I was never a big coffee connoisseur. Until recently. I hadn’t paid much attention to the difference between Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts coffee until I found myself wrapped up in coffee pickiness. When coffee addiction set in among the long study nights in 12th grade, instant was fine. When I tried the filtered coffee that sat on our countertop, it was even better, but I would fluctuate between the two.
I had heard people reference the Dunkin and Starbucks debate in not-so-hushed tones and participate in these verbal coffee battles themselves, but I had no input. My dad doesn’t like Starbucks, but he likes Dunkin. My mom is a loyal Starbucks customer, but she likes DD coffee better. Go figure.
I was in NYC the first time I had DD coffee. I took one sip and I was so disgusted I threw it out. It was sweet and thick and nauseating. I’m not picky at all with food, or coffee, but I couldn’t swallow that stuff. I thought maybe it was a fluke and the next time I ordered coffee from there I asked for a little sugar. It was still far too sweet and just gross, but it was a little better. In the past two days I have bought coffee three times from DD, and it’s okay. No sugar. Not good, not bad, but mediocre.
Turning to the dark side
I’m definitely a Starbucks fan. Their coffee is stronger and tastes cleaner. Usually at Starbucks I get a sugared-up and highly caffeinated drink with about 500 calories, like a vanilla latte. I rarely order plain coffee, because it’s more boring than a wonderfully sugary concoction with whipped cream. But when I do, it’s a delight.
I did some research, and here is the difference between the two. There are two types of coffee beans: Arabica and Robusta. Arabica beans comprise about 70% of the world’s coffee consumption. Dunkin and Starbucks both claim they use 100% Arabica.
The difference in taste stems from the roasting process. Most coffee sellers lightly roast coffee to cut costs. A pound of coffee loses about 10 to 14% of its weight when ordinarily roasted. Starbucks roasts its coffee longer to draw out the flavors, and loses 18 to 25% of its weight in the roasting process.
That’s the reason Starbucks coffee tastes stronger. But here’s the catch: DD and Starbucks coffee are priced about the same. I bought a medium coffee from Dunkin today in Manhattan for $1.79. The small is priced at $1.49. In Manhattan Starbucks’, a tall (a.k.a. small) cup is priced at $2.01. But for the slight price increase, you get the Starbucks works thrown in: the dim lights, the ambiance, the cool decor and the WiFi. So if you’re a loyal customer, coffee guru and avid Howard Schultz supporter (Seattle natives!), the Liberty Woman (mermaid?) is the way to go.