Dutch Bros vs. Starbucks: Which Has Better Coffee?

By Mark •  Updated: 07/18/22 •  10 min read

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If you’re a coffee lover, you might have your own opinions about the “best” coffee, but how do the major coffee chains Dutch Bros and Starbucks objectively stack up against each other?

Dutch Bros vs Starbucks
Dutch Bros vs Starbucks: Which Has Better Coffee?

In this article, I’ll detail the factors listed above and some additional points of comparison to help you decide whether you prefer Dutch Bros or Starbucks.

Dutch Bros vs. Starbucks: Overview

Dutch Bros

Dutch Bros celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2022, reflecting on humble beginnings in 1992 as a coffee pushcart next to the railroad tracks in Oregon. The company has since grown, expanding across the Pacific Northwest and into states to the east and south, including its newest locations in Texas and Oklahoma.

Taking a play on the company name, “broistas” instead of baristas serving a range of hot and cold tea and coffee drinks, smoothies, milkshakes, soda, and lemonade. Food options are limited to sweet “goodies”: muffin tops and a granola bar.

Starbucks

Which is more popular Starbucks or Dutch Bros
Which is more popular Starbucks or Dutch Bros?

Also based out of the Pacific Northwest, the international Starbucks coffee chain had its first store in Seattle in 1971. With its iconic mermaid logo, Starbucks introduced many North Americans to their first espresso-based coffee drinks.

After five decades, Starbucks trained baristas still serve a range of hot and cold beverages at their coffee houses, but they also have instant and whole bean coffee available for purchase for you to make at home. The company’s food menu is expansive, with a range of hot and cold meals for breakfast and lunch, snack options, and bakery sweets.

Dutch Bros vs. Starbucks: Side by Side Comparison

To rate these coffee chains, I compared them across several different criteria, including:

  • Cost
  • Coffee Quality
  • Signature Drinks
  • Variety
  • Ease of Customization
  • Food Options
  • Convenience
  • Environmental Sustainability
  • Health

Cost

dutch bros vs starbucks prices
Dutch Bros vs Starbucks Prices: Starbucks is more expensive!

At the time of writing, most Dutch Bros flavored specialty coffee drinks start at $3.75 for a small (12oz) and $5.25 for a large (20oz). The highest price drink is a 32oz blended frozen drink or smoothie, at $7.25. Food items (muffins and granola bars) range from $1.50 to $2.25.

Starbucks’ price points are higher, with tall (12oz) plain lattes starting at $3.85 and up when additional flavors or other customizations are added. The highest price drinks (before customizations) are venti size (20oz) specialty blended drinks, at $5.95.  

Starbucks has a much broader selection of food items ranging in price from $1.25 to $8.45, so it’s harder to compare. For a direct comparison, a blueberry muffin at Starbucks is $2.65 compared to $2.25 for a muffin at Dutch Bros.

The Winner: Dutch Bros

Overall, Dutch Bros is the winner for cost. Their drinks are available at a lower price for the same size as Starbucks.

Coffee Quality

What's better Dutch Bros or Starbucks
What’s better Dutch Bros or Starbucks?

Starbucks is well known for its ethically sourced, high-quality coffee beans. The company is quite public about its efforts in this area, and its ability to deliver on the promise of high-quality coffee is what justifies its higher pricing point.  

Dutch Bros, on the other hand, buries the origin of its Dutch Bros Private Reserve Coffee blend in the Frequently Asked Questions on its Contact Us page, and its marketing does not tout the quality of its coffee. The chain instead focuses on fun and flavor. 

The Winner: Starbucks

Starbucks is the winner for quality. Starbucks has built its brand and reputation on offering high-quality, ethically-sourced coffee, served in drinks prepared by trained baristas. 

Signature Drinks

Starbucks is likely why many North Americans have even heard of macchiato or other European espresso-based drinks.  

The company is exceptionally well known for its Frappuccino (a blended beverage similar to a milkshake or smoothie with whipped cream that may or may not include coffee or espresso), and its seasonal autumn Pumpkin Spice Latte is known by just three letters: PSL.

Dutch Bros, however, takes signature drinks to a new level with catchy, fun names in most of its drink categories, including the Annihilator, the Double RainBro, the Ninja, the Shark Attack, the Double Torture, and the 9-1-1 for a six-shot Irish creme breve.  

The Winner: Dutch Bros

Dutch Bros’ creativity and sense of humor in naming many of the drinks on its menu make it the winner for signature drinks.

Variety

Starbucks offers brewed coffee in various roasts, cold brewed coffee, steeped black, green, and herbal teas, tea lattes, and different hot and cold espresso drinks, including espresso shots, Americano, cappuccinos, lattes, macchiatos, mochas, and more.  

Beyond tea and coffee drinks, Starbucks also has bottled water, lemonade, fruit juices, smoothies, hot cocoa, apple cider, and cold or steamed milk.

Dutch Bros’ menu does not mention brewed coffee. However, they do serve Americano.  

Their espresso drinks are not marketed along the lines of traditional Italian coffee drinks (cappuccinos, lattes, and macchiatos, which each have specific ratios of espresso to milk) but simply espresso mixed with flavor syrups and a half and a half (or non-dairy substitute).

Dutch Bros also has cold brew coffee, black or green tea, energy drinks, milkshakes, smoothies, lemonades, sodas, and hot cocoa.  

The Winner: Starbucks

Starbucks wins for variety with its range of roasts of coffee beans and espresso beans, a wider variety of espresso-based drinks, and more beverage options outside of coffee and tea drinks.  

Ease of Customization

If you’ve ever stood in line at a Starbucks and listened to the drink orders, you’ll know there is infinite variety in how even a basic latte can be prepared.

Customers have the option to dictate the number of shots, the temperature, the amount of milk foam, the type and amount of sweeteners, syrups and sauces, the flavor, and the dairy (nonfat, 2%, whole or lactose-free milk, heavy cream, or half and half) and non-dairy options (oat, almond, coconut, or soy) to be added to the drink.

Dutch Bros vs Starbucks sizes
Starbucks offers more customization options!

Starbucks also offers various roasts for its coffee beans, including dark roast, blonde roast, medium roast, and more.

These customization options are available in the Starbucks app for easy mobile ordering.

Dutch Bros offers its coffee and tea drinks in hot or cold format (except obviously for its blended frozen drinks, which are cold only), and customers can add extra shots, but they cannot specify the temperature of the shots or the amount of foam.

They can choose oat, almond, or coconut milk instead of half and half.  

Dutch Bros’ menu focuses on predetermined flavor combinations in its signature drinks. Customers can choose different flavor syrups than the ones specified, but this is only available in person.  

At Dutch Bros, customers also need to know the different syrups available. They are not listed in the main menu part of the website but are instead included in the Frequently Asked Questions section.

The Winner: Starbucks

Starbucks makes it much easier for customers to start with a “plain” drink and customize it exactly how they want it, even when placing an order on the Starbucks app. In contrast, Dutch Bros starts with predetermined flavor combinations that are especially hard to change when ordering online.

Food Options

Dutch Bros has four food options: three muffin flavors and a granola bar.

By contrast, Starbucks’ bakery options include bagels, bars, brownies, cakes & cake pops, cookies, croissants, loaves, scones, and tarts.  

Starbucks also has meal options, including sandwiches and wraps for breakfast and lunch, oatmeal, yogurt parfaits, and “bistro boxes,” including cheese and crackers, nuts, fruit, and hard-boiled eggs.

The Winner: Starbucks

Starbucks has a large and varied selection of food items compared to Dutch Bros’ limited options of a muffin or a granola bar.

Convenience

Dutch Bros focuses on its drive-through operations, with limited in-store dining. A drive-through is a convenient way to grab a coffee, but the company’s new app does not yet support mobile orders, so there is no way to order ahead of time.  

It is possible to order Dutch Bros through third-party food delivery services such as Uber Eats or Skip The Dishes.  

Starbucks offers both in-store and drive-through options. The app supports detailed, customized orders for all menu items and will also give an estimated time for the order to be ready for pickup.  

Like Dutch Bros, Starbucks has partnered with Uber Eats and other third-party food delivery services that can deliver directly to you.

The Winner: Starbucks

On top of its in-person, drive-through, and delivery services, Starbucks’ app edges out Dutch Bros for top marks for convenience.

Environmental Sustainability

Beyond fair-trade coffee beans, Starbucks also focuses on ethical sourcing for teacocoa, and manufactured goods used in its menu items. Starbucks has also set targets with the Science-Based Target Initiative (SBTi), a partnership helping companies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change. More details are available in Starbucks’ Global Environmental & Social Impact Report.

Dutch Bros states, “we’re making meaningful commitments to reduce our environmental impact for the well-being of customers and communities.” 

Still, there is no additional information about these commitments on its website. In its 2021 Annual Report, they are “focused on and are preparing to commit to a series of initiatives…such as reducing shop water use, diverting waste from landfills, responsibly sourcing our coffees, and procuring renewable energy.” It’s important to emphasize that they have not yet committed to these initiatives, and no details are available about where they are in the process.

An independent review of the most sustainable national coffee shops put Dutch Bros at the bottom of its list, whereas Starbucks was in the middle of the pack.

The Winner: Starbucks

Starbucks has a much longer history of environmental sustainability efforts than Dutch Bros. It has identified initiatives to reduce single-use coffee cups, including its Bring Your Own Cup (BYOC) option.

Health

Dutch Bros does have a range of low-calorie drinks on its menu and offers 11 sugar-free syrups to create lower-calorie options. However, the only dairy option on its menu is half and half (half cream and half sugar); there is no nonfat milk or any other kind of dairy milk.  

Starbucks offers more drinks under 100 calories, mainly because it offers many unflavored coffee drinks (no syrups or sauces) and because it is possible to customize drinks with nonfat milk or almond milk, which is even lower in calories than nonfat milk.  

The Winner: Starbucks

Starbucks’ larger variety of milk options and extensive food menu makes it much easier to create a balanced meal to meet your health and fitness needs. 

Final Thoughts

Starbucks has better coffee than Dutch Bros, offers more variety and customization options, and has a much more extensive food menu. Having all of these options available makes Starbucks healthier than Dutch Bros. The ease of ordering on the Starbucks mobile app makes it more convenient than Dutch Bros. 

Mark

G'day from Australia! I'm Mark, the Chief Editor of Portafilter. I'm super passionate about everything coffee-related and love to spend endless hours mastering pulling the perfect shot on my Breville Barista Express. Follow on: Linkedin and Facebook.

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