Ordering Starbucks drinks can be a little nerve racking and confusing. If you're a new to the lingo, or you feel like the help behind the counter gives you a blank stare trying to figure out what you're asking for, then all you need is a little simple explanation. This how-to guide should come in handy.
Whether it's a deliberate Starbucks ploy, or it just simply evolved over time, there's actually a legitimate reason for the Starbucks drinks ordering lingo. In the spirit of efficient customer service, the drink order naming convention helps keep the line at the order counter moving, and helps insure you get the drink you're after.
First, the person behind the counter has to be sure they understand your order. Customer satisfaction starts with making sure you get the drink you want. There are enough variations and options ordering drinks, and its easy for the person taking your order to get it wrong.
Second, the person taking your order usually has to hand it off to someone else who will prepare your drink. Its harder and leaves more chance for error if the order person has to translate your request into something the drink maker will understand. Behind the counter, Starbucks employees need an efficient system to call out drinks consistently and accurately as they fill your order.
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OK, that's enough background and explanation. Here's how the lingo works.
Step 1. Hot or Iced Drink?
The default is hot. If you want a cold or iced drink, the first word in your drink order should be "iced".
Step 2. Coffee drinks come in four sizes.
- Short: 8 oz.
- Tall: 12 oz.
- Grande: 16 oz.
- Venti: 20 oz. The iced drinks are actually 24 oz. in the venti size. The hot drinks are 20 oz. in the venti size. In Italian, the word "venti" means 20.
Step 3. Choose your drink beverage
- Coffee - brewed coffee, featured coffee of the day, usually have several choices that include at least one stronger, darker roast, and a milder roast.
- Latte - espresso and steamed milk. This is the base for several other coffee beverages when you add different syrups and vary the milk, including a mocha, white mocha.
- Americano - espresso and hot water. This is a diluted version of espresso coffee, made popular in the US.
- Espresso Con Panna - espresso with whipped cream. "con panna" means "with cream" in Italian. The "whipped" style of using "whipped cream" is a Starbucks offering that seems to meet with definite customer approval. This drink is ordered by the number of shots (see step #6) rather than the drink size.
- Espresso Machiatto - espresso with a small spoon of foamed milk on the top. The Starbucks baristas usually get the machiatto wrong with much too much foamed milk on top. Machiatto means "marked" in Italian, and the properly prepared drink should have just a touch of foam.
- Caramel Machiatto - very little similarity to a machiatto, this drink is better described as a "vanilla latte" with caramel sauce drizzled on the top. The caramel doesn't dissolve that easily, so you may need to stir and mix it up a bit when you receive the drink.
- Cafe Au Lait or Misto - this is a brewed coffee with steamed milk. "Misto" is the Starbucks name for the more generic "cafe au lait" name.
- Cappuccino - one of the most popular espresso drinks done in three layers. 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, and 1/3 foamed milk on the top. Its actually a tricky drink to prepare well. Powdered cinnamon or cocoa can be sprinkled on the top as a garnish.
- Frappuccino - a popular Starbucks original, this is a blended iced beverage with a creme and coffee base. The added flavors and toppings vary.
- Mocha - espresso and steamed milk with some chocolate syrup added, served with spritz of whipped cream on the top.
- White Mocha - Same as a "Mocha" but with white chocolate syrup. White chocolate syrup is a bit sweeter than regular chocolate syrup.
- Mocha Valencia - Same as a "Mocha" but with orange syrup instead of chocolate syrup. You probably won't see this on the Starbucks menu any longer, and some of the newer baristas may not be familiar with the drink, but you can still order a Mocha Valencia.
- Other drinks include Tea, Hot Chocolate, Apple Cider, Lemonade, etc. but this guide is about ordering the coffee drinks.
Step 4. Wet or Dry
For coffee drinks that include milk and foam, "dry" means more foam and less milk and "wet" means more milk and less foam. For even more dry, say "extra dry".
Step 5. How strong do you like your drink? Specify the number of espresso shots
- Single - one shot of espresso, the standard or normal amount for "tall" sized drinks (except Mocha Valencias and Americanos)
- Double - two shots of espresso, the standard amount for "grande" sized drinks, and hot "venti" sized drinks. For Mocha Valencias and Americanos, two shots is the standard for the "tall" size.
- Triple - three shots of espresso, the standard amount for "grande" and "venti" sized Mocha Valencias and Americanos. And the standard amount for iced or cold "venti" sized drinks.
- Quad - four shots of espresso. Go for the max caffeine blast!
Step 6. Choose the type of milk or creamer
- Default - 2% milk.
- Skinny - non-fat milk if you're trying to cut down on calories.
- Whole milk - if the store provides
- Organic milk - if the store provides
- Soy - silk soymilk if you prefer a milk substitute
Step 7. Extra directions
- Extra hot - if the coffee drinks aren't quite hot enough in temperature, you can request extra hot. But be careful not to burn your tongue, these drinks can be over 170 Degrees (F).
- No foam - without any foam
- No Whip - without any whipped cream
- Room for cream - leave some extra room to add cream, or milk
- Extra ice - more ice in your iced drink
- Light ice - less ice in your iced drink
- Sweet 'n' Low, Equal, Splenda - you can ask the barista to use a sugar free sweetener when your drink is prepared.
OK, let's put it all together with a few Starbucks Drinks examples.
Let's say you would like an the biggest 20oz sized iced mocha, with only one shot of espresso (instead of the standard three shots for drink that size) and without any whipped cream. Say "Iced Single Venti Mocha, No Whip".
You would like a Cappuccino in a 12 oz size, but would like an extra shot of espresso instead of the standard single shot for a hot drink that size. And you would like considerably more foam than steamed milk. Ask for a "Double Tall Cappuccino, Extra Dry".
OK, you should get the hang of it. This guide should help you with the Starbucks Drinks ordering basics. It can get a bit more complicated, but this should have you ordering the most popular Starbucks drinks with confidence.
For a helpful pictorial view, see our "Espresso Drinks Visual Guide"
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