The Untold Truth Of McDonald's Frappe

When it comes to McDonald's coffee, there doesn't seem to be any in-between opinion; you either love it or you hate it. But one thing's for sure: since the introduction of McDonald's McCafé lineup, the restaurant's coffee drinks have gotten a bit more reputable in the world of fast-food chains.

And one of the drinks that's caused a stir is the McDonald's Frappé. According to the Caffeine Informer, the coffee drink has about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee from the chain, but it's also a coffee drink first. So, don't be surprised if you don't get the same satisfaction as you would from sipping on your first cup of hot coffee for the day. After all, even McDonald's describes the drink as offering just a "hint of coffee."

Still, this sweet and ice-cold drink has remained a hit on the menu, especially for lovers of coffee who don't want to pay outlandish prices to get their fix. Here's the untold story of the McDonald's Frappé.

It began as an affordable version of a classic

The McDonald's McCafé menu — its enticing assortment of coffee, coffee drinks, and smoothies — began in Australia in 1993, but it didn't make its way over to the United States' menu until 2009 (via McDonald's). The Frappé came soon after, and it swept into the already strong territory for which Starbucks had paved the way.

By this time, Starbucks had pioneered quick-serve coffee drinks that people could order through a drive-thru window on their way to work on a busy morning. However, those drinks came at a hefty cost. It's no secret that Starbucks has pricey coffee, and not everyone wanted to pay $4-plus for their daily frappé. McDonald's was aware that there was a gap in the market, and it moved to fill that gap with its version.

Starbucks bought the rights to the Frappuccino name in 1994. The move sparked a business transition from a hipster place to 9-to-5er friendly, a similar space that McDonald's already inhabited. The McCafé menu intended to compete with the more expensive Starbucks menu, and the addition of the Frappé was McDonald's direct answer to the Starbucks Frappuccino, which appealed to its target market of people with families and jobs. According to, a grande Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino costs $4.95, while the McDonald's Frappé version is $3.29.

It's biggest competition is Starbucks

It's not uncommon for Starbucks and McDonald's fans to have a battle of words over which brand's coffee drinks are superior. While McDonald's McCafé fans tend to bring up the affordability of McDonald's drinks over higher-priced Starbucks coffee, Starbucks fans argue that its coffee drinks are the real deal.

Consumer Reports once deemed McDonald's regular coffee as the winner over Starbucks. And Starbucks enthusiast Joe Lee switched from being a loyal customer to frequenting his local McDonald's for his morning cup of coffee in favor of its convenient location and yummy coffee (although he admittedly remains a Starbucks customer first). However, in many taste tests, the McDonald's Frappé doesn't fare as well as the Starbucks Frappuccino.

Abigail Abesamis Demarest put Starbucks, McDonald's, and Dunkin' to the test in an article for Business Insider. Once a frequent Starbucks customer, Demarest chose the popular Caramel Frappuccino from the chain cafe, calling it "deliciously decadent," albeit "a bit watery." In comparison, McDonald's Caramel Frappé was creamier than the Starbucks version, but it "tasted like a straight-up milkshake." In Demarest's opinion, Starbucks won the frozen drink battle overall, tasting the most as this drink should.

The Frappé the most sugary drink on the McDonald's menu

If there's one critique for the McDonald's Frappé, it's that the drink is loaded with sugar. For some, the frozen coffee drink is simply too sugary to really taste like a coffee drink, hence Demarest's comparison to a milkshake. While there's nothing wrong with a milkshake if you like them, the Frappé may leave you feeling disappointed if you were hoping to taste some coffee along with all that sugar.

And, yes, it's a lot of sugar. In fact, the Frappé has more sugar than any other drink on the McDonald's menu, including its other McCafé drinks. A small Caramel Frappé has 55 grams of sugar, the medium has 67 grams, and the large has a whopping 89 grams. The Mocha version's small and medium sizes have just one less gram of sugar each. Compare that to the super-sweet Mango Pineapple Smoothie, which has between 42 and 72 grams of sugar, depending on the size.

To put this amount of sugar into perspective, the American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 25 grams of sugar daily for women and 36 grams for men. Drinks high in sugar like the Frappé typically come loaded with calories and could negatively affect your health. A better alternative for sugar-watchers? An Iced Latte from McDonald's, which has just 13 grams of sugar in a large (via McDonald's).

It's not too difficult to make your own (healthier) version

If the calorie and sugar content of the McDonald's Frappé don't suit your daily dietary goals, you could take some pointers from other Frappé fans who have opted to make their own healthier versions of their favorite McCafé drink. In fact, we at Mashed have an easy copycat recipe for McDonald's Mocha Frappé.

One nutritionist took to her TikTok page to share her favorite "hack" of the yummy drink, which she says tastes better and has about half the calories as the original version. Bec Hardgrave's TikTok account is filled with other healthy tips for some of her favorite foods and drinks, including Starbucks coffee drinks. For her McDonald's Frappé hack, Hardgrave buys a soft-serve vanilla ice cream cone and an Iced Long Black, an item on the brand's Australian menu. Then, she mixes the two to create a Frappé-like drink that's only 146 calories, according to Hardgrave. She posted another hack that mentioned putting some artificial sweetener in the mixture for a little added sweetness and only a few more calories.

McDonald's customers in the U.S. can try experimenting in a similar way with a sugar-free Iced Vanilla Coffee or an Iced Latte mixed with some McDonald's ice cream. Both drinks are much lower in calories and sugar than the Frappé (via McDonald's).

McDonald's workers don't have to do much to make a Frappé

Coffee drinks like the McDonald's Frappé look relatively fancy to other traditional drinks on the menu, like soft drinks and coffee. However, several McDonald's employees and trainers have taken to YouTube to explain exactly how the company's drink machines work. It turns out that the Frappé takes just a few taps of some buttons to turn into the frothy, cold drink we know and love.

The machine that many McDonald's restaurants use is the Multiplex Blend-in-Cup Manual Fill, which can make up to three drinks at a time and practically makes the drink for you. Employees can also use this piece of equipment for smoothies and slushies. The machine includes a refrigeration compartment, 25 pounds of ice storage, and easy-touch controls with a screen that guides employees through the process. It even trains new employees on making each drink (via Welbilt).

One YouTube video shows a McDonald's employee making a Frappé after pushing just a couple of buttons on the screen. Out pours the drink into a pitcher with just the right amount for the employee to add to the cup size the customer ordered. Once poured, the employee simply adds some whipped cream and drizzle to the top before placing the lid and serving.

McDonald's likes to experiment with Frappé flavors

Most of the time, the McDonald's McCafé menu includes only two Frappé flavors: mocha and caramel. The mocha incorporates chocolatey flavor mixed with coffee, topped with a chocolate drizzle, while the caramel version swirls in caramel flavoring and a caramel drizzle on top of the whipped cream. But, sometimes McDonald's switches things up by introducing limited-time flavors for different holidays, seasons, events, or just to give its customers a little something new.

The Oreo Frappé was one limited-time drink that select McDonald's added to their lineups. The beverage was basically a Mocha Frappé with crumbled Oreo cookies blended with the traditional mix and sprinkled on top of the whipped cream. In 2012, McDonald's also introduced a Chocolate Chip Frappé to select menus, featuring both mocha and caramel flavoring, chocolate and caramel drizzles, and chocolate chips sprinkled throughout the drink (via Brand Eating).

Your restaurant might even have a Frappé specifically concocted for the true coffee enthusiast. According to McDonald's, the Coffee Iced Frappé uses 100% Arabica coffee beans blended with ice and a "creamy dairy base." Although the sugar content is also high in these, you might find the focus on coffee flavor more appealing than the sweeter caramel and mocha versions.

The Frappé looks different in other countries

The McDonald's McCafé menu is popular in other areas of the world, like Germany, Italy, and France, which had a combined total of 1,354 McDonald's McCafé restaurants in 2018 (per Statista). But the Frappé menu looks quite different in other countries.

Some versions of the Frappé in other parts of the world may not fly in the United States. Consider Japan's Kuromitsu Uji Matcha Frappe. A staple of Japanese culture, tea is used for socialization and medicinal purposes. Matcha is a specific type of tea that has become popular in Japan through recent generations, especially for special occasions and celebrations (per BBC). The limited-time Matcha Frappé is available in Japanese McDonald's locations throughout the fall and features prime Uji matcha, kuromitsu syrup, and "thick jelly cubes at the base" made with brown sugar (via Japan Today).

And then there's the Filipino version of a Frappé made with ube pastillas, or a type of Filipino candy made from purple yams, or ubes. According to The Manila Times, Philippines McDonald's restaurants serve this Frappé alongside a ube pastillas sundae for the holiday season.

Another notable global Frappé flavor includes the U.K.'s Mint Chocolate Chip Iced Frappé, which arguably could be a potential hit in the United States. The drink is a go-to for U.K. McDonald's customers in the summer months (via Mirror). And, one of Ireland's favorites is the Belgian Chocolate Honeycomb Iced Frappé with honeycomb flakes and chunks of chocolate (per Tripzilla).

Fans will do anything to get their Frappés

McDonald's has become somewhat notorious for its broken-down ice cream machines across the nation. In fact, customers have seemed to complain enough to spark the creation of a website known as McBroken to let people know if their beloved ice cream machines are down at nearby restaurants. According to Penn Live, the machines clean themselves on an automated schedule every night, but when the cleaning cycle fails to work, it puts the equipment out of commission until repair personnel can come.

Although the company's ice cream machines tend to get the most hate, the ice machines can also be problematic at some locations. Of course, ice is a primary ingredient for Frappés to turn into the frothy, cold beverage that they are. One TikTok user, @sovath1738, took matters into their own hands when their local McDonald's didn't have ice for their Frappé. The video shows the customer carrying bags of ice to their McDonald's, followed by an employee emptying the ice into the Frappé machine.

The act seemed honorable, but some TikTok commenters said that it was a bad move on the employees' part. One said, "Not corporate approved" while another explained, "I bet they got in trouble for that too because we aren't allowed to [use] anything including water...that isn't approved [by] my McDonald's." Still, the customer won in the end with their must-have Frappé.

The McDonald's Frappé is unofficially gluten-free

According to No Gluten, McDonald's doesn't have an official gluten-free menu or label any of its products as gluten-free. However, people living with celiac disease, a digestive immune disorder causing reactions to gluten, know to look for gluten-containing ingredients in foods and drinks to prevent problems before they start. According to these experts, the McDonald's Frappé is unofficially gluten-free.

An article on that a celiac disease expert reviewed states that both the Caramel and Mocha Frappés do not contain gluten ingredients in their mixes, whipped cream, or flavored drizzles. However, the author states that it's still important to check out the ingredients for yourself — you can find them all on the McDonald's website — to ensure that there isn't anything you might have a reaction to.

If you're a newcomer to celiac disease or other gluten-intolerant conditions, you might not know what to look for on products not labeled as gluten-free. The Celiac Disease Foundation recommends first checking for allergens like wheat, eggs, and nuts. Then, look for obvious gluten-containing ingredients, like wheat, barley, and rye.

You can buy the McDonald's Frappé in bulk

The success of the Frappe in McDonald's restaurants led to the chain's partnership with Coca-Cola to add ready-to-drink McDonald's Frappes to grocery stores across the country. In 2017, the new McCafé Frappes debuted on shelves, featuring Mocha, Caramel, and Vanilla flavors. The Coca-Cola Company said in its official announcement, "We know people are going to love McDonald's new, ready-to-drink McCafé Frappés. As longtime partners of McDonald's, we look forward to working together to expand the reach and availability of McCafé coffees to more people across the country."

In 2019, McDonald's made another big move for its yummy Frappés, pouring them into 40-ounce bottles for multiple servings. These bottles are almost triple the size of the original 13.7-ounce single-serve options, but only about double the price. The bulk versions are only available in the brand's popular Mocha and Caramel flavors (via Elite Daily). Unfortunately, you can't visit your local McDonald's to pick up these massive Frappés, but you can find them in the drink aisle of your grocery store.

Frappé fans have some interesting habits

Perhaps the most interesting part of the McDonald's Frappé story is its fans. McDonald's Frappé drinkers have some interesting habits that a McDonald's survey brought to light. The survey ran alongside the launch of the ready-to-drink McDonald's Frappé bottles.

For starters, the survey found that more than 65% of iced or cold coffee drinkers, like Frappé enthusiasts, said that they drink coffee throughout the day, at any time of day — even before bedtime isn't off-limits. And, one-third of respondents said they'd skip brushing their teeth in favor of their morning coffee if they only had time for one or the other.

Apparently, some people are willing to pay top dollar for a cold coffee like a McDonald's Frappé when they need a refreshing drink on a hot day. New Yorkers surveyed said they'd pay as much as $33 for the very last iced or cold coffee to cool them off. McDonald's also found that parents are 15% likelier to buy Frappé-like drinks to get them through the day than non-parents. And, 40% of respondents admitted that their summers just wouldn't be the same without iced or cold coffee in their lives.