Why Starbucks Is Bad

January 13, 2023
a starbucks in the wild!

Ever be chatting away and someone says…

Yea but Starbucks sucks, anyway.

And everyone’s like “yea” and agrees. Like it’s normal that a coffee chain with ten thousand locations and a bazillion customers a day was kinda crappy. Maybe you’ve wondered… what’s the deal with that?

Well, the taste is one thing. And if you read on a little, I’ll tell you the 3 reasons why Starbucks coffee, to be frank, sucks. Number 1 is a biggie and ruins their coffee, but it saves them loadsa money so they do it anyway. And it doesn’t just stop at the coffee they make, either. Let’s dive in…

Why Starbucks is bad (3 reasons why)

Reason #1: taste

Starbucks coffee tastes bad, any longtime barista or coffee enthusiast will tell you. Or, in fact, anyone who’s tried a straight espresso from one of their stores.

At the same time, it is an incredibly successful franchise. So, what’s the deal with that?

The coffee beans they use are stale

Starbucks brews their coffee with coffee beans that are stale. That means coffee beans that have lost their peak freshness and flavor.

For reference, coffee goes stale pretty fast. After the roast, you want to be drinking your coffee beans within 30 days and ideally less than 15 or you will notice a serious drop in quality.

A high quality coffee shop or roaster will use fresh coffee. On top of that, they’ll usually tell you the roast date. Seriously, check on the packaging of a bag of coffee beans next time you visit a nice coffee place. Or ask the barista. Telling you when coffee beans were roasted is a great sign of great coffee.

But at Starbucks? There’s never a roast date, because the coffee isn’t fresh.

Want more proof that Starbucks sell stale coffee? Well, this Home Barista thread provides some insight from a couple of folks.

To save you a click, one guy was looking for fresh beans and had no other option so gave his local SB’s a call. They told him:

“the freshest beans they have are just over a month old”
“She said they get their deliveries but nothing is ever that fresh”

And from someone else:

“I used to work there and never saw anything come in fresher than 2 months.”

And the biggest piece of evidence is the taste of Starbucks coffee. It’s just stale. Obviously. Try an espresso by itself. It won’t taste fresh with flavor.

You might wonder why Starbucks chooses to use stale coffee beans? Well, predictably, it’s all about the bottom line. Stale coffee is cheaper because you aren’t brewing all your coffee in a narrow window when the coffee is at its freshest.

The worst thing is, though, we’ve only just got started. Here’s the second thing Starbucks gets wrong with their coffee…

coffee beans being sold in a starbuck's
They look pretty, but how fresh are they?

They over-roast their coffee beans

Starbucks tends to use a dark roast with their coffee beans, which produces a taste that in some ways is appealing. It’s burnt, charred, smoky. A taste many have come to associate with coffee.

The problem is that roasting too much is like cooking the beans to within an inch of their life. The inherent floral, fruity and earthy flavors in coffee are destroyed. It’s like a well-done steak, you’ve lost all the flavor.

Have you ever heard the term “Charbucks”? Well, it comes from Starbucks roasting their coffee beans until they tasted charred like ashes.

Why do they do this? Well, it’s easier to create a uniform taste when you roast the heck out of your coffee, which is actually an advantage when you serve a million coffees a day.

And the reason they can get away with it is because of the next point…

The reliance on sugar, milk and cream

Starbucks can sell stale, burnt coffee because the drinks they serve are not about the coffee, they are about the sugary, creamy toppings they serve them with.

Who goes to Starbucks for a Ristretto? No-one, I’d guess. Your average Starbucks consumer is more interested in the latest 488-calorie Strawberries and Cream Frappuccino. Who needs nice coffee when you’ve got 80g of sugar to enjoy?

The company is successful because it’s found a way to not need need great-tasting coffee. But it doesn’t even stop at the coffee, as you’re about to find out.

First though, while we’re still on the taste of Starbucks… Here’s a professional coffee taster’s opinion of Starbucks. It’s like 20 seconds long, and the video should start at the Starbucks part. Let’s just say that the phrase “wet cardboard” comes into play.

Reason #2: Smaller coffee shops suffer

Starbucks has over 11,000 stores in the US, which means there’s 11,000 areas which could have an authentic, independent coffee shop in its place.

It’s the same story with Walmart or any other major corporation. Their success impacts smaller businesses. And makes every high street up and down the country feel like Groundhog Day with the same 5-10 mega-coroporations filling up the shopfronts.

Can you blame Starbucks for this? Probably not. It’s just a natural product of a company having an outsized amount of success.

And, in fact, one of the best counterarguments is that smaller independents have had to up their game in response. Would we have seen the move to artisanal Third Wave coffee if it were not for mega-corps like Starbucks taking up the generic coffee niche?

It’s a great time for coffee right now. And part of that, I think is because independents have had to stand out and create a new coffee culture. A culture that has sadly, as you’re about to discover, has changed for the worse.

starbuck's in china set in a temple
Classy decor or cultural appropriation?

Reason #3: Starbucks has changed coffee culture (for the worse)

Starbucks’s size and success has meant it has played a huge role in coffee culture. Here are a couple of examples of the company’s negative impact.

Downplaying the skill of the barista

Brewing high-quality espresso is a difficult skill to learn. The barista’s role involves tamping, adjusting, tasting, checking, dialling the espresso in. And the short brew time paired with high-heat and high-pressure conditions means there’s little room for error.

Starbucks simplified this process as much as possible with their superautomatic espresso machines, huge metallic beast with six group heads that can effortlessly serve up hundreds of shots every hour.

And if the Espresso isn’t quite up to scratch? Well, the mountains of cream, milk and sugar will make up for that. The barista is, quite simply, not as important.

Prioritizing caffeine over taste

If you order an Americano with the largest size (Starbucks call it a Venti), you’ll get a drink that has four shots of espresso. This is a piece of evidence for another of the problems with Starbucks. It’s all about the caffeine.

Go to Italy and check out the drinks there. A Cappuccino is a Cappuccino. No sizes, no extra shots. The caffeine is an afterthought to the taste of the drink, not front and center.

It feels like Starbucks creates drinks that are sugary vehicles for a large hit of caffeine. Which maybe is what it is, and maybe is what people want. But for those of us who care about great coffee, it’s kind of a shame.

Wrecking the image of Italian coffee

Starbucks became popular during the Second Wave of coffee, when Italian-style espresso was introduced to the US. But along the way, it misrepresented a couple of things for the worse.

Firstly, espresso is supposed to be a great tasting drink all on its own. Do you know anyone who orders straight espresso at Starbucks? I certainly don’t.

Also, Starbucks decided to take the name Macchiato and turn it into a caramel milkshake. The original Macchiato, which is still served in Italy of course, is an espresso shot with a tiny drop of milk to soften the taste. You can see a picture of what it should be below.

an Italian macchiato
This is a macchiato. A real one.

Why is Starbucks so popular?

Starbucks became popular in the 1970s as one of the first chains to offer exotic (at the time) Italian-style coffee. The economy was booming, and folks loved getting custom-made coffee with fancy-sounding names.

(Rather than brown sludge from an uncleaned vat.)

In modern times, the company has settled into its status as a ubiquitous fixture across the country. Need a coffee? There’s usually a Starbucks not too far away. And you’ll know exactly what you’re going to get, whether you’re in Omaha or Venice Beach.

And to be fair, Starbucks does a couple of things right. So in the interests of balance, let’s dive in to what they are.

Why Starbucks is good

A lot of people like it, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Starbucks is the most popular coffee chain in the world. Obviously people like it. If folks are happy ordering their sugary, creamy, highly-caffeinated morning treat then who am I to judge?

You know what you’re getting

Starbucks offers the same coffee at thousands of easy-to-find places across the globe. It’s super convenient and is an easy place to go and know what you’re getting. This is one of its greatest strengths.

It’s like a lot of these large corporations. McDonald’s is criticized for its unappetizing, unhealthy food, but millions still eat there every day. It fills a niche of cheap burgers and fries. SB’s fills the same niche in the coffee world.

They have made great strides in ethical sourcing

As far as corporations of its size go, Starbucks is pretty ethical. It’s done a lot of work in the ethical sourcing of coffee beans and when you consider the impact a company of its size will have, that’s commendable. The truth is, a lot of farmers are getting a lot more money for their produce because of them.

It’s better than instant

I’m judging Starbucks from the point of view of someone who’s, in all honesty, a bit of a coffee snob. For your average mum who is used to drinking Folger’s, Starbucks ain’t so bad. It’s freshly brewed, and tastes better than throwing some instant into a cup.

The Nitro Cold Brew ain’t bad

I must say I’m a sucker for Nitro coffee. Something about the nitrogen-infused coffee just does it for me. And best of all? No need for cream or sugar. Check out my article on Starbucks Nitro here.

a starbuck's frappuccino
If it makes you happy, then you do you.


If there’s no other reason to hate it, then the use of tall, grande and venti. Like come on. How could you work out whether a “tall” or a “grande” was a larger size?

Also… apparently Starbucks had a much better reputation back in the day. Back when they trained their baristas and used manual espresso machines. A bit before my time, I must admit.

And if you’re looking to upgrade your own coffee making? Get started with my guide on how to make black coffee taste good. The tips in there will have you making better coffee than Starbucks. Inside a day or two, probably.


  • Reply Alix December 26, 2018 at 1:40 am

    Starbucks works with farms across the coffee belt, with people on the ground travelling to specific regions and trying and selecting only the best Arabica beans from the select farms they deem worthy of selling. Their variety of coffees cover a variety of coffee tasting notes, especially when you go to their reserve stores. The timeline from processing to store usage is problematic, you’re correct there, but that is a problem that comes with being such a large corporation; regardless it’s a little ridiculous to dismiss an entire companies passion for coffee due to that. As a barista at the company I can in fact tell you that a large portion of my drinks over all, and a majority of my bar drinks, are in facts espresso shots, macchiatos*, and americanos. Our espresso roast does have a very burnt note, you’re correct, but that is due to a preference of Howard’s in coffee flavour, not an issue with the roasting itself. It’s (sadly) a purposeful flavour.

    *let’s also address the absolute untruth that is your comment on Starbucks Macchiatos- the drink you’re referencing is the caramel macchiato which is a distinctly separate drink (hence its separate name!), they do indeed sell macchiatos as espresso shots with a soft dollop of milk foam.

    • Reply Ivan November 28, 2020 at 10:31 pm

      Starbucks is a religion.. I am a believer.

      • Reply Andy Whitcombe November 25, 2021 at 12:52 am

        You need counselling Ivan.

      • Reply Sibbatta1943 January 24, 2022 at 12:09 am

        LOL, Sad for you, innocent creature, maybe one day you´ll taste REAL coffee…

    • Reply Peter Romersa March 21, 2021 at 12:29 pm

      I got a Starbucks giftcard, and I have to “register” it to.use it. This is just more hoops to jump through to to use a #$%^ Starbucks gift card, giving your email address and other information. I won’t “look a gift horse in the mouth,” but this is too much trouble with all this stuff. I guess the corporation does not think its 💩 does not 👃.

    • Reply Pierre Louw October 28, 2022 at 7:43 am

      I’ve just thrown away the bag of Ethiopian coffee beans, purchased from Statbucks, totally messed up by Starbucks, due to over roasting. Last time visiting SB for coffee! I buy my favourite Ethiopian, Guji or Koke beans, medium roasted and enjoy 100 times better coffee than SB can ever offer!

  • Reply john fiore January 28, 2019 at 1:14 am

    Starbucks is absolute crap and is a testament to mass idiocy of the world.

    • Reply Ciccioman March 27, 2019 at 4:18 pm

      Fuckin’ AMEN, BRO!

    • Reply Paul November 9, 2022 at 1:58 am

      When you drink REAL coffee made with an Italian machine (properly maintained & cleaned) and THEN you try a StarMuck coffee, the SB coffee is like you’ve had a mouthful of dirty sump oil. It’s disgusting, to say the least. But, when you are used to sump oil and don’t know better, I guess it’s “sublime”. I don’t think Americans really know what coffee SHOULD taste like. I agree with the author – it’s the caffeine hit they want. Their taste buds have become SO desensitized from all that sheit they eat anyway, they would know a good coffee it it slapped them in the face.

  • Reply Emma Coppen March 18, 2019 at 4:34 pm

    It was really interesting reading this article, and I love that you genuinely know what you’re talking about when it comes to evaluating the quality of the coffee being served there. In all honesty, I haven’t had a drink from there for a while, but I did used to go quite a lot when I was younger for Frappuccinos and pumpkin-spiced lattes. As I’ve got older I’ve wanted to avoid it more and more, with no proper reason, I just don’t like the idea of handing my money over to a soulless, dominating corporation, instead of a smaller chain or independent coffee house where the money spent has more value. I have nothing massively against Starbucks, and it’s great to see that they’re sourcing their coffee beans ethically (as someone told me this wasn’t the case), but ironically it does feel like you’re trying to buy into an ‘elite’ lifestyle every time you go there, despite the fact such massive amounts of people are doing just the same thing.

    • Reply AlexP December 29, 2021 at 11:43 am

      Try filter coffee from Starbucks compared to local coffee shops, some local coffee shops won’t even serve it and if they do you’ll be hard pressed to find a better tasting one than Pike Place. The types of drinks you’re talking about are espresso based cakes more than real brewed coffee. The “nerd” who wrote this article claims to be a coffee expert but seems to only know about espresso which isn’t even comparable to the quality of drip coffee. Hell even a French press makes better coffee than an espresso machine and it’s so simple. The only two things he’s right about is that the espresso does taste pretty mediocre at Starbucks- and the beans sold and used were probably roasted a few weeks ago. However Starbucks Reserve is speciality coffee- and if you go to an actual Starbucks Reserve they’ll roast the beans there and then!

      • Reply Pat January 13, 2023 at 3:33 pm

        “Nerd”? :/

  • Reply Private July 8, 2019 at 11:56 am

    Starbucks has absolutely no support for local causes. They will not post anywhere signs about local non- profit events (ie the local highschool car wash fundraiser, or play).
    When I explained that we were nonprofit, a barrister at the Greenwich CT store yelled at me to
    to “get lost “.
    Second, the CEO announced an independent run for the White House, not acknowledging that every one of the votes cast for him is a vote for Trump.
    I will never go to Starbucks… Dunkin coffee is much better

    • Reply mew September 3, 2019 at 5:26 pm

      I think that might be an issue with whoever ran that store, you should probably report them. I know ALL my local Starbucks have community boards where you can put your flyers for local stuff like what you described, and I have seen a lot of stuff posted.

  • Reply Kimberli July 8, 2019 at 8:08 pm

    Well, I started my adventure with Starbucks at 18. I’m 53 and can honestly say I haven’t been back in probably 5+ years. The only time I drink it now is on my Alaskan Airlines flights. I remember being able to drink it black, no problem. Over time I was dumping more and more cream in my cup to get it down no matter how fresh it was brewed. I eventually figured out to order a grande in a venti cup because that’s how much extra room I needed for cream. The bitter taste over time became worse and quite frankly who needs high cholesterol. Our neighborhood coffe shop has the BEST coffee! Hope they make it.

  • Reply Richard Ramos July 12, 2019 at 8:16 pm

    I like what you are saying. A lot. One thing to mention is on the cold brew thing. They have zero clue on cold brew. If cold brew is applied correctly you gain a flavor unknown to most. The fat from the bean is released giving a rich velvet texture. Oh and it’s not a toy! My two cents.

  • Reply Linda Rokjer July 20, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    I don’t get the part about caffeine. For medical reasons I cannot drink caffeinated drinks and yet, I’ve had no problem ordering decaf drinks in Starbucks as opposed to a certain donut company which only offers decaf in plain coffee.

  • Reply CupofJoe July 20, 2019 at 6:07 pm

    I find the taste of Starbucks has declined in the last year, I used to go 3 times a day, I like a smooth tasting dark roast strong. Like the old French Roadt ground to a Turkish grind that I can still make at home but the stores no longer make. The coffee in the stores is watered down nasty tasting bitter swill, a taste so nasty that even diluting in an ounce of half and half cant cover. I was a gold card member and have been going daily since 2001 when they opened in my area. The coffee used to taste good. This is not the same product. So if Starbucks wonders why sales have dropped and patronage declined, it is because there coffee tastes like $#!+ today and when I want to stop I remember how nasty the coffee tastes there any more. It’s really simple. They need to fire the moron who decided to drop quality for corporate profits. It’s like everything else in this country, drop quality and raise prices. It feels like somewhere I crossed into a parallel reality where everything is a little $#!+tier. Everything from politics to coffee. It I’d all going to hell in a hand basket. So maybe the decline of America all comes down to the basics and start of the day, we can’t get a good cup of coffee, so everything that is going bad can be blamed on Starbucks and corporate greed. Ok maybe that is a stretch, I get grumpy without a good cup of coffee. 🍮🤨

    • Reply Sarah Connor September 19, 2020 at 1:10 am

      Try McDonald’s fresh brewed. It is excellent. Smooth and wonderful flavor. $1.10 for a senior coffee. So much flavor. My favorite.

      • Reply Miketo Millo December 23, 2021 at 11:51 pm

        So true!

    • Reply Andy Whitcombe November 25, 2021 at 1:04 am

      Sorry Alex. Most of the starbucks outlets don’t employ professional barrister’s. They are kids on minimum wage. Consequently you get get something that tastes sour and overbrewed. It’s also a little bit expensive. They don’t care!
      Try the outlet at Culverhouse Cross, Cardiff, South Wales. Not exactly welcoming, dirty, scruffy (staff and premises).
      Good luck. I would like to have good coffee at a good price. Your competitors are a bit better at quality ( not Costa).
      I’m charging you 5p for this, oops forgot to tell you first. 🤑

  • Reply Daveo September 28, 2019 at 12:22 am

    The pike (medium) roast is good. Way better than the over roasted regular. I go to my fave Starbucks on my way to work at 530 am every day when theres a fresh batch and I’ve been quite happy.

    I also like sitting in comfy chairs for an hour with some green tea.

    Another thing, most coffee served anywhere in the states is just plain awful. Way way worse than Starbucks. Even in the shops that think they know what they’re doing.

    And while I’m at it – bring your own damn mug in. I can’t stand the disposable cups lying around the sidewalks, roadsides, etc.

  • Reply Cai December 25, 2019 at 4:21 pm

    I just quit after working for five years. I was hired because of my passion for COFFEE, not latte BS. They would never give me the training I needed to become a “coffee master”, telling me constant conflicting stories why i wasn’t getting my training. Now they no longer have the program. If you want to drink coffee to enjoy and not just for a caffeine fix, visit your local roaster or mom and pop shop. Starbucks is no longer about the coffee, it’s just a glorified, overpriced fast food and drink joint.

  • Reply anongirl123 January 4, 2021 at 5:40 pm

    There specialty holiday drinks have around 75 g of sugar (4 days worth) in one venti. People are really clueless about how unhealthy these drinks really are and they are destroying their health. I am watching a friend do it even though I have warned her. Now I just sit back and watch her get her sugar fix.

  • Reply Donna Rudins January 31, 2021 at 7:18 am

    Somebody has to pay for that 130 million dollar coffee pavillion/roastery (think silicon valley ) investment in CHINA, Jan. 2020, that wonderful communist country that gave us our current pandemic! Thanks Starbucks for investing in communism instead of America!

  • Reply Cheryl Trojanowski March 17, 2021 at 6:22 pm

    I had a Espresso Whip w/choc almond milk. Never being told it had 3 shots of espresso in it. I sipped it, so bitter, drank more and my heart started to speed up, got sweaty and felt a huge rush. Not GOOD. I went back and had them add more milk. It should B stated on ad that it has 3 shots. I would NOT have ordered it. C’mon give a girl some info. DISAPPOINTED

  • Reply Rob Weston November 10, 2021 at 1:35 am

    My first experience with Starbucks coffee was at a job I had in 2009. One of the perks was free Starbucks… I was sadly disappointed. For me, the coffee tasted exactly like a wet cigarette ash tray. Fast forward about 10 years, and another job I’m at has free Starbucks. I try it again… nothing changed! Same burnt cigarette ash tray. Ever since then, I started visiting the smaller roasteries and getting some of the best tasting coffee (even the dark roast coffees are substantially better than Starbucks).

  • Reply Marie November 27, 2021 at 11:31 am

    Currently working at Starbucks myself. I’ve had a wide range of third wave coffee, tasting the very beautiful fruity rich notes that I honestly crave. For anyone who has only had crappy coffee, they simply wouldn’t understand until they had tried high quality craft coffee. I remember during my interview and intro into Starbucks and they they tried describing the different tastes and smells. I just can’t. After giving my pallet a journey to GOOD coffee, it’s not the same. Yes it’s fun having the sugar and the what not. I enjoy being in the environment, speeding to make drinks the right way etc. but I would never boast about their taste. They still hold a place in my heart because of You’ve got mail and Sam I am.
    That’s where I stand. The baristas try there to know what they’re tasting but sadly, they don’t.

  • Reply Ray O December 9, 2021 at 12:45 pm

    You forgot to mention that a carcinogenic substance called acrylamide is formed in larger quantities if beans are roasted too long at higher temperatures. In other words sb coffee poses a serious health risk that can be compared to smoking.

  • Reply Russell Volz March 9, 2022 at 11:13 pm

    Rational thought is selfish. That’s not a bad thing. If you’re not selfish to a small degree, you’ll never add your genes to the human gene pool. Rational though has to do with doing things that are consistent with your self-preservation beliefs. How does this relate to Starbucks? It relates in several ways.

    First, Starbucks coffee is bad. There’s no two ways around it. You’d have to have fried tastebuds to not notice. YET, millions of people love Starbucks. Why? Either they “like” bad coffee, which I’m met quite a few people who do in fact “love” bad coffee. That’s irrational to me, but obviously their tastebuds are different than mine.

    The second reason that drinking Starbucks coffee is irrational is that people pay $5.00 for a 50 cent cup of coffee. Why? I believe that Starbucks has very successfully marketed the “feeling”. People are willing to pay $4.50 to feel better about themselves because they drink Starbucks. To you and me, that’s not just irrational, it’s nuts, but I’m telling you, many people do this, including my ex-wife and idiot son-in-law. So, there you have it. Irrationality 101.

    • Reply Cad October 30, 2022 at 3:19 am

      Pretty much confirms most of what i knew. Coffee at its best is a week away from the roasting point and i think thos stuff has to be stale coffee beans laced with added caffeine. Long ways from being anything but swill for coffee and sometimes dont tastr like coffee. Sometimes doing it for a lack of decent coffee shops with good hours. Governments sure screwed that up.

  • Reply Denny Boy Nelson November 18, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    I remember years ago when I brewed a cup of coffee, the flavor was fabulous. Smooth, low acid, could drink it all day.
    Then the flavor started to change to more acidic. I’m blaming the water quality as the problem. Spent years looking for the best quality water, but the end result stayed the same. Flat, acidic, tasteless. I do believe that Starbucks is skunking their beans. Skunking means they’re diluting quality beans with cheaper beans. The end product looks the same but the smell and taste is like $Hitt. It’s just not the same product. I’m looking at other brands that hopefully haven’t traded quality for profit.

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