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Starbucks vs. McDonalds McCafe - Calories, Caffeine and Cash

Updated on October 02, 2016
Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean is a freelance writer and author. Her inspiring memoir, "Having Faith" is available on Amazon. She resides in North Dakota.

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 and 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 hub.

Caffe Mocha at Starbucks
Caffe Mocha at Starbucks

First of All, What is a...

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

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 oz. Frappe Mocha w/ 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 oz. Frappe Caramel w/ 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 oz. Iced Mocha w/ 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 oz. 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 oz. 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 oz. 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 oz. Mocha w/ 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

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

Which do you prefer?

See results

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 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

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    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 6 years ago

      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.

    • ldparker10 profile image

      ldparker10 6 years ago

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

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

      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.

    • craftyzen profile image

      craftyzen 6 years ago from New York City

      starbuckss ftw!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

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

    • Ken R. Abell profile image

      Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD

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

      Good Hub.

    • JenDobson27 profile image

      JenDobson27 6 years ago

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

    • Cari Jean profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      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.

    • Cari Jean profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND

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

    • Cari Jean profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      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 profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND

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

    • Cari Jean profile image
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      Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      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 profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      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 profile image
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      Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND

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

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 6 years ago from Texas

      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! :)

    • Ann Nonymous profile image

      Ann Nonymous 6 years ago from Virginia

      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!

    • Cari Jean profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      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!

    • Cari Jean profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      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!

    • profile image

      coffeesnob 6 years ago

      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 profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      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!

    • SteveoMc profile image

      SteveoMc 6 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      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 profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      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!

    • Springboard profile image

      Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin

      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 profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      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.

    • Youngcurves19 profile image

      Youngcurves19 6 years ago from Hawaii

      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 profile image
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      Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      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!

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 6 years ago from South Africa

      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 profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND

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

    • profile image

      Brenda Bronson 6 years ago

      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 profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      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.

    • maheshpatwal profile image

      maheshpatwal 6 years ago from MUMBAI

      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 profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      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.

    • Catlyn profile image

      Catlyn 6 years ago from Somewhere in the OC

      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 profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      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.

    • isyan profile image

      isyan 6 years ago

      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 profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND

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

    • StarryNightsDiva profile image

      Alissa 6 years ago from Wethersfield, CT

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

    • Cari Jean profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND

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

    • infonolan profile image

      infonolan 6 years ago from Australia

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

    • Cari Jean profile image
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      Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND

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

    • leatherfootball profile image

      leatherfootball 6 years ago

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

    • Cari Jean profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND

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

    • profile image

      McCafe Fan 6 years ago

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

    • Cari Jean profile image
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      Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND

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

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 6 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      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 profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND

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

    • profile image

      Rachelle 5 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      River Cheung 5 years ago

      I like both :)

    • profile image

      Scott 5 years ago

      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...

    • Cari Jean profile image
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      Cari Jean 5 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      Rachelle - thanks for that clarification.

    • Cari Jean profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 5 years ago from Bismarck, ND

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

    • Cari Jean profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 5 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      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!

    • profile image

      Charles Hilton 5 years ago

      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 profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 5 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      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!

    • profile image

      Charles Hilton 5 years ago

      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

    • kerlynb profile image

      kerlynb 5 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

      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.

    • Cari Jean profile image
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      Cari Jean 5 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      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!

    • profile image

      Jannet 5 years ago

      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 profile image
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      Cari Jean 5 years ago from Bismarck, ND

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

    • profile image

      Johnathan Lewis 5 years ago

      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 profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 5 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      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.

    • klyaksa profile image

      klyaksa 4 years ago

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

    • Cari Jean profile image
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      Cari Jean 4 years ago from Bismarck, ND

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

    • profile image

      Chris 4 years ago

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

    • Cari Jean profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 4 years ago from Bismarck, ND

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

    • profile image

      Jen 3 years ago

      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 profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 3 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      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!

    • profile image

      Trying to he healthy 2 years ago

      Star Bucks or McDonalds, both are recipes for diabetes.

    • Cari Jean profile image
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      Cari Jean 2 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      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!

    • mandination profile image

      mandination 2 years ago from Pittsburgh

      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 profile image
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      Cari Jean 2 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      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!

    • profile image

      Traci 3 months ago

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

    • profile image

      Tenaya Honablezh 2 weeks ago

      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.

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