How to Order at Starbucks: From Plain Hot Coffee to the Secret Menu

How To Order At Starbucks From Plain Hot Coffee To The Secret Menu

Unless you’re a regular at Starbucks, ordering even a simple iced coffee can feel very intimidating at first. If you’re reading this, we get how you feel.

From their unusual, not-what-you’d-guess size names to the different blends of coffee on offer and the algebra equation’s worth of variables you can add to a custom drink, it can feel like you’re on the outside looking in at an exclusive club.

We’ve been there too, wondering how to order at Starbucks and we’ve got good news: it’s not as complicated (or scary) as you might think.

There’s no one right way to order at Starbucks, or any secret Starbucks drink ordering sequence you need to get right.

If you're not sure how to order at Starbucks, you're far from alone.

The truth is your barista will most likely be relieved if all you want is a straightforward coffee drink.

On the other hand, the coffee giant of course has much more to offer, and as you graduate past the hot chocolate to more eclectic choices like the Vanilla Bean Frappuccino or Caramel Macchiato, it helps to have some idea of how to order at Starbucks.

How to Order At Starbucks: Quick Guide

How to Order At Starbucks: Quick Guide

Here’s our personal cheat sheet for how to order:

  1. Choose your base (coffee, tea, etc.)

  2. Decide between hot and cold drinks

  3. Pick a size (Short, Tall, Grande, Venti or Trenta)

  4. Choose your creamer or milk options (dairy milk or alternatives like soy milk)

  5. Add flavorings, toppings or other extras (powders, syrups, drizzles, and of course whipped cream)

How to Order Starbucks Like a Pro

If you really want to seem like you know what you’re doing, or you just want to be aware of all your different options, we’ve got you covered.

Starbucks in 2023 has a much more expansive lineup of offerings than it did back in its humble Pike Place Market beginnings.

While you truly wouldn’t have anything to worry about if you were to just walk into a Starbucks with no prior knowledge, being prepared never hurt.

And you just may discover a whole range of new and exciting drinks you might’ve otherwise glossed over in the haste of placing your order at the counter ahead of a line of other customers.

How to Order at Starbucks Like a Pro

Let’s look at how seasoned Starbucks patrons construct their ideal siren-cupped beverage.

Step 1: Choose Your Base

If you started out assuming this wasn’t even a decision you’d have to make, definitely keep reading.

Starbucks has grown to become far more than just a coffee chain.

Nowadays your drink options—not even including the rumored Starbucks secret menu—include coffee, tea (both either hot or iced), smoothies, refreshing fruity beverages and different varieties of hot chocolate.

Step 1: Choose Your Base

So to begin with, choose what you’re most in the mood for and keep in mind that if a caffeine boost is your ultimate goal, you can add an espresso shot (or two) to pretty much any drink your order—coffee or otherwise.

Step 2: Hot or Cold?

While you can order coffee and tea in hot or cold varieties, other beverage types like smoothies are kind of locked to their “standard” temperature by nature.

So if you’ve read to here and were thinking, “Step 1: Smoothie. Step 2: Hot,” then congratulations, you broke the article.

Otherwise, this step is pretty straightforward, but it may be worth noting that the Venti in particular (more on that in Step 3), actually fluctuates depending on whether ice is involved. If you order your Venti-sized drink hot it’ll come in at an even 20 ounces—whereas the Venti for cold drinks is 24.

Hot or Cold?

Step 3: Size – How Tall, Exactly?

You won’t find a “Short” on the Starbucks menu, but it’s there!

The humble 8oz option is widely available for at least the basic coffee, hot tea and hot chocolate options (images posted).

Most people who know Starbucks have heard the size names, Tall, Grande, and Venti, but did you know there are actually 2 other sizes?

And of course, the US has its own exclusive range-topper with the Trenta—a 31oz cup available for certain beverage options.

Step 3: How Tall, Exactly?

Here’s The Full Starbucks Size Option Breakdown

  • Short – 8oz – not really “secret menu” material, but not listed either.

  • Tall – 12oz – the classic Starbucks synonym for “small.”

  • Grande – 16oz – literally translating to “big,” this is the medium at Starbucks.

  • Venti – 20oz – it doesn’t mean “large,” but it does mean “twenty,” which is its literal size in ounces, unless it’s for an iced-coffee, iced tea or smoothie, in which case it’s 24oz (to account for the ice).

  • Trenta – 31oz – only in the US and oddly enough not exactly thirty ounces (despite translating to “thirty”), this maxed-out option is only available for certain beverages.

Step 4: How About Some Coconut Milk?

If you like a lighter coffee or tea, you’ve got a veritable buffet of both dairy and non-dairy cream and milk options to choose from.

Starbucks has really fleshed out its lineup of milk alternatives in recent years, expanding options from the simple soy milk to almond milk and even coconut milk.

Here’s the full spread of milk and creamer options you have to choose from:

Step 4: How About Some Coconut Milk?

Dairy Milk

  • Nonfat milk

  • 1% milk

  • Whole milk

  • Half and half

  • Heavy cream

Non-Dairy Milk

  • Soy milk

  • Almond milk

  • Coconut milk

Step 5: Spice Things Up with Flavors

While Starbucks makes an excellent straight-up espresso shot or Americano coffee, you’ll be missing out on the fun if you don’t at least try a few of the incredible topping taste flavors and add-on options the coffee chain gives you for nearly any beverage you may order.

This is the part where dreams can become reality at Starbucks, and where your cold brew coffee can gain a new life as something fabulous and unique by way of a little cinnamon dolce syrup and vanilla bean powder.

Or you can just be made opt for a yummy hot white chocolate mocha, for example.

Step 5: Spice Things Up

All in all, you can add a ton of different things to any Starbucks drink you want.

Toppings, Tasty Flavors, Powders & Twists

  • Whipped cream

  • Caramel drizzle (caramel syrup)

  • Chocolate sauce

  • Sweet vanilla syrup

  • Mocha syrup / mocha drizzle

  • Cinnamon dolce syrup

  • Cinnamon powder

  • Raspberry syrup

  • Hazelnut syrup

  • Peach syrup

  • Peppermint syrup

  • Strawberry puree

  • Chocolate chips

And there’s plenty more than that. Especially around holidays and the start of seasons.

If you ask us, the fancy stuff is great once in a while, but we could drink hot coffee from Starbucks with just a bit of caramel drizzle inside and a “oops I slipped and squeezed too hard” helping of whipped cream every day.

Step 6: Other Modifications

Beyond toppings and flavors, you can mix things up pretty much any way you can think of. That includes directly altering the caffeine in your drink.

While tea options are a somewhat less caffeinated choice for both hot drinks and cold, you can also get a half-caf version of your chosen coffee drink as well.

As expected, decaf is also an option, although not for every blend on offer in fully caffeinated form.

As we mentioned earlier, you can also give a boost to pretty much any Starbucks drink you want by asking for an espresso shot. Starbucks’ espressos are doled out in their own size names—solo, doppio, triple and quad—and nobody’s gonna stop you from having any of them poured into your green tea frappuccino with pineapple ginger syrup or tall hot chocolate with caramel drizzle. Wink.

Starbucks' espressos

What About Starbucks’ Secret Menu?

Depending on who you ask, you may hear with equal confidence that the Starbucks Secret Menu is or is not a thing.

Not surprising, for something that’s supposed to be secret.

The truth in our experience is somewhere in between.

The reality is that Starbucks offers pretty much limitless customization options to its customers, so you can create some very out-there takes on your standard hot coffee or chai latte.

What About Starbucks' Secret Menu?

Most baristas have likely had more than enough of customers repeatedly ordering the same “secret” beverage that’s really just an extremely more complicated custom drink that someone made up and proceeded to publicize on TikTok stories.

That’s because whether you want to believe in the secret menu or not, barista doesn’t get trained on any crazy custom drink options that don’t appear on the official one.

So the key to ordering these top “secret” drinks is to know exactly what’s in them in advance, and simply ask a barista for the drink you want as if you’re creating it as a custom orders.

Barista will gladly make you the coffee of your wildest dreams.

Just don’t expect them to have memorized that popular purple drink with cinnamon dolce sprinkles that’s actually a passion iced tea with toffee nut syrup just because it’s trending.

Hacking the Starbucks Drink Ordering Sequence

If all this is a bit too much more to keep in mind while holding up an inpatient queue at a physical Starbucks location, you can always order online or using the Starbucks mobile app.

The benefits are pretty extensive, too.

Not only does the app conveniently prompt you to choose all of your options so you don’t get overwhelmed and skip that extra scoop of vanilla bean powder, it also offers a digital rewards program and other online perks.

Some locations even have a separate online order pickup counter so you can head straight for your precious cold brew and be on your way in a snap.

Wrap-Up: Ordering at Starbucks

Ordering at a Starbucks doesn’t need to be intimidating or overly more complex.

The chain tends to give newcomers a bit of anxiety with those famously named Starbucks drink sizes and all the options, but the truth is it can easily be just a great place to grab some fantastic coffee or tea.

Or pile on the vanilla syrup and go nuts! Just don’t forget the top whipped cream.

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