Is All Coffee the Same? Here's What's Really in Fast Food Coffee


If you're an average, coffee-addicted American, you've got plenty of options when it comes to where you get your morning cup of joe: you can brew it at home, shell out the big bucks at a fancy coffee shop or grab a relatively cheaper cup at a chain. But is all coffee really created equal? And what's actually in the coffee you get at the drive-thru?

Well, according to the fast food places themselves, the only thing in their coffee is ... coffee. McDonald's lists the ingredients in their McCafé coffee as "premium roast coffee." Dunkin' Donuts lists the ingredient in their regular hot coffee is "brewed 100% Arabica coffee" and the only ingredients in a cup of Starbucks' dark roast is "brewed coffee." 

So if you're getting a plain old regular coffee, and adding a splash of milk or whatever you normally add, there's probably no big difference between what you drink at home and at the local café or at the mall food court.

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It's in the specialty drinks and sweet flavors that things get kind of hairy. Starbucks' dark roast has 0 grams of sugar, but their Iced Caramel Macchiato has a long list of ingredients you probably don't use at home, like distilled monoglycerides and corn syrup, and boasts 31 grams of sugar. A Caramel Frappuccino has an even longer list of ingredients and contains 64 grams of sugar, the equivalent of dropping about 16 sugar cubes (assuming each cube weighs 4 grams) in your morning coffee. 

At Dunkin' Donuts, the ingredients in a Dunkaccino include silicon dioxide, coconut oil and corn syrup solids, and a small cup contains 25 grams of sugar.

The lesson seems to be that regular coffee is regular coffee, no matter where you go. But when it comes to syrups, sweets and flavors, be prepared for some tongue-twisting ingredients.