Starbucks Drink Guide: Lattes
I am a full-time barista and I love what I do. I am going to address some questions that I heard every day about how Starbucks makes lattes. By definition, a latte is composed of shots of espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. What makes a latte different from other espresso based beverages is not only its ingredients, but the way it is assembled. Starbucks has its own recipe and steps.
The Basic Starbucks Latte Recipe
The components of a hot latte are espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. Starbucks baristas use 2% low fat milk unless the customer requests something else.
When milk is steamed, it is aerated to create the rich, creamy texture that all latte drinkers know and love. The aerating process actually makes the milk a bit sweeter. Foam is a by-product of this process and it has a unique texture that people tend to either love or hate. The best way I can describe it is to say it's aptly named. It's, well, foamy.
A Starbucks barista makes a latte by pouring shots of espresso directly into the cup. Then they pour in the steamed milk and finally top it off with a spoonful of foam. The espresso and the steamed milk completely mix together and the foam adorns the top.
An iced latte isn't terribly different. Simply put, cold milk substitutes for steamed milk and ice for foam. Shots of espresso are poured directly into the cup, cold milk is added, and the beverage is finished off with a scoop of ice. A plain iced latte might not be quite as creamy or sweet as a hot one, since the milk is not steamed. Baristas use 2% low fat milk unless another type is requested.
The lines on Starbucks iced drink cups help ensure consistent iced lattes. After the shots are poured, your barista adds milk up to the top line and then fills the rest of the cup with ice. If you ask for light ice, they will half the amount of ice and add more milk.
How Many Espresso Shots in a Starbucks Latte?
Shots of Espresso
Short - hot only (8oz)
Venti - hot (20oz)
Venti - iced (24oz)
A Creamy and Delicious Plain Latte
How Much Syrup in a Flavored Starbucks Latte?
Pumps of Syrup
Short (hot only, 8oz)
Venti (hot, 20oz)
Venti (iced, 24oz)
A pump of flavoring syrup is 1/4 oz. A pump of flavoring sauce is 1/2 oz.
While the table above shows the standard amount of syrup for each drink size, baristas can adjust the amount upon request. Flavors can also be mixed. For instance, Starbucks doesn't actually offer a French Vanilla flavor, but baristas can make it by mixing vanilla and hazelnut syrups.
Here are the syrup flavors that Starbucks offers:
- vanilla (available sugar-free)
- caramel (available sugar-free)
- cinnamon dolce (available sugar-free)
- hazelnut (available sugar-free)
- toffee nut
- peppermint (available sugar-free seasonally)
- classic (a mixture of sugar and water also called simple syrup)
Starbucks' Latte Menu
Name of Drink
What Makes it Special
The basic latte. Order a latte or a caffe latte—either way your barista will prepare you the same delicious drink.
The same as a caffe latte but with any of the flavored syrups listed above.
Skinny Flavored Latte
Made with nonfat milk and sugar-free syrup.
The most popular flavored latte.
Cinnamon Dolce Latte
A basic latte with Cinnamon Dolce syrup, whipped cream, and Dolce sprinkles.
Skinny Cinnamon Dolce Latte
The same drink as above but with skim milk and sugar-free syrup. Let your barista know whether you want the Dolce sprinkles or plain cinnamon.
Customize Your Starbucks Latte
No foam at all
Heavy foam (or consider a cappuccino!)
Sweet 'n Low
As many shots as you like!
Breve (1/2 & 1/2)
Sugar in the Raw (Turbinado)
Adding Flavored Toppings
There are so many ways to make a Starbucks latte extra fancy and delicious. Here are some toppings to choose from.Whipped Cream - Starbucks baristas make the whipped cream in-store with heavy cream and vanilla syrup. It's obviously not whipped by hand, but it IS fresh and delicious. Generally, adding whipped cream to a
- Whipped Cream Starbucks baristas make the whipped cream in-store with heavy cream and vanilla syrup. It's not whipped by hand, but it is fresh and delicious. Generally, adding whipped cream to a latte means the foam will be left off.
- Caramel Drizzle This sweet, thick caramel sauce is standard on a caramel macchiato but can be requested for any drink.
- Mocha Drizzle The same sauce used to flavor a mocha, this is a nice addition if you're looking for just a little bit of chocolate.
- Chocolate Powder
- Vanilla Powder
- Dolce Sprinkles A delicious combination of cinnamon and sugar.
- Caramel Brulee Topping Crushed hard candy with a smoky, caramel flavor.
- Chocolate Curls A seasonal holiday topping made from dark chocolate.
- Sea Salt I've never had someone ask for this without the Caramel Drizzle it's usually paired with. The combination is amazing and definitely my favorite topping.
- Pumpkin Spice I'm told that this powder is made of traditional pumpkin pie ingredients.
- Molasses Drizzle A very strong flavor!
- Italian Roast Drizzle A sweet yet super coffee-flavored drizzle that seasonally tops the Cafe Espresso Frappuccino.
- Cookie Crumbles Little pieces of chocolate cookies, this topping usually accompanies the seasonal Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino.
- Caramel Crunchies I'm not sure what else to call these, but they top the Caramel Ribbon Crunch and give it the crunch!
- Flavored Whipped Cream Starbucks offers flavored whipped creams seasonally. Chocolate is usually available in the summer, spiced with gingerbread during the holiday season. Caramel and espresso flavors were introduced in 2014.
Brulee means burnt, but I prefer to describe the flavor of this drink as smoky or toasty. Cream, sweet, and decadent, this drink is super popular. Topped with whipped cream and bits of candy, Caramel Brulee lattes are available starting in November.
Some say this drink tastes like a gingerbread cookie. Simply gingerbread syrup blended with espresso and milk, Gingerbread Lattes appear around October or November. It comes with spiced whipped cream and a molasses drizzle although some customers ask for no drizzle.
Made with espresso, eggnog, and 2% milk, this is the only seasonal latte that is topped with foam instead of whipped cream—along with a dash of nutmeg.
The syrup for this flavored latte is more like a thick sauce, so this drink is creamier than a standard latte. Frequently requested when it is not in season, Pumpkin Spice lattes comes with whipped cream and a special powder on top.
And that's all about Starbucks lattes! I'm a little amazed I could limit myself to only one terrible pun. Enjoy your next latte!