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How to Understand the Starbucks Drinks Menu: Learn the Lingo

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I've been a Starbucks barista for over 10 years, and I love sharing my coffee knowledge with anyone who will listen.

Learn the lingo to order like a pro!

Learn the lingo to order like a pro!

The Starbucks Primer

Before I started working at Starbucks, I didn’t know much about espresso. Sure, I liked coffee and tea, but I couldn’t have told you the difference between a cappuccino and a macchiato. A lot of Starbucks customers are unfamiliar with espresso drinks and could benefit from some information about our menus. There is also some unique lingo at Starbucks. Read on so you can sound like a pro when you order your next drink!

In This Article

What is a Shot of Espresso?

Drink Sizes

Drink Temperatures

Milk Choices

Regular and Seasonal Flavors

Syrup Choices and Quantities

What Is a “Skinny” Drink?

Bonus: Starbucks Secret Menu

Ask for a "doppio" only if you're ordering a plain double shot of espresso. If you are ordering an espresso drink (a latte or cappuccino) with two shots, ask for "a double" or two shots.

Ask for a "doppio" only if you're ordering a plain double shot of espresso. If you are ordering an espresso drink (a latte or cappuccino) with two shots, ask for "a double" or two shots.

What Is an Espresso Shot?

Many drinks on the Starbucks menu are made with espresso shots. A shot is about 75 milligrams of caffeine. You may hear the term "pulling a shot" thrown around. "Pulling" is a barista's way of referring to how the espresso is brewed by the machines.

Starbucks stores use automatic espresso bars. This means that the machine grinds and prepares our shots for us. Traditional cafes may do this by hand. We still retain some control of the quality of the shot, however, as we must maintain and adjust our machines throughout the day.

The amount of caffeine in any coffee-based drink is known to fluctuate, but 75 milligrams per shot is the best estimate. If you are worried about your caffeine consumption for health reasons, I would urge you to overestimate and assume there are anywhere from 80 milligrams to 100 milligrams of caffeine per shot of espresso. For comparison, an average eight-ounce drip cup of coffee contains around 104 to 192 milligrams of caffeine, according to the American Beverage Association.

Espresso Shots at a Glance


1 shot (1 ounce)


About 75 milligrams

2 shots (2 ounce)


About 150 milligrams

3 shots (3 ounce)


About 225 milligrams

4 shots (4 ounce)


About 300 milligrams

1 shot decaf (1 ounce)

Single/Solo Decaf

About 3 milligrams

1 shot half-caf (1 ounce)

Single/Solo Half-Caf

About 40 milligrams

From left to right: short, tall, grande, and venti.

From left to right: short, tall, grande, and venti.

Drink Sizes

What size will you get if you ask for a "regular" at Starbucks? If I were your barista, I would ask you to be more specific. You can always ask for small, medium, large, and even extra-large (for iced teas, refreshers, and iced coffees), but here are Starbucks’ special terms for sizes.

Drink Sizes at a Glance


The smallest size Starbucks offers, a short drink is 8 ounces. Only hot drinks are available in this size cup. You'll have to ask for this size specially, as it's not even listed on the menu. It is served in the same size cup that is used for shots of espresso, and it is also the default size for kids' drinks.


Tall drinks are 12 ounces. You'll get this size if you ask for a "small."


Grande hot and iced drinks both contain 16 ounces. This is the only size available for smoothies. This is the size you get if you order a "medium."


Venti hot drinks are 20 ounces. Venti iced drinks are 24 ounces. This is the size you get if you order a "large."


The Trenta size is only available for iced teas, refreshers, and iced coffee, and the cup holds about 30 ounces.

How hot would you like it?

How hot would you like it?

Drink Temperatures

Customers can control how hot their drinks are, but if no special temperature is requested, your barista will steam the milk to about 160°F. Any temperature up to 200°F is possible. (It's worth noting that soy milk is said to burn at 180°F, so anything above that is inadvisable.)

  • Kids' Drinks: Your barista will prepare the drink to 130°F which is still warm but definitely immediately drinkable.
  • Extra Hot: This special request is 180°F and it is nice if you have a long way to take a drink. It will still be warm once you get where you're going.
  • Coffee and Hot Tea: These drinks are both made from water that is 200°F. I hope that's plenty warm for you!

Milk Choices

Starbucks offers many different milk options, including nonfat (also called skim), 1%, 2%, whole, and soy milk. Half and half, also referred to as breve (BREH-vay), heavy whipping cream, and vanilla soy milk are also available.

Most Starbucks drinks are made with 2% low-fat milk unless you ask for something else. One big exception is the frappuccino—those delicious, iced, blended drinks—which are made with whole milk unless another choice is specified. Another exception is the new Flat White, which is also made with whole milk.

Eggnog is also offered seasonally. Generally speaking, it's available from October or November until January or February. Eggnog can be substituted as the milk for any drink. The Eggnog Latte is actually a mix of 2/3 eggnog and 1/3 milk (normally 2%, but other options can be substituted.)

Flavored syrups available at Starbucks.

Flavored syrups available at Starbucks.

The Syrups

All of the syrups used at Starbucks are measured with pumps for consistency's sake. One pump of a normal syrup comes out to one-quarter of an ounce. Chai, Mocha, and White Mocha pumps are about half of an ounce. The amount of syrup in a drink can be changed to suit your taste. It's not at all uncommon for a barista to be asked to put half as much syrup in a drink. Baristas are perfectly capable of executing a half-pump. I've even served a few drinks with a quarter-pump of syrup.

Regular Syrup Flavors

Here are some of the syrups you might find at your local Starbucks:

  • Vanilla: Also available sugar-free
  • Caramel: Also available sugar-free
  • Cinnamon Dolce: Also available sugar-free
  • Hazelnut: Also available sugar-free
  • Toffee Nut
  • Peppermint: Also available sugar-free (seasonally)
  • Raspberry
  • Classic: Simple syrup; a mixture of sugar and water
  • Mocha: Also available sugar-free
  • White Mocha
  • Tazo Chai: Standard, classic chai
  • Teavana Oprah Chai

Seasonal Syrup Flavors

  • Pumpkin Spice: This is usually available from October until January or February.
  • Caramel Brulee: This syrup has become a Starbucks holiday season staple. It's usually available from November to January/February, as stock runs out.
  • Gingerbread: This is a winter seasonal syrup, usually available from November through January/February.
  • Sugar-Free Peppermint: This is another winter seasonal syrup used in the skinny version of the Peppermint Mocha, but you can request it on its own.
  • Peach: This summer-time seasonal syrup is most commonly used in the featured Peach Green Tea and Peach Green Tea Lemonade.
  • Blackberry: A newcomer for summer 2014, this was featured in the Blackberry Mojito Tea and Blackberry Mojito Tea Lemonade.

Syrups at a Glance

These are the amounts of syrup your barista will use in your drink, unless you request another amount.

SizePumps of SyrupShots of Espresso

Short - hot only (8 ounces)



Tall (12 ounces)



Grande (16 ounces)



Venti - hot (20 ounces)



Venti - iced (24 ounces)



Trenta - iced only (32 ounces)



What Is a "Skinny" Drink?

A skinny drink contains nonfat/skim milk and sugar-free syrup. Skinny drinks will not be topped with whipped cream unless requested. The term "skinny" usually refers to a latte, but if you ask a barista to make any drink skinny, they'll know what you're talking about.


Grande Flavored Latte


6 grams

35 grams

Grande Skinny Flavored Latte


0 grams

16 grams

The Starbucks "secret menu" of drinks

The Starbucks "secret menu" of drinks

Happy Drinking!

Thanks for reading! I hope you found this information helpful. To learn more about the menu, read my articles about Starbucks lattes and Starbucks flat whites.

Questions & Answers

Question: How many shots go in Starbucks iced drinks?

Answer: For most iced drinks, a tall and a grande both get two shots of espresso, and a venti gets three.

Question: I’d like to order a chai tea from Starbucks, but they are too sweet. How can I ask for a chai diluted with milk by half?

Answer: Keep in mind that the chai used in Starbucks is a liquid measured in pumps. If you were ordering a grande, ask for two pumps instead of the usual four. The space would be automatically filled up with milk. So, order a Grande Chai with 2 pumps.

Question: If I want a chai tea diluted by half or 3/4, what do I ask for?

Answer: A chai tea latte is made with pumps of syrup. The usual amount of pumps are 3-4-5; so three in a tall, four in a grande, and five in the venti. To get a less strong chai, just ask for fewer pumps.