People have asked me multiple times whether plain coffee in Starbucks is kosher. I can’t say either way. Here is the...

Is Starbucks Kosher?

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People have asked me multiple times whether plain coffee in Starbucks is kosher. I can’t say either way. Here is the statement of the Chicago Rabbinical Council declaring it unacceptable in a store that serves hot sandwiches: link.

On the other hand, here is R. Aryeh Lebowitz’s lecture explaining why he thinks it is kosher: link.

Ask your rabbi.

(See also this post: Coffee on the Road)

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

35 comments

  1. I am not going to speak to what the CRC did because I don’t know their community but I think, around where I live, there needs to be a search for leniency. Because the alternative is not that people will stop going to Starbucks.

  2. And if by stating shellfish is non-kosher people in a community will not stop eating it, “there needs to be a search for leniency”?

  3. Are there grounds for shellfish to be kosher Joseph? Was there an established practice in frum places of eating shellfish? Enlighten us please.

  4. audioroundup 138:
    R’Aryeh describes the issues raised by the CRC on Kashrut issues and possible leniencies. A lot depends on the facts on the ground (me – or just say can’t go into any food place that doesn’t have supervision, just like in the old country (sarcasm alert)).

    KT

  5. When my daughter worked at a Starbucks full service store they did not was the brew baskets in the dishwasher. Perhaps the practice changed or differs from store to store. See my other remarks on the page with R. Lebowitz’s shiur, and his response to one comment there.

  6. Read the CRC ruling; Starbucks in kiosks is still fine.
    As Mike S. points out, many Starbucks do not put the brew baskets in dishwashers. Starbucks near me, even stand-alones, do not prepare food (all food is pre-packaged)- only the drinks.

  7. Rabbi Leibowitz speaks about the Frappucino being treif, and even compares it to pork. He is totally off base here. The Frappucino is kosher. It is not “supervised” in the store (but when you buy it packaged it is kosher supervised). The fact that the store Frappucino is not “kosher supervised” does not make it non-kosher, it only makes it non-kosher supervised in the store. The Frappucino is kosher at any store.

  8. In other words, you can drink the Frappucino at any Starbucks.

  9. In other words, you can drink the Frappucino at any Starbucks.

    I’ll just point out that anyone who takes halakhic advice from an anonymous blog comment may very well end up drinking pig juice cooked in its mother’s milk.

  10. My understanding is the CRC did quite extensive two and half year long nation-wide research on this issue. While it is not the answer I hoped for, it seems to be the right one if they are not using soap when they do hot washes. While the letter is targeted to Starbucks, it seems to me that one needs to do some inquiry at Caribou Coffee and other coffee shops, many of which serve hot treif sandwiches. The old assumption that everyone lived by forever is challenged here.

  11. For clarity, allow me to point out this is not R. Aryeh Lebowitz.

  12. Rabbi Fishbane’s recent lecture on this subject is available on the Skokie Kollel’s website:

    http://skokiekollel.podomatic.com/player/web/2011-01-06T18_45_36-08_00

  13. When I last worked at starbucks (8 years ago now, who knows what could have changed?) we had no dishwasher. All dishes needed to be washed by hand, they were then placed in a dish sanitizer, which disinfected the dishes. The disinfectant, I imagine, would have the same din as soap in this case, it likely tasted awful, but there need not be concern that there was any mamashut of non-kosher food in the sanitizer, all dishes had to be washed first. Second, at least then, the frappechino mix that we used in the store was under OU supervision. A quick call to the OU can determine whether it still is or not

  14. This is what appears on the CRC website

    When evaluating these issues, Rav Schwartz Shlit”a, Av Beis Din of the cRc, acknowledged that there is basis for being lenient
    on many of the items being sold at Starbucks stores, but directed the cRc to be true to the mission of a reliable Kashrus Agency
    which only recommends items that are free of all shailos and not those which are only acceptable b’dieved.

    I understand that a kashrut agency should not give a hashgachah to something that is only acceptable bedieved. However, as consumers, there is no problem with us eating and drinking things that are acceptable bedieved. Bedieved means after the fact. Those who want to be machmir can, but this does not mean the items are not kosher.

  15. only recommends items that are free of all shailos and not those which are only acceptable b’dieved.
    ===========================
    whcih goes back to my earlier comment (to expand a bit) – is there a chiyuv to be mvarrer the mtziut in every store??
    KT

  16. NS: only recommends items that are free of all shailos

    I don’t think any kashrus agency reaches that standard or wants to. There are always issues that require halakhic decision-making.

    However, as consumers, there is no problem with us eating and drinking things that are acceptable bedieved. Bedieved means after the fact.

    This definition of bedieved is highly questionable. I plan on posting tonight one specific issue within the definition of bedieved. But in general, see the commentaries on Yoreh De’ah 99:5. In particular, R. Akiva Eiger’s citation of the Rivash is significant.
    http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=9145&st=&pgnum=471
    http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=40536&st=&pgnum=422

  17. The question: why would you anyone want to drink Starbucks coffee? It is so bitter, I would consider using it for maror this coming Yontiff 🙂

  18. R. Gil – I know this isn’t exactly on topic (me’inyan le’inyan be’oso inyan), but I have a practical question that you (or the distinguished commenters on this blog) may be able to help me with. In England (where I reside) my local supermarket has begun to sell matzos that are produced in Israel, bearing two hechsherim. One of these is a plain rabbanut hechsher (not mehadrin), the other is OUP. I was wondering if such matzos would be considered of a requisite standard of kashrus that you or the rabbonim you consult with would buy them for your/their homes on pesach. – I know that many in Israel would not eat plain rabbanut matzos; the fact that they are not mehadrin probably indicates that they do not stop the factory every 18 minutes to clean it, although I understand that running the factory continuously in common practise in machine-matzo factories in the US. Would the fact that these matzos possess an OUP indicate that they are of the same standard as OU matzos produced in America? I would ask my LOR, but, living in England, he is not so familiar with the details.

  19. Call the OU kosher hotline: (212)613-8241

  20. Regarding Frapucinos, in my opinion NS is totally off base. The packaged frapucinos do not contain the same ingredients as those sold in stores and do not even taste the same. The packaged ones are brewed coffee and milk, no additional syrups or base. The ones they make in the stores do have other ingredients. NOTHING in Starbucks is under kosher supervision in the actual store, but the products they use in any individual store often are under supervision. That is why many latte flavors and coffee flavors are indeed kosher. Many of the flavorings are under supervision, but the frapucino syrup is NOT. The comparison to ham and cheese sandwiches was said a little bit tongue in cheek, but the bottom line is that to assume the ingredients in a frapucino are kosher is a very bad idea and has no basis in fact.

  21. Rafael Araujo on March 30, 2011 at 10:59 am
    The question: why would you anyone want to drink Starbucks coffee? It is so bitter, I would consider using it for maror this coming Yontiff 🙂

    I don’t often agree with Rafael, but here I am with him 100%.

  22. Michael Rogovin

    (1) Interesting discussion. R Lebowitz referred to 170 degree water (the second rinse) as “boiling.” Water does not boil at 170 deg F except in very very very low air pressure (not likely found in any dishwasher); otherwise, one can assume that water will not boil until it reaches 212 deg F. Does this have any halachic implications or was the issue not water hot enough to kasher–assumed to be 212–but merely yad soledet bo-around 110?

    (2) re Frappucinos, there may be confusion. The bottled ones are certified (I think OU) no matter where you buy them. The store-made ones, despite what it says on the menu board, are actually made from a premixed powder. The last time I looked at one of the packages, it did not have any hechsher on it and IIRC did list at least one ingredient that generally requires a hechsher. Also, the topping syrups may or may not be kosher.

  23. Gil,

    You should also include the Taz in Shulchan Aruch (YD 108:1 #4) regarding b’dieved when something is purchased already cooked.

  24. Yes, and also include the Prim Megadim on that Taz.

  25. MiMedinat HaYam

    http://teaneckshuls.org/SelectedPosts/KosherStarbucksProducts.htm

    its dated (2003) but its (supposedly) o-u policy.

  26. I believe the CRC just said that they could not make an across the board heter, since it is really store-specific. If that is teh case it would be irresponsible to make a psak on all strabucks.

  27. “The question: why would you anyone want to drink Starbucks coffee? It is so bitter, I would consider using it for maror this coming Yontiff :)”

    Why would anyone drink coffee at all? For those who need the caffeine, why pay Starbucks prices rather than making it yourself? It’s because your business partner or date demands it, not because it tastes good.

  28. MiMedinat HaYam

    a recognized kashrut org cannot formally / officially allow / tolerate a non kosher, but no kashrut problem store / issue.

    similar to allowing coca cola or other generally accepted food product without a formal hachsher (in those states / countries where there is no “hechsher”).

  29. When my daughter worked there some of the flavoring syrups had hachsher, some did not. I wouldn’t drink one without checking. Her experience was a few years ago and these things change, so check before you drink.

  30. Excuse me, but your above statement is inaccurate and NEEDS CORRECTION. Plain hot coffee (both espresso and americano style) in a disposable cup is still kosher in ANY Starbucks location, according to the CRC. Please see the document here: http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=crc%2Bstarbucks%2Bkosher&source=web&cd=3&ved=0CCoQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.crcweb.org%2FStarbucks%2520Beverage%2520List%25202011-04-08.pdf&ei=JIWuTsz0IJDQsga6ws3XDw&usg=AFQjCNHJkH48oYn_ZFTFJouPvrUT0ND4nw

  31. Louisa: I believe you are incorrect. Look at the cRc chart. Brewed coffee from a kiosk has a check, from a full-service store has an “H” which leads to a note that the brew basket may have been washed with non-kosher items.

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