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Americans' Top Five Fast-Food Coffee Favorites




Posted on October 15th, 2019

America’s top five coffee choices will come as absolutely no surprise to the nation’s exceptionally loyal, maybe mildly addicted caffeinistos, who drink almost as much of their beloved brew as they consume gasoline in their cars—literally billions of gallons every year. The cola wars are part of marketplace history and legend, but the twenty-first century coffee wars may make the epic battles between Coke and Pepsi seem like little more than playground squabbles. Because coffee drinkers quickly become fiercely brand-loyal, the top five coffee brands are locked in cut-throat competition for daily drinkers’ devotion.

Bold blends and fine brews earn big bucks.

•  America runs on Dunkin’.  The folks at Dunkin’ proudly proclaim they are the nation’s “largest retailer of coffee-by-the-cup,” day-by-day serving 30 cups per second for a total of 1.5 billion cups per year. Dunkin’ Donuts coffee has become such a big deal that the company has registered, trademarked, copyrighted or somehow rendered proprietary every step of the process from bud to brewing. Dunkin’ uses 100 percent Arabica beans grown and processed to the company’s exacting standards, and the website highlights the fact, “The company proactively establishes and monitors stringent specifications for quality starting at the coffee farms and throughout the entire coffee production process.” Lifetime Dunkin’ loyalist Sean McCreary says, “That’s all fine with me, but all I really care about is the coffee that tastes great at a great price.” Like many regulars at his local Dunkin’ franchise, McCreary tosses back at least five extra-large cups of Dunkin’ Donuts Quality blend every day.

•  I’m lovin’ it…iced.  Before Stella Liebeck burned her nether regions and took McDonald’s coffee into the record books as the mother of all product liabilities, the folks under the golden arches had quietly but steadily been building a reputation for genuinely good coffee. Working with Cuban expatriate Don Francisco Gavina, McDonalds formulated its own Premium Roast Blend and perfected a brewing system that made good java at the speed of Big Macs. In the twenty years since Liebeck settled her case, the brand has rebounded as brewers and marketers have collaborated to make McCafe a major hit. In fact, the burger behemoth’s coffee has proven its miraculous resilience by garnering Consumer Reports’ recognition as the nation’s best. The prestigious publication lavished especially high praise on Mickey-D's iced coffee, which several network reporters subsequently characterized as "crack in a cup."

•  Of course, Starbuck’s makes the list. Like Apple Computers, Starbucks made American corporate history in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the idea of a store that sold nothing but extravagant coffee concoctions and confections seemed too exotic for the folks in the heartland. For more than a decade, folks in the heartland proved the pundits’ error, guzzling Seattle brews by the gallons. “Damn the expense. I must have my latte,” they proclaimed. Unlike Apple Computer which has continued growing through the Great recession, Starbucks upscaled itself into the corporate dunk-tank. Starbuck’s brand has become synonymous with profligacy. Folks in the heartland still love Starbuck’s flavors, and they admire the company’s dedication to sustainable agriculture, but Starbuck’s brews have become the exclusive province of preppies, ivy leaguers, and one-percenters who still can afford paying five bucks for a cup o’ joe.

•  Go the “extra mile” for Green Mountain.  America’s finer truck stops and roadside attractions, including Extra Mile franchises, brew Green Mountain blends. Green Mountain coffee leads the league in sustainable organic farming practices and corporate responsibility, showing that earth-friendliness can be both flavorful and profitable. The company’s basic blend combines the beans they use in their espresso roast with Mexican beans that add a faint flavor of chocolate and Indonesian beans that give body to Green Mountain brews. They still are the precocious upstart in the great race among grinders, but the Green Mountain brand is coming-on strong as their morning blends.

•  It probably is Seattle’s Best.  Seattle’s Best claims its title on the strength of robust coffee flavor without bitterness. Growing, roasting and blending practices at Seattle’s Best closely resemble their rivals’, and the company’s beverage recipes closely resemble Starbuck’s greatest hits. Americans have no aversion to the knock-off if it works well and costs considerably less than the designer brand, and Seattle’s Best financiers wisely chose not to open their own free-standing stores. Their gamble on Borders Books installations failed with the book stores, but quality coffee at sensible prices has kept the company alive and brewing.

With all the discussion of billion-gallon brews and billion-cup sales, coffee war spectators may be surprised to learn that 88 percent of all regular coffee consumers still drink all of their favorite bean-based beverages at home. Surely, super-market aisles will become the next front in America's hyper-caffeinated competition for coffee-consumers' cash.

Sabrina is the main editor at WhyNotCoffee.com, just another caffeinated blog providing useful tips and insights in brewing every-day-coffee.


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