Caffeine Content Doesn’t Lie! Does Starbucks Use Cheap Robusta Beans After All?

There are two major varieties of the coffee plant:  Arabica and robusta.  All the best tasting coffee, imbued with rich, subtle flavor, is made from arabica beans.  Harsher and more bitter coffees are brewed from robusta beans.  The only reason robusta varieties are used at all is that they are hardier plants and cheaper to grow and harvest. 

Robusta coffee plants survive better than arabica coffee plants because robusta beans produce and contain about twice the amount of caffeine as arabica beans.  Because caffeine is a powerful insecticide and anti-microbial agent, the extra caffeine helps protect the robusta coffee plants from pests.


A recent Consumer Reports study demonstrated that a 12 ounce cup Starbucks coffee contains nearly twice the caffeine content of an equal size cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee.  So, it would appear that the coffee beans Starbucks uses have twice the caffeine as the coffee beans Dunkin’ Donuts uses.  Now, it is a fact that no arabica beans have nearly twice the caffeine content of any other arabica beans.  So, figure it out for yourself.  Starbucks claims to use arabica beans.  But the evidence of the caffeine content of its coffee puts the truth of that boast into considerable doubt!

Starbucks' Robusta Coffee vs. Dunkin' Donuts Arabica Coffee?

Of course, Dunkin’ Donuts uses a medium roast, which brings out the full flavor of its coffee.  Starbucks burns its beans, rendering them so uniformly bitter that it impossible to guess their humble origin by tasting.  Is it any wonder that Dunkin’ Donuts consistently tops the list of blind taste tests and Starbucks invariably falls to the bottom?

Starbucks Bitter Coffee Brew



This entry was posted in All News Categories, Coffee & Coffee Brewing. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Caffeine Content Doesn’t Lie! Does Starbucks Use Cheap Robusta Beans After All?

  1. Coffee Connoisseur says:

    Ignoring the fact that Robusta coffees do not ALL contain more caffeine and their better ability to survive is based more on their ability to grow in lower elevations and the greater overall strength and hardiness of the plant. Have you even considered the fact that:
    A) Brewing method can and does have a great effect on the caffeine content of the resulting drink.
    B) Caffeine is burnt out of a Coffee the more it is roasted. Therefore if Starbucks coffee is so burnt that would mean it would have far LESS caffeine than Dunkin’ Donuts.
    If anything; the minimal evidence in this article suggests to me that Dunkin’ Donuts is using Robusta beans and burning them while Starbucks is using Arabica and does not burn them. Especially considering that I actually happen to know for a fact that Starbucks uses 100% Arabica.

    • “A little learning is a dangerous thing,” as your comment demonstrates. Robusta coffees contain an average of


      the caffeine of Arabica coffees. And you are right that long roasting does lower caffeine content, but it does not lower it enough to make Robusta coffee anywhere nearly as low in caffeine as Arabica coffee. Further, whatever you think about Starbucks coffee, it is evident from their wonderful taste that Dunkin’ Donuts uses Arabica beans! (If, in some magical way, Dunkin’ Donuts could have somehow made Robusta beans taste as good as Arabica beans, it should be congratulated! But, of course, this is impossible.) However, if you feel you “know for a fact” that Starbucks uses Arabica beans, then keep living in your dream world. I can’t shake the convictions of someone with your peculiar fantasies.

    • Peter Ronai says:

      I will no longer buy Starbucks coffee, because it is so bitter and burnt-tasting. To me it tastes like burnt plastic. I have two Starbucks gift cards which I refuse to use because I can’t stand the taste of their coffee. Frankly, I don’t understand why Starbucks is still in business.

  2. J. says:

    Yes Starbucks does use Robusta beans, or they at least mix them into their coffee beans maybe a ratio of 75/25 or 80/20 with the majority being Robusta. You can tell that they use Robusta beans since pretty much ALL of their coffees taste burnt, or their “light” roast coffee does not taste like a light roast coffee and tastes sour. Robusta beans burn while Arabica beans do not burn nearly as easily at low or standard temperatures for roasting coffee.