There was a time when I used to laugh when (old) people made that joke about not knowing what to order when they go into Starbucks, let alone what size to order. But gone are my days of ignorance. I’ve become one of those people who can order “an iced venti vanilla macchiato, nonfat, no whip” and know what I’m asking for. Not that I order that!
I also always keep my wallet and waistline in mind when I order. Here are my tips for beating the (mer)man:
Get a Starbucks gift card and download the Starbucks app.
Once you do this, only order your drinks using the app. You get a star for every order. Every 12th order gets you a free drink. I typically order a very standard iced coffee 12 times in a row and then go cray on that twelfth drink. You should follow suit.
Get your drink iced.
When you order, you should specify whether your drink is iced or hot from the get-go. This way your barista knows whether your cup should be paper or plastic. Or omit the “hot.” If it’s not iced, then it’s going to be hot. It is a coffee shop.
Iced drinks tend to have less calories at Starbucks. For example, a venti iced latte is 180 calories while its hot sister is 240 calories (and three grams more fat). She ain't so hot now.
Always order Venti or Trenta. A venti is 20 oz. for a hot drink or 24 oz. for an iced drink. trentas are 31 oz., but only available for iced coffee and iced tea. A trenta is actually larger than your stomach, but whatever.
By ordering larger, you get more coffee with minimal increase in price. In general, it is 30 cents more for a venti than a grande (a four to eight ounce difference).
And if you get iced coffee and don't finish your venti (or your trenta; you should really do a trenta), you can always put it in the fridge for the next day. Remove the ice before you put it in the fridge is my secondary advice.
Ask for light ice.
I always order iced beverages. This is because I’m perpetually overheated; I get sweat stains in February. But I don’t want you or me to spend $4 on ice. If you give the baristas a chance, they’re gonna fill that cup with ice and then fill it with the drink of your choice. I prefer the drink to be the main player.
Choosing your milk:
The default for most drinks is 2% milk. Depending on what I’m ordering, I change this. If I get a latte (a milk-based drink with espresso shots added), I order nonfat (Starbucks speak for skim milk).
But if I want an iced coffee, I get “light soy.” Why? Starbucks’ soy milk is actually vanilla flavored, so it’s a natural sweetener. Then I can ask for “no sugar” or “no syrup.” You’ll see this come up on the register as “no classic,” for “no classic syrup” otherwise known as sugar water.
You could also opt for half-and-half or a splash of whole milk if you’re getting a coffee/iced coffee. There is some research that adding fat to your diet (note, you’re not putting a whole butter stick in your cup) speeds up your metabolism and keeps you feeling full longer. And sometimes I drink coffee if I want to stop snacking on donuts.
Request light milk:
Along with asking for light ice, I frequently request “light soy” or any other milk variation. This is because I have ordered iced coffees before and been given milk with coffee when it should be the other way around.
Milk is cheap (it’s $2/gallon, hello); coffee isn’t. So fight the man. And if they skimp too lightly on the milk, ask for a “splash more.” Also lift your pinky figure when you say this.
Does espresso or coffee have more caffeine? Should you get cold brew or iced coffee?
An espresso shot has 75 mg of caffeine. A short Starbucks coffee (8 oz., see above) is 180 mg. A grande (16 oz.) has 360 mg. *faints*
This is why people get addicted to Starbucks.
Either way, you can't go wrong. Caffeine revs the metabolism. But if you order espresso, know that a hot grande or venti comes with the same amount of espresso shots (two for 150 mg). EXCEPT if it’s iced: Then it’s three espresso shots aka 225 mg. This is why you always order iced.
And the same thing for iced coffee vs. cold brew. Due to the time difference in making a batch, cold brew is more expensive - but has more caffeine than iced coffee. However, Starbucks iced coffee is double brewed. So it's more like choosing between brunettes and blondes (sorry, redheads). I think they both have the same personality. Go iced for cheaper.
Limit the number of flavor pumps.
Typical Starbucks beverages, e.g. pumpkin spice lattes, gingerbread lattes, or peppermint mochas, are packed with the American epidemic known as added sugar. This is because the drinks are sweetened with syrups or sauces. Starbucks measures these syrups and sauces by the number of pumps that go into a drink. Without getting too specific, a tall has three pumps; a grande has four pumps; and a venti has five (hot) to six (iced) pumps.
STOP THE DAMAGE.
In most cases you can retain your drink’s flavor profile and reduce the calories by decreasing the number of pumps. I often ask for just four pumps in my iced venti (two less pumps than normal).
Try it yourself. They can always add it back in.
This is also a great time to add that extra espresso shot as a replacement, e.g. get that iced gingerbread latte with four pumps gingerbread syrup and four espresso shots (one more than usual).
Consider sugar-free flavors.
Okay, some people will tell you you’re inviting cancer over when you do this, but I say I’d rather die thin and early than die fat and old. (I think I’m joking.) Anyway, I actually like the taste of aspartame if aspartame even has a different taste.
These flavors come in sugar-free: Vanilla, caramel, peppermint, hazelnut, and cinnamon dolce. Sugar-free hazelnut and vanilla make French vanilla, FYI.
Ask for no water for your iced teas.
All the shaken iced teas on Starbucks’ menu are a concentrated tea with added water. That is, they pour this concentrated tea into a cup with ice and then add water. And you’re paying for that water.
You can fix this by ordering, “Shaken green iced tea, no water.” I know that sounds ridiculous, but it actually means something. And then you have a much stronger tasting iced tea. Which means a lot because tea already is lacking in the flavor department. Or is that just me?
Congratulations, you’ve graduated from Cazey’s School on Starbucks! You’re ready to go to the 'Bucks, fight the man, and get your caffeine fix! Let me know in the comments if you know any other hacks or how this goes for you!