Ordering at Starbucks 101

With the long line of grouchy coffee addicts, a menu with non-english terms, and endless items to choose from, some people may find ordering at Starbucks stressful and complicated. But fear no more! I am here help you order at Starbucks like a pro! I will cover things such as a summary of popular items you can choose from and I will break down the complicated language of the menu items for you!

Firstly, how much do you want?

Probably the most confusing part about ordering at Starbucks would be the size. Starbucks has its own vocabulary to define the size of your drink. Although you can still order in english, it kinda kills the uniqueness and fun part about going to Starbucks if you do not play along with their lingo. So let’s break it down:

Short (a.k.a extra small) = 8oz

Tall (a.k.a small) = 12oz

Grande (a.k.a medium) = 16oz

Venti (a.k.a large) = 20oz hot or 24oz cold

Trenta (a.k.a extra large) = 30oz – Iced drinks only

How do you take your coffee?

Okay so now that you know what size you want to order, the next complicated part is deciphering the menu. The attractive thing about coffee is that it comes in many forms! Whether you want it black, extra sweet, with milk, iced, with chocolate, or strong and bitter, the possibilities are endless! So how do you know what you want?  Here are some definitions of basic menu items at Starbucks…

Coffee: this is simply a regular cup of joe. You can add your own milk/cream and sugar from the condiment bar or you can ask the barista for any specific customizations like soy milk or flavored syrup. But if all you want is a small black coffee then simply ask for a tall coffee and there you have it! 

Latte: a type of coffee made with espresso, a lot of steamed milk, and topped with foam. A regular latte is not very sweet so a lot of people order them with flavored syrup like a vanilla latte, caramel latte, cinnamon dolce latte, etc. 

Cappuccino: espresso with steamed milk and a lot of creamy foam. Just like the latte, a regular cappuccino is not sweet so you can add flavored syrup to sweeten it up or add your own sugar from the condiment bar.

Frappuccino: a blended iced beverage (kinda like an ice cream shake). It generally consists of frappuccino roast, milk, ice, base syrup, whipped cream, and other sweeteners. If you don’t like coffee at all then you can order a creme-base frappuccino like vanilla bean, green tea, strawberries and creme, etc. But trust me, unless you order an espresso or coffee frappuccino then you will hardly taste any of the coffee. *Also, please be considerate of your baristas and avoid coming in ten minutes before closing time and order a frappuccino unless you plan on generously tipping. Frappuccinos tend to be baristas’ worst nightmare.

Caramel Macchiato: the word macchiato is Italian for marked. So a caramel macchiato at Starbucks is steamed milk with vanilla syrup, marked with espresso, and topped with caramel drizzle. A sweet and delightful beverage!

Mocha: espresso with a lot of milk, sweetened with mocha (a.k.a chocolate) sauce and topped with whipped cream. If you love coffee and chocolate then this is the perfect combination for you! You can also order a white chocolate mocha!

Flat White: bold ristretto shots of espresso with steamed whole milk. Unless you actually like the taste of bitter coffee then refrain from ordering this.

Café Americano: watered-down shot of espresso.

Shot, shot, shot!

If you feel like your beverage isn’t caffeinated enough you can order extra shots of espresso. For those of you who aren’t familiar with coffee terms, espresso is a strong black coffee made by forcing steam through ground coffee beans. Taking an espresso shot by itself is far more common in Europe than in America, which is why many American coffee shops, like Starbucks, offer to serve espresso shots with many, MANY add-ons and make it into a full beverage. So if you only care about getting the caffeine buzz without enjoying the soothing and deliciousness of a latte, then be bold and order a shot of espresso! Or if you’re like me and enjoy the bitter taste of coffee mixed with the sweetness of vanilla, then just double or triple your number of espresso shots onto your favorite latte. The more shots, the more bitter.

Got Milk?

If you order regular coffee then you can ask for extra room for milk. The condiment counter, located by the entrance, usually has half & half and 2% milk, but if you prefer other options then you can ask for whole milk, nonfat milk, soy milk, almond milk, or coconut milk at the register. The standard milk added to most latte beverages is 2% so if you are lactose intolerant or simply prefer soy milk than you have to ask the barista for your milk of choice. * Note that soy milk, almond milk, and coconut milk may come with an extra charge.

Adding a little more flavor!

You can customize your coffee beverage by adding flavored syrups. Some of the syrups that Starbucks offers are vanilla, hazelnut, caramel, cinnamon dolce, raspberry, toffee nut, etc. If you’re ordering a pre-customized drink like a caramel macchiato then you don’t have to worry about adding flavors, unless you really want to. But if you want to get creative with your latte then you can add multiple pumps of flavored syrups to get an extra sweet beverage! *Note that extra syrups may come with an extra charge


If you don’t like coffee then you could order a tea (mango black tea, peach green tea, passion tango tea, green tea, black tea, etc.), a refresher (cool lime, strawberry acai, very Berry Hibiscus, etc), a tea latte (chai tea latte, green tea latte, etc.) hot chocolate, or a smoothie. You could also order your coffee decaf, but like what is the point in that???

Also, if you want an iced beverage than make sure to mention it at the beginning of your order, unless you are ordering a frappuccino. Most of the time, baristas will assume you want a hot beverage if you do not explicitly say that you want it iced so don’t wait until your drink is made to let them know that you wanted a cold drink.


So there you have it. The basic but wordy information about ordering at Starbucks. My go-to drinks are a grande, triple-shot, vanilla latte or a grande iced green tea! 🙂


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