Like many Americans, I consider myself completely incapable of functioning without the glorious benefits of caffeine. I’ll kick around a couple Coke Zeros a day and maybe even an energy drink now and then, but by far, my shaking, yet functioning, hands rely on a strong cup of coffee every morning to get me through the work day.
Being that coffee seems to be one of the few beverages left that science says can actually lengthen my life and not just send me to an early, morbidly obese (if not cancerous) grave, I don’t feel too bad about this otherwise breath-killing addiction.
Embracing this habit, I figure I might as well be drinking something reasonably good and affordable too. I fancy myself something of an everyman when it comes to coffee, mind you, but I do recognize an objective hierarchy in the kinds of roasted beans I want to ingest. And no, I’m not just talking about Jelly Belly Cappuccino jelly beans.
I really don’t think about Burger King when it comes to coffee. At least, I haven’t thought about it much since that one time when I actually had their coffee. Perhaps slightly better than stale DMV coffee but not quite up to the level of West Virginia roadside truckstop brews, Burger King’s previous BK Joe was, at best, a black substance that was (sometimes) hot.
But with the chain deciding to take one step closer towards becoming McDonald’s by ditching its traditional burgers and fries only lineup in place of something bordering on vaguely café-ish, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see if the new Seattle Best Smooth Roast Coffee could take the bitter taste (pun completely and egregiously intended) of my past experience from my mouth.
Seeing that my local Burger King just happens to be right next to my local McDonald’s, I figured a side-by-side comparison was in order. I’ve never been wowed by the “100% Arabica beans” of the Premium Roast from the Golden Arches, but it seems popular enough amongst those who frequent fast food for breakfast.
The first thing I noticed about Burger King’s coffee was, like McDonald’s, the lack of control you have over flavoring. True, ask for a few creamers (thankfully of the real variety) and sweeteners of your choice and each chain is happy to provide them, but when it comes to spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or vanilla (like Starbucks or Einstein Brothers provides) you’re out of luck. You’re also out of luck for multiple cream/milk options, although I guess you could always purchase a kid’s meal milk separately.
Advantage? It’s a draw, with both chains clearly not catering to the consummate coffee drinker.
While both chains serve iced coffee with a variety of flavors, when it comes to keeping coffee hot, and not just lukewarm, both did the trick. But where McDonald’s coffee was served in a scalding hot manner that left a nasty little burn bump on my upper lip, Burger King’s was just right. It really doesn’t help that the McCafe cups come with an awkward lid that doesn’t funnel hot beverages so much as it releases liquid in the coffee equivalent to a surging river. It’s a point I probably wouldn’t have noticed had it not been for Burger King’s more drinker-friendly lid, which funneled the just-right Smooth Roast Coffee into my sleep deprived system.
Advantage? This one goes to Burger King.
Now, on to flavor. The Seattle’s Best Coffee is indeed smooth, especially when compared to McDonald’s “Premium” McCafe blend. Taking initial sips from each chain’s coffee, I find the McCafe coffee bland, bitter, and a touch watery, with no substantial flavor notes or earthy characteristics. Burger King’s blend is naturally a bit sweeter, slightly nutty, and noticeably less bitter, and has a higher drinkability factor all on its own. I didn’t pick up any of the advertised “chocolaty,” notes, but on its own it came across as sharper and better tasting than McDonald’s blend.
After initially tasting both coffees black, I added the prerequisite cream and sweetener (Splenda). Here again I enjoyed the Seattle Best Coffee more, and felt like the smooth and light flavor complimented the cream better than McDonald’s coffee, which still came off as watery and underwhelming to me.
Advantage? Clearly, the King did something right here.
Is Burger King’s coffee something that a serious coffee drinker should seek out? Only if you’re a serious coffee drinker in a town full of truckstops offering stale tasting coffee. But even though I wouldn’t take the Smooth Roast over chains like Starbucks or even my own favorite, Einstein’s Brothers, Burger King’s Smooth Roast Coffee from Seattle’s Best Coffee is a real improvement over Burger King’s previous java attempts.
(NOTE: For a limited time, you can get a small cup for just a quarter and, according to the worker taking my order, you can get a shot of flavor for free.)
(Nutritional Facts: 0 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 0 milligrams of sodium, 0 grams of carbs, 0 grams of sugar, 0 gram dietary fiber, and 0 grams of protein.)
Item: Burger King Smooth Roast Coffee from Seattle’s Best Coffee
Purchased Price: .25 cents (limited time only price)
Size: 12 ounces
Purchased at: Burger King
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Caffeine! Better than McDonald’s “Premium” coffee. Not watered down. Mellow and slightly sweet flavor. Not overly bitter. User-friendly lid. Free flavor shot.
Cons: Won’t appease serious coffee drinkers. Only comes in one flavor. Not very bold or complex. Add-ins like cinnamon or cocoa not available. Costs extra for whipped cream. Not as tasty as Jelly Belly Cappuccino jelly beans. Contemplating burger and coffee pairings.