Coffee Facts

Folgers vs. Starbucks: Which Brand Will You Brew?

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The competition for the best coffee is neverending. Coffee drinkers have their preferences: medium roast vs. dark roast, a shot of espresso vs. a mug of drip coffee, drinking it black vs. adding cream. 

Before you even get to those considerations, you have to pick the brand of beans you’re going to brew. Some coffee connoisseurs think that Starbucks is gourmet, while others swear by the classic Folgers. 

When it comes to Folgers vs. Starbucks, we’ll look at multiple aspects of each of these favorite brands before picking a winner.

Folgers Overview

Before Folgers Coffee was founded in 1850, coffee was something of a luxury. It was too expensive (we’re looking at you, Starbucks) for ordinary people to buy and consume daily.

The coffee tycoon, James Folger, was one of the first coffee roasters to test the beans by brewing cups of coffee before packing them for sale. Other coffee traders sold beans based on how they looked. Folger also worked to have a good reputation, saying that was more valuable to him than money.

Though Folgers didn’t have much competition when it started, it has remained in the top five coffee companies throughout the years. In 2020, it was the top-selling brand of pre-ground coffee, doubling Starbucks’s sales.

If Folgers has been around for decades and is always at the top, you figure it’s got to be good. The company has continued to change with the times, introducing new roasts, instant coffee, and flavored coffees to its lineup.

All Folgers original coffee is ground and sold in bags, canisters, or K-cup pods. You can also buy instant coffee crystals or single-serve pouches, like teabags but for coffee. Their standard coffees come in mild, medium, medium-dark, and dark roasts, so there’s something for every taste.

Though some coffee lovers scoff at the concept of decaf, Folgers has a delicious decaf brew. And, even better—it’s instant!

Say you love the taste of coffee, but hate how it makes your stomach feel after you’ve had a cup. Folgers has a tasty coffee blend just for you! Their Simply Smooth coffee has a low acid content, so it’s gentle on sensitive stomachs. You can buy it in regular or a decaf coffee variant.

All of that sounds very straightforward but never fear—Folgers can get fancy. They have flavored coffee, including french vanilla, caramel, hazelnut, and more. Their flavored cappuccino mixes give you a first-rate coffee beverage in your kitchen.

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If you end up with more Folgers coffee than you can drink, their website has a list of dessert recipes you can make with the grounds.

When you think of Folgers, can you hear their jingle? It’s one of the most famous earworms in advertising history. Introduced in 1984, Folgers has since used the song to hold music competitions and donate profits to VH-1s Save the Music charity, which funds music programs in elementary schools.

The coffee company also recently donated $500,000 to the University of California Davis College of Engineering. The money will launch the Folgers Analytical Chemistry Lab in the Coffee Center. Scientists will study chemical reactions by roasting and brewing coffee.

Learning a brief history of Folgers shows you that it’s a good company that produces good coffee. The fact that their coffee is very affordable gives you another good reason to support this brand compared to others. Folgers is a company that wants to be accessible to everyone and gives back when they can.

Starbucks Overview

The Starbucks coffee chain came from humble origins, just like Folgers. It began as a single store in Seattle, but, with the popularity of coffee shops growing daily, now has more than 30,000 additional stores worldwide. There are freestanding Starbucks and Starbucks kiosks in malls, hotels, airports, and retail stores. If you ever get a craving for Starbucks coffee, chances are you don’t have to venture too far to find one.

Though the company is famous for its unique coffee drinks, you can also buy whole-bean or their famous ground coffee to brew at home. They have an extensive selection of roasts, depending on your taste. You can choose from:

Since Folgers only has medium and dark roasts, you get the chance to try something different with Starbucks’ blonde roasts. Both medium and dark roasts also come in decaf options, but unfortunately, the blonde roast isn’t yet available as a decaffeinated coffee.

Starbucks has a variety of flavored, top-quality, fresh-roasted coffees with more extensive offerings than Folgers. They have flavors like Honey and Madagascar Vanilla, Coconut Chocolate, Caramel Dolce, and Tiramisu.

Like Folgers, Starbucks coffee comes in instant options and K-Cup pods. Also, if you don’t want to brew your coffee or visit a Starbucks storefront, you can still enjoy their coffee. They sell individual servings of several types of coffee beverages like Frappuccinos, Double Shots, and Cold Brew coffee in bottles and cans.

You can also find bottles of Starbucks at neighborhood grocery stores. They sell large, multi-serving bottles of their cold brew and flavored lattes. You can also pick up coffee enhancers like their flavored creamers to make any coffee you brew taste more like a custom Starbucks beverage.

There are also tons of secret recipe sites where you can find ways to make your favorite sugary Starbucks drink at home. Starbucks doesn’t keep their recipes close to the vest, making them more endearing than fast food places with “secret sauces” and the like. 

Starbucks’ generosity doesn’t stop there. The company has pledged to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next three years. Employees also get more benefits than comparable retail jobs, such as tuition assistance, health benefits, parental leave, and more.

There are also significant coffee-based benefits for Starbucks employees. They get 30% off anything in the store and get to take home a pound of coffee or box of K-Cups every week. 

Starbucks isn’t only good to their employees. They’re also enacting several green initiatives to make the company more environmentally friendly. They have worked to reduce single-use straws and released reusable cups that earn customers a discount with each order.

Top Picks

It’s too easy to compare Starbucks drinks to Folgers coffee, so we’re taking anything from the retail store off the table. For this Folgers vs. Starbucks battle, we’re matching their ground coffees only.

Folgers Classic Roast

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First up is Folgers Classic Roast, which is their medium roast coffee. It’s a blend of the two types of roasted coffee beans: Arabica and Robusta. 

Arabica beans are grown at high altitudes and have a more elaborate taste. Robusta is appropriately named—these plants are resilient and grow easily. The beans have less flavor than Arabica, which is why most commercial coffee beans sold in the US are blends trying to balance the two.

Classic Roast has a pleasant flavor and can be doctored with sugar and creamer to suit your taste. If it’s too weak for you, you can always add an extra scoop or two before brewing.

This roast is available in resealable containers, single-serve bags, K-Cup pods, and instant crystals. Therefore, you can get the same consistent flavor in a variety of different preparation styles. You can also get it in decaf.

If you buy the resealable container, you’re able to easily scoop out the coffee you need and keep it fresh for the next use. You don’t have to worry about folding down the top of the bag or the clip coming off when you store it in the cabinet.

This packaging ensures you’ll get the same quality flavor from the first cup to the last. The company doesn’t use preservatives in their coffee, so you know you’re getting all-natural beans when you buy Classic Roast.

Things We Like

  • Classic coffee flavor everyone can enjoy
  • It comes in a resealable container
  • Affordable, good-quality coffee
  • Available in K-Cup pods for Keurigs

Things We Don’t

  • Bland flavor compared to other roasts
  • It doesn’t specify percentages of Arabica vs. Robusta beans

Starbucks Pike Place

Starbucks Pike Place is the company’s medium roast type of coffee, which is the equivalent of Folgers Classic Roast. Since Pike Place was Starbucks’ first store, this name means “classic” as well.

The bag says that the flavors of this roast are harmonious, and nothing should stand out above anything else. However, it also says that it has subtle flavors of toasted nuts and cocoa, so perhaps you are supposed to taste them.

While Folgers Classic Roast is a blend of Arabica and Robusta beans, Starbucks Pike Place blend is 100% Arabica coffee. These beans are more expensive, which might account for the higher price of Starbucks’ beans.

Starbucks Pike Place is available in regular and decaf. You can choose from whole bean, ground, instant, and K-Cup pods. 

If you buy ground or whole bean coffee, it comes in a bag. This makes it a little challenging to scoop out the coffee properly. You have to be careful not to spill any grounds and waste precious coffee.

The bag is technically resealable because you roll it down and secure it with a wire closure. We didn’t notice a big difference in the coffee’s freshness from the first cup to the last, but it didn’t seem as secure as the Folgers container.

Things We Like

  • Rich coffee flavor
  • Consistent taste across brews
  • Available in different methods of preparation

Things We Don’t

  • More expensive per pound compared to Folgers
  • It comes in a bag—hard to scoop out and reseal

Folgers Black Silk

Folgers Black Silk is the brand’s dark roast. If you like dark coffee, then you’ll love this offering from Folgers. While you can dilute some roasts by increasing the water to coffee ratio, Black Silk stays strong no matter what. 

If you like mild coffee, you’re better off with Classic Roast. However, if you’ve tried Classic Roast and find it lacking in flavor, then Black Silk is going to be the solution you need.

This coffee might have a strong taste, but it’s smooth and drinkable. Black Silk is available in regular and decaf. You can buy containers of ground coffee or K-Cup pods to use in your Keurig. 

Things We Like

  • Intense coffee flavor
  • Smooth drinkability
  • It comes in a resealable container
  • Available in ground and K-Cup pods

Things We Don’t

  • Lower caffeine content in coffee than mild roasts

Starbucks Sumatra

Starbucks Sumatra is the brand’s dark roast, the equivalent of Folgers Black Silk. This rich coffee has no acidity, so it’s smooth when you drink it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to have the depth of perfect flavor you want in a dark roast.

Like the Pike Place blend, Sumatra is 100% Arabica beans. But again, this makes Starbucks coffee’s price point higher than Folgers.

Sumatra comes in regular or decaf. You can buy a bag of whole bean or ground coffee or choose K-Cup pods.

Things We Like

  • Low acidity for easy consumption
  • Variety of brewing options

Things We Don’t

  • It lacks much of a flavor profile
  • Whole-bean and ground options come in bags that are hard to reseal

What’s the Bottom Line?

Folgers is the clear winner of this battle. The brand has a quality coffee taste and is more affordable than Starbucks, so you get more bang for your buck. Folgers has been around for many years and maintains its popularity because it provides a solid cup of coffee with every brew.

Don’t get us wrong—Starbucks coffee is a good option, too. But with a much higher price point than Folgers, it’s not the best choice for your go-to coffee. When you want to spoil yourself, or if you have a killer coupon, splurge on Starbucks. Otherwise, Folgers won’t steer you wrong.

Even coffee aficionados can enjoy brewing Folgers coffee at home. Since they have various options, from Classic Roast to Black Silk with tons of flavors in-between, you’ll get a great cup of coffee no matter your choice.

You can buy your favorite coffee ground in K-Cup pods to use in your Keurig or get a large, resealable container. If you opt for ground coffee, you then have brewing power to make drip coffee, pour-over coffee, French press, cold brew, and more. With Folgers, you’ll never drink a boring cup of coffee.

Happy Caffeinating!

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