What Kind of Coffee Beans Does Starbucks Use?

It is a crime what they do to coffee beans when they brew coffee commercially for chain stores like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. Have you ever wondered what kind of coffee beans does Starbucks use for my coffee? You may think by charging up to $5 a cup of coffee they’re using the highest quality beans. Well, you’ll be surprised when you read this article.

Different Types of Coffee Beans

There are four main types of coffee beans that are commercialized. These are what we normally drink daily. Most of these beans come from the same place along the equator. This is called the Coffee Belt and it is a hot climate with varying rain and altitude. We will be talking about the two most widely used types of coffee beans.

Arabica Beans

Arabica beans are the main variety of coffee beans that are consumed by the world. They are considered a “high quality” bean. This is something to keep in mind when we do some research about Starbucks coffee. Overall, these beans are higher in acidity.

This acidity is desirable because it gives the coffee complexity and can even give fruity notes to the coffee. The flavor of this coffee is dependent on where the coffee is grown.

A bowl of arabica coffee beans with a label saying "arabica"

Robusta Beans

This is the second most popular bean. This is critical to know when comparing Starbucks drinks to other brews. The Robusta bean contains twice as much caffeine as Arabica beans. These beans thrive in low and high altitude. The beans are grown in Africa and Indonesia and are much easier to grow than Arabica beans. As a result, they are considered a lower quality bean and is priced accordingly.

Robusta Beans tend to be more bitter and less flavorful than other beans. Because of this, Robusta Beans are good for espresso because of their deep and dark flavor. This is the type of bean you want to drink with milk and sugar, and not black.

A bowl of robusta coffee beans with a label saying "robusta"

Commercialized Coffee

When coffee is commercialized, uniqueness and variance in taste are no longer desired. As a result, bitter coffee is the predominant flavor in most coffee shops around the world. Dark roast coffee is the most common style of coffee in the United States. Whenever you ask for a coffee without specifying any different roast the coffee is usually a medium and darker coffee.

One misconception we have about coffee is that the more bitter the coffee is the more caffeine there is. This is not the case. A good light roasted coffee may have just as much or more as a dark roasted coffee. The bitter flavor is what comes out when beans get burned. For example, you do not find five-hour energy bitter at all despite the caffeine within.

Burned Beans at Starbucks?

As we stated before the two most popular types of coffee beans are arabica and robusta. Arabica is the “gourmet” bean and Robusta is the lower quality, bitter bean. So what happens when we have commercialized coffee with burned robusta bean? We get Starbucks. This is the combination of coffee beans that creates Starbucks Coffee. The fact that Starbucks coffee always tastes the same proves this. The coffee is burned and bitter.

A batch of extremely dark roasted coffee like what coffee they used in Starbucks coffee.

You may be thinking, but isn’t Starbucks a gourmet coffee shop? You would think they would use high-quality Arabica beans when selling coffee at $5 a cup. However, there has been a Consumer Report study done showing how a 12 ounce coffee at Starbucks had twice the caffeine content of an equal size cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. The only way this is possible would be to use Robusta Beans!

Unfortunately, because of the lack of knowledge of the public and the amount of money Starbucks pours into marketing they have become the largest coffee chain in the world.

Consumer Reports magazine said that in a test conducted at two locations of each emporium, its tasters found McDonald’s coffee to be “decent and moderately strong” with “no flaws.” On the other hand, the Starbucks brew “was strong, but burnt and bitter enough to make your eyes water instead of open.” The March, 2007 issue of the magazine, advises, “Try McDonald’s, which was cheapest and best.”  Several other more recent blind taste tests have consistently rated Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s as the best tasting and Starbucks as the worst tasting coffee sampled.

Consumer Reports Magazine

Starbucks is Ruining Coffee

It doesn’t end there. Many coffee roasters have tried to “imitate” Starbucks coffee creating the same dark, nasty, and burned brew.

  • In a light roast, the coffee is fruity and acidic. This is because the coffee bean takes on some of the flavors from the coffee cherry fruit
  • In a medium roast, the coffee tastes balances and semi-sweet. This is because the glucose has been heated up and activated, but hasn’t been burned.
  • In a dark roast, the only flavor remaining in the coffee is bitterness. Once the coffee has been roasted too long the flavors get burned away.
A brew with some foam on that with a frowny face

Only in a lightly roasted coffee can you taste the flavor and the quality of the bean. We are accustomed to terrible coffee. High-quality beans are grown under good shade and at high altitudes. This gives the mean much more flavor and complexity.

Low-quality beans are turned into dark roasted coffee. They are usually mass-produced in farms. The goals of these farms are quick turnover and high volume. As a result, the beans they produce don’t have the time to absorb the nutrients from the soil or fruit that give the bean any complexity or flavor. What’s left is a bland and usually sour bean. However, this difference in taste is negated when the beans are roasted longer. For example, burned food always tastes like burned food. If you burn some veggies it would taste the same as a burned steak.

Going Forward

We are not Starbucks haters. We actually drink Starbucks coffee just as regularly as you. While we don’t love their coffee, we understand the needs of a large corporation that is trying to create a uniform product. This is the challenge of being a global corporation that needs a supply chain to supply thousands of stores.

Starbucks is a great employer and encourages sustainable practices for the employees and the environment. Starbucks offers some light roast coffee, but it is currently subpar to many other coffee roasters that we have tried. Next time your traveling around the coffee belt try a light roast coffee to have your mind blown.

If you would like a lightly roasted coffee recommendation to try to expand your coffee palette we would pick the light roast at Real Good Coffee Co.

A new bag of 100% Arabica whole bean lightly roasted coffee by real good coffee co.

This is a great coffee to start tasting the notes in lightly roasted coffee. It is a breakfast blend so it is not harsh at all. When tasting this coffee you should taste the smooth flavor with some brisk citrus and aromatic notes of milk chocolate.


Why do you have to go to Starbucks to pay for a subpar cup of coffee? You can roast your coffee beans at home to get better coffee with a more flavorful taste.

If you don’t want to roast and brew your own coffee there is always K-Cups. Believe it or not, there are flavorful K-Cups that may be as good or better than Starbucks Coffee!

This is the list of our 30 favorite K-Cup flavors that we have at our office.


4 thoughts on “What Kind of Coffee Beans Does Starbucks Use?”

  1. K cups stale (their tech makes them transparent to o2) nespresso less the tech than the reality is that NOBODY throws out roasted coffee for any reason, it’s like tossing money. A company like ‘bucks and most every other chain buy, cup and roast a blend to offer to you the customer the most generic product that sells well. Is it the best, far from it because only you can define for you what the best is FOR YOU. The coffee you get for the most part is just a assumption by them on what will sell well to the most people, and because you have never had great coffee, you think “oh good”. Ask a gourmand from France what they think of Kraft American cheese, what you get is a fair analog to coffee world. You just don’t know, not even black and white but a world of gray.

  2. Starbucks states on their Espresso bag that they are 100% Arabica beans. I would think they would have been sued for false advertising by now if they weren’t using Arabica.

  3. Don’t be foled by vacuum-packed bags of coffee beans. They’ve been sitting for months or years &6 are not properly defined as “fresh.” That bag of whole beans at Safeway or Walmart was roasted long before (the minute you roast cofee beans, they begin goig stale) then the roaster packed them into giant sacks which other brands purchase to put into their smaller bags (or for bulk); I’ve evewr found hard data on how long this might take; then that other manuifacturer puts them into smaller (300g, 10oz) bags & they sit in the warehouse until ordered by the store brands’ own waerhouses, who put it on their warehgouse shelves until the stores request them. That’s a long time just sitting, g oing stale before you grind those already-stale beans into a cup or pot of “fresh-ground” coffee.

    I miss a hguy used to be here — he flew to S.America weekly, & kept the unroasted beans vacuum packed until each morning, he’d rtoadt jusdt enough for the day. That was quality fres coffee! Find one of those type of guys &8 you’ll love your coffee.

    My wife loves McDonalds; I don’t like how badly they don’t take care of their machinery(cleaning cycles are sporadic & incomplete); my favorite is Blenz, when they have some actual Robusta on tap. (I’ll go 75% Robusta with 25% Arabica in a pinch)

    Blenz has better/fresher coffee & better prices for identical products as Staryucks. When Staryucks charged $24.99 for 30 minutes of WIFI internet, Blenz was open 24/7 with free WIFI.

    Your location may vary for available brands.

    I also like 7-11 coffee & A&W’s. &, of coursem being Canadioan, I got to have my Timmy’s (Tim Horton’s, our national brand sorta like USA’s Dunkin Donuts)

    • they do not go stale after roasting. it can take anywhere from 3-7 days before the beans de-gas and the flavor compounds develop.


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