Starbucks is one of the biggest giants in the coffee industry. What started as a single store selling roasted coffee in Seattle, grew into being the biggest coffee franchise in the world with around 30,000 stores worldwide and a total of 15,149 Starbucks in the US alone.
Whether you are a fan of Starbucks or not, you cannot deny its exceptional popularity. Starbucks’ mission is not to only sell coffee but also to bring people together and create a sense of community. With 75 million customers visiting its US stores every month and selling the equivalent of 1 coffee every 50 seconds, it is certainly successful.
At a Glance: Best Starbucks Coffee Beans
Starbucks doesn’t only sell the coffee, but it also offers a wide range of coffee beans that allow you to bring Starbucks to your own home.
Are the beans from Starbucks any good? What are the best coffee beans that you can buy from Starbucks? And which ones are recommended for different brewing methods?
We will answer all of these questions and look at some of the best Starbucks blends you can find.
How Did It All Start?
The biggest coffee company in the world started as a roaster and retailer of whole and ground bean coffee at a single store at Seattle’s Pike Place Market in 1971 set up by Jerry Baldwin and his two college buddies.
12 years later, Howard Schultz, after traveling to Italy and being inspired by the Italian coffee culture and experience, came back with a vision of recreating it in the United States.
After setting up the successful Il Giornale coffeehouses, Schultz purchased Starbucks in 1987 and, in line with the traditional coffee houses throughout history acting as places for social gathering, he wanted to create a place of conversation and community.
Whether you like Starbucks or not, you cannot deny that it has massively popularized the coffee culture in the world and revolutionized the coffee industry. The start of Starbucks is also associated to be the start of what is known as the Second Wave coffee in coffee history.
Where Do The Beans Come From?
Starbucks sources its coffee beans from 3 key coffee-growing regions. These include Latin America, Africa, and the Asian Pacific. The last one being the region where most of the signature coffee blends come from.
Apart from that, the company also owns a 240-hectare farm on the slopes of Poas Volcano in Costa Rica and grows its coffee there. Additionally, it also imports over 14,000 bags of coffee each year from China.
The Bitter Truth
Starbucks coffee is often associated with a bitter and burnt taste. This is because it mostly uses dark roast for their coffee. This type of roast is predominant in the US to such a degree, that it can be seen as the only coffee we know. While it is the dominant flavor in the US, if you went to Kenya or Costa Rica, the coffee there would taste completely different.
When it comes to different roasts, the tasting notes are different, even when using the same coffee beans. The light roasts are fruity and acidic and the medium roasts are balanced and sweet. They both demonstrate a lot more flavor coming from the coffee cherry because these tasting notes have not been burnt away.
This comes with a price. And the price is inconsistent taste.
The Consistent Taste Of Starbucks Coffee
While lighter roasts can be flavorful, if you taste coffee beans from two different farms within the same region the taste varies greatly. This is not useful if you want to have consistent flavor across 30,000 stores around the world.
In contrast, the predominant flavor of a dark roast is bitter, burnt, and, what is often described as strong. And because most of the flavors are lost during the roasting process, using lower quality beans doesn’t make a massive impact on the flavor. That’s why since Starbucks mostly uses dark roast for their coffee, financially, it makes more sense to use lower quality coffee.
Before you dismiss the Starbucks coffee beans as too bitter, you have to realize that thanks to the uniform taste of their signature dark roast, they’ve managed to build one of the most impressive and trusted brands in the world.
Apart from generating massive capital, Starbucks also works hard to make a positive impact on the coffee industry and the world.
It encourages sustainable farming and direct trade with the farms, encourages environmentally-friendly practices and packaging, investing in innovative agricultural, water conservation, and reforestation practices.
Additionally, for every pound of coffee beans sold, Starbucks plants a coffee tree in one of the counties most impacted by the coffee rust. On top of that, it also treats its employees as well as it does their caffeine-seeking customers.
That doesn’t that bitter now, does it?
Best Starbucks Coffee Beans
That’s enough of the theory, let’s talk about the best coffee beans Starbucks offers. And not only the dark roast.
Pike Place Roast
Starting with the most iconic blend associated with Starbucks, it is the Pike Place roast coffee. Referencing the place where the first Starbucks opened in 1971 in Seattle, this is one of the most staple and iconic blends.
What makes the Pike Place blend so popular is that it hits every mark. It is smooth and balanced and while it is strong and full-bodied, there are brighter notes present too that make it taste less heavy. While the balanced taste makes it a good choice for morning or after dinner caffeine hit.
And since Starbucks usually relies on this coffee to perfume its stores, it is also aromatic. The balanced taste and cocoa and nutty tasting notes make this coffee blend satisfying.
These beans are quite oily and that’s why you should be careful if you’re using a super-automatic machine. The only negative might be that it is simple and not complex or unusual. But if you’re a fan of the classic Starbucks taste, the Pike Place coffee is for you.
Another coffee that is very close to the standard cup of coffee at Starbucks that you would get in-store, the Breakfast Blend is a medium roast with an approachable taste but also a light kick.
The Breakfast blend is 100% Arabica is sourced from Latin America and is lively and lighter than the typical dark roast. It is not too strong and since the beans are not too oily, they are ideal for making espressos.
These coffee beans are perfect for a nicely balanced cup to accompany your breakfast with a rich and smooth body but also a clean aftertaste.
Sumatra Dark Roast
The Sumatra is one of the best dark roasts you can get from Starbucks. Since it is sold as ground coffee, which makes it a little less fresh than whole bean coffee, it is useful if you don’t have a grinder at home.
This is not a blend as the previous two but a single origin sourced solely from Sumatra, Indonesia. That’s why the flavors are more pronounced and complex.
This 100% Arabica is strong and bold with low acidity. It still retains rich earthy and herbal tasting notes that are characteristic of Sumatra origin. These ground bean coffee will work for any drip machine or espresso but are especially good for pour-over brewing methods featuring an impressive bloom when the natural oils get released and provide a rich aroma.
Komodo Dragon Blend
The Komodo Dragon blend is roasted dark and brings out a new dimension of dark roast coffee beans since it offers more complex flavor and aroma. This 100% Arabica is of Indonesian origin in the Asian Pacific region.
This blend is for those who like the strong and fiery taste of dark roast but are also keen on exploring new flavors. The Komodo Dragon blend is unique and interesting with pronounced herbal and earthy flavors. It is a whole bean coffee and the oily beans are perfect for your morning espresso or a flavorful cappuccino, without missing out on a serious kick.
This is one of the best Starbucks coffee beans available. One of the most popular single origins comes from Guatemala where the coffee grows in nutrient-rich volcanic soils and therefore allows for more complex and developed flavors.
The medium roast makes the coffee more smooth and subtle than the previous dark roast beans. And the washed processing method ensures a clean aftertaste. The tasting notes you can expect are chocolate, caramel, nuts, and apples.
This whole bean coffee is 100% Arabica and is best for espresso and works great with milk, cream, or sweeteners too. The beans are not too oily, which makes it great coffee even for super-automatic espresso makers.
This is a unique “post-roast” blend, which means that the coffee beans are mixed after they’ve been roasted. It contains a blend of lighter and darker roasts from South America in a carefully selected ratio. This way, the coffee has a lighter side but it is balanced with darker and stronger notes coming from the dark roast.
This unique blend is one of the most popular ones because this ground coffee balances a strong and rich full body without the bitter aftertaste or acidity.
This multi-region blend of 100% Arabica beans has a strong chocolate aroma and is a bold wake up in the morning while it is also sweet enough to enjoy and wind down after dinner.
Coming back to the dark roast that Starbucks coffee is known for, this French roast is as dark as the coffee beans can get. It is one of the most popular blends, so if you’re wondering why is Starbucks coffee bitter, it’s because that’s the kind of coffee that people demand.
The French roast is a blend of 100% Arabica coffees from Latin America and is roasted until it’s almost burnt. This brings out the smoky dark flavors, full-body, and robust and bold taste. This is a ground coffee that is well-balanced and sealed for freshness.
If you struggle with waking up in the morning, the French roast will do the job and is strong enough to wake up the dead ones. It was traditionally made for French press and works well with this style of brewing. This coffee won’t work with quick extraction methods, such as the espresso since the coffee needs more brewing time to draw out the more complex flavors.
To show you that Starbucks coffees don’t only include a singular coffee style, the Siren’s blend combines citrusy African beans with chocolaty notes of beans from Latin America. This is a whole bean coffee that comes as a medium roast.
This blend has complex bright flavors, floral aromas, and lively acidity, that you wouldn’t expect from Starbucks coffee. It works well as an espresso but tastes best when used for cold brew. With this brewing method, it allows the bursting floral and citrus notes to develop.
This blend also supports sustainable farming methods and is in partnership with the International Women’s Coffee Alliance, which leads women’s empowerment across the global coffee industry. 15 cents for every cup of brewed Siren’s Blend purchased at Starbucks went to organizations championing women in coffee-growing communities.
Another type of coffee beans that you wouldn’t expect from Starbucks dark roast coffee is the Veranda blend. This is coffee that tries to increase the popularity of lighter roasts and expand the coffee tasting horizons of the typical Starbucks drinkers.
This blonde roast is light and has a smooth and mellow taste. It is accompanied by light chocolate and nutty aromas, that make the coffee flavorful but still mild and easy drinking.
The coffee beans come from Latin America and the roasting focuses on pulling out the pleasant acidity in coffee, which is characteristic of lighter roasts.
While this blend might be too mellow for some, it is perfect for those who are sensitive or just not too keen on a strong dark roast. The beans are not too oily, which makes this ground coffee perfect for espresso brewing and good for being mixed with steamed milk, cream, or sweeteners. So if you prefer your latte a little more mellow, this ground bean coffee is for you.
Coffee Beans Not Only For Starbucks Fans
Starbucks is undoubtedly the biggest giant in the coffee industry. And people tend to have quite opposing views towards it. While some love the classic taste of Starbucks coffee, others dismiss it as too bitter and not complex enough.
We hope that by showing you a wide range of the best Starbucks coffee beans, we showed you that their range is much more complex and varied than their signature dark roast and there is a bag of coffee beans that would satisfy any coffee lover. And whether you prefer a dark, light, or a medium roast, there is a blend for you.
Whether you’re a fan of Starbucks or not, there is no doubt that the company has done a great job since it first opened in 1971 and transformed the whole coffee industry. Starbucks still works hard on supporting the local growing communities and encouraging sustainable farming practices.
That makes Starbucks coffee is not so bitter after all.
Which blend would you choose?