When you think of McDonald’s, what is the first thought that comes to your mind? Oddly, it isn’t always the drive-thru windows or the crispiest French fries in town! It probably depends on the time of day it is, and if you are out the door and on your way to work, you will probably be thinking of that delicious, fresh brewed cup of coffee or latte you can grab to make your morning commute much more enjoyable.
In fact, you are not alone! Did you realize that McDonald’s sells more than 500 million cups of their fabulous McCafé coffee each and every day in the United States alone? Add to that the fact that McDonald’s is in more than 100 countries around the world, and you will understand just how popular McDonald’s coffee is. But why is that? It’s almost certainly because of the kind of coffee they use, so let’s take a look at that.
It’s All in the Beans
Any really good cup of coffee starts with the type and roast of coffee beans used for brewing that cup. If you want to know why McDonald’s coffee is as popular as it is and why it appeals to the majority of the population, start with the beans. McDonald’s coffee is brewed from 100% arabica, medium roasted, beans. McDonald’s coffee quality is as high as it is because of that one fact.
Arabica coffee is the most popular type of coffee because it is so much milder than Robusta coffee, lacking that acidic aftertaste you will find with Robusta beans. That is not to say that McDonald’s doesn’t use Robusta coffee in some of their specialty coffee drinks, so we’ll look at that in a bit as well.
What Coffee Does McDonald’s Use?
If you are wondering what coffee McDonald’s use in their brewed coffee, you could say it’s their private label. By this point in time, you’ve probably noticed McCafé coffee being sold in grocery stores and online every time you shop. However, McDonald’s doesn’t own coffee plantations so they must get their coffee somewhere. According to press releases and information on their website and floating around the web, the majority of Arabica beans they use in their private label roast are imported by Gaviña. However, they do use Green Mountain, Newman’s Own and Seattle’s Best as well in some of their blends.
Oddly, because of this, McDonald’s coffee could be counted among some of the most popular gourmet coffees as well. Gaviña is located in Vernon, California and they not only import coffee beans, but they also roast and package gourmet private label coffees like McDonald’s private label McCafé. If you are looking for coffee similar to McDonald’s, you might want to try a label like Don Francisco or La Llave brands if they can be found in your region. With that being said, it can’t be certain that either of those brands are ground with the same arabica beans McDonald’s uses in their private label, medium roast coffee.
Does McDonald’s Use Only Pre-Ground Coffee?
In order to answer this, it takes delving briefly into the history of McDonald’s. Founded by the McDonald brothers in San Bernadino, California in 1940, the company quickly grew as the ‘father of fast-food’ restaurants. It was simply the McDonald brothers’ innovative way to produce freshly cooked foods rapidly so that they could serve significantly greater amounts of customers daily.
With this in mind, let’s step back to the present day where McDonald’s serves more than 500 million cups of coffee every day. It would be an almost impossible task for their chain to serve that many cups of freshly ground coffee in their brewed coffee drinks. So, the answer to the question would be a qualified yes. McDonald’s only uses pre-ground coffee for their freshly brewed cups of coffee. Their other coffee drinks are another story altogether.
McDonald’s Specialty Coffee Drinks
Now, let’s get down to the bare basics of what those highly popular specialty coffee drinks are all about. Are they made with ground arabica coffee or are they freshly ground to order? Actually, believe it or not, McDonald’s does freshly grind coffee beans for some of their specialty drinks.
There is actually a special grinding machine by the area where their specialty drinks are blended and so the espresso that goes into lattes and mochas are freshly ground. However, there are other specialty coffee drinks such as the frappes might be a bit of a disappointment to the true coffee aficionado because they use a shot of coffee flavor instead of freshly ground or brewed coffee.
A Closer Look at McDonald’s Specialty Coffee Drinks
When you want to know more about McDonald’s coffee drinks, the main thing to understand is that there are two main categories. These are split into espresso drinks and brewed coffee beverages. Let’s start with brewed coffee. These can be served as:
- Premium Original Brewed Coffee
- Iced Coffee
- Iced Caramel Coffee
- Iced French Vanilla Coffee
As mentioned, these are made with pre-ground McCafé coffee because of the sheer volume of cups served daily.
Now then, onto the espresso drinks. Here you will note that ‘espresso’ is lacking in the list. While you can ask for a plain espresso, it’s really not on the menu; however, they will serve it upon request. The specialty espresso drinks include:
- Caramel Latte
- French Vanilla Latte
- French Vanilla Cappuccino
- Caramel Cappuccino
- Caramel Macchiato
These are the espresso drinks mentioned above that are made with freshly ground whole espresso beans. Unlike coffee that is made in a large coffee machine, each of these specialty coffees are ground, brewed, and blended to order.
Perhaps it is also important to mention that McDonald’s espresso is also an arabica bean. It’s all in the roast that makes it espresso and some of their espressos are said to be a blend of arabica and Robusta beans. In any case, the espresso drinks are brewed from freshly ground whole beans.
Bear in mind that, as mentioned above, the frappes are not made with brewed coffee but a shot of coffee flavoring. This may make McDonald’s coffee frappes a bit of a disappointment to those who can tell the difference between the real thing and flavoring.
McDonald’s and Keurig Partnership
In fact, McDonald’s coffee quality is so exceptional that they attracted the attention of world-renowned coffee machine maker, Keurig. Located in Burlington, Massachusetts, Keurig is best known for its coffee makers using the single K-cup system. Working in partnership with Keurig, you can now find K-pods for single cup brew systems in an assortment of McCafé K-cup pods.
For regular, unflavored coffee K-cup pods, you can find McCafé Breakfast Blend, Columbian Roast, French Roast and of course, the original Premium (medium) Roast. From time to time, you will find a selection of other roasts as well.
With the popularity of McDonald’s espresso drinks, Keurig has partnered with the fast-food chain to offer a variety of their most popular specialty espresso coffee flavors. While the true coffee afficionado will settle for nothing less than freshly brewed espresso, even they will partake of McCafé espresso pods when on the run.
Some of the most popular K-cup specialty espresso pods come in Pumpkin Spice, Chocolate Mocha and Cinnamon Mocha. However, some consumers have said that they are more likely to find Pumpkin Spice K-cup pods in the fall and through the holidays when this is the traditional flavor of the season.
Where to Buy McDonald’s Coffee
Most large grocery stores and supermarkets stock Premium McCafé on their shelves but finding the K-cup pods may be a bit more difficult in your local stores. While Keurig brand K-cup pods are quite popular, there is only so much room on store shelves to carry such a wide variety of coffee roasts and flavors.
You may have the best luck finding McCafé roasts or specialty coffee K-cup pods online at some of the large eCommerce marketplaces such as Amazon. Here again, not all products are sold by Amazon but may be simply listed by merchants with an Amazon storefront. Some of the products on Amazon are shipped by Amazon and others come directly from the merchant. If you are looking for the Amazon Prime free shipping feature, this is an important detail to look for. Sometimes shipping can be greater than the price of the product!
All in all, McDonald’s doesn’t serve the best coffee on the market today, but for a reasonably priced product that offers a smooth, less-acidic cup of coffee, you can’t beat McCafé. Whether you need that morning jolt on your commute to work or would like a nice latte after that Big Mac at dinner, you won’t be disappointed in the quality of McDonald’s coffee. This in itself is a surprising thing to be said about a fast-food chain but it’s one of the things that have made the Golden Arches as popular and busy as it is.