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Don't Drink the Coffee

Don't Drink the Coffee?
By Rabbi Baruch Beyer, Kashrus Administrator

“I’ll have an iced Grande White Chocolate Raspberry Chip Frappuccino® with non-fat whipped cream...”  If the aforementioned expression is something you find yourself saying (and understanding) on a regular basis, then pay close attention to what we are about to tell you.  If you have no idea what a Grande or a Frappuccino® is, consider yourself lucky – and penny-wise – as the above Grande Frappucino® (large, high-calorie Starbucks drink be’laz) will set you back almost $5.00! For the Starbucks aficionados out there, first the bad news.

Full-service Starbucks stores offer non-kosher breakfast items, like bacon and turkey sandwiches.  While this is not a revelation, it may surprise you the extent to which this affects the kashrus of Starbucks coffees.  These treif meats are served on ceramic dishes.  The dirty dishes are washed in a three- compartment sink along with the brew baskets used to make the coffee and the small metal milk pitchers used to steam milk for lattes.  It is this clean-up procedure that has soured many kashrus agencies on Starbucks coffee. While leniencies exist to allow the coffee in spite of the clean-up issues, Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlita, Rabbinic Administrator of the Star-K, has decided against using them.

Based on this information, the Star-K does not recommend regular or decaf coffee and lattes from any full-service Starbucks stores.  While espressos are still permitted, since the equipment used in making these is cleaned separately, the Star-K advises that you request disposable cups for making the espresso “shot” – as the normal procedure uses a shot glass that is washed with the non-kosher dishes.

But take heart, for all is not lost.  Firstly, the above is true only at full-service Starbucks stores that serve treif sandwiches and the like. However, at the smaller Starbucks kiosks, typically located in airports and train stations, sandwiches are usually not offered.  The good news is that the coffee making equipment at these establishments remains free of treif blios (non-kosher absorption), and you are permitted to drink the coffee there.

Not only that, but Rabbi Heinemann paskens that when someone is traveling he is considered to be in a b’dieved situation and would be permitted to drink the Starbucks coffee!1  The same would apply to coffee served on airplanes or at gas stations. See our accompanying chart for a detailed overview for the what, when, and how to best indulge your Starbucks habit al pi halacha.

And there is even more good news.  Based on our research, 7-11 and Royal Farms coffee in stores within the Jewish community of Baltimore remains safe for the kosher consumer.

So overall, the news is not all bad.  While you may need to forgo your daily caffeine fix at your local neighborhood shop, alternatives do exist and you won’t be left saying, “Coffee, coffee everywhere, but not a drop to drink.”

Starbucks chart

1.This psak is based on the Yad Ephraim, Y.D. 122-6, D’H’ Shelo’.  He quotes a responsa from the Nodeh Be’Yehudah who discusses a question regarding the Starbucks of his time – the ubiquitous coffee house.  It seems that even in 18th-century Prague, Jews had a thing for coffee.  The question in this case revolved around the permissibility of using the coffee house mugs (no paper cups in those days) that were used for non-cholov Yisroel milk. The Nodeh Beyehudah rules that one should refrain from using these coffee house mugs under normal circumstances.  But if one is traveling and has no alternative, this constitutes a b’dieved situation and he may drink the coffee in these mugs.


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