Whether your drink of choice is aor a , your preference can be a serious matter of allegiance. If you swear by the precise caffeine content of a particular retailer's breakfast blend, or their artistry with foam, or their patience with your excessively modified custom order, you may very well go out of your way to visit them daily. Sometimes, though, your daily brew may just be a matter of convenience, if you typically visit the place that is closest to your work or home, or on your way between the two. Maybe it's a combination of both factors.
Whatever motive drives your java selection, we're here to explain the potential financial impact of your daily coffee habit. While we've already calculated how much you can save byon the regular (spoiler alert: It can be a lot), here we pit a few of America's largest coffee chains against each other, in the battle for which is the greatest value.
To that end, you might be wondering which coffee chain is cheaper: Starbucks, Dunkin' or Caribou Coffee? Well,to find out. (For more, check out , and .)
Coffee chains compared
||Starbucks, each||Dunkin', each||Caribou, each||Starbucks, yearly||Dunkin', yearly||Caribou, yearly|
|Small drip coffee||$1.95||$1.59||$1.69||$487.50||$397.50||$422.50|
|Small cold brew coffee||$2.95||$2.59||$2.39||$737.50||$647.50||$597.50|
|Small frozen blended coffee*||$3.25||$2.99||$4.29||$812.50||$747.50||$1,073|
|Medium drip coffee||$2.25||$1.89||$2.09||$562.50||$472.50||$522.50|
|Medium cold brew coffee||$3.45||$3.09||$2.79||$862.50||$772.50||$697.50|
|Medium frozen blended coffee*||$3.95||$3.99||$4.69||$987.50||$997.50||$1,173|
|Large drip coffee||$2.65||$2.09||$2.39||$662.50||$522.50||$597.50|
|Large cold brew coffee||$3.75||$3.59||$3.09||$937.50||$897.50||$772.50|
|Large frozen blended coffee*||$4.45||$4.99||$4.99||$1,112.50||$1,247.50||$1,247.50|
*Starbucks Coffee Frappuccino versus Dunkin' Frozen Coffee versus Caribou Caribou Cooler
The coffee shop contenders
Starbucks is the largest coffee chain in the world, and has over 15,000 shops in the US alone, so it's probable that a lot of us are grabbing our daily cuppa at a Starbucks location. (Some of us in urban areas even have the choice between two Starbucks that are right across the street from each other -- talk about convenience!) On the other hand, if you happen to inhabit a Starbucks dead zone (there aren't many), are from Massachusetts, or just believe that nobody -- including more upscale local coffee shops -- can manage to make a decaf coffee that tastes anywhere near as good, there's that which America allegedly runs on: Dunkin'. (Yes, I have a decaf addiction. It's complicated.) Finally, there are a number of medium-range coffee chains in America that we could have chosen to occupy the wild card spot here for the iconoclasts (and Midwesterners), but we've gone with Caribou. It may have something to do with their jaunty, prancing logo.
How we calculated the cost
In order to represent a wide variety of financial possibilities, I've chosen a handful of both hot and cold beverages that are mostly comparable across all three brands in terms of size and flavor, and that represent various price points among their respective menus. The plain coffee drinkers among you may only be spending pocket change for a beverage regardless of brand, but there are also those of you who potentially spend more on a morning coffee beverage than you do on food for the remainder of the day. You know who you are. We see you. We're here to help you at least find the cheapest option.
Using the four fairly straightforward beverage options I selected from each of the three retailers, I priced them out for small, medium and large sizes. Hot drip coffee represents the cheapest and quickest option available for every retailer. There's cold brew coffee for the warmer months, presuming many of us change it up the minute you don't have to wear mittens come the spring. (Does anyone drink regular iced coffee anymore?) Caffe latte represents the median option for espresso beverages: not as cheap as a shot of espresso or a macchiato, but not as wild as some of the bespoke concoctions each of the three brands has dreamed up.
Finally, I compared blended, frozen coffee beverages across the brands: Starbucks' Frappuccino, Dunkin's Frozen Coffee and Caribou's Caribou Cooler. While all three products have their own line of flavors, to get as close a comparison as possible I chose the most basic, "coffee"-flavored offering among them. I indicated prices per each item, and also calculated a yearly price, based on a daily habit that aligns with a typical work schedule -- five days a week for 50 weeks a year -- to get a sense of possible yearly savings if one was to shift their allegiance.
So which coffee chain is cheapest? It depends on what you drink
Which coffee chain is the cheapest between Starbucks, Dunkin' and Caribou? Well, it turns out it kind of depends on your drink order. If you must have a winner, then OK, Dunkin' is the cheapest overall option, sporting the lowest price on seven out of the 12 items we listed. As Dunkin' is generally more of a grab-and-go cafe than one managing the overhead of trying to sport coffee shop vibes, this isn't necessarily surprising. On average, you could save about $100 a year by switching from Starbucks to Dunkin' and about $75 a year by switching to Dunkin' from Caribou.
If you're someone who drinks cold brew all year, mittens be damned (or maybe you just live closer to the equator), Caribou has the competitive edge, with prices that range 25 to 50 cents less for cold brew compared to similar sizes at Dunkin', and 60 to 70 cents less than Starbucks. This could save you $50 to nearly $160 over the course of the year, depending on your size and who you might be switching from.
Starbucks, however, comes out on top when it comes to medium or large blended frozen coffee drinks. If a Frappuccino is your daily go-to (in which case I hope you also have a regular relationship with your doctor), then congrats. You are already paying the lowest price for that habit.
In indicating the actual price per item, I've given a true cost for what you'd spend for any of these beverages at the three coffee retailers. However, it is worth noting that sizes aren't exactly the same among them, which does shift the relative value of each of the items a bit. Starbucks tall and grande sizes are slightly larger than equivalent sizes at Dunkin' and Caribou (12 and 16 ounces, versus 10 and 14 ounces, respectively), meaning that their hot coffee prices for those sizes come in on par with Dunkin's prices, value-wise. On the other hand, Dunkin's cold cup sizes are significantly larger than both Starbucks and Caribou at the medium and large tiers, meaning that they have the lowest relative cost for both cold brew drinks and blended ice coffee drinks, the only categories where Caribou and Starbucks outperformed them. Given that metric, Dunkin' is the clear winner for the cheapest coffee chain.
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