Top 10 places to get gaming fuel aka iced coffee
Updated: Oct 7
SCG counts down the best places to get deliciously cold and caffeinated beverages for those long gaming sessions
If you’re a gamer, you’re no stranger to late-night sessions with your favorite MMO, sports game, racer or shooter.
Energy drinks can be a good friend for those of us who need that extra kick, but the issue I find with energy drinks, especially Red Bull, is that they taste like crap.
So what’s a gamer to do if they need that extra boost of gamer fuel at 4:30 in the morning while trying to get through that particularly-difficult battle during a game of Dark Souls?
For me, it’s all about coffee. Not only does it provide that much-needed boost of caffeine, but it also tastes good and doesn’t hit you with such a hard crash during the credits or that long Metal Gear Solid cutscene.
The problem is that hot coffee (no, not that hot coffee) in a traditional mug doesn’t mix well with expensive electronics. Plus, having to pause to take a sip sort of kills the immersion.
The solution is obviously cold coffee, which can rescue us from tiredness, kind of like a 10-second sleep in Grand Theft Auto, which advances us a full workday while saving our precious memories.
But what’s the best cup of cold Joe to go with your extra long Gran Turismo race?
We’ve got the countdown of the top 10 drinks that taste good while gaming. Our list consists of coffee from fast food establishments and local coffee shops so if you’re not from the Sacramento area, you may not have heard of some of these. However, there should be something on the list for everyone.
McDonald’s launched its McCafe brand a few years ago to try and compete with the likes of Starbucks and other coffee joints.
While their coffee is convenient and pretty inexpensive, it can be a bit of a disaster if it isn’t made right (read: all the time).
The problem with McDonald's coffee drinks is that sometimes they can be oh-so-delicious, but other times they can be downright nasty.
Either there isn’t enough flavor (I asked for CARAMEL!) or it’s too sweet. They just don’t have the consistency of some of the more established coffee companies.
Still, if you’re desperate or want to pick up a Happy Meal to go along with that session of Barbie: Race and Ride (shh, we won’t tell anyone) McDonald’s coffee is a good way to get your fix.
9. Burger King
Burger King started offering coffee fairly recently and when I first heard they were bringing in iced Seattle’s Best coffee, I was pretty excited.
Burger King coffee may be brewed with Seattle’s Best coffee beans, but it really doesn’t taste much like it.
The downside is that it’s only a cup of fast food coffee.
Also, last time I checked, it only came in one size, which wasn’t very large.
We need fuel for long gaming sessions, not just something to drink on the way home from GameStop, Burger King.
8. Peet’s Coffee
It may not be the best in the world, but Peet’s is pretty good.
The only negative about this cup of iced brew that I can think of is that when purchasing it at Raley’s, much like fast food coffee, it can also go very wrong.
Several cups I’ve had have been riddled with ice chunks, which just ruins a good cup of blended yum. The worst part about the ice chunks is that some of them can be rather large, maybe even large enough to chip a tooth!
I don’t know about you, but I definitely don’t want to have to put down my controller to head to the dentist’s office (or cry in pain until the dentist’s office opens since we’re gaming at 4 in the morning here).
Also, it too can be imbalanced when it comes to flavor (seriously, I asked for freakin’ CARAMEL).
7. AM/PM (Arco gas stations)
Now this one can be a little difficult to track down. Not all AM/PM locations offer this drink.
For the ones that do though, just grab yourself a cup, fill it up with chopped ice from the fountain drink machine and fill that puppy to the brim.
This coffee is a little on the sweet side, but it’s always given me a bigger buzz than any energy drink I’ve tried.
The biggest gripe about this one though is that (aside from it being hard to find a location that offers it) a lot of times the machine is either broken or empty.
If you’re a gamer, you know that dealing with network outages or empty game worlds is no fun. So, why would you want to skip out on your drink when the machine is down or deal with poorly-designed machines that only hold a small portion of liquid and need to be refilled often? That’s right, you don’t.
Nonetheless, this is a good cup of deliciousness.
6. Jack in the Box
I discovered this “Joe in the Cup” drink recently after my wife stopped off for a drink on the way home from running a few errands.
She insisted it was the best coffee ever, but I wasn’t feeling it so much.
While it was better than some of the other drinks on this list, it was still just a generic-tasting fast food coffee drink.
I imagine that this is another case where the drink can often be made improperly as well.
But again, Jack in the Box is one of those places located by just about everything and many are open 24 hours, so it can be a convenient and quick way to get some gamer’s juice running through those veins.
5. Whole Foods
I was always a skeptic of these overly-organic, healthy type shops.
You know, the ones where everyone uses one of those reusable grocery bags, drives a Prius and weighs no more than a kid in middle school.
But after discovering the yummy drinks they offer, I’m a Whole Foods shopper for life (err, well, I’m a Whole Foods coffee buyer for life anyway).
This is the part of the list where consistency starts to become a given (Yeah, now that’s caramel).
Not only does Whole Foods always produce a good-tasting product, but they offer a lot of variety as well. Their prices are pretty good too, especially when compared to how much they want for bananas (yikes!).
The best part is, just like logging out of your online account when going back and forth between Battlefield and Hanna Montana: The Movie: The Game, you can buy a bag of grapes to go with your coffee and you won’t feel so embarrassed that you bought a 1,200 calorie drink at a health food store.
My favorite convenient store coffee is definitely from 7-11.
Chillers, as they call them, are absolutely amazing.
Like at AM/PM, coffee-crazed gamers can grab some ice from the soda machine and fill up their cup with a brew like no other.
But similar to AM/PM, this coffee is pretty sweet.
The best thing to do is to mix the Mocha and Vanilla flavors for a slightly-less sweet blend of energy-infused beans, sugar, water and awesome.
Unfortunately, the machines at 7-11 are also fairly small and don’t hold a lot, so you may have to wait for a clerk to refill it.
On the bright side, however, some 7-11 shops sell video games, so if you couldn’t find that rare Japanese import you were looking for at GameStop…well, never mind. But they might just have the newest game featuring an exploited Disney teenager (yes!).
Ah yes, I’m sure you could have guessed Starbucks would be on this list.
The coffee chain everyone loves to hate, but secretly can’t get enough of comes in at number three.
Starbucks is definitely the most consistent on the list (I almost always get the satisfaction of the right blend of caramel there, yes!).
Of course, this is at the heart of some of the hate for the company too, but we won’t get into that because we don’t have time seeing as that next race in Burnout is calling our name right about now.
Nevertheless, the best part about Starbucks is that they are on just about every street corner, and many are 24 hours, so you’ll never have to worry about being thirsty at those midnight launches.
2. Java City
Unfortunately, there are no longer any Java City shops in the Sacramento area (unless you attend Sac State), but you can still find coffee servers who brew Java City.
These guys definitely have some of the best coffee available and their blended drinks are pretty great. I was disappointed when the downtown store closed and when Raley’s dropped Java City in favor of Peet’s.
Overall though, even if Java City is virtually-impossible to find anymore (like good first person shooter games, zing!), it’s still good enough to be this high on the list.
1. Seattle’s Best
And the number one iced coffee drink for a long night of gaming is from…Seattle’s Best!
Unfortunately though, like Java City, Seattle’s Best can be tough to find. There used to be a book store in Davis that had a Seattle’s Best café but it no longer exists.
When it did, they offered such varieties as birthday cake blended coffee, which was pretty neat, especially for a book store!
Sadly, to my knowledge, the only place to get an authentic (not that Burger King crap) blended Seattle’s Best iced coffee is located on Pier 39 in San Francisco. The trek is just about worth it though, but maybe not for late-night gaming sessions, unless you're stopping by IGN's offices to play some multiplayer.
Plus, dealing with bay area traffic is almost as fun as going on an action-adventure odyssey.
Okay, no it isn’t. Nothing is that fun. So, I guess having this brand at No. 1 is a bit odd since it’s so hard to find, but it truly is the best cold coffee available.
These sit-down restaurants didn’t really feel right for this list, but I decided they were still worth a mention.
The iced drinks at Denny’s and IHOP are actually pretty bad. It’s literally coffee with ice and sugar, and maybe a little flavor mixed in too.
The reason I decided to add them was that there will always be that gamer who reads this and thinks, “I love playing handhelds like the 3DS and Vita and want to know what the best coffee is for me!”
Well, I’d sill argue that the above list is better than Denny’s or IHOP, but if you’re like me, you rushed out and bought that new portable game system with the intention of actually taking it everywhere you go and then realized you only go to school and your mom’s house, both of which are not places to play video games (well, at least not if you want to pass your classes and avoid your mom calling your Vita a Nintendo).
So, if you’re dying to play that new Pokemon game outside the house or maybe you just want to juice up before going home and hitting that Steam Holiday Sale like a boss, Denny’s or IHOP along with an iced coffee (did we mention you get free refills?) and a plate of mozzarella sticks may just be your best bet.
2. Del Taco
Warning: Only to be used in desperate situations.
Here’s the deal: It’s 2 a.m. and every other place that serves the above drinks is either closed or too far away (we're looking at you Seattle's Best).
You’re nowhere near a 24-hour Starbucks or even a Walmart (for a canned drink) and you’re dying to play the new LEGO game all night long (err, Halo? Yeah, that’s it – don’t forget to play in “appear offline” mode). You’ve cleared your schedule, but with all the work it took to convince your boss you're "sick," picking up a cup of iced coffee completely slipped your mind.
Here’s what you do: Go down to Del Taco and buy a few of their $1 iced coffee drinks and down those suckers as quickly as possible. They don’t taste good at all and their tiny (hence why you need a few), but they’ll get you through the night.
Oh, and don’t be alarmed by the massive straw in the tiny cup. It’s there because Del Taco was too cheap to develop a new size of drinking utensil for this item on their menu.
Just deal with it, but do be careful not to poke your eye out when going in for a sip during an intense online battle. Again, down them as quickly as possible. Trust us.
3. Canned and bottled coffees
Now, there’s always those bottled and canned coffees from the grocery or convenient store, and if you’re in a hurry or just don’t want to bother waiting for an iced or blended drink to be made, then those will suffice.
And if you do have to go with a can, at least there are canned Seattle’s Best drinks available.
I mean, sometimes it’s more important to grab a can and run home to play that shiny new game than it is to fret over whether your coffee tastes its best.
But when you’re just heading home for another game of Call of Duty or to finish up the story in the latest Telltale game, take the time out to get a well-made cold drink.
It’ll be worth it. Trust us.