The Daily Gamecock

Head-to-head: Dunkin' Donuts' versus Starbucks' coffee, fall flavors

Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts are probably the most popular coffee chains, but who has the best quality coffee and overall flavor? Two Daily Gamecock columnists argue for either side.

Dunkin' Donuts

Starbucks’ coffee selection does not hold a candle to the quality and price of Dunkin' Donuts' fall menu. We are officially in pumpkin spice latte (PSL) season, and if you haven’t gotten your first one yet, go for Dunkin' instead of Starbucks this fall.

Fall is synonymous with the phrase “pumpkin spice.” You name something, and there is probably some form of it that is pumpkin-spice flavored or scented. Products that have taken part in this craze span from more predictable items, such as coffee, donuts, cereal and ice cream, to things that have absolutely no business being pumpkin-spice scented, such as deodorant.

As Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks have vied for years over the title of “best coffee chain,” the title for “best pumpkin spice latte” is also up for grabs. I wholeheartedly believe that Dunkin' not only has the superior fall menu but is the better chain overall.

Though Starbucks technically makes more money than Dunkin’, its higher prices and sheer number of franchises are responsible for this disparity. Quality has nothing to do with it. Some even go as far as to say that Dunkin’s quality exceeds that of Starbucks. 

The complaint of Starbucks' coffee tasting burnt has echoed throughout the coffee-lover community, while that complaint is rarely ever made about Dunkin' coffee. Starbucks roasts its beans darker than most other coffee chains; this is a fact. We should not be paying more for coffee that is not properly roasted — it makes no sense. 

Speaking of higher prices, Starbucks is known for its over-the-top pricing, some even making it a competition to see how expensive one drink at Starbucks could be. The record right now is $148.99. Dunkin' specifically aims to make its coffee more affordable and to be able to provide for a broader demographic.

Coffee is something you need every morning, if you are an avid coffee consumer like myself. In order to get your fill every day, especially as a college student, Starbucks’ prices are not sustainable. 

The menu is obviously the most important aspect of who gets the coffee chain crown. Both chains offer pumpkin spice lattes (naturally), pumpkin cream cold brews and other pumpkin-flavored coffee options, such as chai lattes and espressos. The main difference between the two chains in this category is that you can get the same drink at Dunkin' that tastes better and saves you money.

For those who don’t care to remember an entirely different set of sizes for their morning brew, Dunkin' doesn’t try to make you order in Italian, which can be much easier in your pre-coffee fog. A simple “medium pumpkin spice latte, please” is much more favorable over trying to figure out the difference between a "grande" and a "venti."

The last detail I will provide for Dunkin' Donuts’ case is that it was founded in Massachusetts. As a native New Englander, I know that no one does fall like the East Coast. I implore you to stop paying for overpriced, burnt pumpkin spice lattes, and opt for the more affordable and authentic PSL that you deserve.


When putting all our favorite fall flavors to the test, Starbucks reigns supreme. Starbucks might have higher prices and a long drive-through line, but its quality and fantastic fall flavors are top tier compared to Dunkin’ Donuts. 

It was Starbucks that first came out with everyone’s fall craze — the pumpkin spice latte (PSL) — in 2003. Meanwhile, the pumpkin cream cold brew is still in the early years after its creation in 2019. No matter if you're a die-hard Starbucks fanatic or just someone who visits once a blue moon, there is a fall-flavored drink or treat out there for all of us. We were fortunate enough that this year, all our favorites and soon-to-be favorites came to stores on Aug. 24.

If you’re in the mood for a staple such as the PSL, or craving something new, such as the apple crisp macchiato, Starbucks has options and can cater to your liking. With at least seven different fall-flavored drink creations, you can pick your style and create the drink of your choice to be hot, iced or even blended into a frappuccino. 

Second-year biological sciences student Tyson Ansani has been a barista at Starbucks for two years and spoke of the environment and drinks at Starbucks with high admiration.

“We make all of our cold brew fresh; we literally grind the beans and brew it ourselves," Ansani said. "I feel like we have a better quality than Dunkin'. So, I don't think it can really compare.”

Starbucks has also graced us with not one, but three fall treats to pair along nicely with the fall drink of your choosing. There’s a pumpkin scone with icing on top, a pumpkin cream cheese muffin and the year-round pumpkin loaf.

“A lot of people order the pumpkin cream (cheese) muffin, which is so super — it's super good. It's like the pumpkin bread that we have, but it has cream cheese in the middle,” Ansani said.

It’s understandable that we all want fast service, whether it’s for that pumpkin cream cheese muffin or the PSL, but in the grand scheme of things, is an average of 4.44 minutes in a drive-thru line really too much of your day when it comes to treating yourself?

There are three Starbucks locations on campus. Next time you’re thinking of saving a few bucks on a Dunkin’ coffee, remember how much gas you would save by ordering from the Thomas Cooper Library Starbucks, the Welsh Humanities Starbucks or the one located in the Russell House bookstore.

Then, not only can you grab a fall drink that’s delicious, but you can do so with a friend or roommate and find a spot on campus to sit and enjoy the fall weather.

If you were still undecided on how to feel about Starbucks having the best fall flavors and need more reassurance, just know that in a random survey of 89 USC students, 86.5% of them chose Starbucks' fall flavors over Dunkin's. 

When asked whether these students would recommend a Starbucks fall flavor over Dunkins’, 34.5% of them picked “every time.”

While a grande PSL from Starbucks will set you back $4.95 and a pumpkin cream cold brew $4.45, 39.3% of those surveyed said the price doesn’t have anything to do with their selection of fall-flavored drinks. Even if Starbucks is slightly more expensive than Dunkin’, it seems that the quality and experience you receive with a Starbucks purchase can’t be beaten.

“​​Starbucks may be a little bit more expensive, but you're paying for the quality; the experience," Ansani said. "Your order is not going to be wrong every time you go; you're going to get the same thing every time.” 

Next time you’re headed for your caffeine break or an after-class pick me up, Starbucks has the fall flavor you’re searching for and the quality you can taste.