How to Understand the Starbucks Drinks Menu: Learn the Lingo

Updated on March 11, 2020
mandination profile image

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!

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 capuccinno) 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 capuccinno) with two shots, ask for "a double" or two shots. | Source

What Is an Espresso Shot?

Many drinks on the Starbucks menu are made with espresso shots. A shot is about 75mg 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 75mg 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 is anywhere from 80mg to 100mg of caffeine per shot of espresso. For comparison, an average eight-ounce drip cup of coffee contains around 104 to 192mg of caffeine, according to the American Beverage Association.

Espresso Shots at a Glance

1 shot (1 oz.)
About 75mg
2 shots (2 oz.)
About 150mg
3 shots (3 oz.)
About 225mg
4 shots (4 oz.)
About 300mg
1 shot decaf (1 oz.)
Single/Solo Decaf
About 3mg
1 shot half-caf (1 oz.)
Single/Solo Half-Caf
About 40 mg
From left to right: short, tall, grande, and venti.
From left to right: short, tall, grande, and venti. | Source

Drink Sizes

What size will you get if you ask for a "regular" at Starbucks? If I am your barista, I will 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 oz. 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. Served in the same size cup that is used for shots of espresso, this is also the default size for kids' drinks.
Tall drinks are 12 oz. You'll get this size if you ask for a "small".
Grande hot and iced drinks both contain 16 oz. This is the only size available for smoothies. This is the size you get if you order a "medium".
Venti hot drinks are 20 oz. Venti iced drinks are 24 oz. 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 oz.
How hot would you like it?
How hot would you like it? | Source

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 degrees Fahrenheit. Any temperature up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit is possible. (It's worth noting is that soy milk is said to burn at 180 degrees Fahrenheit, so anything above that is inadvisable.)

  • Kids' Drinks: Your barista will prepare the drink to 130 degrees Fahrenheit, which is still warm but definitely immediately drinkable.
  • Extra Hot: This special request is 180 degrees Fahrenheit 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 degrees Fahrenheit. 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 a 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: 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: A winter seasonal syrup, usually available from November through January/February.
  • Sugar-Free Peppermint: Another winter seasonal syrup, this is used in the skinny version of the Peppermint Mocha, but you can request it on its own.
  • Peach: A summer-time seasonal syrup that 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

Pumps of Syrup
Shots of Espresso
Short - hot only (8oz)
Tall (12 oz)
Grande (16oz)
Venti - hot (20 oz)
Venti - iced (24 oz)
Trenta - iced only (32 oz)
These are the amounts of syrup your barista will use in your drink, unless you request another amount.

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
Grande Skinny Flavored Latte

Starbucks Secret Menu

The Starbucks "secret menu" of drinks
The Starbucks "secret menu" of drinks

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

  • How many shots go in Starbucks iced drinks?

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

  • 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?

    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.

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

    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.


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    • profile image


      5 days ago

      As a current starbucks barista, a TON of this info is wrong. We discontinued skinny mocha, oprah chai, peach (it’s now a juice which you can still get in teas, along with guava juice), and blackberry. most stores don’t have sugar free caramel, hazelnut, or peppermint (unless it’s a flavor reinvention store). We recently added honey and pineapple ginger syrup (seasonal probably). the amount of shots for hot espresso drinks are: short- 1, tall- 1, grande- 2, venti- 2. for iced espresso drinks are: tall- 1 (not 2 like it says in the FAQ section, which contradicts what it says above), grande- 2, venti- 3. we do not offer smoothies anymore. Extra Hot drinks go up to about 165°, not 180°, although you can ask for the specific temperature. A lot of baristas won’t heat milk past 180° since past that, milk starts boiling and splashing, making it dangerous for the barista. we only offer vanilla flavored soy milk. additionally, we also offer almond, coconut, and in select stores, oat. our eggnog is usually pre-mixed with the milk/eggnog mixture. Lastly, chais are actually made with pumps of syrup, half water, half milk but the solution for a more diluted chai is the same.

    • profile image

      Angie Ocana 

      11 months ago

      What does 3 equals mean when you are ordering

    • profile image


      12 months ago

      What is a mudcat?

    • profile image


      12 months ago

      Most of this information is wrong now

    • profile image


      22 months ago

      I am a barista and this helped a lot!! thanks!

    • profile image


      23 months ago

      explain what a Venti passion tea 2 pumps classic 2 pumps raspberry berry juice instead of water and light ice is? lol

    • profile image


      24 months ago

      Does "No Classic" mean sugar free?

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      I'm sure you probably don't monitor this blog but if you do, what is the shot to water ratio for unspecified Starbucks Americano? If I walk in ask for a Tall, Grande, or Venti Americano how much espresso will be in each?

    • luisj305 profile image


      4 years ago from Florida

      You have 1000 times over, made life easier for my next coffee break at Starbucks. Thank you, very much.

    • Rabadi profile image

      4 years ago from New York

      Pumpkin spice all the way lol.. Great read I'm following you :) follow back please.

    • hubsy profile image


      4 years ago

      Thank you so much for doing this hub! I never understood the some of the terms before and I felt so weird when they said, "what size? Grande?" And I would say, "Uhhhhh..... small?" I finally know now! Thanks!!!

    • Chantelle Porter profile image

      Chantelle Porter 

      4 years ago from Chicago

      I am a Starbucks addict and I thought I pretty much knew everything there was to know. I was wrong! Great article. Thanks for sharing.

    • Alessio Ganci profile image

      Alessio Ganci 

      5 years ago from Italy

      I simply love Starbucks and when I go abroad (in my country there is no Starbucks, but there is a similar chain called Arnold Coffee, but only in two big cities) I always go to Starbucks. The first times I had some problems at ordering there, but now I know all delicious drinks they make, and I find this hub very useful for people who, like me once, will go to Starbucks for the first times!

    • engineer-chef profile image

      Matthew Clemmer 

      5 years ago from NORTH TONAWANDA , NY

      Wonderful information. I can feel less foolish when I purchase a coffee from Starbucks.

    • FatBoyThin profile image

      Colin Garrow 

      5 years ago from Inverbervie, Scotland

      I haven't been into Starbucks for a while but part of the reason for that is that ordering a simple cup of coffee is so damn confusing! I think I understand things it better now. Great Hub. Voted up.

    • Nemmy profile image


      5 years ago

      Seriously? Gimme a large double-double!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Thank you so much for creating and updating this! I love Starbucks, and live right down the street from one, so I feed my addiction far too often, but I so often feel overwhelmed by all the choices, the lingo, and trying to make sure I get the right drink, without being a pain to the baristas or other people in line. This whole guide has been so helpful. :)

    • mandination profile imageAUTHOR

      Amanda W 

      5 years ago from Pittsburgh

      Brooke - I wish I had a book to recommend! It might be interesting to browse 'copy cat' type recipes for popular coffee shop chains to get an idea of what kind of ingredients you can use.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      You rock! I am opening a small coffee shop in my small Texas town and I LOVED reading all your information! Can I fly you out to do a personal barista! Is there a good book that you would suggest for recipes?

    • mandination profile imageAUTHOR

      Amanda W 

      5 years ago from Pittsburgh

      I work with a barista who started in a Barnes & Noble store. There was certainly an adjustment to be made, but I hope the staff at your store is as supportive as the staff at mine! I'm glad my hubs could help.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Just want to say thank you soooooo much mandination, I am new to starbucks and this is an awesome complete guide on how to not look a stranger inside a starbucks cafe, you're even concern writing down the seasonal items and time of availability therefore I wont look dumb when looking for it at a particular time, the terms, the options and kinds to choose from, thank you!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I just started my training as a Starbucks barista and have found myself very overwhelmed with everything, having not really been a cafe (Starbucks) goer since this last summer. I have basically no knowledge of Starbucks drinks. At least not yet. This will be great for me to review at home when I can. Thank you!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I've worked in a Barnes & Noble cafe for the past two years in SC and in MA and will soon be starting a new job at Starbucks.

      I was very excited to find your site to brush up on the way Starbucks makes their drinks as opposed to B&N. B&N does not follow the standards of Starbucks. They sometimes change the way a drink is made and the way cups are marked. This means you cannot work for one B&N and transfer to another without having to learn a completely new way of cup marking and drink making.

      Thanks again for posting this site. I don't want to look like a complete fool when I start and even though I know the basics and how to make all of the drinks I wanted to make sure before I start that my information is correct. This has helped a lot.

    • mandination profile imageAUTHOR

      Amanda W 

      5 years ago from Pittsburgh

      I remember speculating about how much milk exactly is in a Frappuccino, and what I'm thinking is that I must have said that in a comment. The lines on the cups are what we use for measurement, so I've never tried any other method of measuring the milk - but, the milk plus the coffee fills up the first line on the cups. There isn't a ton of milk in these, especially when comparing to an iced latte, which gets milk plus syrup plus coffee up to the top line on the cups.

      Considering a Grande cup holds 16 oz, I'll stand by my 4-5 ounce estimate. There's something like two ounces of coffee, so I would guess the first line on the cup is somewhere between 4-6 ounces, making the milk content 3 ounces at the very least.

    • Dwayne N Meg profile image

      Dwayne N Meg 

      5 years ago from Bakersfield, California

      First off... Bravo... This has helped me so much. I go thru Starbucks one a day. (Sometimes twice.... Ugh I know.) I have looking online for 2 days straight night and day for more info as the crew at Starbucks has been eyeing me odd when I asked a simple question....

      "How much milk is in the Grande Frappuccino?"

      I asked for one... I wanted to know (I already knew how many pumps and how much base... Ice eh I did not figure too much or too little ice was effecting the taste that much.) and reason two... I can not stand when it is not made right and I have a rude employee snidly say "well what is wrong with it?...." I don't know, I did not make it, I do not know no much of what goes in it.

      So I asked the last time after it was made wrong which they were kind enough to remake. No big deal. But when asked how much milk and attempting to explain why they looked at me like telling me was forbidden...

      Long story short. I googled the question and your page came up. THRILLED. It showed the google preview as "if I had to guess a grande would have 4-5oz. of milk" But now I can't find that listed anywhere on here. Am I missing it?

      Thanks once more for this info. You put a lot of time into it and is very useful. Thanks!!!! :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks for the info. I was looking for the number of pumps to make my own at work on the days that I don't stop at Starbucks.

      I love how you relate the names of the sizes, and the reason that you used to only order the Tall. I'm right there with ya!

    • profile image

      Michelle Widmann 

      6 years ago

      Awesome! I consider myself to be a huge fan of Starbucks coffee and pride myself of having quite a bit of knowledge about their menu - especially when I go there with a friend who doesn't understand the menu at all - and even still, this hub has taught me a lot about Starbucks! Thanks for the info, and next time I go, I'll be ordering a Trenta!

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      6 years ago from Chicago Area

      I'm a Starbucks junkie, too (but for the tea). Great job sorting it all out for the newbies in our midst. Cheers!

    • Jeannieinabottle profile image

      Jeannie Marie 

      6 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      I didn't even know there was something called a Trenta. I am glad I found this hub!

      P.S. I love the caramel flan flavor! I hope it never goes away.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I seem to spend a fair amount of time at Starbucks and didn't know there was a "short". Good information!

    • Anthony Moreau profile image

      Richard de Mey 

      6 years ago from Scottsdale, Arizona

      Wow! Great post. I go to Starbucks all the time with my only complaint is that they need more outlets to plug into. Thanx for all the wonderful info. I love coffee.....

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I rarely go to Starbucks but, when I do I feel this anxiety like I am not going to order properly. Thank you for the Starbucks 101. It is very helpful. I voted your hub up and awesome.

    • profile image


      6 years ago


      My Mocha Valencia lives on in my home.


    • profile image


      6 years ago

      This is very useful because this will be the 2nd week of training as a barista in Starbucks. All the info given helps me review and help me understand some of the drinks.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great information and explains a lot

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      That would be wonderful, and if you find out how it was made, I'll be forever indebted to you! I just now noticed that you are in Pittsburgh. I must be the only Clevelander that really loves Pittsburgh!


    • mandination profile imageAUTHOR

      Amanda W 

      7 years ago from Pittsburgh


      I wasn't around for the Valencia syrup, but I did work with one person who used to reminisce about it. I'll have to talk to her to learn a little more about it. :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I love your site. It really clears things up, presenting the information in a very clear and simple manner. I'll always refer back to it. Is there any chance that you or some of your co-workers that may have been around longer than you, know how to make the old Mocha Valencia? I believe that it may have been officially called: "White Chocolate Mocha Valencia".



    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I come from a country where Starbucks is unheard of. Today when I went to Starbucks for the first time to get some nice hot drink and ordered a caramel frappucchino (and undoubtedly thought it was a hot beverage :P), I felt really helpless.

      Thanks a lot this info...I really did not know we can customize the drink so much and that there are lots of options available.

      I shall definitely bookmark this for my entire college life :)

    • kitkat1141 profile image


      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I wish I would have read this before my first visit to Starbucks!! This should be required reading while waiting in line to place your order.

      Thanks for the info!

    • mandination profile imageAUTHOR

      Amanda W 

      7 years ago from Pittsburgh

      To my knowledge, Starbucks coffee that is pre-ground is always ground for paper filters, because that's the most common thing people use to brew at home. (It's ground to work in things like standard Mr. Coffee machines.)

      Being a barista, I obviously get my Starbucks coffee from my store, but I do have friends that buy their coffee elsewhere. I do believe you can buy it whole bean and either grind it in store (most grocery stores tend to have grinders in the coffee aisle,) or you can absolutely take it to a Starbucks to have it ground. Unfortunately, I don't think pre-ground coffee will be available for a French Press, because it's just not as common of a brewing method.

    • Tyler DeNeade profile image

      Tyler DeNeade 

      7 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      I just want to say thank you for this post! I just started working at Starbucks (today will be my third day!) and I forgot how many shots of espresso the different sizes of drinks got. The pumps are pretty easy to remember, 2-7 with one extra for each drink, but I got mixed up with the grende and venti shots, one person said the Venti gets 3, another said 2 and iced gets three, another person said they do three all the time for Venti. Glad I have the proper amount now! Thank you.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Awsome post Thanks..

    • profile image

      Chee Yi 

      7 years ago

      WOW. Thanks for the comprehensive guide! Also, as a barista, do you know if the Starbucks ground coffee sold in Target, Amazon, Walmart etc are ready for French Press brewing method? Or do I have to drop by a store and have the baristas grind them coarsely on the spot for me? Thanks again.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I am a new employee at Starbucks and I loved your page. It's a learning process making all the drinks, but I'm having a blast :-)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Just a heads up guys Im a partner at Starbucks and we were all in your shoes with not knowing terms, etc. Just wanted to let you know Starbucks does a good job in training there Batista's in knowing almost everything about the company. So yall should never feel stupid for asking questions, and dont feel shy, we love when customers ask questions, and we enjoy answering them for you. Hope this helps :p

    • mandination profile imageAUTHOR

      Amanda W 

      7 years ago from Pittsburgh

      Thanks to everyone for the positive feedback! I'm so happy people have found these hubs helpful. :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      After i read this, i'm impatient to go to Starbucks to practice those starbucks' terms.. I love Starbucks, thank you :)

    • toomuchmint profile image


      8 years ago

      I never knew they had kid's temperature as an option. That's great information!

      Now I can stop by Starbucks and worry less about the kids and their spills. Thanks!

    • profile image


      8 years ago from Arlington, Ma

      Thank you for creating these Strabucks guides!! I recently (last week) started working in a very busy location. These guides are so helpful! I've been pretty overwhelmed with the amount of information regarding measurements and recipes. The guides are definitely allowing the info to soak in =). Thank you!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Love Starbucks!!! Try an upside down triple venti Carmel macchiato w 3 pumps chai, 2 pumps vanilla extra foam....yummy!!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I'm loving all your Starbucks posts! They are sooo informative! I'd love to see one on the Carmel Macchiato next please?!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      More helpful Starbucks information, thanks!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Hey, this was vey helpful! I kept wondering what the hell was Venti! Loll, I was so confused. I always wanted to know why was Starbucks so much better than Dunkin, and now I am aware! Thanks!! ????

    • Keri Summers profile image

      Keri Summers 

      8 years ago from West of England

      I found this really useful to know what I'm getting. I'm afraid I always ask for small, medium or large, on principle! Then I'm clear what I'm getting. Thanks for the info.

    • katie54321 profile image


      9 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I rarely go into Starbucks, but when I do I always feel like a fool because I don't know what these drinks are and I'm embarassed to ask. Thanks for sharing your Starbucks 101 hub!


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