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Starbucks vs. McDonald's McCafe: Calories, Caffeine, Cost

Cari Jean resides in North Dakota, where she works as a freelance writer and blogs at Faith's Mom's Blog.

A drink from Starbucks.

A drink from Starbucks.

At one time in my life, I had a serious Starbucks addiction. With five of them located in the area I live, it was convenient to stop at Starbucks no matter where I was driving. After a while, though, my Tall coffees grew to a Grande and then finally the largest size they offered—Venti. As my need for caffeine increased, the money in my purse decreased.

Then I made a wonderful discovery: McDonald's McCafe! Their drinks were cheaper and just as tasty. It was a win-win situation.

Nowadays, I'm trying to cut down my caffeine intake, but every once in a while, I head to McCafe for an iced mocha. In the fall, when the air is crisp and the leaves are turning gold, Starbucks calls out to me, "Come get your pumpkin spice latte."

I did become curious, though, whose coffee drinks are better, healthier, and cheaper—hence the writing of this article.

What Kinds of Coffee Drinks Are There?

  • Cappuccino: more espresso, less milk.
  • Latte: less espresso, more milk.
  • Mocha: a blend of chocolate and coffee
  • Frappuccino or Frappe: coffee, milk, and ice blended together
  • Iced Latte: espresso and milk poured over ice
  • Iced Mocha: espresso, chocolate sauce, and milk over ice
Mugs of McCafe coffee drinks.

Mugs of McCafe coffee drinks.

Calorie, Caffeine, and Cost Comparison of Starbucks and McCafe

Please note:

  • Drinks below are made with whole milk.
  • Latte and Cappuccino information is without added syrup flavor.
  • All prices are without tax.
  • Prices may vary according to location.

16-Ounce Frappe Mocha With Whip (Mocha Frappuccino)

Nutrition and Price Starbucks McCafe 

calories 

370 

560 

grams of fat 

15 g 

24 g

sugars

54 g 

70 g 

price

$3.99 

$2.99 

caffeine content

95 mg

85 mg

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16-Ounce Frappe Caramel With Whip (Caramel Frappuccino)

Nutrition and Price Starbucks McCafe 

calories 

390 

550 

grams of fat 

15 g 

24 g 

sugars 

59 g 

71 g 

price

$3.99 

$2.99 

caffeine content

95 mg

85 mg

16-Ounce Iced Mocha With Whip

Nutrition and Price Starbucks McCafe 

calories 

330 

310 

grams of fat 

19 g 

13 g 

sugars 

2 8 g

35 g 

price

$3.75 

$2.79 

caffeine content

175 mg

145 mg

12-Ounce Iced Latte

Nutrition and Price Starbucks McCafe 

calories 

110 

80 

grams of fat 

6 g 

4.5 g 

sugars 

8 g 

6 g 

price

$2.60 

$2.29 

caffeine content

75 mg

109 mg

12-Ounce Latte

Nutrition and Price Starbucks McCafe 

calories 

180

150 

grams of fat 

9 g 

8 g  

sugars 

13 g 

11 g 

price

$2.99 

$2.29 

caffeine content

75 mg

109 mg

12-Ounce Cappuccino

Nutrition and Price Starbucks McCafe 

calories 

110

120 

grams of fat 

6 g 

7 g 

sugars 

8 g 

9 g 

price

$2.99 

$2.29 

caffeine content

75 mg

109 mg

12-Ounce Mocha With Whip

Nutrition and Price Starbucks McCafe 

calories 

290 

280 

grams of fat  

15 g 

11 g  

sugars 

25 g 

33 g 

price

$2.99 

$2.29 

caffeine content

95 mg

109 mg

Which Drinks Have High-Fructose Corn Syrup?

If you're concerned about high-fructose corn syrup, which is getting a lot of press lately about being a cause of obesity and other health problems, here are the breakdowns:

  • McCafe: Mocha, Iced Mocha, and Frappes contain high-fructose corn syrup
  • Starbucks: Frappuccinos contain high-fructose corn syrup

5 Reasons High Fructose Corn Syrup Will Kill You By Dr. Mark Hyman

Final Analysis

  • Expense: All McCafe drinks are less expensive.
  • Calories: Most of the McCafe drinks contain less calories, except for the McCafe Frappes.
  • Caffeine Content: If you're looking for an extra kick, the Starbucks Frappuccinos and its Iced Mocha have more caffeine than McCafe. But the iced latte and the hot drinks from McCafe contain more caffeine than Starbucks.
  • Variety: Starbucks has a lot more variety of flavors.
  • Healthier Options: Both Starbucks and McCafe have ways to make your coffee drink healthier by using low-fat milk, holding the whip, adding sugar-free syrups, etc.
  • Taste: This, of course, is a personal preference. I prefer Starbucks when it comes to the hot drinks, but I like the McCafe iced drinks better.
  • Which to Choose: If I had to choose between the two, I would choose McCafe because they are less expensive and comparable in taste to Starbucks.

I hope this helps you make a more informed decision about your coffee drink purchases.

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