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The Best Fast-Food Coffee You Can Order

When you need a caffeine fix on the go, the drive-thru is quick and convenient. But we had to know, who serves the best fast-food coffee?

Fast-food CoffeeERIC KLEINBERG AND KRISTINA VÄNNI FOR TASTE OF HOME

The Quest for the Best Fast Food Coffee

A hot cup of coffee puts some pep in your step. On busy mornings, nothing beats the convenience of grabbing a quick cup of joe from the drive-thru at a fast-food joint. However, the quality of your morning brew can vary greatly depending on which fast-food chain you choose.

I went through every drive-thru near my home to find the best fast-food coffee. I got an early start and went to 10 different places:

  • Burger King
  • Chick-fil-A
  • Culver’s
  • Dunkin’
  • Einstein Bros. Bagels
  • McDonald’s
  • Panera
  • Starbucks
  • Taco Bell
  • Wendy’s

Read on to see how each fast-food coffee ranked!

taco bell coffeeERIC KLEINBERG AND KRISTINA VÄNNI FOR TASTE OF HOME

10. Taco Bell

Most people might not even know that Taco Bell serves coffee. Of all the coffees tested, I found this to be the most mild light brew. If you order a spicy Taco Bell breakfast option then pairing it with this lighter coffee flavor might be right up your alley. Personally, I prefer something with a little more oomph in the morning.

Bottom line: This option is for those who like a light and mild coffee experience, especially if they’re pairing it with a spicy breakfast. 

mcdonalds coffeeERIC KLEINBERG AND KRISTINA VÄNNI FOR TASTE OF HOME

9. McDonald’s

McDonald’s is one of the most popular options in the country for a cup of coffee. However, I felt the flavor was light and watered down as well as tasting quite acidic. There are two pros here: McDonald’s is convenient and the price is budget-friendly at $1.20 for a small coffee.

Bottom line: If you need a convenient caffeine fix, there will always be a McDonald’s nearby. But if you ‘re looking for a lower acid and stronger brew, this might not suit your palate.

Learn how to order the McBassett (aka iced coffee with ice cream).

burger king coffeeERIC KLEINBERG AND KRISTINA VÄNNI FOR TASTE OF HOME

8. Burger King

Strangely enough, the Burger King coffee tasted quite similar to what McDonald’s was serving. Still quite light but with a hint of sweet caramel. While convenient, there wasn’t anything extraordinary about this cup of coffee that made me want to swing by again the next morning.

Bottom line: I prefer Burger King for lunch instead of breakfast.

wendy's coffeeERIC KLEINBERG AND KRISTINA VÄNNI FOR TASTE OF HOME

7. Wendy’s

It’s interesting: I found the Wendy’s cup of coffee to again taste quite similar to the McDonald’s and Burger King options. I started to wonder if all three restaurants use the same coffee supplier! Again, I liked the convenience and availability. However, the flavor wasn’t as bold as I’d like, but someone who prefers a milder coffee might enjoy this option.

Bottom line: I’m all about the Frosty, but the coffee at Wendy’s isn’t my top choice.

Panera CoffeeERIC KLEINBERG AND KRISTINA VÄNNI FOR TASTE OF HOME

6. Panera

Panera coffee offered a stronger brew than other fast-food chains. If you choose to dine inside instead of running through the drive-thru, there are also free refills from the self-serve coffee pots. The chain has recently focused on its breakfast strategy, and you can tell there’s more care given to the Panera coffee than other quick-service restaurants.

Bottom line: If you’re looking to linger inside the restaurant rather that hit the drive-thru, Panera is a solid choice.

Einstein CoffeeERIC KLEINBERG AND KRISTINA VÄNNI FOR TASTE OF HOME

5. Einstein Bros. Bagels

While most associate Einstein Bros. with bagels, the chain also serves up a solid cup of coffee. Every sip was well-rounded and full of complex flavors. There was a bit of acidity upfront, but it was not overwhelming. While other coffee options felt less dynamic, this cup kept me coming back for more.

Bottom line: Grab a bagel and a coffee! It’s worth it.

Starbucks CoffeeERIC KLEINBERG AND KRISTINA VÄNNI FOR TASTE OF HOME

4. Starbucks

Starbucks is the most popular coffee in the United States, with countless devotees who wouldn’t dream of buying anything else. They do brew a solid cup of coffee, but it does come with that signature Starbucks burnt taste that people either love or hate. This recognizable flavor is the result of Starbucks roasting beans at a higher temperature than most roasters. This allows them to produce large quantities of beans in a short period of time.

Bottom line: While I enjoy Starbucks now and then, I’m not a die-hard fan. It’s a safe option, though, since you know you’ll get a solid cup of coffee every time.

They make a killer breakfast, too. See how they ranked in our best fast-food breakfast sandwich taste test.

Chick Fil A coffeeERIC KLEINBERG AND KRISTINA VÄNNI FOR TASTE OF HOME

3. Chick-fil-A

Here was a fast-food cup of coffee that tasted like real coffee! Not mass-produced or an afterthought for a place best known for chicken sandwiches. Apparently Chick-fil-A switched its coffee provider in 2014, and the new brew was developed to pair with the restaurant’s breakfast menu. Lo and behold, a year later, coffee sales had doubled. I guess others agree, Chick-fil-A brews a quality cup of coffee.

Bottom line: I will definitely remember Chick-fil-A when I’m on the lookout for drive-thru coffee. It was one of the most enjoyable cups in the taste test.

Culver's CoffeeERIC KLEINBERG AND KRISTINA VÄNNI FOR TASTE OF HOME

2. Culver’s

This Wisconsin-based chain has one of the best cups of coffee money can buy when it comes to fast-food options. The signature Blue Spoon Blend is roasted in smaller batches than any other fast-food coffee. The flavor is smooth, satisfying and full-bodied. Plus, the employees welcome you with a friendly Midwestern smile. What more could you ask for early in the day?

Bottom line: If you’re lucky enough to live near a Culver’s, definitely stop by in the morning for coffee. (And later in the day for a Butterburger, frozen custard and cheese curds!)

Dunkin CoffeeERIC KLEINBERG AND KRISTINA VÄNNI FOR TASTE OF HOME

1. Dunkin’

While I love a good glazed doughnut, the coffee is the real standout at this iconic East Coast chain. The Dunkin’ coffee menu is vast, and includes a secret menu, but for this taste test I ordered a cup of the original black coffee. This medium roast coffee is smooth and unpretentious, without any hint of bitter taste.

Bottom line: After sampling 10 different fast-food coffee options, Dunkin’ was the winner. Locations are easy to come by, and the coffee is outstanding. What more could you ask for on an early weekday morning?

Kristina Vänni
Internationally recognized culinary authority Kristina Vänni is a well-known food writer, engaging TV host, award-winning recipe developer, and food stylist. In addition to writing for industry-leading food publications, she is a frequent featured expert on national media outlets and has served as a spokesperson and recipe developer for numerous national brands. Kristina is currently writing her first cookbook, an exploration of the traditional and seasonal cuisine from her family's dairy farm in Finland.