Starbucks Reserve vs. Starbucks: How do they compare?

When it comes to coffee, I prefer to identify as the Starbucks guru. That is until my self-proclaimed status came crumbling down to a pile of dust. Why? Well, a colleague of mine came in with a Starbucks brew that I had never heard of and went on to introduce me to Starbucks Reserve. By the end of his lecture, I gladly handed my crown, but not for long, it only took me a few days to equip myself with the necessary information to steal it back.

As was my case, many people don’t know about Starbucks reserve or if they do, they confuse it with regular Starbucks. This post will give you a detailed comparison of the two. Read on!

What are the differences between Starbucks Reserve and Starbucks?


Starbucks Reserve



Is cozy and spacious with bright lighting and outdoor seats

Has a library-like ambiance with warm lighting and wooden walls and tables

Area coverage

Covers up to 14 times the size of the average Starbucks

Covers around 1800 square feet


Includes coffees brewed from the rarest beans

Has cocktails, bakery items, and other unique treats

The menu includes drinks made with beans from known sources

Has bakery items and secrete menu

Price range

Most products are expensive

Fairly affordable pricing

Beverage sizes

Sizes range between 8 and 31 ounces

Sizes range between 8 and 31 ounces

Environmental Consciousness

Has eco-friendly design, recycles items to minimize wastage

Recycles items and minimizes wastage by using dishwashers


Is artistic with hand-stained wood finishes

Has a more contemporary design


Modern with a cultural infusion


Coffee quality

High-quality beans

High-quality beans

Drink Varieties

Include espresso-based drinks, mocktails, and other brewed coffee

Include coffees and teas, Frappuccinos, and cold drinks

Brewing Method

Uses siphon, stovetop, and pour-over among others

Uses siphon, pour-over, and Chemex among others

Coffee bean sourcing and roasting

Beans are sourced from private coffee farms and ancient estate plantations and are roasted by the company

Beans are sourced from three regions; Latin America, Africa, and Asia and are roasted by the baristas

Starbucks reserve vs. Starbucks – How they compare

Starbucks Reserve vs. Starbucks


Starbucks has a library-like ambiance that is cozy to accommodate instances when customers stay in to enjoy their orders while working. The tables and chairs are mostly wooden and the lighting is bright and warm in the evenings. It mostly serves in and out customers so only has a standard restaurant setting.

On the other hand, Starbucks reserve stores are spacious and bright. They have both indoor and outdoor seats. They have a more modern look and cozy feel to entertain customers who order the products and enjoy them within.

Starbucks reserve, therefore, wins this category due to its cozy and welcoming atmosphere.

Area Coverage

Regular Starbucks stores cover about 1800 square feet. On the other hand, Starbucks reserve covers about thirteen times the size of the regular stores. This is due to the high number of customers they are designed to accommodate. Most reserves have a couple of extra floors and outdoor seats that are equally designed to ensure the customers’ comfort.

Therefore in this category Starbucks reserve wins due to the huge square footage that can accommodate more customers.


Starbucks’ menu consists of hot coffees and teas, hot drinks, Frappuccino blended beverages, cold coffees, iced teas, and cold drinks like refreshers. There are also food items that include bakery items, breakfast meals, snacks, sweets, and yogurt. The drinks can be customized in different ways some of which are part of the chain’s secret menu.

Since Starbucks and Starbucks reserve are technically the same things there isn’t much difference in the products they offer. Starbucks reserve stores majorly stand out for offering the rarest drinks and food items that you won’t find in a regular store. The menu consists of products sourced from the rarest and most extraordinary coffee beans.

Starbucks wins this category since it offers a wide range of products that are not alien but rather known to the customers

Price Range

Starbucks is known for its high prices. It is the most expensive coffee house compared to other competing coffee houses. However, the prices are nothing compared to those of Starbucks reserve. Due to the exclusivity and rarity of the drinks, the prices double, or in some cases triple those of regular Starbucks drinks. Starbucks Reserves thrive from their distinct nature and in offering drink options that are not on Starbucks menu boards, they demand extra charges.

Otherwise, without the need to dig deeper into one’s pockets to purchase the drinks, there would be no use for having Starbucks reserves,

Starbucks wins this category since it offers more affordable products.

Beverage Sizes

Since Starbucks Reserve still falls under Starbucks as a coffeehouse, the beverage sizes are similar. There are five size options which include: tall, Grande, Venti, and Tentra. The tall size is 12 ounces, Grande 16 ounces, Venti 24 ounces, and Tentra 31 ounces. These sizes apply to both Starbucks and Starbucks reserves. Certain beverages are only served in a single size while others allow you the option to choose a size that suits you.

Since both Starbucks and Starbucks reserve have the same beverage sizes, it is therefore a tie in this category.

Environmental Consciousness

As with the beverage sizes, Starbucks and Starbucks reserves fall under the same management which means a similar response towards the environmental state. The company has put in place several strategies to reduce its carbon footprint and reduce plastic waste. Among them are using reusable cups, recycling items, and incorporating eco-friendly designs in their décor and products.

In this category, Starbucks reserve, and Starbucks tie since they both work towards ensuring environmental sustainability.


Starbucks reserve and Starbucks are designed in a way that they both reflect the company’s modern feel but still keep their distinctive touch. Starbucks leans more toward the original idea that was drawn from the first store in Seattle from the logo to interior design. On the other hand, Starbucks reserves reflect the customer in the hand-stain wood finishes and artistic designs. They are designed to not look like an ordinary coffee house but give the experience of one.

In this category, Starbucks reserve wins due to the sophisticated designs that give the customers comfort and relaxation.


Both Starbucks and Starbucks reserves have a modern aesthetic from the designs to the one-of-a-kind cups. The image of the company is such that it appeals to the coffee-drinking population and adds a touch of prestige and exclusivity to the whole process. In a way, the coffee chain is identified by all things coffee and equally identifies by it.

Therefore, Starbucks and Starbucks reserve tie in this category.

Coffee Quality

Starbucks uses coffee from the world’s best-known belts which include Latin America, Asia, and Africa. The coffee beans are talked about in detail on the company’s website and by all means, they give the customers as much spotlight as necessary. Starbucks reserve on the other hand uses coffee beans from private or family-run coffee farms. These are the rarest beans. Despite this difference, the quality of the coffee is the best and Starbucks lives by its vision to give customers only the best there is.

Therefore it is a draw in this category since they both have high-quality coffee.

Drink Varieties

Starbucks has a variety of drink options including espresso-based, teas, cold drinks, Frappuccinos, and coffees. These drinks can further be customized to make other drinks that are on the company’s secret menu. Starbucks Reserve on the other hand also has espresso-based drinks, mocktails, and other brewed coffees. The menu consists of the rarest drinks.

In this category, Starbucks wins since it has a larger variety of drinks.

Brewing Method

Starbucks reserve uses siphon, stovetop, Chemex, and pour-over methods to brew coffee. These same methods are used by regular Starbucks to brew their coffee depending on the type it is. The type of coffee beans also determines the final taste. Other than that, the proportion used and the beans’ freshness are also key fundamentals in the brewing process.

Starbucks reserve and Starbucks tie in this category due to their similar brewing method.

Coffee Bean Sourcing and Roasting

This is the main feature that makes Starbucks reserve and Starbucks different. Coffee beans used at Starbucks are sourced from three regions which include Latin America, Asia, and Africa. The beans are then roasted by the baristas to give the delicious tasting drinks Starbucks is known for.

When it comes to Starbucks reserve, the coffee beans used are sourced from family-run farms. This type of coffee isn’t as common or in bulk as regular coffee. This is why most drinks brewed from this type of beans are only found in Starbucks reserves and come at higher prices. They are roasted by the baristas to give delicious brews.

In this category, Starbucks wins since its coffee beans are in surplus and serve more customers.

Starbucks Reserve vs. Starbucks – A Comparison Overview

Starbucks Reserve Overview

Starbucks Reserve vs. Starbucks

Starbucks started the Starbucks reserve program in 2010 as an attempt to compete in the high-end coffee market. When it began it was mostly conducted through online sales then retail locations began popping up and later a reserve location was opened in Latin America. The three-story store only served Colombian coffee then.

Currently, the company has four reserve stores that are up and running. The main one is located in the headquarters in Seattle while the other three are in New York, Shanghai and Naperville. The reserve stores mostly stand out because of their coffee grains. Most of the customers are longing for a step-up from the usual Starbucks grains or are craving a unique taste.

Though the reserve stores are not as popular as regular Starbucks stores, they continue to attract a good fraction of the company’s customers most of whom are impressed by the contrast in the ambiance of the two stores. The introduction of cocktails also does great in luring customers into the stores

Starbucks Overview

Starbucks Reserve

The first Starbucks store was opened near pike place market in Seattle in the year 1971. It first offered freshly roasted beans, tea, and spices. Ten years after its first opening a New Yorker, Howard Schultz walked into the store and was fascinated with coffee. He later received inspiration from a trip to Milan, Italy which birthed the now renowned Starbucks coffee house. He worked to bring the artistry and charm he found in Italy to Starbucks.

Starbucks has since grown to have over 32000 stores all over the world. The success of the company is mainly attributed to its unique take on coffee and how it involves the customers in the process that has given rise to several drinks in the company’s secret menu.

Despite the high prices of the drinks, Starbucks is one of the companies with the most loyal customers. It is by far outstanding and the customers are charmed by the great services they receive from the customers. The company also keeps adjusting its menu to suit the customers’ preferences.

Final Verdict: So, Which is better? –Starbucks Reserve vs. Starbucks

Starbucks is better than Starbucks reserve. Though Starbucks reserve offers the rarest coffee that anyone would be curious to try, Starbucks remains to be the go-to option that caters to customers’ all-round needs. Not only are the drink varieties broad but the menu is also diverse and the prices aren’t as expensive.

Aside from the drinks, all the other features that are available at Starbucks reserve are also available at Starbucks since they are under the same management. Starbucks goes beyond a coffeehouse and thrives from great relations with customers which is something that no matter the level of exclusivity, Starbucks reserve can’t beat.


Is coffee better at Starbucks Reserve than at regular Starbucks?

No, it is not. The only difference is in the source but both the coffee at Starbucks reserve and regular Starbucks are high quality. They can only differ in terms of preference.

Which is more expensive between Starbucks Reserve and Regular Starbucks?

Starbucks reserve is more expensive since the coffee beans used are hard to come by.

Which one came first between Starbucks reserve and regular Starbucks?

Regular Starbucks came first followed by Starbucks reserve to produce rare drinks that were not on the regular Starbucks menu.