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Why Is McDonald's Coffee so Good?

Updated on March 19, 2015
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I'm not a gourmet coffee connoisseur or anything, but I like a daily cup of coffee both for the flavor and the caffeine. I noticed that McDonald's in particular seems to have surprisingly good coffee, and I was interested to hear that many people agree with me. But is it really better than the coffee at other chains? If so, what makes it taste so good?

To answer the first question, I devised a fun little informal experiment. My office is located within a block of a Peet's Coffee and Tea, a Starbucks Coffee, and a McDonald's. I purchased a small black coffee from each cafe and tried them together to compare the taste.

Of course, everyone has different flavor likes and dislikes, so I encourage you to try this experiment for yourself to decide if you agree or disagree. Here are the results I came up with from comparing the coffee of these 3 establishments.

NOTE: I am comparing only plain black drip coffee from each establishment. I do not address other types of coffee drinks (cafe mocha, iced coffee, cafe latte, cappuccino, etc) in this Hub.

Peet's Coffee and Tea

Cost: $1.23

Roast: Dark

Bitterness: Extremely Bitter

Flavor: Burnt

Peet's Coffee and Tea is a San Francisco-based West Coast coffee chain with locations in California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington. Peet's specializes in dark-roasted arabica coffee.

The black coffee I purchased at Peet's had an extremely strong burnt, bitter aftertaste. It was actually pretty awful. For a specialty roaster, I was thoroughly unimpressed.

A small coffee from Peet's Coffee and Tea.
A small coffee from Peet's Coffee and Tea. | Source

Starbucks Coffee

Cost: $1.65

Roast: Dark

Bitterness: Somewhat Bitter

Flavor: Mild, Dark

Starbucks is a Seattle-based global coffee chain with thousands of locations in 61 countries. Starbucks specializes in dark roasted coffee beans, though occasionally they offer limited lighter roast options.

The coffee I purchased at Starbucks was much better than Peet's in my opinion. The taste was somewhat bitter, with a very faint hint of smokiness. Overall, the coffee's flavor was mild. Not bad, but unremarkable.

A small coffee from Starbucks Coffee.
A small coffee from Starbucks Coffee. | Source

McDonald's McCafe

Cost: $1.09

Roast: Medium

Bitterness: Somewhat Bitter

Flavor: Slightly Nutty

McDonald's is a massive worldwide fast food franchise, and the McCafe is the McDonald's menu offering various types of cafe-style drinks such as espresso drinks, iced coffees, blended coffee drinks, and more.

The coffee I purchased from the McDonald's McCafe had the same level of bitterness as the coffee from Starbucks, but it contained much more flavor. I noticed a pleasant mild slightly nutty taste. Not bad.

A small coffee from the McDonald's McCafe.
A small coffee from the McDonald's McCafe. | Source

Conclusion

Coffees ranked by price from cheapest to most expensive:

  1. McDonald's McCafe Coffee
  2. Peet's Coffee
  3. Starbucks Coffee

Coffees ranked by taste from best to worst:

  1. McDonald's McCafe Coffee
  2. Starbucks Coffee
  3. Peet's Coffee

After tasting the coffee from these three chain coffee houses side-by-side, I have concluded that in my opinion, McDonald's is indeed the best. Don't get me wrong. Starbucks coffee isn't bad, it's just bland and unremarkable. Peet's, on the other hand, is foully bitter. If you find yourself in a Peet's, stick to the tea (which is quite excellent) or the blended coffee drinks.


Coffees from McDonald's, Starbucks, and Peet's.
Coffees from McDonald's, Starbucks, and Peet's. | Source

So, WHY Is McDonald's Coffee so Good?

Normally, McDonald's is associated with low quality, cheap merchandise. The title "Mc" is sometimes applied to other things such as "McMansions" to denote poor construction and lack of originality. So how is it that McDonald's coffee is outperforming its specialty competitors? Here are a few possible reasons:

McDonald's Coffee is Fresh

McDonald's locations and franchises brew fresh coffee every 30 minutes. You'll never get coffee that's been sitting out for hours or getting stale.

McDonald's Coffee is Gourmet

Surprisingly, McDonald's coffee is gourmet. Gaviña is the coffee supplier for McDonald's and they use a blend of arabica coffee beans grown in Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, and Costa Rica.

McDonald's Coffee is Medium Roast

McDonald's uses a medium roasted blend rather than dark roasted coffee. The lighter roast brings out the coffee's nutty, chocolaty undertones without causing excessive bitterness or a burnt flavor.

PROTIP: Lighter roasted coffee also means more caffeine. Caffeine is burnt off as the coffee is roasted, so the lighter the roast, the stronger the kick because the less caffeine has been burnt away.

Which coffee chain brews the best drip coffee in your opinion?

See results

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    • Ardot profile image

      Ardot 4 years ago from Canada

      I prefer Tim Horton's coffee, I find the McDonalds coffee to weak and watery.

    • Christy Kirwan profile image
      Author

      Christy Kirwan 4 years ago from San Francisco

      I don't think we have Tim Horton's coffee in San Francisco, though if I see one, I'll have to try it!

    • EuroCafeAuLait profile image

      Anastasia Kingsley 4 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      Voted up and useful, thanks for calling my attention to this. Price does not always equal quality.

    • Christy Kirwan profile image
      Author

      Christy Kirwan 4 years ago from San Francisco

      I agree completely, EuroCafeAuLait! It seems like a lot of places just charge for atmosphere.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      I don't drink coffee but my husband and children do. I was blown away by your Protip and know what 'roast' I will be buying from now on. I liked your comparisons and reasoning too.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • Christy Kirwan profile image
      Author

      Christy Kirwan 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks, tillsontitan! A lot of people think that the darker roasted coffees have more caffeine because the flavor is stronger, when actually it's the opposite. It's a good thing to know when choosing a brew. I always drink dark in the evenings because I don't want to be up all night! :)

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      So the Coffee Wars continue. I think often people buy the experience more than the drink. Interesting that McD goes to the trouble to buy gourmet blends. Sharing

    • carter06 profile image

      Mary 3 years ago from Cronulla NSW

      You are so right Christy, Macca's coffee is really great! I am a bit of a coffee snob & only like mine strong & sweet & certain brands but I do get Macca's from time to time especially if I'm traveling long distances! And did you no that they use fair trade coffee..here in Australia anyway!! Great hub..will share, pin & tweet..cheers

    • profile image

      Jeanette Harris 3 years ago from 11996 Valley Falls Loop Spring Hill Florida, 34609

      My parents and I enjoy Mc. Donalds coffee

    • carrie Lee Night profile image

      Kept private 3 years ago from Northeast United States

      Thank you for this very interesting hub :). In the end it always comes to the palate and how the coffee is brewed or roasted. I for one am not a coffee critic but my hubby, on the record, does not like mickey D's coffee at all. Thank you for taking the time to experiment and write your personal thoughts on an interesting topic. Have a wonderful week :)

    • profile image

      Gabriel 3 years ago

      Have you lost your mind or your taste buds?! You could use their coffee to remove oil stains off of concrete. Hell, they're now GIVING their coffee away, because no one wants to part with a buck and a half to have their mouth insulted.

      I agree wholeheartedly that the best restaurant coffee you can buy is Tim Horton's, followed by (believe it or not) Dunkin' Donuts.

      But McDonald's coffee? Ain't lovin' it...

    • Carol Houle profile image

      Carol Houle 2 years ago from Montreal

      I tried an iced McCafe a few days ago and liked it, tho it was a little too sweet and I got throat and brain-freeze.

    • profile image

      Adam 2 years ago

      "You'll never get coffee that's been sitting out for hours or getting stale."

      Unless you go to almost every McDonald's....haha. Almost every cup of coffee you buy at McDonald's has been sitting for at least an hour. Unless you go in the morning, when it's selling faster than it's going bad. If you buy a cup at Lunch and want it fresh, please say "make it fresh" otherwise you'll be getting coffee made during breakfast.

    • Christy Kirwan profile image
      Author

      Christy Kirwan 2 years ago from San Francisco

      Adam, McDonald's company policy is to brew fresh coffee every 3o minutes, even if all the previous batch was not purchased.

    • profile image

      Vanessa 2 years ago

      Not that I don't agree with you that McDonalds has amazing coffee, but from what you said in this article, it seems to me that you just don't like dark coffee. You said yourself that the coffee you tried from Starbucks and Peet's was dark roasted, but McDonalds was medium roasted. Have you ever tried a medium roast from another coffee chain? Every Starbucks I've ever been to brews three kinds of coffee daily: light, medium and dark. They also brew fresh coffee every 8 minutes, and rotate between the three brews, meaning each batch will only sit for a maximum of 24 minutes. Granted, I live in Seattle, so perhaps that is why there are more brewed coffee options and why their coffee is fresher than what you've experienced? I noticed when I lived in Florida that Starbucks' coffee didn't taste even remotely as good as it did in my hometown... But anyway, McDonald's coffee is like... magically fantastic. It doesn't even make sense lol.

      Seattle's Best Coffee is still the best tasting coffee I've ever had. Shame on Starbucks for continuously closing their locations =(

    • Christy Kirwan profile image
      Author

      Christy Kirwan 2 years ago from San Francisco

      Hi Vanessa,

      That's a very good point! I do indeed prefer medium and light roast coffee. I do like the flavor of some dark roasted coffees, though, and Peet's and Starbucks are not among them. I have tried Starbucks medium and light roasts as well and thought both left a lot to be desired.

      Unfortunately, there aren't any Seattle's Best locations in my area, but if I ever get the chance, I'll have to try it!

    • profile image

      Jeanette Harris 2 years ago from 11996 Valley Falls Loop Spring Hill Florida, 34609

      I think it so good is because is freshly made, and its nice and hot; especially when you want to enjoy a fresh cup of coffee.

    • Taranwanderer profile image

      Taranwanderer 2 years ago

      I didn't actually know that McDonald's coffee was that good lol. Now, I think I'll have to give it a go in the morning and compare it to my Keurig coffee maker.

    • nathalia27 profile image

      Nancy 2 years ago

      I still like starbucks coffee.

    • profile image

      Ina Jam 2 years ago

      I have a heart condition and use. light coffee blend. but I get chest pain sometimes . But not with McDonalds coffee. thanks for the pro tip

    • profile image

      Rdrnnr88 2 years ago

      I just purchased a box of McD's coffee in a K-Cup. It is just as delicious from the K-Cup as from the restaurant.

    • profile image

      Olivia Verde 2 years ago

      I had a McD's decaf coffee last night, and it was...well....Delicious! Better than I make at home! by the cup! And I have to admit, I was actually looking for info on their creamer...it makes their coffee taste extra creamy, with less than I use at home. And I do prefer a med. roast, darker roasts are too bitter. I normally buy my beans at Sprouts, where they have a good selection of organic coffees. But I'll have to checkout Gavina...thanks!

    • profile image

      nico 2 years ago

      People still drink drip coffee???

    • profile image

      Tim S. 24 months ago

      I've enjoyed McDonalds coffe for over 30 Years. It always seemed to keep me going ALL day with just a small cup. Now I have a cup of McDonalds coffee once a week as my indulgence. The rest of the week my coffee comes from a Keurig.

    • Chantelle Porter profile image

      Chantelle Porter 20 months ago from Chicago

      I drink decaf so if I am in the mood for a regular decaf I go McDonald's. It's good and cheap. However, they don't have decaf versions of their gourmet drinks so off to Starbucks I go. If I am in Michigan, I go to Biggby Coffee. Far better than both Starbucks and McDonald's just not as widely available.

    • profile image

      Carlo Z 13 months ago

      In my opinion, Gavina is one of the best coffee roasters in the country. I owned a euro style cafe in NY suburbs for 10 years and Gavina's coffee was my choice for daily blends and flavors.

      It's no surprise that the blend they exclusively provide McDonalds is so good. I love it too.

    • profile image

      Juan Miguel 13 months ago

      I could NOT believe it when I saw McDonald’s coffee on the shelf next to Starbucks, Peet’s, etc. But, there it was.

      - http://coffeelounge.net/colombian-mccafe-makes-its...

    • profile image

      Datt 8 months ago

      Coffee is goof ma

    • profile image

      Joey Chestnut 3 months ago

      You always don't know quality coffee

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