Question: “I want to know what you think about Tim Horton’s coffee and my husband wants to know what you think about McDonald’s coffee???” - Diane Maillet
Answer: Wow, I want to know if either of you have ever had a GOOD coffee in your life .
I’m just kidding, I’ve been on the run many times before and in desperate need of a coffee. I recently wrote about it where for all the bashing Starbucks takes, I was happy to have stopped for a coffee from their drive-thru one night.
Read: I still like Starbucks
When you don’t have the luxury of making good coffee at home, you’re forced to get it on the run. Here’s what I think of Tim Horton’s and McDonald’s coffee.
I’ll start with Tim Horton’s. I love their practice of not letting any coffee sit on heat for more than 20 minutes after it’s been brewed. That means it’s been freshly-brewed and not burnt. Burnt coffee is bad coffee, and I like that it gets dumped rather than poured into a thermal pump dispenser which is another way I find freshness gets sucked out of good coffee.
So it’s freshly-brewed, but is it freshly-ground? Coffee is perishable and ground coffee expires at a faster rate than whole bean coffee.
Read: The Golden Rules of Fresh Coffee
You want to brew coffee as quickly as you can after it’s been ground, but Tim Horton’s coffee is delivered to its individual outlets PRE-GROUND. So it’s not burnt, but it’s not as fresh as it could be. If Tim Horton’s was obsessed with fresh coffee like you and I are, then they would grind the coffee on-site before it’s brewed. But, this would take longer and in the trade-off between fresh coffee and your wait time, Tim Horton’s goes with quick service.
Read: Where does Tim Horton’s coffee come from?
Like most Tim Horton’s customers, I used to drink it with two creams and two sugars. This is a time-honored Canadian tradition, and likely the reason so many people love the coffee, not for the blend of beans but for the 18% coffee cream they use. If you’ve ever tried to make your own “double double” from a black Tim Horton’s coffee, you’ve found that it takes more than two creams to do so (?).
Since I drink my coffee black, I’m finally tasting Tim Horton’s coffee for what it is, and the best way I can describe it is…strange. I don’t find it as bland as some, but I’m convinced the beans are blended intentionally so that it tastes best as a “double double”, the very way most customers order it. As a quality cup of coffee, it is somewhere between 6-7 out of 10 for me.
I don’t think even just a few years ago that I would have imagined myself saying that McDonald’s was serving a quality coffee. I assumed when the Higgins and Burke experiment failed that McDonald’s would stop trying. The story is that in an effort to revamp their fledgling coffee business, McDonald’s introduced an “established” brand in H&B to get people talking. Whether it was McDonald’s bringing down the value of H&B brand, or the fact that good coffee is still bad if it isn’t prepared right, the experiment was ended.
With their eyes set on being a more reasonably priced and less “snooty” alternative to Starbucks, McDonald’s rolled out McCafe. It is meant to be less dark-roasted than most Starbucks coffees to appeal to a wider audience without compromising quality. It is not bitter, it tastes very fresh whenever I’ve had it, and it has a good consistency (body) compared to the “coffee flavored hot water beverage” they used to sell many years ago.
I believe many people are enjoying the new McDonald’s coffee, since the McCafe rollout continues and Burger King responded by replacing their own “signature” coffee with Starbucks-owned Seattle’s Best Coffee.
My advice: If you want a special coffee drink that a trained barista should prepare, go to Starbucks. If you want variety between a “medium” and “bold” coffee, go to Starbucks. If you want a fresh quality coffee poured from a pot for less money than Starbucks, go to (I can’t believe I’m about to say it) McDonald’s! And if you’re Canadian and you need a coffee very, very quickly, there’s probably a Tim Horton’s within a city block of you and it’s still better than the terrible coffee that McDonald’s sold us for many years.