Which fast food chain serves up the best coffee? (2019 edition)

Photo: (From top left clockwise) Justin Sullivan, Alex Wong, Tim Boyle (Getty Images)

What are the wars left to be fought on the fast food front? First came the battle for French fry supremacy, then the fight to give extra-value meals extra value, and the control for late-night turf. The latest salvo is a subset of the breakfast skirmish—namely, fast food restaurants hoping to win hearts and mind via their morning cup of coffee.

In March, Burger King announced that they were launching a coffee subscription service. For $5 a month, subscribers are entitled to a daily small cup of coffee (and ideally, you’d pick up a BK breakfast sandwich while you’re there). This has us wondering: How do the fast food chains’ coffee hold up against each other? Last year we looked at the coffee chain specialist: Starbucks, Dunkin’, McDonald’s, and 7-Eleven. For this taste test, we’re focusing on restaurants normally associated with fast food—pitting the coffee offerings at Burger King, Taco Bell, Chick-fil-A, and returning contestant McDonald’s to the test.

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Burger King

Photo: Kevin Pang

Beans: Arabica

Tasting notes: Of the four coffees tasted, this one features the thinnest aroma, one of watery chocolate. A sip of the coffee (with no cream or sugar) confirmed my suspicion—there’s not much depth, save a back-of-the-tongue sharpness that lingers. I’m sensing a faint burnt toast taste. The taste rounds out slightly once cream and sugar are added, but its sharpness still pokes through.

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Grade: C-


McDonald’s

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Beans: Arabica

Tasting notes: If the other coffees sampled here had strengths and weaknesses, McDonald’s resided in that middling-to-fine range in every category. A deep and smoky aroma with a rounded body, and like previous taste-testers, I detected notes of caramel and fruit. But I also agree that there were stronger contenders—both in flavor and performance—out there.

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Grade: B


Chick-fil-A

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Beans: Colombian (likely Arabica)

Tasting notes: The first thing I detect is a deep roastiness hitting the back of your nose. But this medium-roast coffee has a surprising lightness and good balance to its taste, with hints of chocolate and cherry. It certainly smells the most attractive.

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Grade: A-


Taco Bell

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Beans: Provenance unknown, although it claims to be Rainforest Alliance Certified (whatever this means)

Tasting notes: This is like the Chick-fil-A coffee but to the extreme. It’s got the fullest sinuses-permeating aromas, but that belies the thinness on the palate. The addition of cream and sugar smooths this coffee out somewhat, but mostly I’m picking up a roasted taste and light tang on the tip of my tongue.

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Grade: B-

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About the author

Kevin Pang

Kevin Pang was the founder and editor-in-chief of The Takeout, and director of the documentary For Grace on Netflix.