An ex-Starbucks barista discovers which fast food chains have good coffee

  • As a former Starbucks barista, I tried black coffee from four fast food chains to find the best one.
  • McDonald’s and Wendy’s were well worth returning – I enjoyed the flavors of both.
  • Burger King was unassuming but drinkable, and Sonic ended up being the only one who failed.

Despite being a former Starbucks barista and coffee connoisseur, I have a nice place for bad joe cups.

I’m talking about the coffee you get from gas stations on a road trip, funeral homes with questionable “creamy” powder, and dinner counters with greasy spoons on Sunday mornings.

Places like this, fast food chains aren’t necessarily known for their blends, so I ordered a little black coffee from McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, and Sonic to see which had the best.

It then ranked each coffee based on five categories: sweetness/bitterness, body, acidity, flavors, and finish.

Sonic was the only series I’d ever order again

A cup of sonic coffee sitting on the windowsill

I was not a fan of Sonic coffee.

Dylan Claire


Sonic’s breakfast menu has plenty of hits, but coffee isn’t one of them – unless you’re a die-hard Keurig fan who loves to familiarize yourself with Green Mountain coffee.

I ordered this later in the day, which worked in my favor because the employee had to bring in a new pot. But the little hope I had faded after a few sips.

Maybe I just got a bad batch, but I thought the Sonic coffee was poorly extracted (the process of soaking ground in water), a little bitter, and generally disappointing.

If Sonic is your only coffee choice, I’d suggest no coffee.

Burger King’s coffee was pretty mediocre

A cup of burger king coffee sitting on the windowsill

There is nothing wrong with Burger King coffee.

Dylan Claire


The temperature of the Burger King coffee was closer to warm than when I got it, but it was well extracted.

With chocolate on the nose and notes of molasses, it was more sweet than bitter. Although the overall flavor was pleasant, it was a bit more acidic than the other flavors, which made it difficult to drink too much of it.

I would probably have enjoyed it more if it had been fresher and hotter.

If that was the only option, I would order it again. But I will not look for it.

I was nervous to try Wendy’s, but it was the group’s biggest surprise

Wendy's cup of coffee sitting on the windowsill

I will gladly order a coffee from Wendy’s again.

Dylan Claire


Wendy’s describes their coffee as medium roast, but it tastes more like a light roast to me.

It’s very bitter, which I didn’t think was a bad thing – it worked with the overall flavour.

In terms of temperature, it was hot. I finished running an errand before it was cool enough to drink, but once I did, it was fun.

It had a little acidity, which made it easy to drink. Although the flavor profile was more bitter than sweet, it had soft botanical and herbal notes on the nose and tongue.

I ended up trying the same order at three different Wendy’s restaurants. In one location, the level of extraction was poor, in another, it was well drenched and tasty.

Even with this slight sign against it, I’d order it again – and not just if it was the only option.

In general, McDonald’s had a favorite Venge

Dylan holds a cup of coffee from McDonald's

The flavor of McDonald’s coffee was great.

Dylan Claire


The best part of this whole experience was being able to recreate one of my favorite John Mulaney cuts by going to McDonald’s by ordering a ‘one-black coffee’.

But the coffee wasn’t bad either. McDonald’s, and its McAfee line, is perhaps the fast food chain with the most coffee credits.

Her coffee had a deep chocolate nose and was on the sweet end of the sweet/bitter spectrum. The mixture had very low acidity and was well extracted.

Of the four coffees I’ve tried, this one tasted the best.

McDonald’s coffee is notoriously hot – there was even a lawsuit in the 1990s over its temperature safety. But that worked fine for me since it was about 20┬░F outside when I asked for it. By the time I got home, it was perfect.

I am happy to order this again.

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