15 Fast Food Coffees, Ranked Worst To Best

Good coffee doesn't only come from a bespoke cafe, local and low-key hidden. In fact, a quality cup of coffee can come from unexpected places — yes, even fast food chains.  While most fast-service chains aren't exactly known for their baristas and blends, you'd be surprised at how many spots can get you a solid cup of joe. On the other hand, there are plenty of fast food joints where the word coffee shouldn't be uttered.

It's important to know what you're getting yourself into when pulling up to a drive-through window. If your entire car is ordering dinner and you have a hankering for coffee, it's best to know whether that caffeine is worth shelling out a few bucks for, or if you're better off getting a caffeinated tea or soda to tide you over. These are some of the best (and, sadly, worst) fast food coffees. For consistency purposes with comparing each place, the rankings below will be talking about basic iced and hot coffee here, not any specialty beverages.

15. Taco Bell

We're just as shocked to be writing about this one as you are to be seeing it on this list. In that spirit, we're going to be upfront: Taco Bell is wonderful at 2 a.m., its shining logo a beacon of hope when everything else is closed. We enjoy Taco Bell. However, there are some things in which the chain just probably shouldn't partake. When you're of the belief that sometimes the grossest cup of coffee is better than nothing, then by all means, get it from Taco Bell. But if you have any standards for your cup, you could do better.

If you're a big fan of the Cinnabon Taco Bell crossover coffee, then wonderful. But we're simply talking about what Taco Bell calls its "Premium" hot coffee. It's $1.99, and that's two bucks you'd be better off keeping in your wallet. The coffee typically tastes burnt, cheap — and it's a waste of a drink when you could instead be sipping on a Baja Blast.

14. Subway

We'd like to note that we give major props to every fast food place that does offer coffee. They don't have to, especially if it's not a main selling point for the brand, but at least they're trying. That's about all the praise we're going to give the coffee at Subway. The brand's website provides no information about what kind of coffee is used, which shouldn't be a difficult thing to convey, and the company didn't even bother to give it a fun or inspired name. The coffee is quite literally just titled "Regular Coffee." But you know what? That's accurate. This is just regular coffee, with nothing to write home about.

It's not as foul as Taco Bell's cup, but it's still pretty bad. It's only offered in a 12-ounce cup, too, so if you're really tired and need an extra pick-me-up, you may have to order two cups of it. It costs $1.69, and we'd rather it cost $4 if that meant a bit more effort was put into it.

13. Sonic Drive In

One thing a lot of fast food chains with mediocre coffee have in common is that their offerings are utterly boring. It's not flashy or memorable, it's just there to do the job of getting someone excited for a cup of coffee, then disappointing them five minutes later when they take the first sip. Sonic prides itself on using Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, which at least puts it above Taco Bell and Subway. Green Mountain Coffee Roasters is decent, and it's a fine company to partner alongside a chain like Sonic. In fact, a few of the other places on this list have also been known to use Green Mountain Coffee Roasters.

The reason this ranks so low is because it doesn't have the "wow" factor. It's the only coffee option on the entire menu, and if you're desperate enough to shell out a few bucks for this one, then you'll be unsatisfied, if unsurprised.

12. Carl's Jr.

Though we can't say we've ever gone out of our way to frequent a Carl's Jr restaurant, a bit more respect might be due for the brand in terms of its coffee. While the previous fast food spots put in the bare minimum effort, Carl's Jr. at least offers a decaf option. That's right; if you want a pretty similar quality cup of coffee to every other spot in the bottom half of this list, but if you want it to not be caffeinated for some reason, well, you can swing on over to the burger place Carl's Jr.

Be aware, however, that this is a dark roast blend (as is most mediocre coffee at bottom-ranked fast food restaurants), so if you're expecting a lighter offering with things like notes of fruit and cinnamon, you're simply not getting that. But if you crave decaf, here's an option.

11. Jack In The Box

Here's where the coffee game gets elevated a bit. At Jack In The Box, an oddly-themed restaurant that everyone just seems to accept as normal, classic American food items like burgers, chicken tenders, French fries, and milkshakes are served — but then there are tacos on the menu, because why not? The chain also has a decent coffee selection, whether hot, iced, decaf, and/or with vanilla, mocha, or caramel. Jack In The Box is surprisingly ahead of some of its competitors in the coffee arena, and its basic, un-flavored coffee isn't all that bad.

The hot High Mountain Arabica Coffee is marketed as "the most delicious way to WAKE UP," and that is certainly for a reason. This is a strong coffee, and another perk to it is that it comes in two different sizes, regular and large, which is more than most fast food restaurants offer.

10. Wendy's

Wendy's deserves a huge pat on the pack for its approach to coffee. It has an espresso machine, and wow does that make a difference in a world where Starbucks and its competitors rule the roost. There's no disappointing coffee at Wendy's, which is refreshing; you have a world of options (kind of), from a standard latte to a cappuccino, a flat white, Americano, an espresso shot, and mocha. All the drinks are hot, and though you could probably ask for any of them iced, it isn't recommended, as it'll most certainly dilute the drink.

The espresso employed in all of the drinks is decent, but it's more the variety, an overall leap in quality from competitors, and commitment to the bit that is appreciated. You're much less likely to be dissatisfied here, and though it's definitely not the best coffee you've ever had, it's legions ahead of the others.

9. Krispy Kreme

For a place that just concentrates its efforts solely on coffee and donuts, you'd think Krispy Kreme's java would be a lot better. But we can't lie to you – it's not great. The website touts it being "gourmet," but don't interpret that to automatically mean it's delicious. Like Wendy's, there is a decent variety offered, with decaf, regular, and an assortment of flavored lattes for you to choose from, but the standard hot coffee is simply not tasty.

Making matters worse, the quality of the coffee is inconsistent from one location to another. We've tasted Krispy Kreme's brew multiple times at different shops, and each felt like a completely different beverage. The donuts here are phenomenal, perhaps the best fast food donuts out there, but the coffee just doesn't hit like it should. So, go to Krispy Kreme for donuts and Dunkin' for coffee, and an ideal breakfast awaits.

8. Baskin-Robbins

If you never realized that Baskin-Robbins had its own coffee, separate from the co-owned Dunkin' brand with which it often shares store space, you probably wouldn't be alone. But Baskin-Robbins delivers with both ice cream and iced coffee — and if you're a fan of iced-and-iced snacks, the tastes go well together.

As far as standard coffee goes (and not any cappuccino shakes or specialty drinks), Baskin-Robbins offers a high-quality cold brew, which is amusingly dubbed "Iced Cold Brew." This is seemingly to explain that the drink comes with ice (not to be confused with nitro cold brew, which typically does not), a bit different than the norm. Kudos are due for the coffee being a medium roast, resulting in more flavor and notes than a less dynamic dark roast at competing chains. It also helps that you can the beverage as-is or "Sweet & Creamy," with added milk and simple syrup.

7. Burger King

If Burger King's main competitor is McDonald's when it comes to burgers, fries, and the overall menu, in many ways McDonald's seems to typically take the gold. But Burger King seems to have been smart enough not to go toe-to-toe with McDonald's McCafe offerings, instead picking a lane and sticking with it. The result is a solid coffee that ranks right up there with the biggest of the national fast food brands.

There are a few simple but effective options you can choose from: BK Cafe Decaf, BK Cafe (the regular hot coffee), and BK Cafe Iced Coffee. Though the name is certainly reminiscent of the McCafe, that's about all it resembles. The Burger King coffee is a medium roast, which is a welcomed option alongside the ubiquitous dark roast, and customers are offered three different drink size options for the hot coffee in small, medium, and large.

6. Chick-fil-A

Coffee lovers probably already know that Chick-fil-A has decent coffee, as it can be a welcomed discovery among fast food dining. The care that Chick-fil-A has for its coffee is obvious, on-par with the standard it maintains for other menu items, and it's frankly refreshing to see any coffee appreciated as a menu item rather than an afterthought. It feels like the coffee belongs and takes up space on the menu, which ultimately translates in how it tastes.

Chick-fil-A's coffee offers a nice cold brew, which you can get plain or with 2% milk. If you're not in the mood for an iced drink, there's also standard hot coffee as a possibility. Though the menu isn't as extensive as others, quality always rules over quantity, and that's what Chick-fil-A's coffee strives to achieve. In the future, perhaps the brand will further harness this slavish devotion to the dark bean, expanding its coffee line beyond the basics.

5. Panera Bread

Entering the top five fast food coffees, these companies clearly know what they're doing with java. Even if they are large chains, these companies nonetheless take pride in offering a fantastic cup. In fact, it might even be good enough that you'd consider going there just for a cup of their coffee.

Panera Bread is chief among such eateries, offering a well-known selection of cafe favorites, and all sorts of ways you can personalize the beverage to your liking.

One of the first things worth appreciating about Panera's coffee selection is that there's more than one single roast available. You can sample a classic cold brew, dark roast, light roast, hazelnut roast, try it in decaf, or even add in some Madagascar vanilla to the mix. Though it's not the same premium coffee you might get from your local coffee shop, it's still decent and worth a visit.

4. McDonald's

After launching in Australia in the '90s and working out its kinks overseas, McDonald's McCafe landed in the US about a decade later, spreading quickly while offering a cheaper alternative to Starbucks. In the years since, it has been a key element in making a smooth transition from the chain being a quick burger joint to one of the best large-scale cafes in the game. 

Honestly, there isn't another traditional fast-food burger spot that comes close to touching McDonald's McCafe; with an espresso machine, you can do anything, and McDonald's seems to have taken that to heart. Today, lots of people go to McDonald's in the morning for their daily cup of joe, and it's easy to see why.

Though the menu isn't as extensive as Starbucks, Dunkin' and the like, the McCafe coffee blends are smooth, easy to drink, and enjoyable. The dark roast espresso serves as a pick-me-up in a good way rather than an abrasive one, and if you want to skip the espresso-based drinks and go for a classic one, the Premium Roast Coffee is distinctly brewed every 30 minutes. That means it hasn't been sitting there all day, and you get a fresh batch every time.

3. Wawa

While it might be controversial to label Wawa as a fast food place rather than a gas station stop, if you live in an area where Wawa is a cultural staple — as in stopping there before work, before the beach, after school, or anywhere in between — you'll understand. The food is delicious and high-quality, and so is the coffee. There are a number of different ways you can get coffee in a Wawa, like at the iced coffee machine next to the soda fountain, but for this, we're talking about the coffee bar.

You can try so many espresso-based drinks here that you might be overwhelmed. But if you don't have time to plug your latte order in on the screen and wait for a worker to make it for you, there's a whole lineup of freshly-brewed roasts to choose from, along with an easily-accessible cooler with different types of milk and creamer for you to customize your drink. Don't worry if you can be picky about your coffee roast blends — Wawa has everything from light, to medium, to dark, to blueberry roast, to decaf, French vanilla roast, and even Cuban roast.

2. Dunkin'

Yes, Dunkin' is fast food — and with each passing year, it seems to be expanding its coffee options belong the beloved basic brew that made it a household name. 

Though Dunkin' and Starbucks have a leg up in this competition, being that the (seemingly) primary focus for both of them is coffee, they didn't automatically earn these top two spots without reason. Yes, you can customize virtually any coffee you want at Dunkin' to your heart's content, but the standard roast is still the standard-bearer.

There's a reason people swing by Dunkin' every morning before work and get a simple coffee; it's quality, it's quick, and it's reliable. While regional variations on beverages may vary, that's part of the fun of the experience. That rarely happens, however, when ordering a simple coffee rather than an elaborate latte situation. Dunkin' earned its second-place ranking, as did the top contender.

1. Starbucks

We've arrived at the first-place spot in this ranking. Are you shocked that it's Starbucks? This is not a personal bias; when you objectively examine the quality of Starbucks' roasts, they are absolutely unmatched. Originating in Seattle (at the Pike Place store, hence the roast name), Starbucks' entire brand is making quality coffee — their beverages just happen to be quick, consistent, and prevalent enough to rank as fast food.

A common complaint folks have about Starbucks coffee is that it's too strong; if that's the case, don't order the basic roast. In addition to blends like Blonde Roast, and various cold brews and nitro brews, there's always a rotation of different beans you can try, many seasonal or offered up in celebration of Christmas, Thanksgiving or the like. No standard coffee beats the quality of Starbucks, and that's the simple truth this company has built its reputation upon since 1971.