity in Hollywood with the brand appearing at various events from Coachella to the Oscars.
The brand got its start when its founder, Gregorio Bustelo moved from Spain to Cuba in the 1920s & got hooked on the coffee style popular in the region. He decided to take up the practice of coffee roasting and later moved to Puerto Rico. Once US Congress passed the Jones-Shafroth Act which granted people of Puerto Rico US citizenship, Gregorio moved his family to the East Harlem region of New York City and used the last of his savings to buy a coffee roaster after falling on hard times trying to find work. As luck would have it, his home was located near a theatre and he would start roasting coffee around the time patrons would be let out each night after the end of each show. The smell lured people to his home and he started selling coffee each night. By 1931, the first Bustelo Coffee Roasters shop opened up on 5th Avenue between 113th & 114th streets as the business took off. Today, the brand is owned by Rowland Coffee Roasters Inc. based out of Miami, Florida. The rest, as they say, is history.
Cafe Bustelo has been available in ground coffee format for decades, but a few months ago, it made the leap to K-Cup format and became an officially licensed Keurig product. Today we take a look at one of the 2 flavors in the lineup… Cafe Bustelo Espresso Style K-Cups.
Brewing these K-Cups resulted in deep, rich aromas of intense smoke mixed with mild oily notes and a faint hint of caramelized molasses. Flavor was much on par with the aroma as we got an intense espresso-like hit of strong smoke & oils followed by a blast of bittersweet dark chocolate throughout the cup. Beyond all shadow of a doubt, calling this coffee espresso style was a mild understatement as it was definitely one of the strongest intensity coffees we’ve seen in a while.
Cafe Bustelo’s slogan is The Flavor That Doesn’t Hold Back… yeah, no kidding! We have absolutely NO hesitation whatsoever that this coffee could hold up flawlessly to the addition of cream & sugar without losing much of its signature intensity, plus doing so may even reveal some hidden flavors which may be lurking underneath. As a matter of fact, this coffee is so strong that we’re willing to bet it’d make an excellent base for an iced latte as well. Acidity was very well balanced as you get a slight sour hit up front for a second or 2 and then it gives way to the intense smoky & oily notes in the main flavor. It was just enough to keep things popping without covering anything up. Body was intensely dark with deep shades of wine-like burgundy red edged with deep shades of orange underneath which came shining through when held in front of a light source. It made things look as intense as they tasted.
Mouth feel was a bit light but still surprisingly super smooth with the characteristic oily notes from the espresso roast showing up near the middle of each sip. While there was a slight oily feel, it was very light and wasn’t overbearing at all. Finish was on the sweet side with an abundance of dark chocolate & smoky notes present which carried through into the aftertaste.
- Aroma – 10 – Deep, rich aromas of intense smoke quickly fill the room touched by mild oily notes and faint hints of caramelized molasses in the bottom end. This coffee definitely wouldn’t seem out of place at a Starbucks based on its aroma alone.
- Acidity – 10 – Despite the tempest of intensity swirling about in the cup, things were very well balanced overall with a slight sour hit up front for a few seconds which immediately gives way to the main flavors in the coffee and lets them shine through unimpeded. Just enough to keep things popping without covering anything up.
- Body – 10 – The theme of intensity continues as super dark colors give way to deep shades of wine-like burgundy red which was edged-out by deep shades of orange underneath when held in front of a light source. This only helped make things look as intense as they tasted.
- Flavor – 10 – We’ve been longing for an espresso roast coffee that tasted as intense as an espresso and this sure delivered. An intense blast of strong smoke & oils gives way to bittersweet dark chocolate throughout the cup. Smoky dark chocolate typically associated with espressos? We like!
- Mouth Feel – 10 – Seemed a bit light at first, but was still surprisingly super smooth with the usual oily notes found in espressos showing up near the middle of each sip. Despite the oils being present, it wasn’t anything overbearing and further added to the experience. Finish was on the sweet side with a load of dark chocolate & smoky notes present which even carried through into the final aftertaste.
- Coffee Drinker – Suited best for dark roast/espresso roast fans who are looking for an intensely strong flavored coffee which has the versatility of being taken straight up black, with cream & sugar or even turned into an iced latte during the Summer months. While it’s not overbearingly strong like some of the other comparable K-Cups, it’s no slouch either. If you like intense roasted coffees a-la-Charbucks minus the sometimes ashy taste, then this one’s for you.
Overall Rating: 100 – Excellent!
We have to admit, we’d seen the regular ground coffee version of Cafe Bustelo on rare occasions over the years in the mid to late 90s and started noticing the brand gaining in visibility and popularity just the past few years, but we hadn’t really bothered giving it a try until now. If only we knew then what we know now, we’d have given things a shot a LOT earlier. So while we can’t really compare if these K-Cups live up to the regular ground coffee version’s reputation, we CAN confirm that they make one HELL of a damn good cup of espresso roast/style coffee. To be honest, THIS is what Lavazza’s Perfetto K-Cups should have been like!
No wonder the latin community embraced this brand for such a long time… it truly is a distinctive and outstandingly strong coffee with great aroma, strong flavor and the ability to stand up to cream & sugar. Short of having more flavors present, what more could you ask for? So what if hipsters are starting to make this their preferred brand of coffee? We couldn’t care less and say that if a coffee is unique & remarkably outstanding, then everyone should be able to enjoy it. We haven’t had a chance to try the Cafe Bustelo 100% Colombian K-Cups yet, but if they're anything as good as these, we can’t wait to have at ‘em. If Cafe Bustelo can create flavored espresso style coffees (i.e. Super strong coffees that have flavorings in them), then we think this could be one of the top contenders in the K-Cup scene for best brand on the market. Regardless of what the future holds, Cafe Bustelo sure has earned a spot as one of our favorites.
Cafe Bustelo Espresso Style K-Cups work in all K-Cup Brewers including Keurig 2.0 and are available at various retailers in USA in various size formats. These K-Cups are also available online in 24-packs at Keurig.com. These K-Cups are not currently available in Canada, however, Canadians can order direct from Keurig if they’re willing to pay extra for import/shipping fees. Please also note that K-Cups will NOT work without using adapters in Keurig Vue brewers.
A special thanks to SH for providing this Single Serve Coffee staff review. We would also like to note that we purchased a box of these K-Cups on our own for the purpose of this review.
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Posted by Jay Brewer at October 29, 2014 7:53 AM