Why I do not like Starbucks Coffee

by Robb Sutton

That’s right…I do not like Starbucks Coffee. I am sure you have seen the recent Dunkin’ Donuts vs. Starbucks Coffee commercials making their way around cable television. The slogan they are spinning this entire campaign around is that the hard working American prefers Dunkin’ Donuts coffee over Starbucks Coffee. I would have to agree and it is an incredible ad campaign that should boost sales of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, but I do not think Starbucks will see the dent.

So why do I not like Starbucks Coffee? Because it is terrible! Look…I am not a coffee connoisseur by any means. I do not know what makes a great bean, I do not know how to roast it to perfection…all I do know is what tastes good and what does not. Starbucks Coffee tastes burnt. As far as I can tell (as a non-coffee connoisseur but a hefty coffee consumer), they are taking very cheap beans and way over-roasting them in an attempt to get more flavor out of a bean that basically has none. I am one of those guys who drinks black coffee…no cream…no sugar…no sugar substitute that is the new flavor of the week for health nuts…just plain, old black coffee. When you drink black coffee…the coffee is all you taste and Starbucks coffee tastes like you left it in the microwave too long! To make matters worse, you are stopping the payment on your mortgage to pay for this terrible tasting, over marketed crap!

The original Seattle Starbucks Coffee store shop cafeWhen you look at the original Starbucks in Seattle (I’ve personally been there), it makes you wonder if the Starbucks we have today would make the original Starbucks owners proud. When I look at the original Starbucks, I see a warm, inviting spot to enjoy a cup of java with friends. I have no way of tasting the original 1912 coffee, but my bet is that it tastes no where near the over produced/over manufactured brown liquid that they are passing off as coffee today. Starbucks Coffee has really lost its edge and curb appeal. The new commercialized version is nothing but a huge marketing monster that no longer looks at its roots…a cup of coffee.

The only thing worse than a cup of coffee from Starbucks are the pompous asses who believe they are somehow coffee experts now because they stop by Starbucks every morning on their way to the office. Great coffee takes time and can been enjoyed without the aide of cheap sweeteners. Some people choose not to drink it that way…and that is fine! One of the great things about coffee is that you can drink it anyway you want to, but it should not taste terrible if you take the sweeteners out of the picture.

I challenge Starbucks Coffee to get back to its roots and produce a great tasting cup of coffee again. Until you do…I prefer Dunkin’ Donuts coffee over Starbucks.


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RedRocker March 30, 2009 - 10:01 am

Oddly enough, I just opened up a bag of DD coffee I got from Costco yesterday. I did have a bag of Starbucks French Roast at home.
WOW that tastes great.
Actually, I’m still buzzing too.

Yeti March 30, 2009 - 10:09 am

I whole heartedly agree. It tastes like what I imagine burnt tar and urine would taste like. Its Peet’s French Roast all the way for this addict.

Yeti’s last blog post..How To Choose The Best Waterproof Jacket

Robb Sutton March 30, 2009 - 10:22 am

@ Eric

For an everyday, low cost (relatively speaking) brew…Dunkin’ Donuts regular is hard to beat. We buy it in bulk at Costco. When I really want something nice…I have the Shatt send me one of his Tulsa, OK local brews…it’s fantastic.

@ Yeti

LOL…yeah…that is pretty close to the taste! Peet’s or Pete’s? I’ll have to look that one up.

Yeti March 30, 2009 - 10:58 am

Peet’s it’s the bee’s knees of good coffee!!

Yeti’s last blog post..How To Choose The Best Waterproof Jacket

jay March 30, 2009 - 1:10 pm

I have said this exact same thing for years. Their coffee just tastes terrible and burned to me. Nasty. I can tolerate their “drinks” (espresso drinks), but not, and never, their coffee. Even the beans you get there are bad, if you make the coffee yourself. ick.

Mike March 31, 2009 - 8:41 pm

As far as Starbucks coffee, I agree most of them taste over roasted, burnt whatever. However, I don’t think DD is any better. At least not what you get from the actual store. However the ground coffee that you can buy, is growing on me. I’d rather get something from my neighborhood coffee shop any day.

Btw like your Mtn Bike blog, been reading these two since your interview with Yaro.

Robb Sutton March 31, 2009 - 9:09 pm

@ Jay

I tolerate the “drinks” too. Except the price is out of this world.

@ Mike

Nothing beats a local shop…you’re right. But with as much coffee as I drink…I have to find an everyday alternative. The DD seems to be the best compromise so far. Thanks for the support!

MLDina April 1, 2009 - 8:54 pm

I heard a rumor that Starbucks does burn their beans. I drink very sugary, flavored coffee drinks, so I really can’t tell the difference, but Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts both taste good to me.

You have to admit, though, whether you like their coffee or not, their ability to get out there like they have has been pretty amazing!

iride April 2, 2009 - 8:26 am

i drink starbucks – black only – regularly simply because it’s available everywhere – even a few of my customers sell it. there are several other places i prefer, but if i’m not on that side of town….

having said that, i wouldn’t say it’s burnt. it’s a different style. some prefer rare steak, some well done. they definitely have a heavy hand on the roast, but i don’t think even the best marketing campaign in the world – and they have a history of having great ones – can push to that level of popularity a supposed vastly inferior product. again, i think it’s just a different style of roast.

i once heard the beans they buy are rejects from illy, one of my favorites. i doubt illy’s ‘seconds’ can amount to enough to supply starbucks en totale, but that may be one source. just an interesting hearsay to pass along…

Robb Sutton April 2, 2009 - 8:42 am

@ iride

I think a great source of their popularity is in the marketing and their latte styled drinks. The availability is also a huge plus. In some cases, you can actually see the next Starbucks from inside one! I remember there was a stat somewhere at some point in time (vague enough?) that something like 50 Starbucks are opened a day.

jimithng23 April 8, 2009 - 8:57 am

Just finished a pot of dunkin’s medium roast. I have tried all different kinds of coffee, Folger’s regular and premium stuff, Millstone, Starbuck’s…etc. I will have to say that Dunkin’s medium roast is the best so far! I am no coffee connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination. Like you Robb, I drink my coffee black and Dunkin’s straight has very good flavor. I don’t have a Dunkin’s where I live so kudos to you Robb for turning me on to it!

Jason VH April 8, 2009 - 1:04 pm

We’re fans of Peet’s. It is nice to know that when you see one you will get exactly what you are looking for. Starbucks and their multitude of crappy mini-stores is just diluting their brand. Last two times I went to a Starbucks in a Safeway on the west coast I had crappy coffee- the exact reason we used to look for a Starbucks is no longer valid.

Adding to the fact that I have to pay $4.00 to get WiFi access on my laptop (I get free WiFi with my AT&T iPhone) we are over it, and would rather spend the extra time seeking out a nice local coffee joint. Though in some states that has been a challenge as well.

Robb Sutton April 16, 2009 - 7:42 am

@ Jason

The $4.00 for internet really irritates me. They also closed the loophole that used to exist that would “trick” the network into thinking Safari is an iPhone.

Pam April 24, 2009 - 9:24 pm

I have always preferred DD over Starbucks (so burnt) , since I was a kid when my dad always stopped there. Kinda how I got hooked on the Iced Coffee black, mmm. Seattle’s Best is just as bad. I don’t mind Panera that much and their internet is free, so it’s great to get out of the house and work a bit there.

We get Green Mountain at work in bulk, pre-ground, but I think I had too much of that in college, it’s nothing special. There is one gas station chain that I like though, Quikchek, a North-NJ based chain. They say a pot is never out more than 20 min; I’m a fan even if they go over a few.

Alex November 24, 2009 - 10:12 am

I love good coffee, this is why i have 4 different kinds of coffee makers at home (namely automated drip, french press, chemex pot and an ibrik, and i use different ones depending on what coffee i am making, and what the occasion/goal is), a burr grinder, and why i drive 25 minutes to a local roast shop to get my fresh beans. Personally, more often then not, I don’t like the coffee i get from starbucks either, this is not to say that i agree with this article, but indeed, more often then not their coffee does taste a bit over-roasted. That said, here’s the shakedown, they are not the crappiest beans, the crappies beans are in coffees that are more commercially produced, omar, maxwell, folgers, and the like; of which absolute worst of beans goes into making instant coffee. The coffee used in those is so full of brown-bean that IMHO they have to put in additives to make the atrabilious aroma to even remotely resemble coffee. Starbucks, in all reality is not a coffee shop, most of what they make is not coffee, and please don’t confuse it with coffee, they are more of an espresso-based drinks company then a coffee house, and at that, they are generally ok-ish at being that. This is quite easy to prove, look at their menu, its filled with flavored lattes, cappuccinos and the like, those are not coffee, or coffee-based drinks, they are based around those wonderful shots of espresso.

I’ve been to a few (to say the least) starbucks, and it’s really a hit or miss with how well they make espresso as well, pretty easy way to check how much they care about making you good espresso is quite simple, get a single or a double shot (they may throw an italian name back at you, ignore it, double shot, is a frigging double shot). More often then not, they will give this to you in a small cup, and usually already covered with a lid, take the lid off and look down, if the espresso was made right, the froth (well firstly there will be espresso froth) should be a rich milk chocolate color with some shine to it, for reference, glimpse at the pics on Wiki. If the froth is light or nearly white with some streaks of dark in it, that espresso is not fresh,and has been exposed to air for far too long. If there is very little to no froth, they didn’t make it right, espresso should have nice amount of froth that should cover the entire top surface, even in those (larger then espresso) cups. (also pronounced e-spres-oh, not eks-pres-oh)

Back on coffee, but dunkin donuts is not better in any way. They are not a coffee house, they sell flavored coffee drinks, and their regular coffee, though i should say that it is a much more consistent flavor, always tastes the same, it’s a city, medium roast that had some time to caramelize and the flavor is overbearingly caramel that pretty much kills the rest of coffee, so it could be under roasted, roasted or over-roasted and unless its way over-roasted, you would not taste the difference. That’s why when i feel like caramel, i just get a regular from DD, no to light cream, no to very very light sugar.

On topic of coffee, this notion of ice coffee, ice coffee is not at all a coffee that one can enjoy. The cold in the coffee paralyzes taste buds making you really not taste much of the coffee, what you think you taste is actually a slight scent that this selcouth liquid generates…

So the moral of the story, if you really like coffee, and you want a good cup, find some local coffee shops, usually at small local coffee roasters, where they value making good fresh coffee, and they roast it on site, usually a few days before you actually end up getting the coffee (remember coffee is best around about 2-5 days after roasting, peak flavor if stored in pretty air-tight containers (not directly exposed to air), and this is whole bean, ground coffee is only good for maybe a couple of minutes before it starts loosing it’s character. Also local roasters are much more picky about their coffee, and they want to deliver good product, because they want you back as a customer. Starbucks doesn’t care, it has tons of stores and many people who think that they are the best and just don’t know any better, who will continue getting their flavored espresso drinks. DD will have their customers, but the local guys who haven’t yet been choked by the big brands, they are the guys who will give you the best coffee for your buck, because they want you as a customer. It’s when you see different regions of coffee separated for your selection, and when you can select what characteristics you are actually looking for based on those regions, whether you are looking for cocoa flavors from Ethiopia, caramely flavors from Columbia, rich winy flavors from Hawaii or dry sweet winy flavors from Yemen, the balance of good Panamanian or Jamaican or an intense floral bouquet of Kenyan that you realize that those chains are nothing like actual coffee houses at all…

And as far as starbucks hate, sure it’s easy to “hate” them, just because you think they are an evil giant, you shouldn’t hate them. At least they select their farmers, and pay them a well-above market price for their product, sure they sometimes over roast that product, and some people don’t enjoy, or don’t know how to enjoy Viennese, Italian or French roasts, that have rich smoky, lingering on the edge of burnt flavors, and if done incorrectly can taste a very burnt. But unlike DD, who will get the cheapest coffee that meets their specs, and drive the price down by getting a lot of it, they do take care about their farmers, and of anything, that is something i don’t hate starbucks for, but all that said, i would stop at a local coffee shop any time over either one of the super chains if i want a real coffee house experience…

Rick Castellini November 24, 2009 - 10:45 pm

I’m a relatively new coffee drinker at age 43 (didn’t start until I was about 37 or so). I got hooked on Americano’s from small, locally owned coffee shops. “Slum” it at Starbucks when nothing else is available…I liked Starbucks to McDonalds…consistent product at almost any store…but it IS a product. For good, fresh burgers, I don’t go to McDonalds…for good, fresh espresso, I don’t go to Starbucks.

Ed December 15, 2009 - 10:16 am

I do not like Starbucks either. I love Dunkin Donuts coffee. Wonder how they bring the unique taste in their coffee. Not all Arabica beans taste the same I guess.

Ludavico Corde February 21, 2011 - 4:40 pm

You wrote-
“As far as I can tell (as a non-coffee connoisseur but a hefty coffee consumer), they are taking very cheap beans and way over-roasting them in an attempt to get more flavor out of a bean that basically has none.

Ludavico Corde February 21, 2011 - 4:44 pm

You Wrote-
“As far as I can tell (as a non-coffee connoisseur but a hefty coffee consumer), they are taking very cheap beans and way over-roasting them in an attempt to get more flavor out of a bean that basically has none.”

On the contrary- Starbucks starts with top quality, expensive beans, and burns them into oblivion. This is coming form a coffee snob who has studied this in detail. There is no reason to do this. They kill all subtlety of flavor via this practice. As for DD coffee, that is just coffee flavored water to me. I like strong coffees and McDo, DD, etc…are weak, watery and acidic tasting. I’ll chose Starbucks over them, burnt beans and all, just because it’s still a “real cup of coffee” IMO.

JMS February 26, 2011 - 7:08 am

This is an extremely weak argument, relying on almost no logic, weak pathos, and maybe an oily smear of ethos.

Why is becoming a commercialized monster a bad thing? It helps run our economy, makes products available for many people around the country, and puts farmers to work. The coffee industry has experienced a glut in the past ten years, not because Starbucks has expanded, but so many other companies have tried to copy their model and the market is now inundated with too much cheap bean.

Look up some topics about arabica beans before you start saying something tastes ‘cheap’. Or at least define what ‘delicious’ ‘expensive’ or ‘exquisite’ tastes like in contrast. All I see here is an attack, with a meager support column for someone else’s attack. That puts you entirely on the offensive, and allows someone to pick apart your argument quickly.

I don’t know where you’re getting 1912 coffee, but Starbucks was founded in the 70’s. Their original roast is still brewed daily, and is named after the market the first store is located in.

I agree with the sentiment that Starbucks has lost touch with its roots. Unfortunately, there is no reason for me to stop going there given. Maybe you should focus on their attempts to keep unions out, more transparency in dealings with bean farmers, question their roasting practice, which calls for a longer roast that makes the bean ‘pop’ a second time while being cooked.

With so many people buying the product, you might want to consider a Rogerian argument.

One of the three founders of Starbucks was an English teacher, and whether he is proud of the company he helped start or not, he certainly wouldn’t be impressed with your argument.


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