Dutch Bros vs. Starbucks. Is Starbucks Better? That Depends

dutch bros vs starbucks

Most people have a favorite coffee brand. If you’re a coffee lover who likes to mix things up, chances are that you’ve heard about the debate about Dutch Bros vs. Starbucks. What is the difference between Dutch Bros and Starbucks? Both these companies sell different coffee beverages in different price ranges to different types of consumers, and we’ll explain the difference so you can decide for yourself.

Both Dutch Bros and Starbucks are popular coffee companies with serious cult followings. While Starbucks appeals to the Millennial crowd, Dutch Bros is a favorite among Gen X. Starbucks offers higher quality coffee, more food choices, and healthy options. Dutch Bros sells specialty coffee beverages and exclusive brand drinks for less. From ambiance to quality, flavors, drink size, menu, locations, and environmental awareness, each company has something to offer.  

What is the difference between Dutch Bros and Starbucks? Check out this comparison guide to find out.

Dutch Bros vs. Starbucks: What’s the Difference?

Both coffee companies have established roots as American coffee shops. In 1992, Travis and Dane Boersma started the chain in Oregon and named it after their Dutch heritage. By 1996, they graduated from one coffee cart to multiple coffee carts and because sourcing and roasting their own coffee beans.

By 2009, the company grew to 135 coffee stands operating in a dozen states and pulling in millions in revenue each year. Now, Dutch Bros has over half a thousand drive-throughs in 12 western states. Dutch Bros focuses on smoothies, drinks made from whole beans, energy drinks, customized beverages, bottled drinks, and some types of food like baked goods and merchandise.

In 2021, Dutch Bros expanded to 19,000 employees and brings in about $497.9 million annually. It’s a chain that functions as a drive-through coffee stand that’s a convenient option for many people. 

The company also is active in charity work and does everything it can for places where the chain operates by giving a percentage of its sales back to the local community.

Starbucks first started out in Seattle in 1971 and has expanded to a global brand. Started by Zev Siegl, Gordon Bowker, and Jerry Baldwin, the chain expanded to 4 stores by 1980. Once Howard Schultz came on board, he upped Starbucks’ employees’ training to foster sales skills and developed brochures to help customers become familiar with Starbucks’ customizations, flavors, and products.

By 2000, Starbucks had expanded beyond the west coast and sales grew into billions of dollars. Today, Starbucks is a coffee chain that is found all over the world in a staggering 84 countries.

People flock to Starbucks for its high-end coffee drinks, smoothies, tea, and baked breakfast and lunch goods. You can even buy Starbucks brand coffee beans or mixes and merchandise at the coffee ship. It also has a stand-out rewards program which lets customers earn free drinks once they obtain a certain number of stars.

These two coffee shops are different brands that use similar products cater to different cultures. They sell different drinks, offer a different range of beverage sizes, have different food options, and a different hangout vibe.

best dutch bros coffee drinks
Dutch Bros Has A Huge Variety Of Delicious Signature Coffee Drinks

For example, Dutch Bros hits up a younger generation that includes middle school, high school, and college-age students. With a fun, upbeat, and cool atmosphere, Dutch Bros appeals to people who enjoy this kind of coffee experience. Starbucks, in contrast, offers a quieter and more sophisticated environment.

If you want to pull an all-nighter with your friends before exams, Dutch Bros is the kind of place to hang out. Meanwhile, Starbucks is a quiet place filled with soothing wall art that’s a good place to head to study.

Second, Dutch Bros and Starbucks both sell caffeinated drinks like mochas, lattes, or energy drinks, but their products differ from each other like night and day.

According to coffee connoisseurs, Starbucks uses a higher quality type of coffee which brings coffee lovers in the door. Many people who frequent Starbucks don’t weigh the coffee quality against other coffee shops, however. For those who care, Starbucks does carry higher-end coffee.

If you frequent Starbucks, you’re probably familiar with brand favorites like Pumpkin Spice lattes, caramel macchiatos, shaken oat milk cold brews, peppermint mochas, and Frappuccino’s, which is a signature drink first created by Starbucks in 1995.

In the western United States, Dutch Bros has become a staple with Dutch Freeze, caramel pumpkin brulee, cold brews, and espresso options. While Dutch Bros caffeinated drinks are on the sweet side with a focus on energy, they also offer tea and kids options.

On the other hand, Dutch Bros the kind of place that caters to people who don’t really like the taste of coffee. Middle-school kids or high-schoolers may prefer coffee or creamy drinks that taste like a milkshake over espresso.

Dutch Bros also carries Rebels energy drink that’s cool and electrifying. Starbucks doesn’t carry anything similar except for Refreshers, although it’s hard to compare the two products.

When it comes to drinks sizes, Starbucks offers a wide range of sizes from tall to tentra. Dutch Bros makes it easy with three simple sizes.

Many Starbucks locations have a drive-through option to make it easy for busy people to grab a drink on their way to work, school, or drop-off. At the same time, most people go into Starbucks for the drink as much as the experience. Starbucks tend to have a larger building because most people plan to visit, work, or study while enjoying food or drinks.

Dutch Bros’ company is the type of chain store that acts as a drive-through. This means that it’s more about ease and convenience and less about encouraging interaction. Most people who use Dutch Bros tend to walk up to the window to order drinks, although some Dutch Bros coffee shops have limited seating options.

Starbucks, meanwhile, brings a level of classic sophistication and a traditional coffee shop atmosphere. If you want a spot where you can order a snack or a drink and get comfortable with your laptop for hours, this is the place to do it. This gives Starbucks a welcoming atmosphere that encourages people to stay and interact.

This means that you’ll pay more for Starbucks’ quality of coffee and warm atmosphere. If you’re looking for a fast cup of affordable coffee without the frills, Dutch Bros is the way to go.

Starbucks is also easier to access due to its multiple locations in many towns throughout the US and around the world. Most Starbucks stores are in accessible and visible locations which makes it convenient for coffee lovers to find them and get their cup of joe on.

While Dutch Bros has spread to 12 states, it’s mostly confined to the western part of the US.

Environmental consciousness and sustainability is culturally important to many people today.

Maybe it’s because they’re still growing, but Dutch Bros hasn’t taken any steps towards environmental sustainability. For example, the company hasn’t announced any environmental awareness initiatives and doesn’t require their coffee to have organic or other sustainable certifications.

While they do use single-use cups, they also provide reusable options and are committed to recycling their trash to reduce waste.

Starbucks, meanwhile, is working to cut its carbon footprint, water usage, and product waste in half by 2030. They also use Green-friendly building materials, offer plant-based foods and reusable packaging, and invest in new agricultural, water conservation, and reforestation practices to build a more sustainable future.

Dutch Bros vs. Starbucks – How We’ll Compare Them

From beverage options to ingredients and cost, we’ll compare the two coffee giants across these three factors:

  • Ingredients
  • Drinks options
  • Pricing
starbucks caramel latte
Starbucks Has An Endless Variety Of Drinks And Will Make It Any Way You Desire.

Ingredients

Dutch Bros

Dutch Bros is great at offering a range of unique, sweetened coffee drinks at budget-friendly prices. They also offer whole bean espresso drinks if that’s your thing. At the same time, their sourced coffee isn’t the highest quality, and this shows up if you’re craving a high-end dark roast.

Starbucks

Many coffee lovers look for coffee ratings that are 90 or more. Starbucks has rated 90 on reviews many times. They also tend to use higher quality beans sourced from multiple regions rather than beans from a single continent. High-quality beans are grown with lots of shade and Starbucks’ dark roasts reflect a better-quality bean and grind  

Drinks and Food Options

Dutch Bros

While Dutch Bros doesn’t have the extensive list of breakfast and lunch baked items that Starbucks does, the chain does have tasty orange cranberry, lemon poppyseed, or chocolate chip muffin tops.

These are specialized muffins that are baked to just resemble the moist, fluffy, and delicious tops of muffins that everyone craves. The company also has granola bars in stock which are great to grab for a quick snack.  

Dutch Bros specializes in cold brew, hot cocoa, sodas, energy drinks, lemonades, milkshakes, smoothies, and tea. Keep in mind that Dutch Bros doesn’t call its espresso beverages lattes or cappuccinos like Starbucks does. They also only use 3 drink sizes: large, medium, and small.

Starbucks

Starbucks’ food and drink options are so vast that some people find their menu confusing. There’s also a ton of unofficial options available on Starbucks’ “secret menu”.

Carrying a Starbucks cup is seen as a status symbol nowadays. Not only does Starbucks offer various roast options for espresso beverages, Americanos, mochas, cappuccinos, lattes, they also carry teas, hot cocoa, fruit juice, smoothies, apple cider, and milk for people who aren’t a big fan of coffee. They also offer seemingly endless customizations, flavors, and syrups.

With lots of baked items and healthier food choices, Starbucks gets a bit of an edge on Dutch Bros due to its extensive main menu and secret menu and whole bean coffee merchandise.

Starbucks has a more sophisticated drinks size system with short, tall, grande, venti, and trenta options that range from 8 ounces all the way up to 31 ounces.

It’s no secret that Starbucks is famous for its lunch and breakfast options. If you want your favorite Pumpkin Cream Cheese or Blueberry muffin, you might want to head to Starbucks. But if you are hankering for a sweet treat, you can get several great breakfast and snack options at Dutch Bros. Ordering food at Starbucks is easier since the menu is visibly displayed right at the register.

Pricing

Dutch Bros

With its catering to a younger crowd, Dutch Bros reflects more affordable prices. For example, if you order a coffee specialty drink at Dutch Bros, it will cost just $3.75 for a small cup and $5.25 for a big cup. Even the costliest drink is a smoothie that lands in at $7.25

Starbucks

Starbucks’ status and quality comes with a higher price tag. Since it’s a favorite with middle class and upper-class people, its pricing is more expensive. For instance, a specialty drink at Starbucks starts at $5.95 and there are pricier drinks.

How They Compare

Both Dutch Bros and Starbucks offer top-notch coffee services. They cater to different customer bases. The main differences lie in the brands’ sit-down vs. drive-through features, drinks menu, ingredients used, and cost. Dutch Bros will give you high-quality service with affordable coffee, while Starbucks will offer exceptional service with a larger menu and fancier, customizable coffee drinks in a welcoming atmosphere.

FAQ

How Does Dutch Bros Differ from Starbucks?

Dutch Bros has a more limited menu, but more affordable drink options compared to Starbucks. The coffee stand drinks aren’t as rich as Starbucks’ coffee since they tend to land on the watery side.

Is Starbucks Coffee Stronger than Dutch Bros?

Yes, Starbucks makes stronger and more full-bodied, aromatic coffee because Starbucks tends to source the highest quality Arabica coffee beans from South America, Africa, and Indonesia, while Dutch Bros gets their beans entirely from South American countries. At the same time, Dutch Bro fans say that you get more bang for your buck there both with price and taste.

The consensus is that Starbucks and Dutch Bros outdo each other in different areas.

Is Starbucks or Dutch Bros Coffee Healthier?

Many people feel that Starbucks coffee is healthier than Dutch Bros coffee. That’s because Starbucks not only has healthier drink options, but the calorie count is lower at Starbucks than at Dutch Bros.

 The Breakdown

There isn’t a clear winner when it comes to a comparison of Dutch Bros vs. Starbucks. Both brands are great coffee shops that bring in a lot of revenue each year. Each coffee brand has something to offer to different customers, from pricing to drink options, that keeps people coming back for more.
 

 Dutch BrosStarbucks
Coffee Quality Arabica triple-blend coffee beans sourced from Columbia, El Salvador, and Brazil 100% Arabica coffee beans sourced from South America, Asia-Pacific regions, and the African continent
MenuHas a limited menu with less baked goods and drink optionsWide menu with a large variety of baked items, healthy options, and breakfast foods.
PricingAffordable prices that fall between $3.75 and $7.25Most drinks and other food products start around $5.95
Size of BeverageOffers 3 sizes of drinks: Large, Medium, and SmallOffers 5 sizes of drinks that include trenta, venti, grande, tall, and short options
Shop ambienceUse the walk-up window or drive-through to order your drink. It has fewer seated options availableOffers soft, ambient lighting, wall artwork, quiet environment to sit and work, visit, or study
Store locationHas 538 stores in 12 states in the western USHas 33,833 stores in 84 countries globally and 15,444 in the United States
Environmental effortsIs not involved in sustainable environmental consciousnessIs famous for launching sustainable environmental initiatives

Dutch Bros vs. Starbucks – Is There A Clear Winner?

Different coffee brands like Starbucks or Dutch Bros appeal to different kinds of coffee drinkers.

With lower prices and cool, unique flavors, Dutch Bros is a good option for people looking for specialty drinks on a budget.

At Starbucks, you get more seating options, bigger beverages in more sizes, and a company that is committed to environmental sustainability efforts, but you’ll also pay more for it.

Both Dutch Bros and Starbucks have qualities that appeal to many Americans. If you’re a fan of Dutch Bros, check out one of their 538 coffee shops operating across 12 states in the western United States. At Starbucks, choose from the 15,444 stores in the US or the 33,383 locations scattered around the world.

It’s hard to draw a line between the two because they both have appealing qualities. As for me, I like both and prefer different drinks from both. And maybe, drawing a line and declaring a winner doesn’t matter all that much!

Christopher Mize
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