Confessions Of A Starbucks Barista

Jesse, who has worked at Starbucks for almost a year, has written a mythbusting “Buyer’s Guide” that will help you in your quest to save money when ordering your favorite Starbucks beverage. Our favorite tips? Frappucinos are a rip off, there’s no free ride at the drive-thru, and ordering a latte with chai syrup is cheaper than a chai with espresso.

Consumerist drinks its coffee black, but Jesse obviously loves the complicated world of Starbucks, and if you do too, this is the post for you.

Jesse’s Starbucks Buyer’s Guide

I’ve been working for Starbucks for almost a year, and my love for coffee and free coffee beverages are what keep me there. As much as some people may complain, Starbucks does offer a high quality coffee, even if it comes at a premium price. Here’s my take on some tips for ordering at Starbucks in order to keep prices low and tastebuds happy. I’ll also try to bust down some myths and educate about basic coffee principles.

Myth #1

Starbucks coffee tastes burnt.

While it’s true that Starbucks does tend to roast their beans a bit darker than most other coffee places, what you’re tasting isn’t actually “burnt.” The Specialty Coffee Association of America says that standard brewing should have two full tablespoons of coffee for every six ounces of water. Most other coffee shops and restaurants will barely even use half that much coffee. The coffee then ends up tasting much stronger than what most casual coffee drinkers are used to. Choosing the mild coffee of the day isn’t really going to help if you think Starbucks coffee is stronger. The mild coffees tend to have what’s known as a stronger acidity. Acidity refers to the sharp taste on the tongue and how long the flavor of the coffee lasts – not the actual PH balance. If you don’t like the taste of burnt coffee, you’ll probably shy away from Latin American and African coffees which have a higher acidity.

What you probably should order is an Americano. An Americano is espresso and hot water to dilute it to the flavor strength of brewed coffee. It’s milder in body and won’t seem as “burnt.”

As far as price goes, standard coffee is the cheapest that you’re going to get at Starbucks. It does seem to be a bit more expensive that other coffee shops, but remember – they’re using more actual coffee. An Americano runs more expensive because making the drink takes more man hours. We’ll break down the cost of espresso later.

Myth #2

Instead of paying higher amounts for iced coffee, I can just buy regular coffee, ask for a cup of ice, and pour the coffee over that.

Iced coffee is brewed double strength before it’s poured over ice in order to give it the regular strength of coffee. If you just buy a regular cup of coffee and pour it over ice, you’re getting extremely week coffee that’s half as strong as it should be.

Myth #3

Going for the Venti espresso drink is a better value.

A Venti drink is twenty ounces. It has two shots of espresso in it. The Specialty Coffee Association of America says that there should be one ounce of espresso for every eight ounces of beverage. This means that there are eighteen ounces of milk for two ounces of espresso – that’s a lot of milk! The only drink sizes that meet the SCAA regulations are the eight once Short that has one shot and the sixteen ounce Grande that has two shots. The tall is twelve ounces and also only has one shot. Because Starbucks follows SCAA guidelines strictly, they won’t put two shots into a tall or three shots into a Venti because that technically would be too much espresso.

What people don’t realize is that Starbucks even offers the Short. Back in the day, there were only two sizes – short and tall. As our American appetites grew, so did the size of our drinks. But the short is actually a lot closer to the size of what a traditional latte would be. It’s also a couple dollars cheaper than going for the Venti.

Now my personal preference is one ounce of espresso to every four ounces of beverage – but I like my drinks strong and I get them for free.

The Truth About Espresso and the Great Frappucino Swindle:

A few years ago, Starbucks made the jump to automatic espresso machines. Standard procedure for pulling a shot of espresso requires grinding into the portafilter, tamping it down, locking it into the espresso machine, and pressing the button to start the water. The Starbucks machine does all of this with the touch of one button – it also stores the coffee grounds as compressed pucks in a drawer that needs to be emptied only twice a day. This saves a lot of time for baristas, especially when there’s a long line. The shots themselves are very good for an automatic machine. But these machines cost about ten thousand dollars apiece compared to about three thousand for a quality manual commercial grade espresso machine. That’s a lot of money to recoup at about two dollars for a double shot. Not to mention that Starbucks also pays its employees a higher wage than most coffee shops because they don’t make as much tips working at Starbucks. The cost of operating a Starbucks is astronomical. But the quality is there.

Even with the cost of these machines, Starbucks doesn’t charge much more than your local coffeeshop. In fact, sometimes it’s cheaper. And the way they recoup these costs? Frappucinos. A Frappucino is a blended coffee beverage that most people find quite tasty. But what the hell is actually inside it? Standard Frappucino recipe relies on using a Frappucino Base and ice, along with a pump of the flavor syrup of your choice. And the Frappucino Base? First you add instant coffee to water. Then you pour in a box of Frappucino Mix, which lists its first ingredients as “Milk Ingerdients.” The amount of high fructose corn syrup and strange processed food materials in these things is scary. And the best part? They will run you about four bucks a piece. It doesn’t cost barely anything to make one, but you better believe that they’re going to overcharge you for it. And because the Frappucino base is already extremely sweetened, the recipe only calls for one pump of syrup even though you’ll be charged the full thirty cents. A Tall drink usually gets three, a Grande four, and a Venti gets five pumps.

If you like cold drinks, try an iced latte or a mocha. It won’t taste as sweet, but here’s the best part – if you pay for syrup, you can ask for as much as you want as long as it’s only one type! Standard Starbucks practice is to charge for each type of syrup used not how much of each. You can avoid this by asking for half and half – if you like the taste of Vanilla and Hazelnut, ask for half Vanilla and half Hazelnut – this will help from being overcharged.

Other tips for money saving:

Soy milk costs more. Organic milk costs more. They’re tastier, but also cost more.

If you like the taste of espresso with a chai latte, ask them to ring it up as a latte with chai syrup added instead of a chai latte with espresso added. Espresso costs about fifty cents to add a shot while syrup is only thirty cents. If you get a Grande latte, you already get two shots and only add thirty cents for the chai syrup. If you get a Grande chai latte and add two shots, you’re adding about a dollar to the drink.

Try to do the math – sometimes it’s cheaper to ask to be rung up as a larger size instead of a small size with an added shot. It never hurts to ask – Starbucks employees are people too and probably don’t want to overcharge you.

Don’t use the drive-thru. If you use the drive thru, every single modifier gets added on the computer, otherwise your drink won’t be made right. Usually asking for soy milk as a creamer is free, and you can ask them to put whipped cream on anything for free as well, but if you go through the drive-thru you bet your sweet bippy you’ll get charged for it.

And finally – try it without a flavoring! Milk is inherently sweet because of lactose and only gets sweeter once steamed. You don’t always need a vanilla latte and after ten drinks it’s like you’re getting a free Tall latte! Once you get used to the flavor of espresso and milk, then you’re one step closer to order regular brewed coffee which is as cheap as you go.

However, if you’re a tea drinker you’re in luck. Hot and iced tea are just about the same price as coffee.


(Photo: Beautiful Machine)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Wormfather says:

    I have a sneaky feeling that “Jesse” might work for the Starbucks P.R. department, if not, (s)he soon will.

  2. B says:

    Starbucks sells iced tea? Do they sell it without sugar?

    • Edward Meredith Jones III says:

      Absolutely! I’m drinking iced Tazo green tea this moment… nothing added but the ice.

  3. mantene says:

    I take issue with “Myth” #1. Their coffee does not taste too strong – it tastes burnt, though burnt is not quite the correct term for it. When I brew my own coffee I use AT LEAST 2 tablespoons of coffee for every six ounces of water and I don’t get a burnt taste.

    Also, taste is highly dependent upon the person and to tell someone that they don’t taste something is somewhat silly. If I bite into a piece of toast and it tastes burnt and you tell me that it isn’t burnt, well, that doesn’t change what I am tasting now, does it?

    Thanks for the other great tips though. All-in-all this is a very informative article!

  4. ediebeale says:

    I worked for Starbucks longer then “jesse” (those days are long gone, thank god), and those are not really confessions; in fact, they barely skim (ha ha) the surface of what a longtime barista could tell you, both good and shudderingly awful, about the company. Sounds like “Jesse,” if she’s actually a barista and not, as Wormfather claims, a Starbucks PR person, is one of those rare partners that has some weird allegiance to the ‘bucks. Don’t worry, in another couple months, she’ll grow out of it.

  5. Fuzz says:

    Standard Starbucks coffee is burnt and bitter. I don’t care what kind of justification you use for it, but that is not a “myth”. Real coffee shouldn’t taste like that.

  6. bdgbill says:

    “they won’t put two shots into a tall or three shots into a Venti because that technically would be too much espresso.”

    I drink two “triple venti” lattes everyday. I have never had a Starbucks refuse to put 3 shots in my venti latte.

    Also, Starbucks coffee DOES NOT taste “burnt”. It tastes like coffee. Americans are used to drinking 32 oz buckets of diluted dishwater from Dunkin Donuts and have no idea what real coffee tastes like.

  7. MandM813 says:

    I was thinking the same thing! Starbucks is sneaky as hell, “pretending” to be giving confessions and consumer tips. Psh! Give me some REAL confessions, from a REAL barrista! *smirks*

  8. bambino says:

    @B: Yes, the default is plain brewed tea, you add your own modifiers. Try their tazo iced passion or iced green tea.

  9. MandM813 says:

    bdgbill lmao! “diluted dishwater from dunkin donuts”

  10. B says:

    @bambino: Finally, a reason to go to Starbucks.

  11. bambino says:

    @B: You might find the passion a little too sweet by nature. The iced green is always a great choice though.

  12. milty45654 says:

    Yeah, I’d had the same feeling like he works for the PR dept. Also, chai this, latte, this, venti this…..just gimme a big cup of coffee…no need for the snooty confusing crap….10 bucks says they start putting those words on the SATs

  13. forgeten says:

    @mantene : I agree with your opinion of myth #1 also in my expeirence an Americano should taste a little stronger than a cup of coffee which at Starbucks it does but without the brunt taste. (at least the double small I order) Generally I find its best just to order that anyway since it just tastes like freshly brewed coffee instead of X hours old coffee.

  14. mac-phisto says:

    i also take issue with myth #1. i love dark roasts, latin american coffees (if you’ve never had dominican coffee, go get some. you’ll thank me, i swear) & i brew my coffee strong. i don’t drink starbucks b/c it tastes stale. i don’t know if they leave their coffee out too long or use stale beans, but that is not the flavor of “strong” coffee – at least not good strong coffee.

  15. tedyc03 says:

    IMO, Starbucks has gone downhill. See, it started as a company dedicated to a high quality product. But as it has expanded, it’s desire for beans has grown so significantly that it can no longer insist on the highest quality products and thus the standards have been compromised. I used to work for Starbucks and I am disappointed at how things have eventually turned out. They’ve become the McDonnald’s of coffee houses.

  16. dwarf74 says:

    Confessions? Hardly. This is pure rah-rah-go-starbucks P.R.

  17. rubyist says:

    Re: #1 – I roast my own coffee, have been doing it for a couple years now. I also have much invested in home espresso equipment, and I’ve taken a barista course at Intelligentsia in Chicago. I’m no pro, but I think I know a bit about how coffee should taste.

    What you taste *is*, in fact, burnt.

    The darker you roast coffee, the more “origin” flavor you lose, this is how mega-producers make their swill “consistent”. We can’t have two cups of coffee tasting delicious but different, so let’s make it all taste like crap!

    The button pushing “baristas” at any given Starbucks rarely know balls about coffee. They’re mechanized syrup and milk pushers.

  18. rjhiggins says:

    Fuzz says, “Real coffee shouldn’t taste like that.”

    I’m always amused by the coffee snobs who insist that the millions of people who clearly enjoy Starbucks coffee are ignorant about how “real coffee” should taste.

  19. hoosier45678 says:

    Burnt is not quite the right word for it… but it’s on the right track. Starbucks has 3 roast grades: Starbucks roast, espresso, and french. All three of these are long past the point where the nuances of the various beans are part of the flavor of the coffee. They overwhelm the coffee with the flavors of the roast in order to inject consistency into a wildly variable agricultural product on a massive scale. In my opionion it’s not a bad flavor… and if you’ve grown up on tin can coffee it’s a revelation for a little while, but it’s a bit monotonous and eventually you want to taste the bean as well as the roast.

    Americanos are vile drinks with no body and are no substitute for well made drip coffee (at least at the espresso/water ratios that every coffee shop I’ve had one in serves them), but that’s just my opinion.

  20. Echodork says:

    Usually, confessions involve something juicy or saucy about the company in question. They help the consumer wade through the bullcrap to get to the interesting bits. This is not a confession. This is someone who works for Starbucks explaining to me why a cup of their coffee SHOULD cost four bucks. The only “confession” in the entire article is that frappucinos are overpriced… and I already knew that, because everything Starbucks sells is overpriced.

  21. valkin says:

    I agree with the suggestion to ask for a short cap or a latte. The flavor is better because the balance of espresso and milk is better. One could also ask for a tall double shot latte or cap, but to me, it’s too milky.

    Another tip: Ask for your chai latte without water. It will taste a lot stronger. When chai lattes were introduced years ago, they only put in the chai base and milk. I guess people thought it was too strong so they started diluting it with water. If you never had it without the water, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

    I had fun working for Starbucks while in college. :-)

  22. alicetheowl says:

    It tastes burnt, even if that’s not what it is. I know the difference between “dark roast” and “burnt,” thanks. My home coffeemaker brews up some nice, strong Ethiopian, the darkest that Common Ground carries, and it tastes mildly chocolatey, not burnt, even without the touch of milk and sugar I add.

    I hate it when people try to tell supertasters what they’re tasting.

  23. MattPol says:

    This is way too well-written and error-free to be a barista confession!

    I smell a Starbucks flack!!!

  24. sifr says:

    I just love all the “burnt coffee” comments. If it weren’t for Starbucks, most of you people wouldn’t have any real exposure to coffee and coffee culture to begin with.

    Before Starbucks, the most exposure the average American had to gourmet coffee — if they were extremely lucky — was the neighborhood corner coffee shop. If they were unlucky, it was the watery brown crap served at whatever breakfast plast they ate.

    Starbucks comes along, and suddenly everyone’s a snooty coffee snob, talking about the roast time and method, the quality of the bean, and on, and on.

    Get over yourselves. You bash Starbucks coffee as “burnt” because it makes you look knowledgeable in the eyes of your cohort of coffee snobs. It’s trendy to bash Starbucks’ coffee quality, and the only thing more elite than walking around with that ‘bucks cup in your hand, is walking around pretending to be too good to drink ‘bucks coffee.

    Most of you people rattling off the “burnt coffee” mantra wouldn’t know a good roast if it tied you to a chair and perched on your nose.

  25. chstwnd says:

    wow. maybe this isn’t news to some of y’all, but not only do we have a trendy national chain to artificially inflate coffee prices, but an “official” association to keep them there and dictate standards to do so? Ah, the power of the herd mentality….

  26. Alexander says:

    How many “man hours” does it really take to pour hot water into coffee? Ridiculous justification for charging more for less actual coffee.

  27. forgeten says:


    If you order an Americano you have to take the amount of espresso they put in one size up. If not it does taste rather weak. But thats my opinion

  28. enm4r says:

    @sifr: How about this insult: “It tastes like coffee.”

    That’s it. Disgusting. I’ve never tasted any coffee I’d willingly buy and drink myself. (And yes, friends have bought for me and I’ve willingly tried almost every combinination of popular types of coffee at local places. It’s all nasty.)

  29. kerry says:

    @mantene: I used to work at Peet’s coffee, who don’t burn their beans, and we made our brewed coffee ridiculously strong, even stronger than they recommend. I used to water it down for some customers at request. It never, ever, ever tasted burnt. Also? The last time I got Starbucks coffee it tasted weak and burnt, much weaker than the non-Starbucks beans I grind at home.
    @sifr: Bite me, if I hadn’t been drinking fancy coffee before Starbucks existed where I lived I wouldn’t have known that it sucks from the start.

  30. nighthwk1 says:


    I don’t think he was implying that Starbucks would REFUSE to put 3 shots into a drink, just that 3 shots would be too much for the base drink.

  31. timmus says:

    Well, I’m still not sold on the idea that a frappucino is a bad thing… I’m aware of the HFCS sweetener and the fact that it’s a few bucks, but what’s the alternative? The article would be much more helpful if it elaborated more on the ingredients rather than just mentioning “strange processed food materials”.

  32. cheesyfru says:

    I’ve been roasting my own coffee beans at home for the past five years, and I’ve been drinking coffee obsessively for as long as I can remember. There’s no doubt about it: Starbucks (and most west-coast coffee shops) serve coffee that’s been roasted far too long.

    Why? Because the darker you roast coffee, the more it all tastes the same. The bright sweetness of a nice Yirgacheffe or the earthy funkiness of a Guatemalan bean is completely lost. This allows them to use sub-par beans. It’s not entirely their fault or even that they’re necessarily being cheap; they’re so successful and need to buy so much coffee that it simply wouldn’t be possible to buy the best quality beans. There’s not enough of them to go around.

    I give them credit for creating a business based around this, and managing to successfully market burnt coffee as “gourmet”. But I invite anyone to come over to my house for breakfast for a French-press, light-roasted Yirgacheffe and see if they still think Starbucks is worth their time.

  33. Shadowman615 says:

    >>”Iced coffee is brewed double strength before it’s poured over ice in order to give it the regular strength of coffee.”

    Hmmm, never thought about doing it that way. I found the trick to making iced coffee was to cool it down first (using regular strength) before pouring it on ice. Although that takes some waiting before you can drink any.

  34. sifr says:

    @enm4r: It’s one thing to not like coffee. It’s another thing altogether to drink coffee, but run around telling everyone “Starbucks sucks!” for no other reason than everyone else thinks Starbucks sucks, and you’re somehow less cool if you deign to actually admit to drinking Starbucks coffee.

    Starbucks isn’t the best coffee in the world by a longshot, but it’s not the muddy swill many make it out to be, and all these overnight master roasters have the privilege and pleasure of shopping at smaller coffee chains precisely because Starbucks opened the floodgates of the coffeeshop market and made it possible for places like SBC, Peet’s, Common Grounds, and similar chains to spring into existence.

    Hell, most of them turn a profit simply by letting people believe they’re the anti-Starbucks, as though one large, faceless corporation is less evil than another.

    You know what the real problem is? Starbucks polluting the gastronomical landscape with their frozen coffee-like beverages that have about as much in common with coffee as a bag of wet snow peas does.

    That, and the d*ck-size wars that spring up around which Snooty McSnooterton has the longest, most complex frozen or hot coffee-like fluid order, with the most obscure options.

    Every last person caught up in that entire scene should be forced to chase mouthfuls of MRE instant coffee with lukewarm water for about ten years.

  35. DXDawg says:
  36. nighthwk1 says:

    Anyway, regarding the “burnt” coffee, yes, Starbucks does roast their beans longer than most, but I wouldn’t call it burnt. It’s just that most of the coffee they sell tends to be dark roasted.

    The mild roast (like the Latin American) beans they sell aren’t nearly as dark. Compare them to something like their Verona blend and it will be quite obvious. Of course these are a bit more acidic, but I don’t think anyone’s complaining about that besides the original poster.

    (I was a SBUX barista for two years…)

  37. sassenach says:

    Most other coffee shops and restaurants will barely even use half that much coffee. The coffee then ends up tasting much stronger than what most casual coffee drinkers are used to.

    OIC…it’s simply the stupid consumers who haven’t been exposed to the greatness that is Starbucks.

    I’d drink Peet’s or Coffee Bean or even 7-11 or Quik-Chek coffee before buying Starbucks’ overpriced swill.

    Consumerist–you’ve been punk’d with this “Confession.”

  38. nighthwk1 says:

    Actually, it’s brewed double-strength AND refrigerated. The iced coffee brew stays in a pitcher and is typically made once a day, since almost no one orders iced regular coffee.

  39. Funklord says:

    Wow, nice press release. If I send an advertisement to Consumerist, will you run it for free as well?

    Starbucks coffee tastes burnt because they roast the beans for far too long (hence the nicknames “Starburnt” or “Charbucks”), not because their coffee is so much more magically strong than that served elsewhere.

    I also love how the big move Starbucks made to automated machines, the thing that took all of the craftsmanship and quality out of their coffee, is somehow touted here as something good for customers. Yay, an automated machine must be vastly better than an experienced barista at pulling a shot, right? Hey, why not get rid of the barista altogether and just use vending machines to serve coffee?

  40. nequam says:

    @sifr: You said it!

    @alicetheowl: supertasters?? c’mon really?

  41. Dustbunny says:

    I can’t detect a burnt taste in Starbucks coffee at all. Weird. OTOH, Peet’s coffee tastes bitter and burnt to me. I grew up in Germany which has wonderful coffee — rich and full-bodied without any bitterness — and so far I haven’t found any American coffee with the same taste. Is there something different about the way the beans are roasted for European consumers?

  42. andros says:

    I too must speak up against the Myth #1.

    A (hopefully brief) preamble:

    I’m Croatian. I was born – and grew up – in the part of Europe that had regular, extended contact with Turkish empires (and thus, their delicious coffee) while most of the rest of the world was still barely past the brachiating stage. In Turkey, and thus by proxy in countries neighboring Croatia (such as Bosnia) ‘coffee’ is not a drink – it is a ritual akin to japanese tea ceremonies. It is prepared and brewed religiously and served meticulously and traditionally. In my corner of the world, sitting down for a coffee is not unlike american grill-out or football night – an axis of a regular social gathering.

    Thus, I still take my coffee very religiously. I hand-pick my beans, I hand-grind them in a grinder I inherited from my grandma, I brew the coffee in traditional ‘cezve’ (odd-shaped brass coffee pot) and serve it in real ‘fildzan’ – small, shot-sized cups. So served, turkish coffee is sipped for extended periods of time, its fiendish strength mellowed by turkish and greek sweets such as halva or rahatluk. Most of my american friends find this coffee far too strong for their liking, at least initially – yet even the most devoted coffee-maniacs on these shores will admit it tastes far better than coffees they get from their Starbucks or percolate in their homes or offices.

    Having so established my credentials (you’ll have to take my word for them) I will make the following claim : Starbucks coffee doesn’t taste burnt because it’s strong. It tastes burnt because it is, in fact, burnt. No amount of claims of ‘acidic’ or ‘stronger than thou’ brews will hide that fact. And yes, I know turkish coffee is not the same as ‘cappucinos’ and ‘espressos’ Starbucks purports to brew. But keep in mind, Croatia is stone’s throw away from Italy as well… we know our coffees.

  43. spanky says:


    I worked as a barista back in the mid-80s. The only thing I learned from Starbucks is what charred coffee tastes like. While it may have improved since the last time I tried to drink it lo these many years ago (I want to say 2000, maybe?), that shit was burned. Not just roasted too dark for the bean. Not just unnuanced and lacking appreciation for the unique qualities of the bean. Burned with the occasional rancid undertone.

    Now I’m not sure if the ‘barista’ is a PR lackey for Starbucks or just a naive and trusting employee who has bought the corporate talking point, but that argument that people just aren’t used to dark roasts is just plain stupid.

  44. HawkWolf says:

    I love coffee, but unfortunately caffeine and I don’t get along too well (circulation problem, I guess). However, frappucinos are disgusting. If people knew the nutritional information for one, they probably wouldn’t get them. I had a small one and it was like having a wendy’s frosty or something like that. Bleaah. No wonder we’re all fat.

  45. Alexander says:

    “Earthy tones” FTW! Just another way to say it tastes like dirt.

  46. bdgbill says:

    The only thing that is bringing Starbucks “downhill” is the fact that soccer moms now insist on bringing their noisy brats to what used to be an oasis of peace and quiet in the city.

  47. Fuzz says:

    To all those who are saying I don’t know what a good cup of coffee tastes like, I ask you this: How the hell do you know I don’t know? What, are you a mind reader? or is it because I say I don’t like Starbucks coffee, so therefore I must not know what I’m talking about?

    Sorry, get over yourselves.

    I prefer coffee from small shops that actually care what their coffee tastes like, lest they lose their customers for brewing a shitty cup of coffee. But I guess that makes me a snob now, and my opinion irrelevant.

  48. bdgbill says:


    LMAO! Supertasters???

    “Excuse me? Excuse me boy?? I will have a cup of you finest Dominican coffee. Oh, and by the way, I am a SUPERTASTER. So make sure it’s in a clean cup and I will tell you what the guy who picked the beans ate for breakfast that day”

  49. camas22 says:

    maybe posting this early in the morning was a bad idea. looks like the caffeine addicts are chomping at the bit.

  50. jesseraub says:

    Well, I’m glad my story has caused some confusion, but I’ll have you know I’m no PR bot. I just like coffee. If I was a PR bot, why would I tell you to avoid Frappucinos because of their high profit margins.

    Anyway, when I say “most people,” I mean MOST people. I didn’t say that YOU find that the coffee tastes burnt because it’s brewed stronger, just that MOST people do.

  51. edgesmash says:

    “Starbucks coffee tastes burnt.” It doesn’t really matter to me why Starbucks coffee tastes burnt to me, it just does. It’s hard to dismiss a myth that is really a personal preference. And telling me to order a more expensive drink is silly; instead, I’ll go somewhere else where I can have the coffee I like for the price I like.

  52. shiwsup says:

    @Shadowman615: ice cubes made of coffee would also do the trick.

  53. slapstick says:

    I worked as a barista and a I know what’s in the sbux frappucino, but that doesn’t stop me from getting a caramel cream affagato when I want a ridiculous sounding treat. Mmm…

    Fraps also come in decaf, which is something a lot of people don’t seem to know. When I worked there you couldn’t get decaf and ‘lite’ but that might have changed.

    Here’s a REAL tip for you latte lovers: get a double shot of espresso (or single, if you prefer); ask for it in a larger cup or get a cup of ice if you like it cold, then go to the condiment bar and add your own sugar and milk. A four dollar latte for about half the price!

  54. Alexander says:

    I worked at a corner coffee shop a long time ago. We had a frappucino-type blended drink. All it was was a powder you blended with ice. I once saw the invoice when the delivery guy came around and the big tub of powder was like $10. From that tub you could get about 100 blended drinks as each drink was only one scoop of powder. Each blended drink was $3.50. That is some MAJOR profit margin.

  55. slapstick says:

    @slapstick: Actually, that trick only works for iced lattes, I forgot the whole ‘steamed milk’ thing. But if you’re not picky, then you can have a ghetto latte, or a ghelatte, as I fondly call it.

  56. consumer_999 says:

    I have an even more effective tip on cutting costs:
    Cure yourself of the dependancy.

  57. pestie says:

    @mantene: I agree! I am not a “casual” coffee drinker. I started my coffee education years ago on Usenet, reading alt.drugs.caffeine, and since then have learned quite a bit about good coffee. Starbucks coffee tastes burnt! I don’t care if it’s from an actual Starbucks store or bought as whole-bean coffee at the supermarket, it’s all way over-roasted and tastes like ass. You can see it if you buy the whole beans – they’re darker and more oily than comparable beans from any decent coffee outlet.

    Starbucks is mass-marketed hype, pure and simple. Given the choice between Starbucks coffee and Dunkin Donuts, I’ll take the Dunkin.

  58. Finder says:

    My first experience with “good” coffee was with Starbucks roughly six years ago. Until that point, I’d really only ever had your standard grocery store freeze-dried garbage. For a while, I was happy with Starbucks until about three years ago when I noticed a dramatic downturn in quality. This was right about the time I moved to Chicago and was able to get my coffee fix from Intelligentsia on a more frequently basis and about the time Starbucks started their big espresso machine refresh which removed the semi-auto machines and replaced them with the auto ones. Big mistake.

    Not only does this remove the accountability and quality control from their baristas, if the machine isn’t calibrated correctly it pulls really awful espresso shots. And by awful I mean really, really awful. I used to drink Americanos on the regular as I find they drink like a freshly brewed cup of coffee, now I can’t even stand them from Starbucks. If I order anything from there at all (and it is merely the convenience factor because they have a store in my office lobby) it’s a small coffee which I add half and half to and I like my coffee black.

    Whether their beans are actually burnt, they are definitely over-roasted to mask something, by that the quality of the beans or the age. If you don’t believe me, compare similar roasts from Starbucks and a couple local Chicago roasteries, Intelligentsia and Metropolis. I think you’ll find who the clear loser in this competition is.

    To anyone that pays attention, it is obvious Starbucks has sacrificed quality for higher profits, and the skills baristas need to deliver an actual coffee shop experience. They, including the “sender” of the original article are no longer baristas: they are cashiers and glorified button pushers.

    If anyone ever finds themselves in my beloved city of Chicago, I urge you to head into Intelligentsia for a real cup.

    (Metropolis is good to, but not as good as Intelligentsia)

  59. Anonymously says:

    Supertaster is a real term, douche bags.

    I say Jesse is an indoctrinated “partner”, not a PR punk.

  60. spanky says:


    I can’t tell if you’re being skeptical, or if you haven’t heard of supertasters before.

    There does seem to be some objective, biological basis in the phenomenon. It certainly seems to have some pretty solid basis in fact. What is your objection?

  61. spanky says:

    @Greg P:
    Stop proactively copying me.

  62. pestie says:

    @bdgbill: Also, Starbucks coffee DOES NOT taste “burnt”. It tastes like coffee. Americans are used to drinking 32 oz buckets of diluted dishwater from Dunkin Donuts and have no idea what real coffee tastes like.

    You’re entirely wrong (and I suspect you’re an American, too, but one who happens to be an elitist hipster jackass), but I’m going to let it all go because that description of typical coffee is the funniest thing I’ve read all day! You get points for that no matter what. As they say down at DS-MAX, juice to you!

  63. gwbean says:

    “You bash Starbucks coffee as “burnt” because it makes you look knowledgeable in the eyes of your cohort of coffee snobs.”

    I bash Starbuck’s coffee as burnt because it tastes burnt. Caribou, for instance, has roasts ranging from the lightest Kenya to the dark French Roast, and none of them taste burnt despite their using a half pound per batch. I sometimes get the darkest roasts cut with a little water there, but not because they taste burnt.

    I agree that these “confessions” smack of a PR drone putting out fires (though they might want to capture those fires to further denigrate their beans! LOL).

  64. othium says:

    I buy my coffee at the grocery store and make it at home. It’s not the best but it does the job in the morning. I can’t remember the last time I was even in a Starbuck’s.

    It’s just coffee. Geez.

    People have their preferences I guess..

  65. mycroft2000 says:

    Amusing trivia regarding the “Americano” — its name was originally intended as an insult! My father grew up in Italy during and after the Second World War, and remembers fondly the roving packs of US GIs in the streets. The coffee the locals drank pretty much blew the tops of their heads off, so the baristas started watering it down for them and called the new drink an “Americano,” always snickering as they did so.

  66. silenuswise says:

    I’m of two minds about the dark/burnt comments. On the one hand, Starbucks does literally overroast (thus, “burn”) their beans to standardize the flavor, which means even the medium and light roasts are essentially dark roasts. That ain’t good, and you can taste it in the weird combination of strong+watery, like putting caffeine pills in a cup of watered-down coffee.

    On the other hand, I like my coffee really, really fucking strong. Americans are still crawling out of the prehistoric era of Folgers-style coffee roasting (robusta beans, anyone?), and, overall, make coffee that’s too goddamned weak. As far as I am concerned, espresso is coffee, and what we Americans know as “coffee” is just an irritatingly weak substitution for the real stuff. So, although most of you commenters sound pretty knowledgeable about the meaning of “burnt”, I can’t count how many times I’ve heard morons complain that the high-quality espresso they’re drinking tastes “burnt”–as opposed to recognizing their inability to appreciate the essence of the bean that espresso (when done properly) delivers.

    One example of Europe’s coffee superiority: I recently went to an academic conference in France, and every “coffee” break only served espressos! Beautiful!

  67. sleze69 says:

    How is this a confession? Will tomorrow’s confession be from a Comcast dispatcher that reveals that the 8:00am to 1:00pm window is actually very small and that we should be understanding?

    Shame, shame for consumerist to post this.

  68. cindel says:

    Myth #2: Ice Coffee is cheaper than Regular Coffee.
    This insider does not mention that classic syrup is added to the iced Coffee.

    You forgot Cream Frappuccinos.

  69. nequam says:

    @Greg P: “Supertaster is a real term, douche bags.”

    Oops! You have a typo. You mistakenly typed a comma when you meant to type “for”.

  70. lemur says:


    Also, Starbucks coffee DOES NOT taste “burnt”. It tastes like coffee. Americans are used to drinking 32 oz buckets of diluted dishwater from Dunkin Donuts and have no idea what real coffee tastes like.

    I was going to write pretty much the same thing with “dishwater” and all but you stole the words right out of my mouth! Starbucks’ coffee tastes like real coffee. Those who can’t stand it can buy dishwater somewhere else.

  71. Dervish says:

    People seem to be crapping on Dunkin here. I can’t say how good/bad their coffee is (since the ones within 100 miles closed), but here’s something interesting – did you know they make the majority of their money off coffee? They’re a donut shop! That never ceases to amaze me.

    I’m not a coffee connisseur, although I like it strong, put me squarely in the “starbucks tastes burnt” category. I prefer Caribou, which is little better in terms of being a mega-chain.

    @Shadowman615: You can also mix water with a bunch of ground coffee in a jug, let it brew overnight in your fridge, and then strain the whole lot in a french press to get coffee concentrate. It’s extremely strong and very smooth, even when made with your standard folgers crap. Google it for some recipes.

  72. balthisar says:

    C’mon fellows, everyone’s taste in coffee is different. Starbucks’ problem is that it’s inconsistent, which is worse than having a roast that can’t appeal to everybody. All I drink is standard, black, American coffee with no pollutants, and I know what I like, don’t like, type of roast, grain size, and water temperature suits me perfectly. Granted, you can’t be that picky unless you’re at home. Given that, I know that sometimes Starbucks’ coffee is pretty darned good (not like Canadian Tim Horton’s, though [not US Tim’s]), and other times it really, really is burnt tasting. You never know what you’re going to get. Okay, I’ll admit the possibility that the stores I’ve gone to maybe aren’t run right; maybe there should be more consistency; maybe they don’t store it right before serving. It doesn’t matter what the excuse is — when you’re drinking the unadultered stuff, it’s got to be consistent.

  73. exkon says:

    These confessions from an employee who’s only worked there for a year?

    I have friends who have been worked at SB for at least 3 years and would happily write something like this.

  74. These comments are filled with well thought out and factual rebuttals that are lost to anyone without the patience to go through all the comments.

    What Consumerist (and every largescale comment-based blog) needs is someone to filter and summarize the comments.

    Either that or you guys need to pony up with a rebuttal.

    My two cents: While I agree that Starbucks coffee is overroasted and frankly gross, you can’t accuse the guy of being a PR shill if he’s basically telling you their most profitable product (the frappucino) is a disgusting pile of crap. Deluded, yes, shill, no.

  75. nearsite says:

    I call BS!

  76. zaky says:

    Oh, PR PR PR PR…..androgynous Jesse, how are you oh-so-knowledgable?

  77. superlayne says:

    ..I like frappechinos…

    Do you think if I ordered like a latte, and asked them to blend it with ice and whipped cream, that they would do it for me? From what she said, it sounds like my icey guilty pleasure completely negates the pseudo organic life style I try to lead. D:

    Maybe they’ll even put raspberry syrup in it…

    The PJs chains have good coffee, and local shops tend to have the best… I never really liked Starbucks, so why I’m worrying I have no idea.

  78. Me. says:

    Pfft. Jesse had some good info, but didn’t get down to the nitty gritty. I was a barista for almost 3 years at a really disfunctional store and here’s my list:

    1. Don’t buy frappuccinos. They have as much caffeine as a soda and as much sugar as a candy bar. So unless you deem consuming sodas and candy a healthy way to “wake up” at 6 am, don’t drink them.

    2. You can order an iced americano with no water/ extra ice, then add your own milk/ cream to the drink at the bar. Voila! You have just created “The Poor Man’s Latte.” Yes, it will be cheap, but the baristas will hate you and may pour you bad shots if you don’t tip accordingly. You’re also drinking the milk that’s been sitting on the bar for who-knows-how-long….

    3. If you order the “mild” coffee after around 10 am, you might get the regular coffee with a little bit of hot water added to cut the taste. It is just easier than brewing a new batch and no one ever notices the difference. (Bad baristas at my store were known to give people decaf if the regular was out and we were either a) really busy or b) less than an hour away from closing).

    4. PLEASE CHECK THE NUTRITIONAL CONTENT OF ANYTHING YOU CONSUME! This one is major. All the information is available: all you have to do is ask (preferably not in the middle of a rush). A slice of the bannana nut loaf seems innocent enough, but contains something like 600 calories. Any venti drink with whipped cream? My gawd… it is all bad. If you’re hungry, stick to bagels and biscotti (especially if it is your everyday breakfast stop).

    5. Syrup… A hot topic of debate recently, it seems. A standard drink has the following amounts of syrup: tall: 3 grande:4 venti (hot): 5 venti(iced): 6 So a barista shouldn’t charge you for syrup if it is 1/2 or less of the normal amount of pumps. If it is double or more than the normal amount, they will charge you twice. And yes, there are many, many people out there that will get 12 pumps of vanilla in a drink, which is nasty.

    I have more, but this is too long for the comments and I think no one even reads the comments this far down.

  79. chrisb says:

    Here’s the best Starbucks tip I’ve ever heard: Buy one of those Starbucks gift cards, keep a decent balance on it, and use it to pay every time. When you pay with a gift card, you’re not expected to tip.

    Does that make me an asshole? Probably.

  80. Me. says:

    @superlayne: “Do you think if I ordered like a latte, and asked them to blend it with ice and whipped cream, that they would do it for me?”

    They would do it for you, but the drink would be so disgusting. It would separate in about 2 minutes and just be gross. Try something iced if you like cold drinks. You have more healthy options and, because they melt slower, you have longer to drink your drink. Also, the consistency will always be the same, so you’ll never have to deal with sucking on ice chunks.

  81. lo_fro says:

    I’m not a $bux super-fan or anything, but I’ll admit, my favourite local coffee is 2$ for a 16 ounce and starbucks is 1.77$ for theirs.

    I’m just sayin.’

    Also, I worked at starbucks for 2 years in college:
    1. Everything Jesse says is, like, straight out of the “learning journey” and “coffee workshop” books.
    2. People who get really into working at Starbucks are creepy. I know a few.

  82. TheName says:

    I’ll jump on the “it’s Starbucks PR man!” bandwagon. Being blessed to live in Seattle, I’ve seen the Starbucks behemoth on its home turf and their performance–as far as coffee is concerned–is supremely sub-par.

    Compare that “pour hot milk onto espresso shots and then scoop hard foam on top” coffee beverage to the free-pour cappuccino you’ll find at a neighborhood coffee shop. You know, the place with the barista who drinks coffee for flavor instead of the constant caffeine supply (they’re the ones with a few shots and some water behind the counter, not the overly made-up teenies bopping around behind a Starbucks bar cradling their fifth venti caramel Frappucino with extra raspberry syrup). I definitely know which one I appreciate.

    Even Starbucks’ top boys and girls are now admitting that they’ve moved away from being a coffee shop to a fast moving conveyor belt of customers purchasing over-roasted, increasingly-diluted beverages and pre-made but heated to order food items. All of which are carefully manipulated by various marketing teams ( I once heard an employee talking about the controversy with new “hot” foods and their smell interfering with the artificially piped coffee roasting aromas). If that sounds to anyone like a coffee shop, let them continue enjoying their “coffee.”

  83. jeffj-nj says:

    No, it tastes burnt.

    I’ve never had a cup of coffee anywhere that tastes burnt like Starbucks coffee does. This includes Dunkin Donuts, yes, but it also includedes coffee shops in NYC, it includes homemade coffee from a variety of beans, it includes homemade coffee from both K-Cups and T-Discs, it includes coffee from a variety of shops in Boston, it includes coffee from a variety of diners in NJ, it includes Hawaiian coffee prepared with some weird contraption (I believe also from Hawaii) by my dad, and for crying out loud, it even includes coffee from shops in England, shops in France, and homes in France.

    In short, I’ve had a LOT of coffee, and none of it – ever – has tasted like the shit that Starbucks dishes out. If you like it, fine, but don’t justify it by calling it something it isn’t. It’s burnt. It shouldn’t be. Period.

    PS: In every example given, I drink my coffee black with so little sugar that I never trust the person preparing or serving the coffee to add it themselves; they will inevitably add too much. So, what I’m trying to say here is, I drink my coffee pretty “pure”, and I love it. Except at Starbucks. Where it’s burnt.

  84. rmz says:

    “Supertaster is a real term, douche bags.”
    Oops! You have a typo. You mistakenly typed a comma when you meant to type “for”.

    A tip of the hat to you, sir.

  85. BII says:


    I’m also calling BS, I worked for starbucks for over five years (i left in 2003), and he’s either:

    1. intoxicated on the kool-aid
    2. a shill from PR
    3. still new on the job

    Starbucks coffee tastes burnt for 2 reasons:

    over roasting
    over oxidation

    the coffee you buy there is not fresh and is over roasted, for the most part.

    and all the “time saving” and “economizing” steps they’ve taken have only made the coffee taste worse. the espresso, you can’t even call it that anymore, not with the new super automatics.

    *sigh* I offered Ben a real “confessions” article on starbucks, I don’t know why he would give this guy any bandwidth.

  86. InductGnosis says:

    I normally support local coffee shops. They usually have more unique tasting coffee, they are more comfortable and usually have free wifi.

  87. jeffj-nj says:

    I’m sorry. I take that back. I actually have had coffee elsewhere that tastes like Starbucks (Which is how, class? That’s right, burnt). It was McDonald’s.

  88. BII says:


    Peet’s taught starbucks about coffee, and in fact used to sell starbucks their coffee. Peet’s has been around for at least 40 years and is a staple in NorCal.

    Friends of mine in Oakland and SanFran swear by peet’s, and having tasted it, I know why.

    I’ve always said starbucks is the worst and best thing that has ever happened to coffee. they raised the bar, they introduced America’s palate to gourmet coffee, and then sadly lost their way as quarterly earnings and merchandise tie-ins took precedence over the quality of the coffee.

  89. Edidid says:

    It is burnt…well over roasted.

    Roasting the beans a shade or two darker than ideal is a very common way to hide less than ideal beans or a poor mixture of new and old beans.

    Shocking news there, Starbucks uses less than ideal beans. Who would have guessed?

    I am lucky in that I live near two roasters so I never have to buy Starbucks or other beans which are already old when they are on the shelf or arrive at the store.

    The difference in taste is very significant compared to the pre-packaged coffees. While the air release nipple on the mylar packages is a great invention to keep the coffee from becoming stale over long periods it also releases a lot of the flavour with it. It just can’t compare to fresh roasted.

  90. sifr says:

    @pestie: “Starbucks is mass-marketed hype, pure and simple. Given the choice between Starbucks coffee and Dunkin Donuts, I’ll take the Dunkin.”

    Irony at its finest.

  91. kerry says:

    @cheesyfru: I already know the beauty of a good yirgacheffe, but if you live anywhere near Chicago I will gladly take you up on your offer. Also, if you do live in Chicago or ever come here, the yirgacheffe at Metropolis coffee is excellent. The neighborhood Ethiopians taught them how to roast it right.

  92. dantsea says:

    There’s a fine line between PR shill and over-enthusiastic employee. Engage your brains for a moment and try to figure out why a company on the greener side of a double-digit lead in market share over the competition, a huge foodservice company that’s never advertised on television, would really care enough about a single blog to send a public relations person its way. Why? What purpose would it serve?

    I know it’s fun to think there’s an OMGCONSPIRACY around every corner. The truth of the matter is that the company creates a slick internal marketing experience that compels employes — oops, I mean “partners” — to evangelize the company to a degree that’s somewhat embarassing from an outsider’s perspective.

    I worked at Starbucks corporate HQ in Seattle, just as a temp job. I was offered a permanent position there, the day after my department got its introduction to something called the “Green Apron Book,” and that was enough to convince me to decline the offer.

    What truly mystifies me is why Starbucks provokes such a heated response any time it’s mentioned here. So much drama over a cup of coffee (and let’s not ever mention raspberry syrup again, thanks).

  93. Anonymously says:

    @nequam: OH SNAP.

  94. spanky says:

    What truly mystifies me is why Starbucks provokes such a heated response any time it’s mentioned here. So much drama over a cup of coffee (and let’s not ever mention raspberry syrup again, thanks).

    I’m going to guess a lot of the Starbucks hostility has to do with “Confession” #1. Personally, I was pretty unhappy when Starbucks started putting local coffee shops out of business, but I didn’t blame them for it. It just made me sad.

    But when they start calling people who don’t like their coffee pathetic noobs, and claim we’re just used to weak American diner coffee or something, it’s pathetic and a little offensive.

    Starbucks is a coffee shop for people who don’t like coffee. That’s why most of their drinks are just milkshakes and stuff.

  95. royal72 says:

    take this pr fluff piece and shove it up your frappuccino.

  96. smallestmills says:

    I think Starbucks just has admit that they’ve become the McDonald’s of coffee. The Taco Bell of Mexican. Everyone knows that for a good burger, you go to that bar down the street that has a good happy hour and the thickest, juiciest burger one could ever hope to buy. But, in a pinch, when you’re really hungry, you get a Big Mac. It’s not a burger…it’s a Big Mac. This is what S’Bux coffee has turned into. I know what GOOD coffee is…I like to have GOOD coffee…but most days, I just need a go-between for my caffeine and sugar intake. So, for a quick caffeine fix, I hit S’Bux. For real coffee treat (because, like the bar, in a real coffee house you can’t get coffee to go), I go to the Albanian place a block away.

  97. catkiller says:

    Just order the “mild” of the day and you won’t get “burned” flavor. The burned flavor is from the roasting (or some would consider overroasting) of some of the bold or even extra bold coffees. I went to coffee class. I’ve been working there for the last four years.

    A chai without water tastes different than a regular chai. I’ve tried to get customers to order a latte add chai to save money, but then it isn’t made correctly as a chai because it does not have any water. You are getting more milk, which costs more to make than water if that’s what you’re after… According to Tazo, the chai manufacturer, the chai concentrate is supposedly “activated” by the temperature of the hot water which is closer to boiling where as the temperature of the milk should only be between 140-160.

    The drive through is not that bad and you will NEVER be charged for whipped cream. If you want half one syrup and half another, they should be able to ring it up correctly as a cost free substitution, but many new employees may not have learned that yet. Cheap people prefer the drive through because they never feel obligated to leave a tip.

  98. fhic says:

    While we’re all doing a pile-on…

    I’ve never heard anyone outside of Starbucks PR department going on about those constant references to the SCAA. Some of their “rules” are ridiculous. “Two tablespoons of coffee per six ounces of water”? If you’re using decent beans, freshly ground, a tablespoon per is plenty. One ounce of espresso for eight ounces of beverage? Thanks, as the person who’s drinking it, that’s *my* decision, not yours. Sheesh.

  99. alicetheowl says:

    @nequam: Yeah, really. I didn’t come up with the name, or it’d be less spiffy-sounding.

    I’ve tried Starbucks, I’ve tried most off-the-shelf stuff at the supermarket, and then I’ve tried some of the good stuff (which my work orders through a distributer), and then I realized that coffee doesn’t taste like the swill I’d been downing all this time.

    I feel sorry for those who can’t tell the difference.

  100. alicetheowl says:

    @Greg P: @spanky: Ah, thanks. Hadn’t noticed your comments when I replied.

  101. Soultrance says:

    I have to agree with a few people above, this sounds like something a PR person would say, and I’m a PR person myself.

    I also have issue with myth #1. Starbucks coffee to me does not taste burnt, it just plain tastes like dirt. I like my coffee strong, I drink espresso and americanos mostly, and I’ve only ever had dirty tasting coffee from Starbucks.

    I greatly prefer real Mediterranean style coffee shops that use the manual espresso machines. The taste and smell is fantastic and the end result is always way better. I’ve never before had a Starbucks americano taste creamy and rich like I get from a local coffee shop called Cafe Artigiano in Vancouver.

    The only thing I’ve ever been a fan of at Starbucks is the standard Iced Mocha, and even the last time I had that the barista seemed to skimp on the espresso and go overboard on the chocolate. Shame.

    Oh well, I’ll stick to my Artigiano coffee’s. The service and product is way better and costs less.

  102. Mouthy says:

    Star who? I still don’t understand that whole Starbucks frenzy. What about supporting small cool coffee shops in your town? Or how about ordering some fine Hawaiian Coffee straight to your house?

  103. GetFightted says:

    “hould have two full tablespoons of coffee for every six ounces of water. Most other coffee shops and restaurants will barely even use half that much coffee.”

    Jesse obviously doesn’t know what she is talking about. If she did, she would know that many restaurants are equipped with ‘automatic dispensers’ for coffee. These are machines that you side your filter under, pull a lever, and it dispenses the company’s (in our case Farmer Brothers) recommended amount of coffee bean. Many large establishments have this. I know about it as my parents owned a larged restaurant. It is certainly as much as two table spoons per six ounces.

    Face it, the coffee beans are burnt. I can go to any other expresso stand (there are over 50 in my town), where they use roughly the same equipment, and not get that coffee that tastes like it was brewed through a musty old sock.

  104. acambras says:

    Here’s the best Starbucks tip I’ve ever heard: Buy one of those Starbucks gift cards, keep a decent balance on it, and use it to pay every time. When you pay with a gift card, you’re not expected to tip. Does that make me an asshole? Probably.

    Then I’m an asshole, too, because I never tip at Starbucks. First of all, it’s been pointed out here that the “baristas” aren’t really “baristas” anymore — all they have to do is press a couple of buttons. Second, I’m not going to tip anyone if I have to wait for them to finish their personal conversation with their fellow “barista,” then have them give me attitude because I ordered a medium and not a “grande.” And finally, if I paid 4 bucks for my overpriced-but-yummy Frappucino, I’m not going to pay even more to the “barista” who just managed to operate a glorified Slurpee dispenser.

  105. I don’t care for Starbucks drip coffee. I agree that it tastes over-roasted. But I have no problem with anyone digging it. Who cares. Whatever your tastebuds respond to is fine by me. I do like their espresso, however. But when to a cup of regular old coffee, I’d rather make a cup at home or find a local shop.

    I don’t see the reason to insult people over their personal tastes. It’s akin to insulting someone because of their skin colour.

    It’s ok for us all to have our own tastes. It’s ok for us to be different.

    Call me a hippie if you must … but if you do, I’ll stick a fork in your eye.

  106. gwbean says:

    I wondered if it was derogatory term – makes perfect sense.

    We don’t buy expensive beanage, typically. We like 8 O’Clock’s whole bean coffee and drink that on a daily basis. We get a half pound of Caribou’s Obsidian each week, for a treat.

  107. gwbean says:


    There’s more to being a barista at a semi-automatic machine than pushing buttons. Baristas still have to know how to properly steam milk, how to pour so the espresso and any additional syrups mix in the cup, etc. Pulling shots on a traditional machine is just busywork for the same result – and a semi-automatic provides a consistent product, I think. Baristas and front counter people are tipped for their service, friendliness, etc. It’s not expected as it is with traditional servers, but it’s appreciated if you receive excellent service.

  108. nequam says:

    @alicetheowl: Thanks for posting that link. When I made my snide remarks, I didn’t realize it was a biological phenom. you were talking about. I thought there was a group of snobby tastetesters who had dubbed themselves “supertasters.” It’s a funny name in any event. That article, however, raises an interesting point about broccoli (some people love it, others hate it). I guess the same is true for Starbucks.

    I’ll go on the record that I am Dunkin Donuts drinker. I’m not saying its great coffee in the grand scheme of things, but I like it (and will go out of my way for it). But I live in Boston and maybe its like how people swear that Coke tastes best in Atlanta.

    The freshly ground coffee I brew at home, however, is my favorite! (and the least expensive)

  109. @Me.: I read them…

  110. bbbici says:

    I hate to admit it, but after that brewhaha about McDonald’s coffee being better than Starbucks, I went and tried a rotten ronnie’s coffee. Guess what, it is nearly as good, and about 60% the price. And usually, you can get a really good muffin with your coffee for about $0.20 extra. And no tipping.

    I do like starbucks just for the ability to try different blends though, and of course the (marginally) better atmosphere.

  111. passionateharvest says:

    Thanks for the tips on saving money and of course there are even more. Your information was very accurate except for the part of high quality coffee and you didn’t even mention the freshness issue. I drink my coffee every day in a French Press, I use a standard of 2 tbsp for every six ounces of water, just like you mentioned and it never tastes burnt. Why? Because my coffee is roasted to bring out the true characteristics of the coffee, the actual flavor of the coffee. As for freshness, Starbucks coffee is usually roasted about three to six months before it ever hits your store, that’s not fresh and don’t give me the comments on the packaging. Would you purchae a pastry from a baker that had month old pastries, no way! Starbucks does not serve fresh coffee, along with that, the beans they purchase are not the highest quality, when you are that large you have to purchase in larger shipments, you can’t purchase from a small estate who is doing an awesome job, they wouldn’t have enough coffee. If you want to find out the truth about Starbucks purchasing practices all you have to do is talk to coffee farmers, they will inform you what they purchase and let me tell you, only the ones who get Starbucks money will tell you it’s high quality. Along with that, Starbucks philosoply of helping coffee farmers is to purchase their farms at low costs, this helps them in the long run, not the coffee farmer. Starbucks has been the forerunner for a long time and we are thankful for the introduction of Specialty coffee by this company, ( a comapny that at the beginning was headed by those who now are heading up Peet’s) Thanks again for your comments but do some research on your coffee my friend and if you still want to call Starbucks fresh, you may need to come up with a new definition for that word.

  112. Major-General says:

    Starbucks = burnt. All west coast roast coffee is. Admittedly, like higher acid/lighter roast coffees (umm, Guatemalan), but this is also the consensis from my friends who prefer dark strong coffees. That burnt taste is also form failure to clean the equipment.

    BTW, I use a french press, and haven’t made a good cup of copy since I moved to the west coast.

  113. Youthier says:

    It’s kind of sad that Starbucks is one of Consumerist’s most controversial topics.

  114. graphikartistry says:

    IF you any of you are thinking that Starbucks gives a shit about you, your family, or any other living thing-you are kidding yourselves.

    I visit SB once sometimes twice every day, and two things keep me coming back.

    One, the organic milk… Until another caffeine source, other than my kitchen, figures out that mystery I am going to SB.

    Two, the BARISTAS… Typically, in fact I can’t think of a single instance in my experiences this isn’t true, these men and woman are saints. They wake up at the crack of dawn, and stand there putting up with all the whinny, ill-tempered, and otherwise ridiculous behavior people throw their way. I sure as hell couldn’t do it.

    Part of their responsibility obviously is the protection and utilization of SB procedure. Even at the cost of customer satisfaction. This is a losing proposition for the worker-if they give in to the customer’s “demands,” then they risk termination. If they refuse they risk pissing off the wrong person, the one who calls management. That situation could in some cases also lead to termination.

    “juicy” anything is adspeak for cheaper, more sugar and usually fake…
    (disclaimer, i haven’t read the ingredients, just going by experience with other products)

    Be pleasant with people. They are working hard, and deserve to be treated as such-even if they can’t accommodate your every whim… Don’t be the asshole, even if you are right…

    Rant over.

  115. smallestmills says:


    Oh for the love of…whatever. Then YOU don’t. I think we’re adults and understand that it’s okay to be different. We’re discussing Starbucks, though, not racism. And don’t try and tell me that flaming people for liking Starbucks is the same as burning a cross on someone’s lawn. It’s not. Stop being so dramatic. Extreme examples are not a good way to prove a lame point.

  116. kerry says:

    I don’t know that anyone is flaming people for liking starbucks, what appears to be happening is that people are being flamed for not liking starbucks. We’re just trying to defend ourselves in the face of “if you don’t like it you must be mentally defective and/or ignorant.”

  117. VA_White says:

    You can call it whatever you want but it tastes like shit. I grew up in overseas and drank real espresso in cafes all over. Starbucks tastes rancid and burnt.

  118. gjhead says:

    I used to hate Starbucks. Now, in the section of town I work there are at least 4 local coffee shops in walking distance, and also a Caribu across the street. I *want* to support the mom and pop shops, or even *anything* other than starbucks, but as it turns out, Starbucks has the best coffee and service. Well, at least near my work is does….

  119. bdgbill says:


    Soultrance, I have no doubt that you are a PR person yourself, since you are obviously speaking out of your ass.

    So your professional opinion as a PR person is that the huge multinational Starbucks corporation has sent the following information to this blog?

    “The amount of high fructose corn syrup and strange processed food materials in these things is scary. And the best part? They will run you about four bucks a piece. It doesn’t cost barely anything to make one, but you better believe that they’re going to overcharge you for it.”

    Wow they must have some really clever PR people such as yourself over there. Starbucks must be tired of selling powdered mix and water for $4.00 a cup. If only they could find a sneaky way of getting customers to quit buying it…hmmm.

  120. @smallestmills:

    Relax. Have a cup of decaf.

  121. @kerry: Exactly!

  122. ancam says:

    Starbucks provokes a heated response because we caffeine freaks tend to be a little high-strung.

    I thought the article was pretty interesting, if only as a reminder that one really, really shouldn’t ever put a high-calorie chemical cocktail such as a Frappuccino into one’s mouth, much less one’s stomach. Yech.

    As a frequent traveler, I find that the coffee at SOME Starbucks tastes burnt, but that it tastes better than the other stuff one can get driving across Illinois on I-55. Coffee at some Peet’s tastes burnt too (but Peet’s coffee transports you to a different existential plane, so maybe that’s forgivable?)

    Sometimes I think that they burn the coffee so that you’ll buy more espresso drinks, which usually taste just fine.

    In any case, count yourself lucky to get great coffee at home or at a local shop, if you can get it. Just think how hard our foreparents had it, with just Folger’s, Sanka, and Hill’s Brothers.

  123. embean says:

    “Also, taste is highly dependent upon the person and to tell someone that they don’t taste something is somewhat silly”

    Actually, it isn’t. If most people are accustomed to Folgers or whatever, any kind of better coffee is probably overwhelming. It takes a while to get used to “good” coffee, and many people DON’T recognize subtleties that exist in coffee, like wine, etc. Coffee can taste nutty, fruity, floral, citrusy, etc, but you have to drink a lot of different coffees before you recognize this.

    I’ve worked for Starbucks as well as independent chains, and I greatly prefer the way I’m treated as an employee at Starbucks. Before I worked here, I too thought the coffee tasted “burnt.” And, ordering a mild will not necessarily fix this. For people who don’t want “strong” coffee, the bold is sometimes a better bet because the milds are usually more acidic. Bolds are smoother and a better bet for someone who doesn’t like coffee that much. The majority of Starbucks coffees are darker roasts, for which I don’t know, but to say it’s to save money is silly because it takes significantly more beans to make a darker roast. That’s why other chains usually sell lighter coffee that doesn’t seem “burnt.” At any given store, there might be a particular type of coffee that is brewed more often. But, Starbucks does have some nice light roasts, and a number of diverse, interesting coffees that do not taste “burnt.” Starbucks will brew you a french press of any type of coffee you want upon request, so if you don’t like “burnt” roasts this is a good alternative.

  124. hoo_foot says:

    It’s already been said at least a dozen times in this thread, but…no, darker roasts aren’t supposed to have that Starbucks burnt-taste like “Jesse” claims. Can we get a real “Confessions” on Starbucks that isn’t patronizing garbage? The comments in this thread are far more informative.

    And I guess I’m an asshole, too, because I don’t tip at Starbucks or any other corporate fast food chain either.

  125. Ponygirl says:

    I call BS on the “beans not burnt”. I like strong coffee. Strong coffee is not the same as burnt coffee. Starbucks has over-roasted beans which are burnt. Try dark roast from Peet’s or any other boutique coffee roaster and you can taste the difference between strong dark roast and burnt dark roast.

    That being said I agree with Mouthy, shop locally, find a cafe that is locally owned (reinvest your money in your own community) Many roast their own beans as well as serving shade grown/Fair Trade coffee.

  126. Ponygirl says:


    I don’t know where you’ve been living for the last 30 years, but Ann Arbor,MI, Pittsburgh, PA, New Orleans, and San Francisco have all had plenty of independent cafes serving in-house roasted beans to experienced (and inexperienced) coffee drinkers.
    I think when you basically say “Starbucks taught you SOBs about coffee” you are mistaken. Sure, you can’t get good coffee in West Texas, but that is not the case every where nor has it been the case in a pre-starbucks world.

  127. eli_b says:

    I worked at a local but state-wide coffee shop for two years. Before we had any coffee shops in town, they had every flavor and bean known to man. I’ve tasted and brewed my own coffee, even twice over, on all flavors of dark roast. I’ve been to plenty of coffee places in lots of major cities…yet the first time I got a coffee in a Starbucks years ago, it tasted like ‘burnt ass’…which is how everyone I know refers to it as. That was in DC. I can walk into my local Starbucks here (they have built three now) and 5 years later, yep, burnt ass. There is no way that anyone can tell me, let alone justify that I’m ‘used to’ watered down or inferior beans. So what you are telling me is, every coffee place I have been to, and every dark bean I’ve ever brewed at work or at home is somehow inferior to Starbucks ‘regular’ coffee? Sorry, wrong.

  128. omgyouresexy says:

    My girlfriend would like to also chime in that, frequently, people order two tall Frappucinos that are the exact same, when it’s cheaper to order a venti and ask for an extra cup.

    You cant get this kind of info ANYWHERE ELSE!

  129. Mary says:

    Point of order to the person who said without Starbucks there would be no SBC.

    Seattle’s Best Coffee was founded in 1968. Starbucks was founded in 1971. Founded in the same town, almost right next to each other from what I gather, but still, the originall “Wet Whisker” was there first.

    Since I don’t drink coffee I can tell you nothing about how it tastes at Starbucks. I can tell you that I have massive amounts of experience with Hot Chocolate and Starbucks hot chocolate is TERRIBLE. It’s bitter and nasty, and the only way to make it remotely drinkable is to add a sugary syrup, and if I wanted a sugary drink I’d go buy a can of soda.

    Seatle’s Best Coffee Cafe’s Cocoa Trio for the win. Those are some dang good drinks.

    I worked in a bookstore cafe that was not Starbucks. If you want confessions, start getting into things like how if you are diabetic or have a problem with sugar, never order a syrup even if they offer a suger free option unless the barrista HOLDS UP THE BOTTLE and proves to you that it’s sugar-free. Routinely, when we ran out of syrups, baristas would just put the regular in.

    Who has neighborhood coffeeshops anymore? I haven’t seen one in years. Except for bookstore cafes, it’s all Starbucks from where I sit.

  130. Mary says:

    And a comment on tipping: Starbucks employees make at LEAST minimum wage. Usually much more, as Jesse pointed out. I know before I changed jobs, their starting pay down the street was at least a dollar more an hour than I was making at my retail slave job.

    Tips are only truly expected for waitstaff who aren’t paid minimum wage because the restaurant business is…skewed.

    In Europe, everyone makes minimum wage and tips are actually very tiny, and just a simple reward for a job well done.

    Unless your barrista really does blow sunshine up your ear and make your day better with their existance, then they are getting paid enough to simply take your order and steam your milk.

    I was a barista. After about a day, steaming milk you can do in your sleep. And the machines probably have an automatic shutoff for the temperature so it’s really not a difficult procedure. I did that job for four or five months, usually by myself without backup. I liked getting tips, sure, but I would never in a million years expect them and a barista has to do something spectacular to get anything from me.

    I suppose that makes me a terrible person.

  131. billhelm says:

    I’ve not generally found starbucks to ever be cheaper than the mom and pops or local chains. in a lot of cases they are signifantly more expensive.

    most consumers probably couldn’t care less what kind of fancy 10k expresso machine they use and have to recoup costs or whatever.

    I’ve generally found any cappuccino at starbucks above the short size to basically be a latte.

    i’m still a starbucks americano junkie. the drive thru near my house is just too convenient.

  132. Trackback says:

    Mingle2 – What’s My Blog Rated? Find Out Your Film Rating aworks is rated “PG” due to “death” + “bitches” (brew). Via Renewable Music.

  133. cyancynic says:

    Starbucks coffee does indeed taste burnt. I’ve written to tell them as much. As a result, I have a stack of free drink coupons for lousy burnt tasting coffee that I can’t stand to drink.

    I lived in Paris for a year – I know what cafe espresso should taste like. Any corner cafe in Paris produces a vastly superior espresso for about one quarter the price what Starbucks charges.

    Starbucks apparently couldn’t make a decent espresso if their life depended on it. Admitting they have a problem there would be a good first step towards recovery. Instead, I guess they’d rather pour their resources into PR spin rather than improving their coffee.

  134. sunnfun says:

    @Dustbunny: German Coffeecompanies use the Arabica bean as do most other european countries, these are grown mostly in Africa and Java. Almost all Coffee sold in the US is from the Robusto bean. Arabica is by far the superior bean but Robusto is much cheaper. Supposedly Starbucks uses Arabica as well, but I don’t know why their espressos taste so bad compared to an italian espresso.

  135. xleggomygregox says:

    All of Starbucks roasts are considered “dark.” I work at a coffee shop that sells a huge amount of our “mild” drip coffee. Our mild and full-bodied coffees are brewed with exactly the same weight of beans per filter (the burnt issue has nothing to do with quantity). The thing that makes the “mild” coffee desirable is that the roaster finds a roast for each specific bean that brings out its natural aromas… quite unlike the generic over-roasting techniques of Starbucks. This is P.R. B.S.

  136. CoffeeAddict says:

    I was a barista at one time when I attended college and they were a very good employer. I have always loved coffee no matter where it is from. I do like my Starbucks coffee and I also enjoy speaking with baristas at whichever store I visit. The one thing I love just as much as the coffee is the people who work there and their intense love of coffee which you don’t find in other mainstream coffee shops. I do have a few favorite small coffee shops that I go to the make coffee a real art form and I love that, but for my everyday coffee Starbucks fits me perfectly and those who feel that bad mouthing starbucks coffee makes them better in some way have way to much time on their hands. I am not going to touch the item about the burnt taste of starbucks coffee as that is all dependant on your palete and how you define what you are drinking. I do love the taste and I enjoy it very much, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion. That being said keep your mind and your mouth open to trying starbucks coffee again you may like it someday.

  137. kerry says:


    Who has neighborhood coffeeshops anymore? I haven’t seen one in years. Except for bookstore cafes, it’s all Starbucks from where I sit.

    That’s really unfortunate. There is 1 starbucks and about half a dozen neighborhood cafes within a few blocks of where I live. If you venture further out you can find neighborhood cafes that roast their own beans. There may be 1 Starbucks in every neighborhood, but in most neighborhoods there will be at least one, if not several, local cafes to compete with it. (I am in Chicago. I’ve noticed similar setups in Seattle, Boston and the Northampton/Amherst areas)

  138. joellevand says:

    I believe all of this bickering about “coffee snobs” and “supertasters” and hipster scum and the like is best summed up by the B-story of South Park’s “Underpants Gnomes” episode.

    As for me, I lived in Washington state for a year. I loved the little drive-up mom & pop coffee shop. That said, now that I’m back East, I drink Starbucks. Mostly, I think it smells skunky — and not like the animal, either. But it’s still better than the alternatives around here.

  139. whereismyrobot says:

    I worked for Starbucks for two years as a shift manager. When I worked at Border’s Books, everyone thought it was a cool job and no one gave me crap about it, even though that company was HORRIBLE to it’s employees. No vacations, their “benefit” of a discount was a joke especially when you realize how much they overcharge. Everyone who worked at Borders had to have a second job to support themselves.

    When I starting working at Starbucks, I was amazed that they had fair wages and an opportunity for anyone to move up if they desired, but everyone gave me a hard time for working there. I can’t speak to issues of foreign diplomacy, but Starbucks was very fair to their U.S. workers.

    That being said, I would not be at all surprised if this was an actual partner. When I worked there, it seemed like all the partners had a “Stepford Wife” way about them. I think they added subliminal messages to the music.

  140. boandmichele says:

    Starbucks coffee is ‘flash-roasted’. they move so much coffee that they really dont have much choice. as a side effect, it tastes burnt. thats because it IS burnt.

    sounds like PR smoke to me.

  141. Rocqu says:

    Milk prices have recently surpased the price of soymilk in the store. It would be interesting to see an upcharge for milk and have soy be the staple.

  142. pix says:

    The credit has to go to Starbucks…every little gourmet and speciality coffee shop in existence should be facing Seattle’s Pike Place Market,home of the first Starbucks daily and offering prayers of thanks.

    Starbucks single-handedly have trained consumers around the world that is not just ok, but desireable to pay more, and at times way more than two bucks for a cup of coffee!

  143. Skydiver says:

    @gwbean: I’m baffled. Is this supposed to be sarcasm: “how to pour so the espresso and any additional syrups mix in the cup, etc.”? Having poured thousands of layered cappuccinos into clear glass mugs, I can assure you it’s a lot harder to pour so they don’t mix.

  144. morganlh85 says:

    @bdgbill: Jesse wasn’t saying they WON’T put three shots in a latte, just that they standard recipe does not call for three shots, only 2.

  145. Anonymous says:

    I work at the bucks currently…and i could have told you half of those things, either hes a coffee master (which means they train you more and you talk alot more too) or hes a manager or sumthin to that effect.
    I enjoy working at starbucks dispite how many partners/customers get on here and bitch about the place. Its fun and different every day. You meet interesting people and its an easy job that you get free drinks at all day long. Its not a menacing company, they offer health benifits, stock options, and pensions to part time (baristas). And if your so picky about ur coffee…save urself 2 bucks and brew it yourself. Dont get mad at us cause you waste your money.

  146. Ldymadlin says:

    I gotta say I worked for the bux for three years and it was fun and I had a good time and met some really great people. but there are times if you say “may I have a grande latte with chai in it?” they are going to ring it up as a dirty dirty chai because they think that the customer doesn’t know any better. that’s just my opinion. There are those baristas that would be happy to ring it as a latte with chai syrup in it. But that isn’t always the case. A lot of the argument that I have heard is “that’s against our policy”. and I’ve been there and I know what is against policy and what isn’t. But a lot of employees use it as an excuse cause they don’t want to do it a certin way. just putting my two cents in. good luck at the bux! :-)

  147. exactopposite says:

    OK, let me start by saying that I’m not one of those super snoby coffee people. To the best of my knowledge I’m not a supertaster either. However, I can taste the nuances in things and I find the coffee I get from a local place here in philly to be FAR SUPERIOR to anything I get from starbucks. The difference is night and day.

    I get beans from my local coffee establishment. They do the roasting in house and have beans from all over the world. I’ve been experimenting with trying the different beans they have availible, and making my own blends of them. My fav is a blend i make at home of beans from puerto rico and columbia. I’m no coffee expert but I can taste a huge difference between the different beans I get. All of them taste better than starbucks to me personaly.

    I say if you like starbucks then by all means drink it, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s the highest quality stuff around. I still drink coffee from starbucks from time to time if it’s what’s around at the time, but i’m not impressed by it at all.

    I think it’s great that more people are being exposed to coffee through stabucks, but it’s a shame that so many of these people are duped into thinking it’s much better stuff than it really is.

    if you are in philly check out old city coffee. If you can’t taste the difference, there may be something wrong with yout tastebuds.

  148. Anonymous says:

    Here’s the Thing about myth #1. Sorry Jesse, but whatever they are telling you is a lie. Brewing has nothing to do with Roasting, and in your Roasting process you always roast the bean more than they should be, thus the burnt taste.

    Quality coffee makers will craft roast or roast to the particular bean’s potential…nothing more and nothing less, this get’s the most quality flavor from the bean.

    Starbucks on the other hand roasts their coffee much more than they should, regardless of the type of bean. Which seems to be cutting corners to me.

    And agreed that “Jesse” either works for P.R. or is getting a healthy bonus to say this?

  149. Chrissy Cronk says:

    I know this is an extremely old article, and it’s probably unlikely that anyone will see this comment; I found it while trying to figure out how many pumps of syrup they probably put into my Tall, non-fat latte. But…

    Does anyone think it’s strange that this article is accompanied by a crotch shot w/ coffee coverup/accessory?

  150. nonareneeraybern says:

    i worked for starbucks back in the day when they actually cared about their coffee. what it has become today is disappointing and frustrating. stop over-roasting your beans in an attempt to save money (yes, they DO over roast) and go back to using the la marzocco. any monkey can push buttons…it takes a real barista to tamp and pull proper shots and steam great milk. also, as a current barista, these money-saving tips carry on into other stores, both independent and franchise…and they piss us baristas off. so quit offering these helpful “tips,” because if you can’t afford to buy the drink you want (and tip on top), you should be making your coffee at home.