Between McDonalds and Starbucks Coffee

Just in case you don’t already know, the coffee war down south had just spilled over the border to Canada.


A few months ago, McDonalds setting its sights on Starbucks fired the opening salvo by putting up billboards that proclaimed “four bucks is dumb”. Dozens of these billboards were erected in the Washington state and from what I read, there is even one erected right in front of the Starbucks HQ in Seattle. It was direct confrontation of the specialty coffee market in the US.

Last week, the coffee war came to Canada when McDonalds announced that you could get a free coffee during breakfast time in all outlets for a duration of two weeks. Starbucks reacted with a feeble attempt by giving free coffee for just a few hours.


Suanne and I do not normally buy coffee. We make coffee at home and there is also a Starbucks coffee dispenser at work. Two cups in the morning is just about the max we consume everyday.

Last Sunday, we decided to go check out what the fuss was. We woke up early, very early and drove to the Starbucks at Ironwood and bought a cup of Starbucks regular coffee.


We then brought it across the parking lot to the McDonalds outlets to get the free coffee. OK, Suanne was afraid of being caught taking a Starbucks coffee into McDonalds, getting a free cuppa and then take pictures. It was quite obvious what we were doing to the people around us. LOL!

Bear with me OK? I am no coffee expert but this is just my way of comparing McDonalds coffee with Starbucks. First off, we are comparing apple-to-apple. Both cups are small coffee (McDonalds Canada does not have espresso yet, I think).

Size wise, Starbucks wins with its taller cup, slightly wider cup.

The Starbucks cup costs $1.65 while McDonalds is 22% cheaper at $1.29. McDonalds wins.

The cup in McDonalds I heard was a new design which does not require a sleeve … Starbucks does. While the sleeve was made of recycled materials, still it is another piece of garbage that needed to be handled by the system. McDonalds wins here.


Starbucks lid is of simpler design. I like the McDonalds one which has a pullback tab which helps keep the coffee hot a tad longer. McDonalds wins.

You probably read about how big a problem these coffee cups are to the environment. They had largely managed to figure out making the cups environment friendly but the biggest problem is with the plastic lids. They still have no solution to making a viable cheap alternative to the plastic lids.

Oh, there are now proposals to start taxing plastic bottle (I know I am digressing here) in Vancouver. I think it’s a great idea but I know the Vancouver City Hall is up against powerful industry lobby groups.


And now to the coffee. Starbucks serve the coffee with just the right temperature. I can just drink it the moment I get it. For McDonalds’, it was scalding hot when we got it that we had to carefully sip it in the beginning. Starbucks wins.

Starbucks will hand you a cup and lets you add in your own sugar and cream — and you get to chose what creamer you want. In McDonalds, they ask you if you want sugar and cream and adds it for you. You, of course , could add in more if you want but what if you wanted less. OK, Starbucks wins.

Taste wise … heck, I don’t know! Suanne says they taste the same … no difference. I felt Starbucks tastes like 2.4% better because I tasted a hint of bitterness in McDonalds’s cup. Starbucks wins.

Smell wise Starbucks has a stronger coffee smell and so I gotta give it to Starbucks. Starbucks wins.

Give me a sec while I tally up the score …

OK, ladies and gentlemen … according to the Chowtimes-Coffee-O-Meter, the winner is Starbucks.

Starbucks wins 5-3.

There! LOL!

Seriously, you should go grab your free coffee from McDonalds while it last (until May 2nd, I think). You don’t have to buy anything … just go up to the counter or drive-in and ask for one.

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  1. RobynT

    I think I prefer Starbucks because they have soy milk available also. Although, I would prefer Peet’s, Seattle’s Best, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Espresso Royalle (midwest chain), and Biggby’s (midwest chain) to Starbucks.

    I’m curious how the espresso drinks compare. People say that Starbucks focuses the most on their lattes because that is what most people order there. That is, Starbucks does not put much effort into their brewed coffee.

  2. Phil

    I’m with Robyn on this one, I love my Starbucks with soy milk as well and because I use a registered Starbucks card, all my soy, vanilla or pump of any kind is free. I’ve had McDonald’s coffee before and from memory, it had a burnt taste no?

  3. cissy

    Hi Ben & Suanne,

    Got my free Starbuck on Earth Day last week(4/22) and free coffee at McDonalds runs till May/3(5:30am to 10:30am).

  4. Jessica

    I have to go with Starbucks. Nothing like a coffee with a shot of vanilla. Plus, I like their lid! It reminds me of a little kid sippy cup which, for me (not a morning person), is kind of comforting in the morning. Yes, I know I’m weird!

  5. GourmetBride

    Hmm, I prefer McD’s over Starbucks. I don’t like the “burnt” taste from SB.

  6. Jonnek

    Nothing beats McDonald’s muffin and coffee for $1.39.

  7. Chris

    I find SB way too strong…if I have to go there, I ask for a mild roast or just add 1/4 hot water to the cup. McD coffee has improved much in the past year. While they are offering free coffee in the morning, bring your own travel mug and they fill it up regardless the size altho it’s supposed to be “small”. At any rate, Timmy’s is still the best!!

  8. Polly

    Hi Suanne/Ben

    Talking about coffee war between McD & Startbucks, both are from USA, not Canada. Want to try out my “Latte Lounge” Coffee machine from Vanhoutee coffee? It’s free if you blog for me, hehhehhe.Let me know if you’re interest to try on early morning during weekend (I know your family are all early bird, unlike me). I will inform my staff to give you a free fill on all type of coffee (if I’m not wrong, there are about 60 types).

    Only 2-3 “Latte Lounge” in Richmond. BTW, this machine is made in Quebec, Canada


  9. Kevin

    I really like the new McD lids.

  10. Amy

    I agree with Gourmet Bride, SB tastes burnt. And they have no idea how to make a good cup of hot chocolate. Our mgmt will bring big containers of SB to the office every once in a while. If I really need the caffiene boost, I will have a cup of starbucks. But I hold my nose so I dont have to taste it as much. Terrible stuff.

  11. Boo Long

    You are all contributing to the end of civilisation by drinking from either of these shareholder-owned spawns of Mammon.
    Get your coffee at a small independent place that has real cups which can be washed and reused, and real conversation that hasn’t come from a training video.

  12. Jimmy L


    We all know Starbucks Coffee, they don’t need any introduction and we all know they serve coffee and other high end type of drinks. We all automatically walk in and waiting for their turn for a cup of coffee without any question, that’s why you don’t see write up about Starbucks which we all assume they have good coffee, good service and good place to spend your coffee money. If anybody write up anything about them, he must be nuts. Anyway normally I don’t say anything about going to a coffee shop for a cup of coffee, it’s not much and if you say anything, they all say you are too picky. But price of coffee and other type of drinks are come up a lot, and its quite expenses, in some case, its cost you just as much as going to have lunch at some fast food outlets or any outlets in the food court.
    I have few bad experience with them in various locations in past years, I didn’t pay too much attention to it, I have written to their HO in Vancouver and Seattle about the instances, they always reply me politely how sorry they are and will inform the matter to their locate office or store but so far nothing seems to be done. Recently I have confronted some more serious experiences. Cashier don’t know how to register your order and charges the wrong price (usually more not less) and wrong drink come out after a long wait. In one instance, I upload $ my account but the amount was never credited to my card, when I use my card for next purchase, they say I have no money in my card. I told them the card was just loaded $20.yesterday, when I show them my receipt for $20. (Always keep your receipt when deal with Starbucks) the cashier told me I have to refer the matter to their head office in the internet for refund the $20. Who wants to go through so many problems for just cup of coffee?
    In view of all these problems that may be only happen to me. I try to find out how they train their staff. A business of that magnitude, they must have a training center before they send them to the store, but I was told they don’t have a centre training facility, all training is up to the store. That tells the story, for instance I walk in to one store near Nelson at Kingsway, the cashier don’t know what’s going on and nobody seems to try to help her, she doesn’t know what’s my order and wrong price was charged..

  13. s.a. rebeck

    price for excellent cup costa rica 25 cents!!!

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