Best Fast Food Coffee: Top 5 Drive-Thru Brews Most Recommended By Experts

Whether you prefer coffee in the morning, afternoon, or all of the above, there’s nothing like a good cup of joe. Iced or hot, small or large, a brew you can count on to be consistently delicious is a fantastic thing. For days where making a pot just isn’t in the cards, finding the best fast food coffee may not be the next place your mind goes. But believe it or not, plenty of fast food joints have seriously stepped up their coffee game, making them an ideal spot to grab a quick and convenient caffeine fix.

Coffee drinkers, rejoice! Research says drinking two or three cups a day could add years to your life by keeping your heart healthy. Researchers found that the world’s most popular beverage lowers the risk of heart disease and dangerous heart rhythms — helping people live longer. The study reveals this benefit applies to both healthy individuals and those with cardiovascular disease. In the biggest analysis of its kind, scientists tracked more than 400,000 people from the United Kingdom for at least a decade. The team found that the optimum effects of drinking coffee appeared in people who had two or three cups each day. They had a 10 to 15-percent lower risk of developing coronary heart disease, heart failure, a heart rhythm problem, or dying for any reason. That benefit is in comparison to adults who never touch coffee during the day.

Even better, a new study finds going for that second and third cup may be good for your brain. Researchers in Portugal say people who regularly drink coffee are not only more alert, but see more activity in their brains as well. According to the European Food Safety Authority, moderate coffee consumption is typically three to five cups per day. In the new study, researchers from the University of Minho reveal consuming this much caffeine each day can make coffee drinkers more focused while also displaying greater memory and learning abilities.

Regardless of if you’re drinking coffee for its benefits or simply for enjoyment, it’s important to know where you can find a good cup of coffee when the craving strikes. And as an added bonus, you can usually find your favorite fast food cup of joe around the country (or even the world). Of course, not every coffee is created equal. To help you find your perfect drive-thru caffeine spot, StudyFinds sought expert opinions on the best fast food coffee. This list includes the most frequent recommendations, but as always, be sure to let us know in the comments if you have a favorite that we missed!

McDonald's Coffee
McDonald’s Coffee (Photo by Olena Bohovyk on Pexels)

The List: Best Fast-Food Coffee, According to Caffeine Lovers

1. McDonald’s

Whether you enjoy a creamy latte or a hot black coffee, you can find it in the McDonald’s drive-through. And believe it or not, experts say it’s pretty enjoyable. “McDonald’s buys gourmet coffee. You read that right. Their supplier uses a blend of Arabica beans grown in Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, and Costa Rica,” notes Drivin’ & Vibin’. “Don’t laugh, but McDonald’s not only makes a good egg McMuffin but also a good McCafé. Their coffee doesn’t sit around very long. In fact, they brew a fresh pot every 30 minutes. We find this remarkable.”

McDonald's coffee in a to-go tray
McDonald’s coffee in a to-go tray (Photo by Tetiana Horielova on Unsplash)

“If you haven’t tried McDonald’s coffee in a while, you owe it to yourself to give it another chance. Their McCafe menu keeps improving and it’s come to the point that we can’t ignore how good it all tastes. Don’t be one of those annoying coffee snobs who will always scoff at their coffee just because it comes out of a McDonald’s drive-thru window,” says Mashed. “The McCafe variety is formidable. You can find everything from an Americano to an Iced Caramel Macchiato. There are also cappuccinos, lattes, frappés, and more. We aren’t saying McDonald’s is better than Starbucks, but the gap is closing.”

“The Golden Arches have been in the coffee game since McCafe launched in 1993, so we had high expectations for McDonald’s coffee — and it delivered,” adds Cheapism. “Out of all the chains we tried, McDonald’s coffee was not only the cheapest but also the tastiest. Unlike Burger King or Taco Bell, the coffee wasn’t weak, and most importantly, it didn’t have a strange aftertaste. For just $1, you get a hot, relatively flavorful cup of joe at Mickey D’s.”

2. Wendy’s

If you’re craving a warm and strong cup of coffee, it’s hard to wrong with Wendy’s. You may not expect it from the home of the Baconator, but this fast food favorite actually brews a great medium roast. As Mashed puts it, “Wendy’s keeps it simple when it comes to their coffee. They use 100 percent Arabica beans like most fast food joints. But despite the simplicity, Wendy’s still manages to offer an impressive product. How? Their coffee is legitimately medium-roasted, which helps bring out the flavors of the Arabica beans and stops it from tasting watered down.”

“Wendy’s has a surprising amount of coffee options on its menu. It sells hot coffee and decaf hot coffee. Both can be ordered in a small or large size. It also offers a cold brew iced coffee,” lists The Daily Meal. “Of course, the chain features coffee drinks that riff on its beloved Frosty. This famous beverage is something between a milkshake and a soft-serve ice cream. On its coffee menu, Wendy’s combines a Frosty with coffee and calls it a ‘Frosty-ccino.’ You can order a Frosty-ccino in either chocolate or vanilla flavors.”

If you don’t like the watered down taste that comes along with many fast food iced coffees, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by Wendy’s iced options. “The cold coffees here aren’t just iced versions of the hot drink. Wendy’s uses a rich, intensely flavored cold brew instead,” adds Restaurant Clicks. “Do you ever want ice cream for breakfast but need to caffeinate first? Ordering a Frosty-ccino® splits the difference. Wendy’s starts with their cold brew and uses their signature for Frosty for creaminess and sweetens the drink.”

3. Chick-fil-A

With quality beans sourced from South America, a delicate balance of delicious flavors, and a low price point, it’s hard to go wrong with Chick-fil-A coffee. And while many fast food chains can’t go beyond your standard hot coffee with confidence, Chick-fil-A excels in both hot and iced varieties. “Their regular coffee, which is made from 100 percent Colombian coffee beans, is great. But even better is Chick-fil-A’s iced coffee,” boasts Mashed. “You can get it small or large, and either regular or vanilla. They blend together the perfect amount of pure cane sugar and fresh milk with the coffee, and the result is otherworldly. While the vanilla version is great, the regular is the cream of the crop.”

“The Georgia-based chain wins major points for brewing specialty, sustainably sourced beans from Thrive Farmers,” notes Thrillist. “Chick-fil-A claims each cup has notes of ‘smooth caramel and a nutty finish,’ which isn’t quite what we tasted. That said, we got plenty of nuttiness and cocoa notes up front, and unlike many of the other coffees we tried, it doesn’t finish too bitter (though we can’t seem to find those caramel notes). Overall, it’s a rich, fine cup of coffee worthy of being served at a coffee shop, let alone a fast food chicken chain.”

Don’t worry! We’ve talked plenty about the hot coffee options, but you’re not out of luck at Chick-fil-A if you prefer your caffeine iced. “For cold coffee drinkers, Chick-fil-A has an iced coffee on the menu made from a cold brew that’s prepared fresh daily and blended with 2% milk and pure cane sugar,” adds The Daily Meal. “The drink comes in two different flavors: original or vanilla. You can further customize it by adding various creams or sugars to the drink, as well as adjusting the amount of ice used in the beverage.”

4. Sonic

You may not think you’d find coffee at a drive-in, but Sonic defies expectation. With both hot and iced coffee options, you can get a consistent (and fresh!) cup of joe with your burger and slush. “American’s Favorite Drive-In sells Green Mountain Coffee. Yeah, that same brand you know from the Keurig machine in your kitchen. So you won’t be surprised to learn that it tastes quite similar to its already familiar coffee,” notes Thrillist. “Here’s the difference: Sonic actually brews it. It’s not coming from a Keurig, and to us, it tastes marginally fresher than our preconceived notions of Green Mountain.”

“Where Sonic Drive-In really separates themselves is when they add ice to their coffee. For whatever reason, their ice just tastes better than other ice you get from fast food joints,” adds Mashed. “Sonic’s iced coffee is no different. Their two standard flavors, French vanilla and chocolate, are really tasty. Sonic sometimes offers various other flavors — from praline pecan to French vanilla caramel twist — and it’s never a disappointment. Order their iced coffee with confidence. If nothing else, you know the ice half of the equation will be worth it.”

For something a bit stronger, you can also opt for a surprisingly satisfying cold brew. As The Daily Meal says, “if you like iced coffee, you’re in luck. The fast food chain sells an original cold brew iced coffee. This consists of Sonic’s cold brew iced coffee, which is combined with sweet cream and then poured over the chain’s famous pellet ice (which is known for being small and easy to chew). You can choose to add caramel or chocolate syrup to the beverage if you want.”

5. Dunkin’

Regardless of your coffee preferences, this widely available chain has a menu item for you. And as an added bonus, you can add a delicious donut to your order at any time of day. “The global franchise is a Starbucks rival. The company uses 100% Arabica beans from Central and South America, meaning you can count on them serving quality brewed coffee,” claims Drivin’ & Vibin’. “Dunkin’ has you covered from cold brew to iced coffee to hot classics. Nearly all their drinks are customizable to accommodate the sweet tooth and coffee connoisseur alike.”

“Even if you associate Dunkin’ with donuts more than coffee, you know that the chain makes a mean cup of joe. The java options there are anything but limited,” says The Daily Meal. “First, there’s Dunkin’s espresso and coffee menu, which includes both hot and iced coffee drinks. If you’re looking for a hot drink, try a black coffee, Americano, macchiato, cappuccino, espresso, latte, or Signature latte (an upgraded version of the latte with whipped cream, a syrup drizzle, and toppings). If you’re in the mood for a cold drink, order a cold brew or an iced coffee, Americano, latte, macchiato, cappuccino, or Signature latte.”

Though Dunkin’ boasts plenty of variety in their menu, they also pride themselves on making each drink just as delicious for every customer, every day. “Don’t let the name deceive you, Dunkin’ Donuts isn’t a donut shop that sells coffee — it’s a coffee shop that sells donuts. (Maybe that’s why they’re rebranding to become Dunkin’, just Dunkin’),” adds Mashed. “The company claims to sell 60 cups of coffee per second and employ taste testers who sip from 200 cups of coffee per day to ensure consistency from cup to cup.”

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This article may contain affiliate links.