The most popular fast food joints are always sparring about something. Who has the best crispy chicken sandwich? The best cheeseburger? The best fries? You get the drill. But what about something they may not have expected—like coffee?
Now we're not talking about coffees that have been blended, cold foamed, topped with whip and sprinkled confetti—or whatever goes on specialty coffee drinks these days. We're talking the real deal; black coffee that is simply thrown on ice for sweaty, summer days. Or cold winter days—we see you, die-hard iced coffee fans.
Regardless of when you like to enjoy your iced coffee, we had to take the test ourselves. What is the best-tasting black iced coffee you can snag at a fast food joint? And are the usual go-to's (cough, Starbucks, Dunkin') still the best options for your morning caffeine fix?
We did a comparison, and tasted black iced coffee from the following seven fast-food joints:
- Burger King
- Taco Bell
From worst tasting to the absolute best, here's our official ranking of fast food black iced coffees. Then, if you're curious about other fast food rankings, check out We Taste-Tested Fast-Food Desserts—These Were Our Favorites.
There's a reason Chik-fil-A's iced coffee usually comes with cream and sugar—it helps to mask the truly awful flavor that their plain black iced coffee provides. The iced coffee tastes like it was brewed from used-up, old coffee grounds, with a flavor that makes you pucker and shake your head. For being the most expensive iced coffee compared to every other fast-food chain, Chick-fil-A's black iced coffee is certainly not worth the money.
As it turns out, Burger King doesn't actually serve a black iced coffee—which was a bit infuriating given the nature of this taste test. Burger King serves their iced coffee only with cream and vanilla syrup—making it taste more like a watered-down coffee milkshake instead of an actual cup of coffee. However, the flavor was still one I would choose over Chick-fil-A because at least it was something to enjoy—despite the lack of ice cubes and how unpleasantly warm the cold coffee was.
I admit, I expected McDonald's black iced coffee to land a bit higher on the list given how heavily the chain advertises their McCafé drink options. But unfortunately, McDonald's ended up being middle of the road in comparison to the rest of the chains. Typically McDonald's iced coffee comes with cream and liquid sugar, so if you are looking for a plain cup, be sure to specifically order your iced coffee without it. However, without it, the taste of the iced coffee doesn't really stand out much. It's certainly strong and will hit the spot if you need a jolt of caffeine in the morning, but in terms of taste, it just isn't up to snuff to some of their competitors.
I'm not sure why, but the taste of Wendy's iced coffee reminded me of the flavor coming from a coffee iced cream. The flavor is pleasant and certainly approachable for all types of coffee drinkers—but is a bit of a weaker brew compared to other chains. For that, we put it in the middle of the list. However, if you're new to drinking iced coffee black and want an approachable cup, Wendy's is an approachable brew to start out with.
Dunkin' certainly wins points for the strongest brew of coffee. Their black iced coffee is much stronger than any of the others tested, almost resembling more of a cold brew in flavor. The coffee is dark, strong, and even a bit more bitter than most. If you are one to like a weaker cup, Dunkin's black iced coffee may not be a go-to for you—or at least add a little something to it to balance out some of that strong flavor. But if you're a triple-espresso kind of coffee lover, you'll enjoy the powerful brew that Dunkin's iced coffee has to offer.
Who knew that this popular taco chain was also incredible at making black iced coffee? At first, I was skeptical as I watched them brew a cup of coffee over a large cup of ice. But when I took my first sip, I immediately felt like I was drinking a gourmet iced Americano from the coffee shop around the corner from my apartment. I thought I was surely imagining things as I sipped, but a whopping three minutes later, the coffee was completely gone and I was already wishing for another one. So if you're craving an iced coffee and Taco Bell is nearby, don't even hesitate—you won't regret it.
It's true—Starbucks continues to live up to the hype. Although we were shocked by some of the surprises and upsets in this coffee taste test, Starbucks continues to lead the back for brewing the best cup of coffee. Their black iced coffee even has some caramel notes making it the best in terms of flavor. They also don't overdo it on the ice, giving it the perfect ice-to-coffee ratio so your iced coffee doesn't get so watered down quickly. Similar to some other chains, Starbucks black iced coffee does come with an extra shot of sweetener, so be sure to order it unsweetened for the full black coffee goodness.