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The Best Chain Coffee Shops That Aren’t Starbucks

The Best Chain Coffee Shops That Aren’t Starbucks

I’ve got nothing against Starbucks, except that they are on every single street corner and the green mermaid stares into my soul until I order my 7th PSL of the day. Starbucks is typically not my first pick but usually, they’re the more convenient option. But, being the coffee connoisseur that I am, I started giving other chains a chance and I was not disappointed. These are truly the best places to get a good coffee that aren’t Starbucks.


Honestly, is anyone even shocked that they made the list? Everything they serve is so good. They have several options for coffee which already puts them well above any other fast food joint. Like Starbucks, you can have brewed coffee, iced coffee, and frosted coffees, which are the equivalent of a Frappuccino from Starbucks, but Chick-fil-a uses ice cream in theirs. Game changer.

Each of their coffees is exactly what it needs to be; their brewed coffee is bold and warm; their iced coffee is smooth and creamy and their frosted coffees are delicious and refreshing. They may be known for their chicken, fries and disappointing your Sundays, but I cannot make a trip here without leaving with chicken in one hand and a coffee in the other.


2. Dunkin’ Donuts

From strictly a coffee perspective, Dunkin’ may take home the crown for the best coffee. The flavors of their coffee alone are why people are drawn to it. I buy their grounds to brew at home because it naturally brews the strongest and most flavorful coffee. Their brewed coffee is far superior to Starbucks, which many think tastes burnt. The complaint I heard most with Dunkin’, is that their coffee is too sweet, but the only time I hear that, is when it comes to their iced coffee. If you want a stronger coffee taste, order it with half of the serving of creamer. If you leave Dunkin’ with a coffee you are unsatisfied with, that’s on you, not them. You just have to know how to order and what to order. Everything is customizable, so it’s super easy to leave with a really good cup of coffee.

Dunkin’, like Starbucks, isn’t hard to find. Although they are the reigning champions of donuts, their coffee is the perfect match to their sweet breakfast treats. They have flavors ranging from ice cream to candy bars. So, if you’re in the mood for a Kit Kat and a caffeine kick, they have a coffee for that. As an added bonus they also serve the largest size of coffee out of all of these chains, a large iced coffee is 32 ounces, so if you’re really desperate for an excessive amount of caffeine, Dunkin’ is your answer. 


3. Caribou Coffee

I had never had Caribou, there aren’t any in the Cincinnati area. Or so I thought. Although there aren’t any freestanding Caribou coffees in the area, Caribou is served at Brueggers Bagels and Einstein Brothers Bagels. And any college kid knows Einstein Brothers. In fact, I spent one semester at a big university and the only reason I didn’t transfer sooner was because of my morning coffee and bagel from Einstein’s. 


Caribou’s coffee can be found in any grocery store, but if you are lucky enough to live by one of their locations, go there as soon as possible. Their espresso drinks are more creative than your typical coffee chains, they host an impressive menu with drinks outside the realm of Mocha and Latte. They include a Cold Pressed Shandy drink, which is coffee and lemonade as well as a Cold Pressed Mule, which is coffee and ginger ale. If you’re looking to try one of these unique drinks, they can be found in 20 states but Minnesota would be your best bet, they host over 250 locations. Caribou has a huge fan following in the areas that you can find it, but if you can track down one of the bagel shops above, you can snag yourself a cup of Caribou.


4. Panera Bread

Panera offers a huge assortment of baked goods and their soups and sandwich combos are a lunchtime classic. You know what you’re getting when you come to Panera, and you leave satisfied. But Panera, for as much as it boasts about it’s lunchtime combo, should be screaming about their coffee from the rooftops. Their brewed coffee is self serve, which if you eat in the restaurant you get free refills, and you won’t be disappointed. They host a variety of brewed coffees to choose from but their specialty coffees are well worth the price jump. Their cold brew coffee is by far the best cold brew coffee I’ve had. Much smoother than Starbucks and less acidic than Dunkin.

With Panera hosting so many locations, it’s just as easy to stop in there as it is to stop in Starbucks. They both are often busy but if you can stand the wait, pick up a coffee to go with your pick two.

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5. Biggby Coffee

I would literally die for any barista from Biggby Coffee. That’s not even me being dramatic, it’s true. Biggby is like an old friend that you can’t always make time to see but you know they’re always there. Except, you need to make time for Biggby. 


Biggby Coffee is by far the best chain coffee shop. Every single one of their beverages can come hot, iced or frozen. Which basically means, you have endless possibilities of coffee goodness to choose from. Not only is their coffee amazing, but their customer service is on par with Chick-fil-a. I have been to several Biggby locations and I have never once left dissatisfied. If there is a problem with a coffee, which there rarely is, they quickly correct it and smile while doing it. They have a trivia question of the day to help spark conversation with the workers and coffee drinkers. I frequent Biggby at least once a week, so my Biggby has come to know me well. They even turned on the Friends theme song for me when I was having a bad day. True story. 

On top of having outstanding baristas and coffee, they have pastries and the holy grail of breakfast sandwiches; bragels. Bragels are bagel breakfast sandwiches that will cure any hangover, make you go from hangry to happy, clear up your acne, erase your student debt and create world peace. Bragels are that powerful. They put the fast-food breakfast sandwiches to shame and once you have one you will never be the same.


Which coffee chain is your favorite? Do you like these better than Starbucks? Comment below and tell us about your favorite coffee chain and what you usually order!

Featured Image Source: Maria Hehman