I use Starbucks coffee they sell in bags. I have used both whole beans and ground. I've bought bags from the grocery, bags from the actual Starbucks store. I've tried many different brewers. But it never tastes quite the same. Does anyone know how to emulate their brewing technique?

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    What machine are you using ? filter ? espresso machine ? maybe the water is different, maybe the coffee age is different ? or the cardboard cup is different.
    – Max
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 21:20
  • @Max I've used quite a few different machines. I've done paper filters micro mesh filters. Cups are ceramic or Styrofoam. My water is NYC water which is also filtered.
    – user6591
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 21:54
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    Could you describe the difference between your efforts and Starbucks'? To me the dominant flavor in most (but not all) Starbucks brewed coffee is "burnt".
    – wilee
    Commented Feb 10, 2015 at 2:48
  • @wilee I have two or three flavors that I like. The rest don't impress me. But I definitely wasn't expecting all this Starbucks hate:) It's hard to describe. Its kinda muddy and suppressed flavors verse theirs in the store which is lively and flavorful. I'm not even focusing on the beans so much. It just seems they have some magic way of making their beans (like them or not) come alive.
    – user6591
    Commented Feb 10, 2015 at 2:52
  • I come from sydney, here there's a bit of a coffee culture. I nearly threw up when I tried a starbucks coffee. When they opened a bunch of stores here, all but two went out of business immediately. That someone would want to emulate that taste is blowing my mind.
    – user2754
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 14:49

6 Answers 6


I cannot tell you how they do it at that specific location, how your method differs, or what you're doing wrong. I don't really even know exactly how you're brewing your coffee. However, I can tell you how to brew a consistent cup using the best possible practices.

Here's a list of things to consider

  • Grind your coffee immediately(not the night before) before brewing
    • Use a Burr Grinder, not a blade grinder. This will ensure that the grounds are of a consistent size, and provides even extraction. There is no reputable coffee shop that uses a blade grinder, and with good reason. Get a Burr grinder. If you don't want to drop the cash you can get a hand mill for about ~$20-30.
  • Weight your beans, do not measure them by Volume.
    • Beans from different regions and varieties vary in density, and size. This can really throw off volume measurements.
  • Use filtered water.
    • Most coffee shops will have a filtration system for the entire store to prevent mineral build up in their coffee and espresso machines, as well as providing a better cup of coffee.
  • Learn how coffee hits your palate, and learn how to adjust your brewing variables(grind size, water/coffee ratio, brew time, temperature).
  • Ditch the auto-drip. Learn how to do a manual pourover or press pot. You'll have much more control over your brewing variables, and be able to pin point the extraction method that fits your palate best.

I deeply urge you to try coffee that isn't Starbucks. Starbucks might be a notch above grocery store coffee, but isn't at all interesting(to put it lightly). Try Stumptown, Blue Bottle, Intellegensia, Ruby's Colorful Coffees. You'll likely forget about Starbucks soon after trying coffee's from any of the roasters I listed.

Like I said. Starbucks isn't really interesting coffee. Its pretty bland, brewed with a standard auto-drip. If it tastes different it could be for many reasons, such as sitting in a thermos for a long period of time, or the grounds may sit too long after being ground. Typically larger auto-drip machines use a coarser grind because the hopper is larger. This can affect taste. There's too many variables to nail down how to brew exactly like that starbucks store.

In the mean time, I urge you to try more interesting bean varieties. You're really missing out.

For the record, Starbucks main competition... McDonalds. Give it a read Is Starbucks Coffee Actually That Good?

  • Great answer, and special kudos for pointing out Starbucks isn't very interesting coffee!
    – Phrancis
    Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 20:12
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    In my opinion, Starbucks coffee is worse than uninteresting: it's outright burnt. But I'm not exactly a coffee expert.
    – Marti
    Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 22:40
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    Really it comes down to preference, however you're partially right. Starbucks roasts to standard roast levels, likes full-city, half-city, french, and italian roasts. While more and more roasters are adopting profile roasting. Profile roasting roasts a bean to bring out its distinct flavors. These flavors vary depending on altitude, climate, region, and the actual bean variety(typica, java, bourbon, etc). Over roasting typically destroys the bright, fruity, wine like tastes in coffee. However its hard to profile roast large batches, so typically prices for these beans are more.
    – tsturzl
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 4:26
  • As you can imagine there are limitless distinct tastes in coffee that you simply cannot expose through standard roasting.
    – tsturzl
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 4:27
  • To read more about coffee varieties see here
    – tsturzl
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 4:27

I want to emphasize that clean filtered water is the most important step to making great tasting coffee.

Starbucks uses commercial Everpure dual filter systems to run their machines and their filtered faucets. An Everpure setup will run you around $350 and $100 a year for filter replacements. If that isn't something you would want to spend that much on, even one of those $35 Pur faucet attachments will help to bring a better and cleaner taste to the water in your coffee.

Besides the water, consistency of heat (and pressure for espresso) is the second most important aspect of a good extraction.

For drip, getting a decanter setup like this and an electric kettle with a temperature setting can improve the heat consistency. For optimal results, set the kettle to 205F.

For espresso, there are many more variables in place in order to create good pressure. The grind, the tamp, the method of pressure (steam or pump). If one of these things is bad then the whole cup can be ruined. There are many articles on the web about these three specific topics.

With any espresso machine I always let it preheat for a bit longer than recommended and then run hot water through the machine for at least 30secs to ensure that the machine doesn't cool down the water during extraction.

Also, storing the beans in an air-tight container and grinding them right before using them. This ensures that the beans are fresh and still have CO2 lingering within the grinds.

If you ever get your hands on a copy of 'Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking', there is an entire chapter on brewing the perfect cup of coffee.


We got hooked on SB coffee. We could taste the difference compared to DD or our home made coffee. I bought SB ground coffee and tried it in our french press. It did not taste the same. Finally, after studying and trying different ideas, it all came down to the WATER. Our tap water was causing the off note taste. We now use filtered water and the taste has improved 100%.

  • So what type of filter do you use? I filter my NYC water with a 40 micron (iirc) filter, so I'm wondering how much better I can filter it?
    – user6591
    Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 17:40

I agree with a lot of the previous answers, especially "try something else", but if you want to keep it Starbucks, I'll note a few things. (On the off chance it's something to do with Seattle, Caffe Vita has opened a shop in NYC. Mmmm, Theo blend.)

First, I would buy direct from SB rather than from grocery stores. That stuff is more likely to sit around on the shelf for weeks/months. (Someone please comment if they know for sure the same is true of in-house SB bags.)

Second, buy whole beans and grind. Even sealed, grounds will go "stale" faster than beans. A blade grinder is fine if you're no fanatic. If I had just a blade grinder I'd probably use a French press. If you some day spend more than basic SB price on beans, I'd splurge on a burr grinder, otherwise there's less point in buying pricey beans. As another mentioned, hand grinders work pretty well if you don't grind fine (or if you do and have some patience).

Finally, I'll second the French press idea. It's easy to use, pretty forgiving, and produces a very nice rich taste and texture. It's my go-to and favorite coffee maker, especially when I want volume.

P.S. After reading your answer to my comment, and a bit more of the answers which I should have read before, I have one suggestion for you, and I hope you'd find it entertaining given that you had the patience and/or dedication to try a number of different methods. Get scientific about it and blog your experience. I think a few people might be interested to read about one person's quest to brew Starbucks coffee just like they make it in-house. Take it all into account: brewing method, temperature of water (thermometers are cheap), bean grind (hand grinders are inexpensive), brew time, more.


Agree that filtered water can make a noticeable difference, even if you just buy the grocery store stuff for $1 per gallon.

Grinding--burr grinders are nice, but really not necessary if your normal grind is medium to course. I use bursts and get reasonably good uniformity. For espresso or turkish, yes.

I'll disagree about eschewing Starbucks. Not because it's good coffee because it really isn't, but if you use it as a cold brew concentrate it's amazing how some of their coffees open up nicely. I usually buy my beans from our local Temple Coffee in Sacramento, or from Happyrock in Gladstone OR. But, for economy's sake, a $6.50 bag of Starbucks Verona prepared by cold brewing then mixed with 2:1 hot water has a delightful taste with some very obvious aromatics and chocolate that are totally lost when hot brewed.

If you do hot brew, then I believe a pour over with a #2 filter, following proper pour over procedures, yields the best cup. I use Japanese filters; they may make a difference.

As others have said, brewing a good cup does take some study, a little equipment, and a lot of experimenting.


Starbucks Coffee vs Good Coffee

I deeply suspect that what you are describing is simply slightly-less-stale beans/grounds than the kinds you have at home.

  1. Buy a plunger (in america they are sometimes called a french press).

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  1. Find the best FRESH ROASTED BEANS or FRESH VACUUM PACKED GROUNDS you can reasonably buy (distancewise or moneywise). Look for the ones that have won huge piles of awards. That's generally a good place to look. Most of these will be stale, or poorly roasted. The ones with big piles of awards, especially small or indie roasters, will not. Non stale coffee taste is likely what you are after.

Plungers are extremely simple - grind or pour grounds into the thing, press plunger down after a minute to steep, pour out resulting coffee - very unlikely to introduce machine bias into your coffee experience.

Use the plunger to test the grounds/beans. Find one you like. Then use that in machines or whatever you like, knowing that if it comes out wrong, it's the machines' fault.

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