So, the question is, how does Dutch Bros compare to Starbucks? Is one clearly better than the other? Why is Dutch Bros growing so successfully?
(Related: 25 Starbucks Drinks You Need to Try)
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Full disclosure, I worked at Starbucks for five years (but over ten years ago), so I know the ins and outs of Starbucks better than Dutch Bros. But, living in Oregon, I’ve been going to Dutch Bros for years, and have a good grasp on what they are all about too. I even wrote an in-depth guide to Dutch Bros.
If you don’t want to read the whole article, here’s the summary on the Starbucks vs. Dutch Bros debate.
You might want Starbucks to be your go-to over Dutch Bros for two reasons. First, Starbucks is ideal if you are a fan of black coffee, or coffee with only a little bit of sugar and cream. Second, Starbucks is ideal for getting a pastry, sandwich, or similar food item.
But, Dutch Bros is better if you are a fan of drinks with lots of flavor and variety where tasting the coffee in your beverage is not the top priority. It’s also better if you have kids, as they have more kid-friendly options.
Both Dutch Bros and Starbucks offer a wide array of espresso-based drinks such as lattes and breves. And both offer them hot, iced or blended.
But, Dutch Bros offers a wider array of flavors (they carry about 30 different syrups) and non-coffee-based drinks such as milkshakes (frosts) and smoothies. They focus on these sorts of specialty drinks and are good at them!
Starbucks, on the other hand, offers drip-brewed coffee in various coffee roasts. They usually have two available at a time. Dutch Bros doesn’t have drip-brewed coffee at all, and if you ask for a “small black coffee” they will actually serve you an Americano (espresso + water.)
Dutch Bros if you want more variety in your specialty drinks and Starbucks if you want to drink plain coffee.
Starbucks offers a variety of coffee roasts for drip-brewed coffee and for their espresso they offer their signature roast and blonde roast as options. If you go into a Starbucks store they have at least two drip-brewed coffees available, Pike Place, and another featured for the week. The coffee beans are ground same-day and brewed fresh throughout the day.
Many say they don’t like Starbucks coffee and that it tastes burnt. With the different espresso options and different drip-brewed options, you should still be able to find something you like. That said, every roaster has a slightly different process for creating coffee beans and Starbucks may not be your fave, but it’s enjoyed by many.
At Dutch Bros they don’t offer drip-brewed coffee. If you ask for a hot black coffee, what you will actually be served is an Americano, which is espresso and water. The taste is similar but it’s not technically the same drink.
Dutch Bros also has two options for their espresso drinks. Their “normal” option, using Private Reserve beans, and their white coffee. White coffee is also made into espresso, and has more caffeine and less acidity.
Starbucks wins since they offer drip-brewed coffee and have more variety available.
(Related: Buy Starbucks Coffee Beans on Amazon)
Best in flavors
Starbucks keeps about six to eight syrups as standard, and usually has one or two extras available seasonally. They also have their three standard sauces – mocha, white chocolate, and caramel. They currently only offer one sugar-free syrup.
As for toppings, Starbucks has options like drizzle, whipped cream and a cinnamon dolce topping. They often have signature toppings for their seasonal drinks.
But, their cold foam is the most popular. The Sweet Cream Cold Foam can come in several varieties and is usually used on cold brew but can be used for any drink.
Dutch Bros, on the other hand, has what feels like an infinite amount of syrups and sauces available. They have as standard over 25 different syrups available. On top of that, there are usually another one or two seasonal options. They also have over 10 sugar-free flavors, including popular ones like caramel, Irish cream and strawberry.
As for toppings, Dutch also has drizzles, but also has a variety of sprinkles always available.
Their cold foam comparison is called Soft Top, can come in different flavors and is also popular.
Winner: Dutch Bros
Dutch Bros wins because they have a wide range of syrups, and over 10 sugar-free. They also offer a variety of toppings including sprinkles.
(Related: Get flavored Torani Syrup on Amazon)
Both shops will offer many of the same things like lattes, cold brew and tea. But, there are some drinks that have no comparison at the other shop.
Caffeinated coffee-free options
The huge seller for Starbucks in this category is their lineup of Refreshers. These drinks are served cold, made with a green coffee extract for the caffeine, and focus on fruit-based flavors.
On the other hand, Dutch Bros serves the popular Rebel, which is an energy drink. You can add any syrup flavor you want to create a flavorful, energizing drink.
Winner: Not able to tell.
These two drinks are so different it’s like comparing apples and kiwi. But it does show the difference in mentality between the two businesses.
Blended coffee drinks
Starbucks has the trademarked Frappuccino beverages they serve. Technically even their non-coffee based blended drinks are called frappuccinos also. You can choose to add any syrup to this drink, and often they have seasonally featured drinks available.
Dutch Bros’ answer to this is called a “Freeze.” It’s the same thing – a cold blended coffee-based drink. You can add any flavor you’d like.
Both shops offer essentially the same drink but with a different name.
Starbucks offers eight teas available to be steeped. They also have a chai blend and matcha available for lattes and Frappuccinos. As for iced options, they have black, green, and herbal (passion) tea.
Dutch Bros has five teas available to be steeped and also offers chai. But, Dutch Bros does not have matcha. For iced options, they offer green and black teas and encourage you to add in extra flavors.
Starbucks has more tea variety and more caffeine-free options than Dutch Bros.
Starbucks offers Shaken Espressos, which personally are one of my faves. It’s similar to an iced latte, but includes more espresso and is shaken before being served.
Dutch Bros offers sodas which are carbonated water and can be flavored, frosts which are milkshakes, and smoothies in four fruit-based varieties.
Winner: Dutch Bros
Dutch Bros has more options than Starbucks including smoothies, which for some reason Starbucks has never been able to sustain selling.
What to eat
Starbucks offers a variety of pastries, sandwiches, and other options such as their protein boxes. Some popular items are their pumpkin loaf, cake pops, and breakfast sandwiches.
Dutch Bros only offers three varieties of muffin tops and a granola bar. (Although, I’ve heard they are thinking of discontinuing the granola bar.)
Winner: Starbucks by a mile.
Starbucks has many great breakfast and lunch items and Dutch Bros only has many muffins.
Starbucks has a friendly but professional ambiance. Most cafés have a calm, inviting atmosphere.
I’ve heard the vibe described as like a library or jazz. (Although they rarely play jazz music.) The baristas often ask for your name to write (or print) on the cup. Starbucks prides itself on being an expert at coffee.
Dutch Bros is also friendly, but in a fun, energetic way. Almost all of their locations are drive-thru only. A person stands out in the car line to take your drink order and is always talkative and friendly. This does allow you to easily ask questions. They often play loud pop music.
I have heard the vibe described as youthful and over-the-top. They have sticker giveaways the 1st Wedensday of each month, and are always doing special offers or giveaways. They even give you half off your drink for your half birthday!
It’s really hard to compare the two in this category because they are so different. Sometimes you want an energetic greeting (Dutch Bros), and sometimes you want to read a book in a darkened corner of a cafe (Starbucks).
So, which coffee shop is better– Dutch Bros or Starbucks?
In writing this article, I did not come to a conclusive decision. Both Starbucks and Dutch Bros won several categories, and tied in four more.
Both businesses have a different way of relating to their customers, and what they focus on as far as offerings. And their vibes are fairly different.
Personally, I end up going to both of them often. But, lately I have been leaning towards going to Dutch Bros more often as they have more of a variety in drinks and my kids love them!
But, Starbucks often gets my visits because of their food options or just convenience since they seem to be actually everywhere.
Leave a comment below on which on is your preferred coffee shop!