5 Major Gas Station Coffees, Ranked

If convenience and value are your jam, then these brews will do just fine.

Almost everyone I know has a distaste for 7-Eleven coffee, but I love it. Or loved. Years before we had kids, my partner and I often took day trips to Government Camp, the "town" closest to Mount Hood, the famous year-round ski covered mountain unique to the Pacific Northwest. On many occasions, we'd stop by a 7-Eleven to grab a cup of coffee. Ever since, I've had a special fondness for gas station and convenience store coffees.

But my affection for this coffee has less to do with the actual quality and more to do with the experience of grabbing a cup on the go, amidst some fun excursion. What if I tried all the options available in my area, the full gamut of gas station coffees, and actually focused on the taste of each one? It was time to decide, once and for all, whether 7-Eleven coffee is truly the best.

I had two simple rules for this experiment:

  • It must be a chain with locations in a lot of states.
  • The coffee must be sipped black, sans sugar or creamer, allowing me to judge its true taste without additives.
  • What started as a jaunt around town with very low expectations turned out to be a truly enlightening experience as I discovered that there is in fact, better gas station coffee than 7-Eleven. Here are the five contenders, ranked from worst to best.

5. ampm (ARCO)

To be honest, I've never had anything but a disappointing experience with ARCO. In the past, whenever I wanted to save a few cents per gallon on my gas, I'd come to this station, only to discover later that my car performed worse in ways I couldn't explain. It's not surprising that the coffee at the ARCO ampm matched the quality of the gas: A "small & mighty" 12-oz. medium brew costs $1.89, the most expensive of all the coffees I tasted, and it also had the worst flavor.

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The coffee had extremely light and sour notes (again, things I can't explain) that border on sour gummies, very similar to the Maxwell coffee that I used to consume as a teenager. I shudder to think that the lackluster taste may have something to do with some amount of coffee grounds being left at the bottom of the pot during each brew cycle.

Try it if you: like a coffee that makes you grimace; want to pay more for worse coffee; are stuck in the middle of nowhere and it's the end of civilization as we know it; you're being pressured by your partner/friend/family member to get coffee, any coffee.

4. 7-Eleven

Didn't I just gush about 7-Eleven coffee? Yes, I did. But like I said, my affinity was due to the experience more than the quality of the coffee itself, which, I discovered, varies depending on which 7-Eleven you visit.

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This store's version of a "small" is the same 12-oz. size as ampm's, and while it wasn't the worst, it wasn't the best either. The coffee had a nice, dark color, reminiscent of the Arabica beans in its special "7-Eleven Brazilian blend," but I couldn't get over the medicinal aftertaste of this coffee. The spicy notes were overpowering, and after sipping it without any creamer, I had to take a deep breath to make sure I wasn't being bewitched.

Try it if you: like to douse a lot of creamer into your coffee; prioritize convenience over quality.

3. ExtraMile (Chevron)

When determining the worst gas station coffee I've ever tasted, it was a close call between 7-Eleven and ExtraMile, the Chevron store. In the end, ExtraMile had a slight advantage due to some minute details, mainly size and price. For a 16-oz. cup (the smallest available) you pay $1.79, and you will be given the lightest coffee you can possibly imagine. Think Folgers diluted down fifteen times, to the point where the color is a light caramel rather than a dark, nutty chocolate brown.

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Aside from its bland taste, the coffee had citrusy notes that reminded me of someone leaving an orange peel in the pot for several days. I will, however, give ExtraMile/Chevron some props for its cappuccinos and flavored coffees. I wouldn't go for the standard drip kind again.

Try it if you: like light coffee with citrus notes; enjoy the fact that you can get a lot of coffee for less than $2; happen to go to Chevron for your gas.

2. 76

76 is a chain of gas stations and convenience stores with locations in most states (except for the Midwest), and its coffee turned out to be a delight. After getting my cup, I looked around for some to-go coffee creamers. "Sorry, we don't have any creamers today," the clerk said sheepishly. "No problem," I replied, even though it was a little bit of a problem.

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Nevertheless, I was still blown away by the taste of the coffee, which in this case was supplied by Boyd's, a Portland-based coffee company that's been around since 1912.

I love the fact that 76 partners up with well-established regional coffee distributors, so I know exactly where the coffee comes from. It makes drinking it so much better, knowing that I'm supporting a local company. The coffee itself is deeply aromatic, smells amazing, and has a good balance between bitter and light. There was a slight hint of spices as well. I realized that I didn't need any sugar or creamer after all because it tastes good on its own. And at $1.39 for a 16-oz. cup, it's a real winner.

Try it if you: enjoy a rich and fragrant coffee without sugar or cream; want to pay less for a cup of coffee; value knowing where your coffee comes from.

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1. Jacksons (Shell) 

Jacksons partially owns the ExtraMile brand associated with Chevron, though it is partnered with a Shell station in my area. The location I visited was brand new, complete with a glossy machine where you place your cup, press a few buttons, and wait for a perfectly balanced cup of coffee to be dispensed.

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For those who enjoy creamer in their coffee, there's a whole separate machine where a perfectly proportioned amount of cream will dispense into the cup—which seems to be a much more environmentally friendly option than having single-serve creamer pods and sugar packets. Even better, I was offered a free banana with my coffee purchase.

"Do you guys do this at every store?" I asked the clerk. "Pretty much, yeah," she replied. "You get it if you buy a coffee, a cold drink, or a salad." Now that's a deal.

Try it if you: want a freebie with your purchase; enjoy aromatic dark roast coffee; prioritize cleanliness and good service; would rather have a machine dispense your coffee because you always make a mess.

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