McDonald’s Iced Coffee Vs. Starbucks: Which Is Better?

Trying to decide where to get your iced coffee fix? This article digs into McDonald’s iced coffee vs. Starbucks, from quality to price and convenience.

McDonald's iced coffee vs. Starbucks
McDonald’s Iced Coffee vs. Starbucks

If you’re looking to grab a quick iced coffee, there are many options out there; but Starbucks and McDonald’s both have the advantage of convenience. With drive-thru and pre-ordering options, it’s clear that both major chains are happy to help coffee fiends get their fix in the most efficient way possible.

But how do you choose a side in the debate about McDonald’s iced coffee vs. Starbucks? While some coffee lovers will tell you it’s an easy choice, there are variables to consider.

McDonald’s For Coffee?

While the golden arches of McDonald’s fame definitely make people think of the Big Mac or chicken nuggets, the fast-food giant has been working hard for decades to step up its coffee game. The quick-service chain has offered coffee on some level since it first started up, but the craze for coffee and cafe drinks sparked McDonald’s to up its game.

With the McCafé brand, McDonald’s has been working to spar with the different coffee giants, offering espresso and standard coffee drinks, pastries, and more.

What Do McDonald’s And Starbucks Iced Coffee Have In Common?

Almond iced coffee
Both coffee brands offer various iced coffee beverages

There are many similarities between McDonald’s iced coffee and Starbucks’ offerings. Both chains offer a variety of cold coffee beverages, ranging from a simple brewed coffee over ice (with optional milk choice, sweetener, and flavors) along with espresso-based beverages over ice and even blended options. But there are some significant differences between the two brands and their end products that you should keep in mind in making your choice.

McDonald’s Iced Coffee Vs. Starbucks: The Differences

The differences between the two product lines really come down to what each of the chains has as core features of their brands. While the basic recipes are very similar, and the base components of Starbucks iced coffee and McDonald’s versions of the same drinks are the same. The emphasis on speed or quality, convenience or craftsmanship, is what makes the difference.

While McDonald’s uses quality ingredients, the emphasis that the chain puts on efficiency, convenience, and speed means that their iced coffee offerings tend to be less premium–and the price does reflect that to a degree. As a result, the drinks are often a little sweeter, a little milder in the coffee side of things, and the quality standards overall are not as exacting as what you’d get at Starbucks.

McDonald’s Iced CoffeeStarbucks Iced Coffee
Convenient, with similar flavor profiles to cafe classicsStrong cafe classics, with quality ingredients
Typically a little cheaper than StarbucksSomewhat higher prices than McDonald’s
Lighter coffee roasts, lighter flavorDarker roasts, deeper coffee flavor, more artisanal 

What’s Better About McDonald’s Iced Coffee?

McDonald’s has some key strengths that play out when it comes to the iced coffee game. The biggest advantage that the golden arches possess is that you can find at least one–and usually more than one–in any major city and even in most smaller cities and towns.

In addition, the scientific drill-down of processes means that every drink is exactly the same, and every drink is made fast. Reliability and convenience are the hallmarks of McDonald’s iced coffee, just like everything else the brand does.

What’s Better About Starbucks’ Iced Coffee?

starbucks, coffee, shop
Starbucks’ coffee selection is a lot broader

The emphasis at Starbucks is definitely on quality, compared to volume. Of course, Starbucks is still a fast-food operation at heart, but their move to drive-thru and other rapid options is more recent, and the ethos of using high-quality products and doing as much by hand as possible still holds true.

The selection at Starbucks is also a lot broader in the domain of coffee: most locations will have multiple varieties of cold-brewed coffee, standard hot-brewed coffee over ice, iced espresso drinks, and even more to choose from.

You might also be interested in our explainer on does Starbucks sell coffee grinders.

Who Should Buy McDonald’s Iced Coffee?

If your goal is to get your iced coffee fix as quickly as possible, and you’re also looking to save a little money in the process, the McDonald’s options are a solid choice. Their consistency, convenience, and accessibility can’t be beaten. It’s also a good option for iced coffee newbies, who may still prefer a sweeter, less intense coffee.

Who Should Buy Starbucks Iced Coffee?

If you’re looking for a personalized, more hand-crafted iced coffee experience, Starbucks is the iced coffee for you. Starbucks’ offerings allow for a lot more individual choice and more personalization to your iced coffee, from brewing method down to add-ins. The coffee at Starbucks is also more intensely flavored.


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  • Savannah McClelland

    Savannah is a coffee lover who took her appreciation of the brew to the next level starting in college, becoming a barista before combining her love of writing with her affection for a good brew. She has written for several publications including and TopTenz, and also works as a ghostwriter. Find Savannah on LinkedIn.