Sometimes, you’re out on the road, possibly hitting service stations on the motorway or even in the middle of an unknown town, looking for a coffee. You’re likely to have a slew of options, and of course there’s always a Starbucks or Costa peddling their coffee wares.
Now, I don’t have any issues with big coffee chains and their brews, but sometimes you don’t want to spend a fiver and you want a consistent coffee wherever you are.
Where do you tend to go when you’re in a rush? Somewhere familiar, and somewhere ubiquitous with the UK roads and town centres. I have two go-to places for a quick and cheap, but actually pretty solid coffee…..
Greggs and McDonalds.
Don’t snort, no I’m not saying go here instead of buying some micro-lot beans and mastering the craft of brewing at home. But let’s be honest, we don’t always have time, we don’t always have money and we just want something that’s good.
Quick coffee that’s decent coffee
I’ve spent a long time thinking about this, and more time trying to get something written about it. I mean, McDonalds and Greggs? Not places you think of as coffee places, but places I bet most people have had a coffee from.
Here’s the thing, though. A company the size of McDonalds can’t get away with a terrible coffee, especially when situated in every town and service station across the country. That means you get their billions of pounds invested, wisely. Consistent roast, relatively good beans and a solid cup of coffee no matter where you are.
Greggs basically hits the same targets, albeit on a smaller scale.
Note the constant marketing push of 100% arabica beans, and all the machines are dialled-in to deliver exactly the same drink each time.
This is sensible investment in consistency. Especially when their coffee has to work with their other products.
Beans and Roast
One of the things that really makes these two particular coffees stand-out to me, is the similarities between the two. Look at any fast-food place, and I would guess you’re going to get a similar experience.
An automated machine, a button pressed and a cup popped underneath it to catch the black gold. There’s very little human interaction here. This isn’t a barista making a drink, this is a robot that’s dialled-in to make the coffee work.
Dark roasts are incredibly common here. Largely because the beans will be bought in bulk, and you can hide those potential poor flavour notes of what I suspect are pretty cheap beans. That’s fine, though.
Remember, we’re not paying for what a place like Costa would deem as a “premium” coffee. However, you’re not suffering for a low-cost, because it’s designed to be decent enough.
The beans themselves are always Arabica, so the caffeine content isn’t naturally high, and you get some element of a flavour profile that is more pleasant than a Robusta. I love a Robusta, especially something like Cannonball Coffee, but it isn’t for everyone.
You’re getting the cheaper, non-specialist beans that are roasted specifically to remove a lot of flavour variables. That’s why you’ll find that the flavours are pretty similar between McDonalds and Greggs.
Made to work
The other clever aspect of these roasts is that the coffee is designed to work with the rest of the products that McDonald’s and Greggs are selling.
Those dark roasts are working really nicely with your Sausage and Egg McMuffin or your Chicken Bake. It’s genius, really. Coffee that’s relatively cheap, consistent and available everywhere but a coffee that helps enhance the flavours of their products, too.
You might be getting a low-cost and decent cup of coffee, but I bet you’re likely getting something to munch with it a high percentage of the time!
You’re good to go
In all honesty, I feel like there’s a whole host of other options to explore in the low-cost and decent coffee market. These two have consistently stood head and shoulders above the others in my experience.
I’ll be trying as many others as I can, I always do! But I would be really surprised if I found that somewhere like KFC was delivering as well as Greggs and McDonald’s.
Trust me on this. If you’re in a rush and watching a Barista at a services isn’t what you need right now. You could do far worse than Greggs or McDonalds. They’s invested significant time and money into making the delivery of their coffee as consistent and “alright” as possible.
Certainly I never have issue grabbing one of their brews.