The Story Behind the Starbucks Kashrus Tumult


starbucksIn the late 1980s Starbucks first began expanding out of their home base in Seattle, and the coffee world has not been the same ever since. Starbucks changed coffee-drinking from a personal pleasure into a social and cultural experience. Ever since there have been questions as to exactly what a kosher consumer can drink at a Starbucks store.

Most kosher consumers first approached the question with the simple principle of “You can buy black coffee anyplace.” They started to question this principle when they realized that the stores sell items as varied and unexpected as Cinnamon Dolce Creme Frappuccino, Espresso Macchiato, and Caramel Brulee Latte, and they became downright concerned when the chain introduced hot sandwiches such as “Turkey & Swiss Cheese” and “Chicken Santa Fe Panini”. No longer was this a simple coffee shop, and it became clear that unless a given store was kosher certified, the consumer would have to be selective about what they could drink.

As said, Starbucks shops serve many kosher and non-kosher items, with the most serious non-kosher item being hot meat sandwiches. The standard daily clean up at Starbucks includes a hot wash of all utensils and some parts of that washing are done without soap. This clean up process significantly challenges the kosher status of the otherwise kosher products and each product must be judged by a competent halachic authority. The cRc will be printing a detailed review and analysis of this topic in the upcoming edition of The Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society.

The good news is that there are many Starbucks locations that do not serve hot meat sandwiches. These are generally the Starbucks kiosks that can be found in airports, department stores, supermarkets, etc., and at these locations the cRc is comfortable recommending any drink made from kosher ingredients (even though some others use ingredients that may not be kosher).

This list is accurate at this time for stores in the United States based on two and a half years of extensive research and consultation with the cRc’s Av Bes Din, Rav Schwartz. It does not address toppings and other items added to beverages. This information may or may not apply to other coffee houses and stores that provide coffee to the kosher consumer.

Click here to see a printable PDF version of the list.

Click here to hear Rabbi Sholem Fishbane explain his findings at a lecture given at the Skokie Community Kollel on January 2, 2011.

{Yossi Newscenter}


  1. The sinks in which these are washed have, by regulation, soap beforehand, making the tarfus pagum. There is plenty of room to be machmir. however, the other kashrus agencies are meikil. As always, ask your own rav.

  2. If anyomne doesnt want to take the time to listen to the shiur above in #2, i’ll summarize by saying it is a metziyus issue. You probably need to discuss with the local store how they wash [if at all :)] their utensils.

  3. There is another problem with starbucks. there is a assur of bechukosehem lo leylechu! just like this article states “Starbucks changed coffee-drinking from a personal pleasure into a social and cultural experience” Why do poeple buy starbucks….. assimulation at work! Its worse that sushi (besides the parisites)

  4. Since starbucks sells treif hot meat sandwiches, why should getting a coffee in starbucks be any different than getting coffee in mcdonalds?

    I believe the coffee pots (that the hot coffee is in) as well as the milk containers need to be cleaned regularly, and when starucks cleans them, the cRc is saying, they clean them together with the treif utensils used on meat sandwiches.

    Do you want to drink coffee from a coffee pot washed out together with the knives that cut the bacon sandwiches?

    The cRc (in the third paragraph of the above link – “in airports, department stores, highway rest-stops, supermarkets etc., – at these locations the cRc is able to recommend any drink made from kosher ingredients”) is implying that cRc *only* recommends going to a Starbucks that does not sell hot meat sandwiches.

  5. Ari, your summary is imprecise. the shiur concludes that coffee is enirely Ok for at least 4 reasons (even in full service starbucks). However, latte should, at present, be avoided by a baal nefesh as a chumrah with a good basis in halakha.

    the tzeddadim lehakail are 1) the SA on pagum even below the temperature of hagalah (a view many achronim dispute), 2) the filter is not a kli rishon or even irui kli rishon, 3) bittul given the number of uses between washes, and 4) a safek as to the mitzius. the shiur is only 16 minutes and enjoyable.

  6. What “tumult”? I read the article and see a discussion, but no tumult. Just an old halachic shaalah. no new tumult.