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

Author:

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

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.

Comments

Adriana Rott on February 23, 2018:

Hi!

This is an awesome blog post. It's super-informative :)

I was looking up some information on Google about the types of coffee they have at McCafe and not just how they compare to Starbucks... but names and sizes

There are so many names for different kinds of coffee and those names for sizes - that are italian-sounding... that you have to be a mini-expert in coffees just to be able to order a cup of coffee :)))

Especially, if you want to do it with panache :) Like you know your flat white from your macchiatto :D

[good thing you cand do your research online beforehand :)]

Great blog post! Thank you so much for your work! :)

Jane on February 09, 2018:

McDonald's Mocha frappes to me have more of a milkshake flavor than Starbucks. They really taste good! I only get these once every couple months because of the calorie content.

By the way, do they make Starbucks North Dakota mugs--never seen one.

Angel Pope on February 09, 2018:

Great article- could you please include the frosted coffee from Chick-fil-A in your research? It’s comparable to the mocha frappe and Frappuccinos. Delicious!

Tony Sommer on November 17, 2017:

The mcDs is the best every way the price taste and just the fact im getting it at mc Ds.

Ann on September 30, 2017:

I love McDonald's mocha frappe! But they are filled with calories! Haven't tried Starbucks in a long while! But wanting to eat healthier, I've decided to make my own mocha frappe at home. You'd be surprised how good a cup of dark chocolate almond milk, 1/2 cup of ice, and instant coffee, taste after blending it, and topping it off with non fat cream and carmel and chocolate syrup drizzled over the top. Just wanted to throw that in for those who like to experiment with eating healthier.

Tenaya Honablezh on March 08, 2017:

I don't know star bucks knocks McDonald's out of the ball park . But McDonald's frappes are good tooo . I love them both.

Traci on November 30, 2016:

My McDonald's no longer offers nonfat milk, so disappointed. I've stopped going there now.

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on January 21, 2015:

mandination - I went through a period of not drinking any drinks from either place for a long time. Then when I did drink a latte from Starbucks and compared it to one from McD's, I found the one from McD's much sweeter than the one at Starbucks. I'd be curious to know what you think when you do your taste comparison!

Amanda W from Pittsburgh on January 16, 2015:

I was really expecting to see McDonald's come up way ahead in the calorie counts. I'm so surprised that their lattes have less calories and more caffeine. I really love the side by side comparison.

I work for Starbucks, and I have tried McDonald's Frappes. I think the quality doesn't measure up at all. However, I've never given their lattes a chance. Now I might have to do a taste comparison.

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on September 20, 2014:

Trying to be healthy - thanks for the comment. I agree - both venues are not very healthy. I do not go to Starbucks at all anymore, for health and political reasons. As for McD's I go more often than I should and am really trying to cut back. My husband agrees the food there is not even real food!

Trying to he healthy on September 20, 2014:

Star Bucks or McDonalds, both are recipes for diabetes.

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on May 31, 2013:

Jen - thanks for sharing. I actually don't drink much of McDonald's or Starbucks coffee anymore as I have quit drinking caffeine altogether. I am also becoming more health conscious so it is good to know about those awful ingredients in the McD's coffee drinks!

Jen on May 29, 2013:

Hate to be a downer but you should look up what's actually in McDonald's coffee. It's full of nasty chemicals that can slowly kill you. Me, my bf, and sis used to get McDonald's coffee instead on sbux just to save money but we stopped when we realized it gave us diarrhea or stomach pains everytime

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on June 08, 2012:

Chris - thanks for your comment. Guess I'm going to have to check out BK's coffee drinks too!

Chris on June 04, 2012:

Burger king has the best frappies now and their menu change beats McDonald's by a long shot their number 1 TOO

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on May 17, 2012:

klyaksa - thanks for your comment. Right now I'm hooked on the large hazelnut ice coffee at McDonald's.

klyaksa on May 16, 2012:

This is a very interesting topic. I'm a huge coffee fan. I'll them both.

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on November 10, 2011:

Johnathan - thanks so much for your great comment! I agree that McD's frappes are waaaay better than Starbucks! My new fave drink at Starbucks tho is the Salted caramel mocha.

Johnathan Lewis on November 10, 2011:

I have enjoyed my share of White Choc. Mocha's from Starbucks but now my new friend is the Caramel Frappe from McDonalds! I have to say that I am completely & totally ADDICTED! They are just SO DANG GOOD! I was never a fan of the frappe from Starbucks, but geez, McD's got it right! Such a great Hub!

Thanks!

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on October 03, 2011:

Jannet - thanks so much for your comment and for following along! I really appreciate it!

Jannet on October 02, 2011:

Loved this hub! I'm definitely hooked on your writing. I checked out your page and read your blogs now, read your hubs, and follow your twitter. Your definitely an amazing human being!

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on August 02, 2011:

kerlynb - thanks so much for your comment. I know, I love the whip too! It makes an iced mocha so much more delicious! Glad you found this hub useful!

kerlynb from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^ on August 01, 2011:

I like coffee and I think it's OK. But I love whip! That , I think is NOT OK :( Thanks for this hub, reminds me to keep my calories in check.

Charles Hilton on June 26, 2011:

I agree. Home-brewed is best. And that's what I mostly drink. The only time I drink coffee away from home, anymore, is at a diner or restaurant.

But, I will never again drink convenience store coffee---I don't know what that bile actually is, but, it ain't coffee!! lol

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on June 26, 2011:

Charles - thanks for your comment. I think regular Starbucks coffee is disgusting! McDonald's regular coffee is better but if I'm gonna just drink regular coffee I'll just make it home!

Charles Hilton on June 26, 2011:

I'm a coffee lover, too, and I can drink Starbucks coffee, but, I think it's a tad overrated---and overpriced. lol

On the other hand, I've always liked McDonalds' regular coffee. I've never had their other flavors. I'm a regular 'Cuppa Joe' type.

Excellent post!

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on June 06, 2011:

Scott - thanks so much for your comment. Yes, the mocha frappe is really yummy! I have tried their smoothies and I much prefer making my own!

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on June 06, 2011:

River Cheung - thanks for your input. I really like the McCafe iced coffees in the summer!

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on June 06, 2011:

Rachelle - thanks for that clarification.

Scott on June 03, 2011:

I usually get a Caramel Frappe from the McCafe, but now (due to this article) I plan on trying the Mocha Frappe because that sounds delicious. I prefer Starbucks but sadly it is out of the way for me, for the closest one is about an hour and ten minutes away. The McCafe is extremely good though and I do make it a priority to get a coffee from them as I head out of town on Fridays. I cannot wait to try something new! Speaking of which, I've never tried their smoothies...

River Cheung on May 19, 2011:

I like both :)

Rachelle on May 15, 2011:

I wouldn't describe a cappucino as having more espresso, less milk. A latte and a cappucino have the same amount of milk. The difference is the foam concent. A cappucino is half foam, half milk. A latte is milk with a scoop of foam on top.

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on November 19, 2010:

vocalcoach - thanks so much for your comment. I am glad McCafe is an option for great coffee drinks!

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on November 16, 2010:

I am a huge McCafe fan. I love the coffee and the price.

Nice, informative hub and very glad you wrote it. Thanks.

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on November 05, 2010:

McCafe Fan - thanks for your comment! It is nice to have a cheaper alternative and the taste is just as good!

McCafe Fan on November 04, 2010:

Nice comparison. I was once a Starbucks addict too until McCafe!

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on October 24, 2010:

leatherfootball - thanks for your comment, I really appreciate it.

leatherfootball on October 22, 2010:

This is a great hub, I really enjoyed all of the information about the various types of coffee.

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on October 19, 2010:

Infonolan ... Thanks for your comment. I'll be sure to check out your article.

infonolan on October 17, 2010:

Great article! I have an interesting article on legal issues with regard to McCafe that you might find interesting: https://hubpages.com/hub/Gluten-Free-Goodies-at-Mc...

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on July 13, 2010:

StarryNightsDiva - lol! Thanks for your comment. Such a bummer that something that tasttes so good is not the best option!

Alissa from Rocky Hill, CT on July 11, 2010:

Well it looks like I won't be having quite as many caramel mcfrappes anymore... :)

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on July 07, 2010:

isyan - you're welcome for the info. I appreciate you leaving a comment. Thanks!

isyan on July 07, 2010:

sad to say we have both in our area.. im from bohol philippines.. but there are coffe shops here offering some of those mentioned above... thank you for the info...

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on June 23, 2010:

Catlyn - thanks for your comment. That is another advantage of McDonalds is that they are quick - sometimes Starbucks seems to take forever. But if you're not in a hurr and have the extra money, Starbucks is a nice little treat.

Catlyn from Somewhere in the OC on June 22, 2010:

Very informative Hub. I am not into the sweetness of the mixed coffee drinks like Frapps and Mocha, but when I need a good cup of coffee quickly after my commute to work and before I set foot in the classroom, I head for the drive-thru @ McDonalds. Only when I want to splurge, do I go for the Misto @ Starbucks.

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on June 22, 2010:

maheshpatwal - it is great that we live in an information age where we can easily attain the ingredients of certain fast foods. I think because of this, many places have tried to use healthier ingredients which is a good thing.

These "corporate crocidiles" may be waiting for their prey but their prey also have to realize they are responsible for what goes into their bodies.

Thanks for your comment.

maheshpatwal from MUMBAI on June 22, 2010:

Heya Carrrie Though i'm not a great addict of coffee but i really like the message which you are trying to convey through this hub........... Globalisation and Capitalism taking its toll on masses...........we all should pay more attention to what we are eating outside..... all these big corporate crocodiles like cola-pesi and Mcdonald & Starbucks are waiting out there for their prey.....

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on June 21, 2010:

Brenda - thanks for sharing! I know of other people who never liked coffee yet they love some of the specialty coffee drinks. Personally, my favorite is McCafe's Iced Mocha but I like the McCafe Frappe better than Starbucks as well.

Brenda Bronson on June 20, 2010:

I DO NOT like coffee and yet I LOVE McCafe's Mocha Frap's. (I guess you can say I like it now.) It's just the right amount of coffee and chocolate combined. I did try the mocha frap at starbucks and it was way to strong. For my tastes it's to much coffee. This one drink is likely the only coffee drink I'll ever like. (for now). Thanks for the info by the way!

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on June 01, 2010:

tonymac04 - thanks for your comment - hope you're able to find a good cup of coffee!

Tony McGregor from South Africa on June 01, 2010:

Interesting, indeed! We don't have either coffee types here but we do have similar - like Seattle Coffee Huts and we do have McDonalds fast food outlets but they don't seem to serve very good coffee!

Thanks for sharing - need a hit now!

Love and peace

Tony

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on June 01, 2010:

youngcurves19 - thank you for reading and leaving a comment. I know other people who love the smell, hate the taste. I used to be one of them but my husband got me hooked on drinking it - yeah that's right, blame the man!! Hope you can kick your cig habit someday!

Youngcurves19 from Hawaii on May 31, 2010:

What an awesome hub!! soo well informed and thought out! You know I would have voted but I dont like coffee I love the look of it and the smell of it esp the beans awe smells soo good...but the taste just does not match. not like cigs which I love! :P its not deceiving cause it smells bad looks bad and taste bad...no lies. ^_^

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on May 26, 2010:

Springboard - wow! Thanks for such a great comment. That is very interesting that McD's makes most of their money from non-hamburger items. Going coffee has been great for them esp. with the lousy economy and all the advice to skip the Starbucks Latte in order to save money - instead of skipping it altoghether, McD's gave us another option.

Springboard from Wisconsin on May 26, 2010:

McDonald's is one of those companies that just seems to always get it right. It's been a marvelously well performing stock for some time, and interestingly enough, they make most of their money from non-hamburger stuff. Back in the day, it was Beanie Babies that saved their bottom line. Now they are making it on coffee, and their eating Starbuck's shorts in doing so as well.

Taking the coffee note one step further, interestingly, coffee is also the biggest seller at the Dunkin Donuts chain. Without their coffees on the menu, Dunkin would have likely filed for bankruptcy.

Excellent and interesting, if not mouth watering hub.

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on May 23, 2010:

SteveoMc - I actually don't like just the plain coffee at either place! If I were to choose my favorite plain coffee, I would have to choose Burger King! Thanks for your comment!

SteveoMc from Pacific NorthWest on May 22, 2010:

I don't like the sweet creamy kinds of coffee. I like the dark roasted drip coffees, and make em strong. Don't like the bitter stuff. I have had these coffees from both places and liked them both. I would not hesitate to get a coffee from either but like the deep flavored strong brew from Starbucks the most. Thanks for the hub and the dl on coffee.

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on May 21, 2010:

coffeesnob - I had an inkling you'd be stopping in! Grinding and brewing it yourself is probably the best option - tastier and way less expensive, I'm sure! Thanks for your comment!

coffeesnob on May 21, 2010:

Cari,

Great article. Enjoyed the comparisons chart. of course I am among the really spoiled that have found that Starbucks can't compare to what I can grind and brew myself. :)

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on May 21, 2010:

Ann Nonymous - I don't think you really have to be a coffee person per se to enjoy a lot of the drinks Starbucks has to offer. With everything you can add to them, it sort of hides that strong coffee taste. I'll be sure to check out your Starbucks hub once it's published!

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on May 21, 2010:

Money Glitch - thanks so much for your comment. I guess the calories are the most surprising thing to many. I guess if you're lactose intolerant the above drinks are not the best option!

Ann Nonymous from Virginia on May 20, 2010:

I started an article on Starbucks awhile ago, expoinding on my recently discovered addiction to them, so I am going to have to say Starbucks. Starbucks is better. (eeek!SHOCKING numbers!) But then I am being bias as I have no experience elsewhere. I really am not a coffee person, so imagine my surprise when i become latched onto a place that is coffee oriented! Great, creative hub, Cari!

Money Glitch from Texas on May 20, 2010:

Wow, a lot of calories in both! I'm partial to Starbucks, however, being lactose intolerant keeps me from partaking of any of the drinks listed. :( Great hub, thumbs up! :)

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on May 20, 2010:

JenDobson27 - I agree, I like the frappes better than the frappuccinos but beware the calories!! Thanks for your comment!

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on May 20, 2010:

ken - HA! Good one. Yes, my husband is a Tim Horton's addict and even has the Tim Horton's coffee brewer here at home and his parents send him Tim Horton's coffee. And of course when I go to Canada it is always Tim Horton's over Starbucks. That would be interesting to do a hub about that as well - Starbucks vs. Tim Hortons.

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on May 20, 2010:

Hello, hello - thanks! I appreciate that. It was kind of a lot of work but I was curious myself so that kept me going.

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on May 20, 2010:

craftyzen - while I very much appreciate your comment, could you translate please!

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on May 20, 2010:

Pamela - I'm trying to cut back as well - I have started drinking green tea a little bit but it just doesn't taste as good as coffee! Thanks so much for your comment.

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on May 20, 2010:

ldparker10 - haven't ever tried the vanilla lattes at Starbucks - I do like the hazelnut ones, though!

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on May 20, 2010:

sheila b - I know, while working on this hub, I got major cravings for McCafe iced mocha - probably my favorite drink of the whole bunch.

JenDobson27 on May 20, 2010:

Frappe all the way! It's less expensive and it tastes better than the Starbucks frappuccinos in my humble opinion ;)

Ken R. Abell from ON THE ROAD on May 20, 2010:

Cari Jean - There's another choice: Tim Hortons. :>)

Good Hub.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on May 20, 2010:

Thank you for doing all this work and sharing the information.

craftyzen from New York City on May 19, 2010:

starbuckss ftw!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on May 19, 2010:

This was interesting and I was also surprised by the calories. The cost is a factor for me so McCafe is my preference, but I have cut way back on caffeine and drink a lot of green tea now. I still have to start the day with caffeine but use less now. Interesting hub.

ldparker10 on May 19, 2010:

great hub. I goota say i love vanilla lattes from starbucks!

sheila b. on May 19, 2010:

I liked your comparisons, was really surprised by the difference in calories. I think I have to go make myself a cup of coffee now.