Food & Drink

How come the coffee at TH or McDonalds always tastes way better than the coffee I make at home?

  • Last Updated:
  • Feb 11th, 2021 3:02 pm
[OP]
Newbie
Dec 23, 2012
16 posts
2 upvotes
Ontario

How come the coffee at TH or McDonalds always tastes way better than the coffee I make at home?

I've been spending a lot of money on coffee lately, I'm an X-Large two-cream two-sweetener kind of guy. I'm willing to spend good money on replicating the taste at home but no matter what I try I can't. I've tried the bunn machines, the Tim Hortons cans, etc. McDonalds the same.


Can you guys give me some advice or directions on where to look? It would save me a ton of money and time long-term and would really appreciate it. The problem with a lot of the Googling and searching I've done is a lot of comedians are in the comments writing "HUR HUR Tim's taste like crap", but I like it so they dont offer much help.

Any suggestions?
22 replies
Penalty Box
Feb 22, 2016
4745 posts
4314 upvotes
Plenty of videos on YouTube with coffee experts showing you how to do it properly. Also plenty of threads here so I'll just do the TL;DR summary below (my opinion backed by proven facts), YMMV:

1- Kraρrig is never the answer (but you already said you're trying Bunn so, I'm just telling you, don't downgrade to that piece of garbage).
2- If you can't get a Bunn machine to do the job (which is the SAME MACHINE used by McDonald's, Tim's, Starbucks, etc) then you're doing something wrong. Maybe it's the water, so try filtered/bottled water instead of tap for a start. (I use tap water as I'm not as picky about it as some). Starbucks uses RO-filtered water for all their drinks and in their ice machines.
3- Get a burr grinder and grind whole beans immediately before brewing. Pre-ground beans are BAD. Cheap blade grinders are almost as bad as pre-ground. Tim's and McD's sell bags of whole beans (I've seen them at Walmart), don't buy pre-ground.
4- If Bunn isn't doing the job, time to step up to pro level. Get a French press and learn proper technique online on how to use it. Then use burr grinder (see 3) and filtered water (see 2) to brew using it. If French press is too rich/bold/oily for you, try pourover. I'm not a fan of this method as it's just drip brewing for nerds with too way much time on their hands.
Deal Fanatic
Jul 7, 2017
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SW corner of the cou…
Brew method, water temperature.
Cream rises to the top. So does scum.
Jr. Member
May 29, 2017
136 posts
24 upvotes
I'm not sure if the 18% cream they use contribute to the taste you like. Try their black coffee and your black cofffee for comparison.
[OP]
Newbie
Dec 23, 2012
16 posts
2 upvotes
Ontario
EastGTARedFlagger wrote: Plenty of videos on YouTube with coffee experts showing you how to do it properly. Also plenty of threads here so I'll just do the TL;DR summary below (my opinion backed by proven facts), YMMV:

1- Kraρrig is never the answer (but you already said you're trying Bunn so, I'm just telling you, don't downgrade to that piece of garbage).
Does any Bunn machine do? Do I just have to make sure it's brewing at about 200F which I read online is what Tim's does?
2- If you can't get a Bunn machine to do the job (which is the SAME MACHINE used by McDonald's, Tim's, Starbucks, etc) then you're doing something wrong. Maybe it's the water, so try filtered/bottled water instead of tap for a start. (I use tap water as I'm not as picky about it as some). Starbucks uses RO-filtered water for all their drinks and in their ice machines.
Tried this but will continue doing so
3- Get a burr grinder and grind whole beans immediately before brewing. Pre-ground beans are BAD. Cheap blade grinders are almost as bad as pre-ground. Tim's and McD's sell bags of whole beans (I've seen them at Walmart), don't buy pre-ground.
Two questions

1) Do you recommend a specific burr grinder? I see a bunch on Amazon but can't tell if there's a major difference?
2) When you say "buy whole beans", you mean something like this?
Image
4- If Bunn isn't doing the job, time to step up to pro level. Get a French press and learn proper technique online on how to use it. Then use burr grinder (see 3) and filtered water (see 2) to brew using it. If French press is too rich/bold/oily for you, try pourover. I'm not a fan of this method as it's just drip brewing for nerds with too way much time on their hands.
Have you personally tried the above using a Bunn machine or have you been using a French press? I don't like dark roast or black coffee, I just like original blende Timmies or McCafe, so would the above advice be applicable to me?
[OP]
Newbie
Dec 23, 2012
16 posts
2 upvotes
Ontario
Also, I'm a bit confused about something. On the Tim Hortons site, it appears they use "shot" to describe a "creamer" depending on the size of the coffee you get. The reason I ask is I used the online nutrition calculator and these were the results:
- Small Coffee w/ 2 creamers = 84 calories/2g carbs (or 42 calories/1g carbs per creamer)
- XLarge Cofeee w/ 2 creamers = 200 calories/8g carbs (or 100 calories/3g carbs per creamer)
An XL is 678mL and a Small is 286mL....so let's say I was using those Neilson 18% cream containers which are 9mL per container and have 15 calories each.

Would that mean if I wanted to make an XL at home I would need to use 13 containers??? (I divided 200 calories by 15 calories per container). I haven't tried it but it seems it would be WAAAAAY too creamy. Is there really 117ml of creamer in an XL coffee when you ask for "two creams, two sweetener"?
Sr. Member
Jun 4, 2020
531 posts
447 upvotes
Clarington, ON
sharkhead wrote: I'm not sure if the 18% cream they use contribute to the taste you like. Try their black coffee and your black cofffee for comparison.
This exactly. A friend had the same question a few years back.


Re OP question... Yeah, I'd believe there's a half cup of cream in an XL.
Deal Fanatic
Oct 7, 2007
8072 posts
4055 upvotes
You need:
1. good quality beans -- this shouldn't be difficult to achieve
2. good quality grinder -- the better the grinder, the better the extraction/flavour
3. good quality coffee machine -- one that can reach the temperatures necessary (i.e. high enough) for proper extraction

I found a small size Mr. Coffee maker (the kind they used to have in hotel rooms before pod machines) and it makes surprisingly excellent coffee. See if you can find articles that compare the quality of the coffee brewed by different machines but I believe optimizing all 3 components will get you a coffee that beats McD or TH, no problem.
Deal Addict
Jun 12, 2008
1138 posts
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Ripley
sharkhead wrote: I'm not sure if the 18% cream they use contribute to the taste you like. Try their black coffee and your black cofffee for comparison.
They use real cream and they put it in the cup before they put the coffee in. The temperature might be hotter than what you make at home.

I used to be a double double kind of girl but now that I make all my coffee at home I use better coffee and can drink it black.
Penalty Box
Feb 22, 2016
4745 posts
4314 upvotes
zeddy wrote: I used to be a double double kind of girl but now that I make all my coffee at home I use better coffee and can drink it black.
+infinity

If a coffee isn't good enough to be drunk black, it's not good coffee.
If you have to add a load of sugar, heavy cream, cinnamon syrup, pumpkin spice, chocolate sauce, and whatever else to it to make it drinkable, it's not worth drinking.

The OP needs to compare apples to apples -- order black coffee from Tim's and McCafe then try to replicate that at home.

I used this analogy in an earlier thread -- if you found an old, freezer burned steak in the back of your freezer, it can't be saved. Marinating it for hours in Worcestershire sauce before grilling then dousing it with HP sauce, sriracha, or ketchup when eating it, will not save it. It's still going to be a bad steak. Same goes for coffee -- if it was already bad *ahem* Tim's *ahem* then "double double" won't save it.
Penalty Box
Feb 22, 2016
4745 posts
4314 upvotes
bugmenot12 wrote: 1) Do you recommend a specific burr grinder? I see a bunch on Amazon but can't tell if there's a major difference?
2) When you say "buy whole beans", you mean something like this?
Image
Have you personally tried the above using a Bunn machine or have you been using a French press? I don't like dark roast or black coffee, I just like original blende Timmies or McCafe, so would the above advice be applicable to me?
I would say, the cheapest burr grinder beats the most expensive blade grinder, and leave it at that. I use a Cuisinart that I got when Home Outfitters near me closed down and liquidated its stock, got it on the last day for 80% off (so $20 instead of $100). It's not the best model by any stretch (it creates a shitload of static so I have chaff flying all over the place...) but I noticed a huge difference in taste when I brewed coffee using it vs the results from my old Braun blade grinder. Note that French press brewing requires a medium-to-coarse grind, NOT fine. Fine grind is for espresso, medium grind is for drip/pourover.

OK, what does French press have to do with "dark roast"? Absolutely nothing. French press does not mean French roast, two totally different things. In fact I only use dark roasts for espresso/moka pot brewing. For my French press brews I use medium roasts exclusively. Nowhere did I say try different beans.

Let me spell it out for you -- buy whatever whole beans that YOU like, grind it with a BURR GRINDER, brew it in a FRENCH PRESS. Then see if you like the result. If you do it all correctly, it should taste BETTER than what comes out of the Bunn.
If it tastes worse, you're doing something wrong.

Plenty of videos online to teach you the proper technique -- James Hoffman's YouTube channel would be a good start.
Deal Guru
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Mar 14, 2005
13410 posts
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City of Vancouver
It could be just a bias, like how many ppl think expensive wine tastes better but choose the cheap wine in a blind taste test.
De gustibus non est disputandum
Reverse dysfunction one step at a time.
Adversity is a growth opportunity. Change happens at the periphery.
Deal Expert
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Jan 27, 2004
44613 posts
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T.O. Lotto Captain
If youre in the “i like mcd’s and tims coffee” crowd...

Just get a k-cup machine. Its cheap and pods are everywhere.

I’m one of those who appreciate gourmet hoity toity stuff. Shoot, i’m actually involved in 1 aspect of the culinary arts on the competitive side. But i appreciate some ghetto things.
Like mcdonalds burgers. So greasy and dirty but good...
Hot dogs & nachos! Like the cheap circular corn chips with fake liquid nacho cheese... lol.
Cheap beer! Molson Canadian and Labatt blue.

Two sides of it! Funny i was watching david chang’s food show on netflix... in one episode he ordered chicken strips. Plain crappy chicken strips. He mentioned that he absolutely adores chicken tendies!! Despite being the head of multinational fine dining empire.
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Dec 3, 2009
5775 posts
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Toronto
Preground coffee goes stale quick once you open the can. IF you don't want to grind your own beans (entry level burr grinders start at a price you *might* not like, but manual ones are economical) then buy smaller amounts of ground beans.

Only other thing to do is try dialing in your coffee more. You might think your (filtered)water-coffee-cream ratio is right but you might need to experiment more.
Remember to be an RFD-er and NOT a degenerate.
Deal Addict
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Nov 20, 2010
3634 posts
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To truly know if coffee is good or bad, you have to drink it black without any sugar or sweetener. McD's 100% has way better tasting black coffee than Tim Horton's. TH is just horrible!
Penalty Box
Feb 22, 2016
4745 posts
4314 upvotes
choclover wrote: You need:
1. good quality beans -- this shouldn't be difficult to achieve
2. good quality grinder -- the better the grinder, the better the extraction/flavour
3. good quality coffee machine -- one that can reach the temperatures necessary (i.e. high enough) for proper extraction
And all three highlight what's wrong with the Kraρrig system.

1. beans of unknown quality
2. finely ground months or years ago, so plenty of time to go stale while sitting in the Kraρ-cup in storage
3- brew temperature not hot enough. Proper temp is 200F plus or minus 5.
and I must add
4- extraction time definitely not long enough

Kraρrig is like brewing a cup of tea by dunking a tea bag in hot tap water for 5 seconds. Common sense should tell you that can't be right.
Using a refillable Kraρ-cup solves the first two problems (assuming you grind just before brewing) but not the last two.
Deal Addict
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Apr 8, 2006
2198 posts
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maybe it's as simple as putting it in a paper cup that make it taste good :)
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Deal Fanatic
Nov 22, 2015
5732 posts
5213 upvotes
bugmenot12 wrote: An XL is 678mL and a Small is 286mL....so let's say I was using those Neilson 18% cream containers which are 9mL per container and have 15 calories each.

Would that mean if I wanted to make an XL at home I would need to use 13 containers??? (I divided 200 calories by 15 calories per container). I haven't tried it but it seems it would be WAAAAAY too creamy. Is there really 117ml of creamer in an XL coffee when you ask for "two creams, two sweetener"?
I think you nailed it on the head with this part. People who drink double-double don't actually like coffee Face With Tears Of Joy. It's all the sugar and cream.

The Timmies I used to go to on campus was self-serve for the milk and sugar. The cashier would tell us how many sugar and cream packets to add to get the approx taste... XL double double is like 10 packs of sugar and 10 creamers
Newbie
Nov 10, 2015
55 posts
41 upvotes
Calgary
Yeah I think the person above is on track. When you ask for a double double in an XL coffee, you're not getting two packets of sugar and two little creamers. It's actually disgusting how much they use to hide the taste of their coffee (Tim's anyway). At that point it's a coffee milkshake.
[OP]
Newbie
Dec 23, 2012
16 posts
2 upvotes
Ontario
Mr_Fanta wrote: To truly know if coffee is good or bad, you have to drink it black without any sugar or sweetener. McD's 100% has way better tasting black coffee than Tim Horton's. TH is just horrible!
I wonder if it has to do with temperature/brewing method or just who the supplier is.

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