For years, the candy bar and cereal-flavored Frappuccinos have been drawing in crowds of sweet-toothed kids and Instagrammers—much to the delight of baristas everywhere. For a while now, these crazy concoctions have been the only “secret menu” items anyone can talk about. They’ve gotten so much attention, in fact, that Starbucks took notice, creating an entire campaign around crazy Frappuccino flavors.
But, for those of you who like your drinks a little less cavity-inducing, there are a few other “secrets” you may be interested in. While putting in my time as a barista/supervisor at the coffee giant right after college, I learned a few tricks. So here are my suggestions for ordering at Starbucks.
1. Starbucks Doubleshot
“Wait a minute!” you say. “That’s the drink that comes in a can. That’s nothing new.” That may be true, but before the canned version came out, Starbucks Doubleshot on Ice was featured on menus in stores all over. Thankfully, there’s still a button for the drink in the Starbucks computer system, and many seasoned baristas will gladly make it for you.
Order one of these babies, and not only will your drink be made fresh, but you can customize it to your liking. A Starbucks Doubleshot is made using one more espresso shot than the typical iced drink of that size. (Not exactly double, but who’s counting?) A Tall gets 2 shots, a Grande gets 3, and a Venti gets 5. The espresso is poured over syrup—your choice; it comes with classic syrup, but you can choose a different flavor—and ice and shaken up. It’s then poured into a cup and topped with half-and-half or the milk of your choice.
2. Think espresso shots are a little too bitter for your taste? Ask for them “ristretto”.
If you find that espresso-based drinks are a little too bitter, you can easily change the taste without compromising the integrity of the drink. This small change won’t cost you any extra money, and it just takes one push of a button on your barista’s part—but it makes a huge difference.
A standard espresso shot at Starbucks pushes hot water through the espresso grinds for 18–23 seconds. When your barista hits the “ristretto” button before queuing the shot, the shot pulls faster, which results in a sweeter, more palatable espresso. You’re still getting the same amount of coffee and caffeine, but since it’s a more concentrated version, what you get is bolder, fuller bodied, and most importantly—less bitter. You’ll notice the difference whether you like to drink espresso by itself or mixed into a beverage.
3. Espresso Con Panna (ECP)
This simple drink is not on the menu, but Starbucks does acknowledge it on their website. This caffeinated treat is just a double-shot of espresso, topped with whipped cream. The ECP gives you the nice bolt of energy you need, when you need it. Sip it, slurp it, take it back like a shot, or enjoy it with a spoon—there’s no wrong way.
Bonus Tip #1: Peet’s Coffee lists the ECP on their website as well. But you can really order this drink anywhere that serves espresso and whipped cream. So no matter where you are, you can get a delicious cup of bold espresso and creamy whipped cream anytime. It doesn’t get much better.
Bonus Tip #2: Take note of when Starbucks offers limited time drinks. During these times, Starbucks offers various flavored whipped creams, which may include chocolate or cinnamon-spiced variations. One of these flavored whipped creams will add an extra boost to your ECP.
4. Ask for your drink stirred for a more consistent flavor.
Have you ever finished your white mocha and noticed the clump of syrup sitting at the bottom of the cup? Or have you wondered why your drink is sometimes a little bitter when it should be on the sweeter side? The issue might be how the ingredients were mixed (or not) together.
When it’s made correctly, your drink should have the same flavor from the first sip to the last. You should experience the same balance of espresso, syrup, and milk from top to bottom. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen, which is why your drink is sometimes not as sweet as you’d like.
If you enjoy the sweeter espresso drinks like white chocolate mochas or pumpkin spice lattes, with less of a coffee flavor, there’s no need to ask for more syrup (so much sugar!). Instead, ask your barista if she’ll swirl the cup with the syrup in it while the espresso shots are pulling. Rather than the syrup or sauce sitting at the bottom of your cup, it’ll be mixed into the whole drink for a much more consistent flavor.
5. The Undertow
If you’re having a slow morning and need to wake up quickly, this is the drink for you. As a former Shift Supervisor at Starbucks, I used to down two of these each morning when I had to be at work at 4:30 a.m. Here’s how it’s made:
- Grab a short cup (8 oz.) and add two pumps of your choice of syrup. (My favorite was 1 pump of Toffee Nut and 1 pump of White Mocha)
- Add about an inch of cold milk or cream
- Holding a big spoon upside down over the cup, queue two espresso shots. The spoon causes the espresso to layer on top of the milk instead of mixing in with it.
- Take it back like a shot right away. Don’t be scared about the temperature. The hot espresso mixes with the cold milk as soon as it hits your tongue, and the result is surprisingly pleasant.
After a little research on the Internet, it’s still unclear where this one came from. It was never a menu item, and it’s not taught during training. Yet, somehow, it keeps getting passed down from barista to barista all over the country. A little barista rite-of-passage, if you will.
Chances are, someone at your local Starbucks knows how to make one of these. If not, and you’re feeling adventurous, ask your barista if he’d be willing to give it a shot. You’ll both get to try something new!
6. Crispy Bacon
Starbucks offers two breakfast sandwiches with bacon on them: the Bacon Gouda on ciabatta bread and the Double-Smoked Bacon, Cheddar, & Egg Sandwich on a croissant. If you’re like me and like your bacon crispy, you may have been disappointed by the rather chewy texture of these strips. Guess what? You don’t have to suffer any longer. All you have to do is ask for your sandwich to be cooked “open faced”. It just takes a couple of extra seconds on your barista’s part, and your bacon will come out crispy and delicious.
Bonus Tip: If your Starbucks card is registered as a part of Starbucks Rewards, you can get one of these sandwiches as your free reward instead of a drink. If your usual drink is less than $3‒4 (the average breakfast sandwich price), you’re better off paying for your drink and snagging a free breakfast.
7. Apple Chai
It’s the middle of October and the leaves are piling up on the ground. It’s finally feeling chilly outside this morning, so you grab your scarf and worn-in boots and head over to Starbucks for the ever-so-popular Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL).
Nope. Scratch that. You’re there to order your new favorite fall beverage: the Apple Chai Latte. This is the absolute best thing to drink during the fall season. Sweet Apple Juice + Spicy Chai Tea = Perfection. The Apple Chai is made with steamed apple juice, poured over Starbucks’ chai tea concentrate. For a little extra spice, ask for it topped with cinnamon or nutmeg.
Bonus Tip: Starbucks carries apple juice and chai concentrate all year long, so you can get this drink at any time of the year. You won’t have to worry about getting hooked on something, only to have to give it up once the season ends. Take that, PSL!
Traditionally, affogato is an Italian dessert: vanilla ice cream, topped with espresso. At Starbucks, if you order a drink affogato-style, your espresso shots will be added on top of the milk/foam, rather than mixed into the drink. If you’ve ever seen or tried a Caramel Macchiato, you’ll understand what affogato looks like.
Because the espresso shots are on top of the drink, the flavor will not be consistent throughout. Since you’re getting more of the liquid from the bottom of the cup first, you won’t be getting the coffee flavor until further into the drink. The more you drink, the stronger the taste.
Bonus Tip: If you’re interested in trying this style, but you aren’t sure what drink to order, here’s a suggestion. Order a coffee-based frappuccino with an espresso shot, affogato. The coffee flavor will get stronger while you drink, as the espresso gradually mixes in with the blended drink.
9. Choose Your Temperature
Typically, hot Starbucks drinks are going to be served between 145 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit. For some people, this temperature is way too hot to enjoy right away, and for others, it’s not hot enough. Whichever end of the spectrum you’re at, there’s an ideal way to order.
Kid’s Temperature: Because so many of Starbucks’ orders are made to go, the coffee drinks are made a little hotter than you may like. This is so the drinks don’t cool off too much before you get the chance to drink them. Don’t want to wait 10 minutes to drink your espresso drink? Try ordering it “kid’s temperature”. Your milk will be steamed to a comfortable 130 degrees, perfect for sipping on right away. Note: If you order a drink with whipped cream, your drink will cool down a little extra as soon as it’s added.
180 Degrees: Maybe you enjoy your drinks piping hot. Or maybe you’d like you drink to stay hot during your morning commute. Either way, if you order your drink to be steamed to 180 degrees, you’ll be happy. Try to resist ordering your drink any hotter, as the milk will lose its taste and texture once it gets too hot.
10. If you like your tea with a stronger flavor, ask for no water.
Before your barista shakes your iced tea or crafts your hot chai tea latte, he adds water to the tea. This is because the chai tea is highly concentrated and the iced tea is brewed at double strength, so the water dilutes the strong flavor of the tea. This is a highly efficient way of creating tea drinks, but it doesn’t always please everyone.
Do you like a stronger flavored tea? You’re in luck. If you ask for no water in your tea, you’ll get the full, bold flavor of your tea of choice.
Bonus Tip: Want your chai tea latte even stronger? In addition to asking for no water, ask for an extra pump or two of the chai tea concentrate. Here are the standard pumps of concentrate:
- Tall — 3 pumps
- Grande — 4 pumps
- Venti — 5 pumps (6 for iced)