Cafe Pilon vs Bustelo: Which Is the Better Cuban Coffee?

Has your coffee selection come to down to Café Pilon vs Bustelo, but you’re still trying to decide which one is best? These coffee brands have different beginnings, but they’ve ended up in the same place over time, so they may have more in common than you think.

The Main Differences Between Café Pilon and Bustelo

Some people can tell the difference between the two by taste alone and have a strong preference, while others can’t taste a difference and don’t prefer Café Pilon or Bustelo over the other.

The differences have probably become fewer and fewer—and less and less noticeable–over the years and through the acquisitions that landed both Café Pilon and Bustelo first in the Rowland Coffee Roasters line-up, and now in the Smuckers one.

Basically, the differences between brands boil down to the variety of options compared to what you need and how you want to make your coffee.

On a smaller scale, you could save a few bucks by trying Bustelo’s instant coffee first. The prices are roughly the same across brands, but because of the different packets, cans, canisters, etc. that are available, you can spend a little more or less per transaction, depending on how much coffee you want.

About Café Pilon

cafe pillon

Café Pilon comes from Cuba. The company got its start there in the 1800s. Its popularity boomed through the early 1900s and the owners, the Bascuas family, moved to Miami in the 1960s to spread their passion for coffee.

Once they had a roaster in the United States, they sold the coffee door-to-door for a while. The sons got involved in the business when they were old enough and it grew to include Rowland Coffee Roasters.

Later, when Manuel Bascuas was ready to retire, he sold Rowland Coffee Roasters to a group of men who then sold it to Pepe Souto. Souto was an old friend of Bascuas from Cuba who started his own coffee business and moved to Miami around the same time as Bascuas.

It’s smooth, robust, full-bodied, and strong, but some say it’s bitter (to be fair, others call it mild and sweet).

You can get Café Pilon coffee in:

Find it at grocery stores near you, like Publix, Walmart Supercenter, Ingles, etc. Find out where it’s carried near you with the store finder on the Café Pilon website.

About Bustelo

Bustelo

Bustelo is another Cuban-style coffee, this time started by a man from Spain who moved to New York in the 1920s. He simply saw a need for strong, Cuban-style coffee in the largely Spanish-speaking community he lived in and the resulting product grew and grew into the well-known brand that it still is today.

Tetley bought the brand in 1963, then Tetley sold the espresso division to Rowland Coffee Roasters (yes, the same company Manual Bascuas sold to Pepe Souto) in 2000. Café Bustelo coffee has a nuttiness to it that’s paired with a dark chocolate note. You can drink it black, but it’s intense enough that most people will probably prefer adding milk, sugar, or both.

You can get:

Getting your hands on Café Bustelo coffee is surprisingly easy (plus it’s inexpensive, just like Café Pilon). Check:

  • Target
  • Walmart
  • Amazon
  • Dollar General
  • Best Buy
  • Walgreens

How to Make Café Pilon and Bustelo Coffees

These coffees are like espresso but you won’t need an actual espresso machine to enjoy them. You could use the traditional moka pot, Aeropress, or drip coffee maker.

Keep in mind that, when you purchase Café Pilon or Bustelo, its grind is too fine for methods like the French press (though some people still make them that way, too).

If you purchase your beans whole, you can always grind them and use them as you’d like, but they’ll still maintain that dark, robust flavor both brands are known for.

Café Pilon vs Bustelo: What They Have in Common

coffee

Right now, both Café Pilon and Bustelo are owned by Smuckers, the same company that owns Folgers, Millstone, and Dunkin’ Donuts packaged coffee.

Souto’s sons sold Rowland Coffee Roasters to Smuckers for a whopping $360 million. By the time the sons sold to Smuckers, Café Pilon had long been a part of the Rowland Coffee Roasters brand.

Not Actual Cuban Coffee Beans

Other than ownership, the two brands have something else in common: neither brand uses actual Cuban coffee beans. They are, however, both excellent when it comes to making the type of beverage known as Cuban coffee—all without the need for an espresso machine or even a Moka pot—because they’re dark, strong, and the perfect complement to steamed milk and/or sugar.

Variety and Availability

Both are available in several different forms, though when it comes down to Café Pilon vs Bustelo, Bustelo has more variety.

Both are widely available and can be found in drugstores, big box stores, grocery stores, and several stores online. Café Pilon and Bustelo are both easy to find.

What Exactly Is Cuban Coffee?

Cuban coffee is more about the (dark!) roast and creation of the drink than where the beans themselves come from, though the beans are usually from Latin American countries and a combination of Arabica and Robusta beans. Both brands also have 100 percent Arabica offerings, though. Mixes with robusta beans will have a higher caffeine content but more bitterness.

It’s finely ground, so it’s especially strong and robust. Traditionally, Cuban coffee is made with a Moka pot.

To create the illusion of crema on top, a small amount of the coffee is whipped with sugar. From there, a small amount of steamed milk can be added (this is known as a cortadito) or, if more milk is desired, you can add that, a lot of sugar, and a dash of salt to create a café con leche.

Side-by-Side Comparison of Café Pilon and Bustelo

Though these have more commonalities than differences, you still may wonder how Café Pilon and Bustelo stack up to one another. Here’s a side-by-side comparison:

 

Café Pilon

Bustelo

Beans

Robusta/Arabica blend or 100 percent Arabica (Gourmet line)

Robusta/Arabica blend or 100 percent Arabica (Supreme line)

Easy to Find

Yes

Yes

Options Available

Espresso coffee in 6, 10, or 16 oz. bricks or 10 or 36 oz. cans; decaf espresso coffee in 10 oz. brick or can; Gourmet espresso coffee in 10 oz. brick, 10 oz. can, or whole bean bags (one or two lbs.); instant in a 1.75 oz or 7.05 oz. jar; 6-count regular or decaf single serve Gourmet espresso coffee packets

Espresso style ground coffee in a 10 oz. can, 22 oz. canister, or 10 oz.brick; decaf espresso style ground coffee in a 10 oz. can; Supreme espresso style in a 10 oz. can, 10 oz. brick, or 11 oz. bag; instant coffee in a jar (1.75 oz.) or single serve packet (6-count); decaf instant coffee in a jar (1.75 oz.), single serve packet (6-count); Supreme (regular or decaf) freeze-dried instant coffee in a canister (3.25 oz.); café con leche instant coffee beverage mix single-serve packets (box of five); café con chocolate instant coffee beverage mix single-serve packets (box of five); canister of 100 percent Mexican coffee (7.05 oz.), espresso style K-Cup pods (12- or- 18-count); 100 percent Colombian K-Cup pods (12- or- 18-count); bag of Supreme whole bean (16 or 32 oz.)

How to Brew

Moka pot, espresso maker, Keurig, drip, pour over, add hot water (instant), Aeropress, sometimes French press (not recommended due to grinding size)

Moka pot, espresso maker, Keurig, drip, pour over, add hot water (instant), Aeropress, sometimes French press (not recommended due to grinding size)

Parent Company

Smuckers

Smuckers

Taste

Dark, smooth, robust, strong, bitter (Gourmet line may taste less bitter)

Dark, smooth, robust, strong, bitter (Supreme line may taste less bitter)

Packaging

Muted yellow and brick red

Bright yellow and red

Caffeine

You’ll get more caffeine from the blends than the 100 percent Arabica beans

You’ll get more caffeine from the blends than the 100 percent Arabica beans

Price

Between about $4.00 (10 oz. brick) and $10.00 (36 oz. container of ground coffee)

Between about $1.50 (single serve instant packets, 6-count) and $20.00 (36-count K-Cups)

You Could Also Try…

If you’ve tried Café Pilon and Bustelo but you still haven’t found “the one” for your Cuban coffee needs, there are a few other brands worth checking out. These may not be quite as easy to find everywhere.

  • Café La Llave: Another relatively inexpensive rich, bold dark roast available in cans or bricks (regular or decaf)
  • Goya: Strong dark roast, available in bricks, cans, or single-serve options
  • Gaviña French roast available in cans or bags of ground or whole bean coffee
  • El Pico: Extra fine dark espresso roast coffee in cans or bricks with similar packing colors to those on the Café Pilon and Bustelo brands
  • Mayorga Organics Café Cubano: Dark, bold roast with hints of vanilla and smokiness, available in several different grind sizes, in 12 oz., 2 lb., and 5 lb. sizes.
  • Chock Full O Nuts Cuban Roast: Extremely dark and rich, available in 10.5 oz. cans or bricks.

So, Café Pilon vs Bustelo: Which Is Better?

coffee pots

It depends on what you’re looking for. Bustelo definitely has the advantage of variety going for it, but Café Pilon isn’t that far behind unless you want something very specific, like single-serve café latte packets or 100 percent Mexican coffee.

The good news is, they’re both so widely available and reasonably priced, it’s easy to try them both and see which one you prefer. If you have a specific region you want to try beans from or a certain method in mind to use when you make your Cuban-style coffee, you may be able to narrow your choice down between Café Pilon vs. Bustelo just by what’s available in their line-ups.

Bustelo seems to have a slight edge overall based on variety, the eye-catching appeal of the packaging, and price it’d cost to give it a try, but don’t let that keep you from sampling Café Pilon.

Recommended Reads:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top