The Best Gas Station Coffee Is Not An Easy Choice

Gas station coffee may not be your go-to for your daily commute — after all, it's much easier to simply swing through the drive-through at your local Mickey D's or Starbucks. If you're going on a longer journey, however, you'll learn what long-distance truckers and road trippers have long known: Gas station coffee is lifeblood, itself.

It's not easy to decide which gas station chain serves up the best coffee. For one thing, quality may vary not only from franchise to franchise, but also from pot to pot, and certain times of day may be better than others. (If you hit up a smaller gas station at a less-busy time of day, there's a chance that the coffee in the carafe may have gone cold.) Also, there's the fact that not every chain has a nationwide presence. According to a 2019 GasBuddy survey (via The Shelby Report), 50 states plus the District of Columbia had 25 different go-to gas stations for their coffee fix.

There's also the question of criteria. Coffee snobbism has no place on the road, as indie coffee shops that know how to make a perfect pour-over do not line the highways and byways. Still, while gas station coffee does not need to be a gourmet experience, it should, at least, be drinkable. And also hot. A nice selection of add-ins is good, too, and it's a big plus if the coffee is affordable so you'll have a few bucks to fill up your car's tank, too.

Quik Trip has the best add-ins

If you prefer to drink your coffee black, you can go right ahead and skip to the next slide. If you're all about the add-ins, though, then you're in luck if you live in any of the southern or midwestern states where Quik Trip has a presence. This chain once posted on Facebook that advertises that it has over 7,000 ways to customize its coffee, starting with the type of drink itself. It not only offers the standard hot type but also has cold brews, frappes, cappuccinos, and lattes. You can also customize these coffees with flavor shots, steamed milk, and even whipped cream to create your own Starbucks-style beverage. Do QT secret menus exist? If not, they definitely should, since the drinks are DIY so you're not inconveniencing some poor overworked barista.

Btw, if you're from the Upper Midwest and are thinking we're poor spellers — no, Quik Trip and Kwik Trip are not the same chain. No disrespect to KT coffee, as it's generally fresh and good and also offers a decent selection of add-ins. It's just that we tend to think of Kwik Trips as a mini grocery store, the kind of place we'd be more likely to go for eggs, milk, and toilet paper than coffee. 

Speedway's coffee is the cheapest, but can be hit or miss

According to the personal finance website The Penny Hoarder, the cheapest gas station coffee can be found at Speedway. Their reviewers also found the coffee — something the chain touts as being certified by the Rainforest Alliance — to be "delightful." Many Michiganders apparently agree as Speedway's java took the top spot in that aforementioned 2019 survey on gas station coffee. At that time, however, Speedway had Dunkin-branded coffee, but this is no longer the case. Sadly, it's now serving up a store-brand brew.

Not everyone has had a particularly delightful experience with Speedway coffee. One Redditor spoke of stopping by their local Speedway only to find that all of the brewed coffee carafes were empty and only sugary flavored cappuccino-type drinks were available. Our own experience with coffee at a certain unnamed inner-city Speedway found it to be cold and the only available add-in to be powdered creamer. In case you're wondering, no, you can't dissolve the latter in the former, and drinking lumpy coffee is a weird, unpleasant experience that we do not recommend.

Overall, the best coffee can be found at Wawa

In the end, there can be only one. Wawa, a regional chain that stretches down the east coast from New Jersey to Florida, took the top honors in six states in that GasBuddy survey. As it happens, that list of states matches up almost exactly with the list of ones where Wawa has a presence. Only Washington, D.C., home to but a handful of Wawas (five, at last count), chose a different gas station as their preferred coffee spot (they went with Exxon; go figure). The fact that all of the other Wawa states awarded that chain the top spot as their preferred coffee provider speaks highly of its brew.

Java fansite Roasty Coffee concurs with GasBuddy's findings, noting that Wawa's coffee is comparable to the stuff you might find in a coffee shop. The Penny Hoarder, too, puts Wawa right at the top of its list, and who are we to disagree? As it so happens, we're big Wawa fans, as well, and we're particularly partial to its flavored brews. We only wish the chain would expand its footprint a bit ... that, and bring back that amazing blueberry cobbler coffee!