by Lars Hundley
If you love good coffee, the thought of drinking gas station coffee might seem like something you’d never consider. In many gas stations, you’ll see a coffee pot that’s been sitting on a burner for who knows how long, or sometimes a big Bunn machine that filled up a thermal canister with who knows what kind of cheap coffee.
But guess what! Some gas stations have caught on and upped their game. I recently learned that Racetrac is known for higher quality coffee, so I drove to one near my office to check out.
First thing I noticed was that they have multiple machines, so usually no line at all, or a very short line. And each machine brews hot coffee OR cold brews, and additionally gives you three different bean options. You can choose “regular” coffee, 100 percent Columbian (which is described as a lighter option in the menus), or decaf.
The machines are high quality Swiss commercial coffee makers by the Schaerer brand. The machine grinds the beans for your individual coffee only when you press the button to make it. Ever heard of that at a coffee station in the USA? Because I hadn’t!
Specifically, they use this Schaerer Coffee Art C machine. These are very expensive, high quality European coffee machines. It reminded me of the WMF commercial coffee machines that I have used at many hotels in Germany and France. Easy to use, with just a few button presses.
I went with a regular, hot coffee. Racetrac doesn’t say where they buy their beans or exactly which brand of beans they use. But I can tell you that the coffee was good enough to drink black. No bitterness, perfect temperature and excellent, fresh ground taste.
What I see now from my photo that I didn’t notice when I was actually there is that some of the machines serve different coffees than others. The machine to my right had the option of Dark Roast, and the Racetrac site says that they also have an option for 100 percent Guatemalan coffee, which I did not see at the location I visited.
My small coffee only cost $1.72, with tax and everything. A “small” coffee is about the side of a Grande at Starbucks, which costs $2.10. I would describe my “regular” coffee as a little bit lighter than a Pike Place.
Now supposedly, the amazing Buc-ee’s gas stations are known for having the best gas station coffee in America. But I sort of agree with Texas Monthly on this one. The coffee is fine, but there is literally nothing special about it except that it’s always fresh and hot.
I think the superior Swiss made machines that grind an individual coffee for each customer is a higher quality choice. Granted, Buc-ee’s gas stations are usually found only on major Interstate highways though, while Racetrac stations are all over the place. Buc-ee’s wins everything else about being a superior gas station because of the amazing food options and unbelievable restrooms, so I’d still stop there and would be fine drinking the coffee.
But if there was a Racetrac on my way to work, I’d consider picking up a daily coffee there rather than Starbucks, if I didn’t make mine at home.
Is there a gas station coffee you’ve found that you’d put up against Racetrac (or Buc-ee’s, if you’re a fan)? Let me know in the comments so I can see if there’s one near me where I can try it myself.