Review: We Tried Starbucks Spring Seasonal Ground Coffee To Mixed Results

Starbucks spring 2024 ground coffees
Starbucks spring 2024 ground coffees - Brendan McGinley / Tasting Table

Do you like spring? How about coffee? Sure, everybody likes at least one of those things, and most people like both. In pursuit of those combined joys, Starbucks is bringing back two beloved flavors and introducing a third offering for its seasonal line of bagged coffees.

Though its core line of ground and whole bean coffees sticks to recognizable favorites like Pike Place, Caffè Verona, Veranda, and French Roast, the Starbucks Coffee at Home line has done types of seasonal flavors and blends before, offering up instantly recognizable tastes like maple pecan, pumpkin spice, peppermint, and gingerbread. Just don't confuse them with the Starbucks Reserve Select seasonal blends, which can only be purchased at the flagship locations in major markets.

And because the PR team at Starbucks knows a writer's life is a game of ping-pong between sessions of caffeinated productivity, the company sent me samples of each flavor to try for myself. Tasting three varieties of coffee for a comprehensive review article is a self-fueling way to write. Now that I've emerged from the caffeinated fugue state that was an in-depth testing and tasting process, let's see if my notes are too jittery and jagged to read. Although my impressions were made using promotional material, the opinions I formed are objectively my own.

Read more: 31 Popular Coffee Brands, Ranked

What Are The Spring Flavors From Starbucks?

Starbucks Brown Sugar Cinnamon grounds
Starbucks Brown Sugar Cinnamon grounds - Brendan McGinley / Tasting Table

Starbucks has released three flavors for the spring of 2024: Brown Sugar Cinnamon, Spring Day blend, and Toasted Coconut Mocha. Brown Sugar Cinnamon is a new flavor inspired by the Iced Brown Sugar Oatmilk Shaken Espresso, a non-dairy menu item that debuted in Starbucks chain locations three years ago. The Spring Day Blend and Toasted Coconut Mocha are returning flavors for this season.

Starbucks hasn't disclosed the two flavored releases' roast level, which may be due to mingled grounds of different roasts, but the Spring Day Blend is a medium-roasted coffee. All three offerings are 100% Arabica, as is the Starbucks way, in a medium grind suitable to most brewing methods and close enough to a larger grind that you won't hate making cold brew from it. Espresso lovers will have to do the final stretch of fine-grinding themselves.

The spring-release flavors are available in various formats intended to suit your preferred brewing method. Each one is being sold in K-Cup pods and bagged grounds (formally known as Roast & Ground), but only the Brown Sugar Cinnamon will also be available in liquid form via a Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate. As I don't own a Keurig, and my apartment has been too frigid to countenance a cold brew so far this year, I opted to sample the bagged ground options of these Starbucks seasonals.

Price And Availability: Starbucks Spring Flavors

Starbucks Spring Day blend bag
Starbucks Spring Day blend bag - Brendan McGinley / Tasting Table

The Starbucks spring flavors will be available in grocery stores across the country, presumably for the remainder of the season. It remains to be seen what summer flavors are waiting in the wings to replace them. All three flavors are in stores now and can also be purchased online at Amazon, Target, and Walmart.

While you might find them on sale, the suggested prices for these coffees are $11.99 for an 11-ounce bag or $15.49 for a 17-ounce one. A box of 10 K-Cup pods will also cost $11.99, while a 22-count box is slightly cheaper per pour at the suggested retail price of $22.99 — and even more so presently down to $16 at Walmart.

The Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate is $14.89 for 32 ounces at Target, but at present, it's on sale at Amazon for $7.98. So, depending on where in the country you're buying it, you'll obviously encounter a lot of variety between different stores and sales.

Trying Out Each Starbucks Spring Flavor

Moka pot Starbucks spring coffee
Moka pot Starbucks spring coffee - Brendan McGinley / Tasting Table

Spring is our lightest season, but I approached this tasting with gravity and a heavy-duty coffee brewing regimen. I used filtered water from two sources (one a commercial refrigerator water spout, the other a filtration pitcher) for all my initial notes to engage with the flavors in two types of moka pot. I also tested them served black, then black again but with sugar, then with half and half, and finally as a latte, just to run each flavor through the full course of typical brewing and pouring.

I also brewed a percolator pot with filtered water and followed that, again with tap water, to see if any significant differences emerged. (None did as far as emergent qualities, but the filtered water was definitely the better version.) I next tried the moka pot again, this time with tap water, all to give the coffees a real-world rundown. I even ground Brown Sugar Cinnamon finer to brew in a cezve, the traditional Turkish coffee pot, just because.

While not germane to the tasting experience, I read a book on high-end coffee craftsmanship written by a fourth-wave barista while waiting for the java to become juice. Did I learn anything? A little. Did it keep my brain keen on the coffee waiting to land in my mug? Maybe. Am I now qualified to judge the Barista Olympics? No — but grocery store coffee? Yes.

Taste Test: Starbucks Brown Sugar Cinnamon

Starbucks Brown Sugar Cinnamon bag
Starbucks Brown Sugar Cinnamon bag - Brendan McGinley / Tasting Table

Spring is an interesting time for Brown Sugar Cinnamon to drop. From the aroma in the unsteeped grounds to the last drop on your tongue, this comes across like a Christmas flavor (or non-denominational Red Cup Season flavor, if you prefer). The titular spices naturally create a crumb cake odor, but vanilla and dried fruit bound into your nostrils as well. This expression would seem to be a pairing that makes a fruit cake or panettone more palatable to a dry tongue.

The coffee aisle is littered with flavored blends that are worse off for it, but Brown Sugar Cinnamon is decent rather than gimmicky and comes across as sweet and spicy even when drunk black. Oddly, this coffee benefits from a weaker brew. At standard ratios, it comes on strong, whereas a more watery cup lets some nuances emerge. It also takes well to a goose from real brown sugar. Adding fat or sugar only enhances these qualities, so stir lightly.

With that being true, this blend does work very well on a light latte. It hits more like a chai tea than a flavored coffee, and its spiciness plays well with the dairy. While it's not going to eclipse the unflavored blends, letting the coffee shimmer through these heavy spices is a victory in itself. This is a good coffee to have on hand to complement certain desserts after dinner, but not one that you might find yourself drinking every day.

Taste Test: Starbucks Spring Day Blend

Starbucks Spring Day Blend bag
Starbucks Spring Day Blend bag - Brendan McGinley / Tasting Table

Spring Day Blend was so good I forgot to take notes the first time, trailing off immediately from jotted phrases like "Clear winner" and "Vibrant body." Its tuning-fork taste hums in the mouth as it hits back and forth between nuttiness and chocolate. In the middle reverberates the flavor of dried cherries. What's funny is that despite an excellent scent, this bag held the fewest promises to the nose and ended up delivering in the biggest way in the mouth. I guess this blend tilts at spring woo as the strong, silent type. To be honest, I was surprised that a coffee with this type of richness was a medium roast, and would have bet on dark.

While it's splendid with half-and-half, this is the clear pick of the batch for anyone who drinks their coffee black, and indeed, the latter is the better of the two. Unsurprisingly, it took to the moka pot better than the percolator, benefiting from the upward pressure.

This release is a banger that even filtered water can barely improve. It's a small wonder that it's returning to production when it can go toe-to-toe with some of Starbucks' flagship blends like Pike Place. I would drink the Spring Day blend every day, year-round, and only break out the other two for pairings or enhancing this one with a little variety.

Taste Test: Starbucks Toasted Coconut Mocha

Starbucks Toasted Coconut Mocha bag
Starbucks Toasted Coconut Mocha bag - Brendan McGinley / Tasting Table

You'd be challenged to detect much chocolate in the nose with the coconut overwhelming it, but there is a scrap of cocoa hanging about. Unquestionably, this bag had the best aroma and clung tenaciously to that crown after pouring the brewed product. The toastiness of the coconut combines beautifully with the coffee, and it's a pleasure to sit, hold, and smell while waiting for it to cool down enough to drink.

Unfortunately, none of the aroma arises in your cup. A relatively strong and rich Arabica from unspecified swaths of Africa and Latin America, the coffee is too tangy to jive with the coconut. As with Brown Sugar Cinnamon, this coffee suffers from a body problem; its strength lies mainly in the tantalizing promise of its aroma, with only a mild presence of flavor.

What exists of the coconut taste mostly serves to highlight the coffee's natural sour and bitterness; although more positively than that sounds. This is one that's going to benefit from making fancy coffee drinks rather than just pouring a cup of black. Still, it's strange to think that the best version of your coconut mocha latte might require coconut milk and a little cocoa powder because the coffee itself mainly provides it in the snoot.

Are The Starbucks Spring Flavors Worth Buying?

Starbucks Spring Day Blend grounds
Starbucks Spring Day Blend grounds - Brendan McGinley / Tasting Table

While it's useful for dunking a sweet, dry pastry in, I can't recommend keeping Brown Sugar Cinnamon on hand. It's much more suited to a digestive serving after lunch or dinner or accompanying a slice of rum fruit cake if you're saving it for the holidays. Yes, it went well with a nice pain au chocolate in our testing, but all in all, it's not the best capstone on a savory breakfast. On its own, it bends towards one-time winter feelings, and Toasted Coconut Mocha follows suit with being a sour coffee.

I did find one great employment for Brown Sugar Cinnamon. Mixed about 15% in a high-quality, unflavored coffee gives it a subtle, spicy zip without transforming it into the more intense version. If you have an excellent base, use these grounds for a subtle enhancement. The fresh grains will provide a good purchase for the cinnamon and molasses tastes to rise.

From my testing, the Spring Day Blend is the bag to buy. While it won't taste like magnolia blossoms or birdsong, it has the exact right levels of strength and flavor to head out into a sunny spring morning with zip in your sip. The very first drop hits right in the "Oh yeah, that's coffee" spot and then rings through your mouth with a terrific mixture of woodsiness and body for days. Spring Day Blend stands as a fresh seasonal joy from Starbucks.

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