I love speciality coffee, so my first choice when it comes to enjoying coffee would be neither Costa Express or McDonalds coffee. I would much prefer to brew freshly roasted, freshly ground speciality coffee beans myself, or visit an independent speciality coffee shop. My need for coffee though, is stronger than my preference for speciality coffee, so there are times when I just must have coffee, and I’ll take the best on offer.
The best coffee on offer depends on where I am, but most of the time when speciality coffee isn’t available, the quickest options for me would be Costa Express or McDonald’s.
Why only costa express?
McDonald’s is FAST, it’s probably the fastest fast food (and drink) on the planet, hence their immense success. It’s also very accessible, in that it’s available usually fairly locally to wherever you happen to be. The same is true of Costa Express when it comes to being fast and available. There are plenty of contenders when it comes to quality, but not when it comes to speed and availability.
Why is fast coffee important?
The other day, I was driving from Cheshire to Skegness, my wife and kids were already there and I was going up to meet them, I needed to be there for a specific time as we had something planned, and I was against the clock. I woke up late, faffed around trying to get ready, and then ran out of the door. I had made myself an Espresso when I got up, but by the time I was in the car driving, It had been about an hour since the Espresso, and I was craving my next coffee. I didn’t have the time or luxury of being able to park somewhere and find a speciality coffee shop, I was against the clock – the only option open to me was fast coffee – I needed to be able to pull over, grab my coffee, and be back driving again within 5 mins or so.
In this case, I opted for McDonald’s, and asked for a large black coffee as I do when I’m doing a McDonald’s pit stop. A couple of nights previous I was driving back from dropping my wife and kids off in Skegness (I still had a few more days of work left and they were all off) and I needed a coffee fix at the beginning of my three hour drive, this time I’d opted for a large Americano at a costa Express.
What’s Good about McDonald’s?
I actually like the coffee, yes it’s Bean to cup, so is Costa express, but it’s pleasant easy drinking coffee, it’s 100% Arabica, it’s rainforest alliance (which in my opinion is more fair to the farmer than “fair trade”), and it’s hot.
I like the fact that it served by a person, I find that most of the time the staff at McDonald’s are pleasant & polite, I can only think of one instance where I wasn’t happy with a member of McDonald’s staff, but that was in relation to a complaint I had about food rather than coffee, and the member of staff I spoke to was rude and obnoxious, but I’ve been served by lots of McDonald’s staff and they’re usually great.
There are always toilets available at McDonald’s, which means you can have a “McSlash” while you’re at it, which is handy when you’re travelling. If I’m on a long journey I’ll wait until I’m busting until I get my next coffee, so I can reduce the number of stops.
Price: It’s really cheap, very good value for money in my humble opinion.
Hygiene: I know what McDonald’s are like about keeping equipment clean and hygienic. I worked there for 6 months or so as a kid, and all of the McDonald’s have this same system when it comes to training management to train staff when it comes to keeping everything clean. I’ve spoke to people I know who work at McDonald’s currently, and they’ve not changed since I worked there, they’re still OCD about keeping things clean.
What’s not so Good about McDonald’s?
For me as a vegetarian, the main thing that isn’t good about McDonald’s is the food. If I’m combining getting food with Coffee, then I wouldn’t necessarily choose McDonald’s. For some reason (maybe cost) they don’t do Quorn still, and instead try to make Veggies eat their awful bean burger things, which I can’t stand. Their only hot veggie breakfast option is to have a meat meal without the meat, such as an egg and egg Mcmuffin. It’s a shame, as I think if they just added Quorn to their menu they would have a great offering for veggies.
The only other thing that can be a negative about McDonald’s is queues, but this is only at certain outlets and at certain times. I usually find that I can be in and out with my coffee whether it’s drive through or parked up to combine with a McSlash, within about 5 mins.
What’s good about Costa Express?
The coffee is good, and whether it’s better or worse than McDonald’s coffee is just down to your taste buds. Costa use a blend of Arabica and Robusta, which is the norm for Italian espresso blends. I’m not too keen on Robusta, or on Robusta blends, I can drink them but I find the taste a bit too harsh, I usually prefer 100% Arabica, so I find Costa Express not quite as easy to drink black as McDonald’s, and black is how I would usually drink it. I don’t mid the Costa blend, but I usually prefer the easy drinking taste of McDonald’s coffee when drinking it black, which is how I prefer to drink coffee most of the time.
As with McDonald’s, it’s available very commonly throughout most of the UK, in supermarkets, garages, office buildings, colleges & universities, train stations etc.,
It’s quick, you just stick the cup in and press the button.
While there isn’t always a toilet available along with a costa express machine, they are common at petrol stations so I can combine filling up with getting a coffee, so where I might be inclined to go for McDonald’s when Im busting, I’d be more inclined to go for Costa express if I was running off fumes.
What’s not so good about Costa Express?
It’s way more pricey than McDonald’s., so it’s not quite as good on the wallet.
I’m not too sure about Costa Express, or any self serve vending machine, when it comes to cleanliness and hygiene. These machines are installed in third party locations, garages and so on, and I don’t know who is responsible for keeping them clean, ensuring that the nozzles are continually cleaned and don’t have milk in pipes going stale etc., I’ve seen some machines that look like they need a bit of a clean. It may well be that they are kept very well cleaned, I’m just thinking that as they’re installed in third party locations rather than on Costa Sites, that i=t would be down to whoever is in control of that location with regard to how well cleaned and maintained they are, but I may be wrong.
So which is the best fast coffee, Costa Express or McDonald’s?
I’m going to be very fair here and judge this on various things, this way it becomes which is best for you in a particular case, rather than who is best full stop.
Price: McDonald’s wins this hands down, significantly cheaper than Costa Express.
Availability: Costa Express wins this one hands down, with roughly 6,000 outlets at the time of writing versus 1,200 McDonald’s.
Taste: For me McDonald’s wins this one, because I enjoy the easier drinking 100% arabica coffee they serve, to the slightly more in your face Italian espresso blend that Costa and Costa Express serve. This is just personal preference though.
Quality of Staff: McDonald’s wins this one, because I have found that most of the time their staff are very nice, and Cost Express is automated, no staff required.
If you’re bursting for the toilet: McDonald’s wins in this situation, as there is nearly always a Mc Toilet (I say nearly, as I’m sure someone is going to comment that there are some drive through only McDonald’s which don’t have toilets, although I’ve not experienced any I would imagine there probably are).
If you’re running low on fuel: Costa Express, as they are often installed in petrol stations.
What about other options?
There are other automated coffee vending machines, but they’re no where nearly as prolific as Costa Express which is why I’ve not included them here. There are other fast food restaurants that also sell coffee, but they’re not quite as widespread as McDonalds, and I’ve had some pretty shocking coffee flavoured water in some of these establishments which have lead me to the decision to never darken their doorsteps again, so I couldn’t tell you what their coffee is like now, I should probably be brave and go and try them.
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