23 Starbucks Hacks and Tips

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From how to correctly order secret menu drinks to hidden ways to level up your order, check out these Starbucks tips.

Starbucks drink in a clear plastic cup.
Photo credit: Starbucks

Here are the best Starbucks tips to save you time and money.

1. Order drinks on the secret menu by recipe, not by name.

All Starbucks drinks can be customized to create thousands of combinations. Some gain popularity on social media and become a Starbucks secret menu drink which means baristas were never trained to make them. To make sure the drink is made correctly, always order secret menu items by the recipe, not by the name. Instead of ordering a Thin Mint Frappuccino, say ““Can I get a grande Matcha Frappuccino with no classic syrup, 1 pump of mocha, 1 pump peppermint,  java chips blended in, and mocha drizzle on top?”

RELATED: 52 Starbucks Secret Menu Drinks & How to Order Them

2. There’s a specific order in which you should ask for your drink.

It goes like this: hot or iced, the size of the drink, if it’s decaf, the number of shots, the number of pumps of syrup, the type of milk, and then anything extra (like extra hot). Starting with if the drink is hot or iced and then the drink size ensures that the barista grabs the right cup to start writing your order on. 

3. You can get a free drink on your birthday.

If you’re a Starbucks Rewards member, Starbucks will celebrate your special day with a free drink! You can pick almost any item on the menu for your birthday celebration. Make sure you’re signed up for Rewards at least a week before your birthday.

4. During the month of December 2020, Starbucks is giving free coffee to front-line workers.

A free tall brewed coffee (hot or iced) will be offered to all front-line responders at participating stores. Front-line responders are: doctors, nurses, public health workers, pharmacists, dispatchers, fire fighters, paramedics, EMTs, law enforcement officers, dentists and dental hygienists, mental health workers (therapist, psychologist, social worker, counselor, etc.), hospital staff such as janitor/housekeeping/security, military on active duty, contact tracers, vaccine and pharmaceutical researchers, pilots, flight attendants, TSA, and medical researchers.

RELATED: Every Starbucks Drink Ranked By Caffeine Content

Starbucks red cup.
Photo credit: Starbucks

5. Starbucks gives out a collectible holiday cup every year.

This is the third year in a row Starbucks has given out a collectible holiday cup in celebration of their holiday drinks. On November 6th, 2020, free cups were given out at stores (quantities were limited) with an order of their seasonal holiday drinks like Peppermint Mocha. Mark your calendars for holiday season 2021 to get your own collectible cup!

6. You can get your dog a free treat.

If you’ve got a dog with you, Starbucks will make a Puppuccino for your furry friend! A Puppuccino is just whipped cream served in an espresso cup. 

7. There are two sizes that don’t show up on the menu.

There’s a short (8 ounce) and a trenta (31 ounce) size that you can order most beverages in. Trenta is only available for cold drinks without espresso.

RELATED: Starbucks Drink Sizes

8. Make a Starbucks Refresher with lemonade instead of water.

Put a sweet, tart kick in your Refresher by replacing water with lemonade. Kiwi Starfruit Lemonade and Mango Dragonfruit Lemonade were both once secret menu drinks that became popular and made it onto the official Starbucks menu.

9. Cut calories by asking for your drink to be made “light” or “skinny.”

Most espresso and frappuccinos can be made with less calories by using sugar-free syrup, nonfat milk, and without whipped cream. Not getting whipped cream on your drink can save you 80-110 calories.

Starbucks Frappuccino with whipped cream.
Photo credit: Starbucks

10. You can ask for a caramel drizzle or whipped cream on any drink for free.

These freebies can be added free of charge to any drink. 

11. If you like to add cream to your coffee, ask for your drink in a bigger cup.

You can ask for a grande coffee in a venti cup — you’ll have room to pour your cream or milk in without having to pour out any coffee or pay for the larger size. 

12. You can buy the syrups that make your Starbucks drink stand out.

If there’s a syrup you love, like the sugar-free vanilla or raspberry, you can ask your barista if it’s for sale. If they have enough in stock, they can sell it to you on the spot.

13. Starbucks in other countries have drinks that are only available in that country.

Does a Butterscotch Brûlée Latte or a Cherry Pie Frappuccino sound delicious to you? These are just some of the specialty drinks that are only available in certain countries. The Butterscotch Brûlée Latte is available only in the UK and the Cherry Pie Frappuccino is found in Japan. 

14. Freeze your bottled frappuccino.

Freeze that bottle of frappuccino for a couple of hours to recreate the same slushy texture.

15. You can order a pour over at any Starbucks location, even if it’s not on the menu.

Maybe try not to order it during a busy rush, but pour over coffee is always an option, even if you don’t see it on the menu. 

16. A barista wearing a black apron is a certified coffee expert.

Starbucks provides training for their baristas and they even have a coffee master certification program. If you have a technical or coffee-specific question, they’re the folks to ask! If you see anyone with a purple apron (very rare to see out in the wild), it means they are a barista champion.

Starbucks Reserve interior.
Photo credit: Starbucks

17. There’s a difference between Starbucks and Starbucks Reserve.

Starbucks Reserve is an off-shoot of Starbucks that highlights rare single-origin coffees. There are only 6 locations worldwide: Seattle, Chicago, New York, Shanghai, Tokyo, and Milan. You’ll often find highly-trained baristas brewing coffee on a variety of different coffee brewers, like a Chemex of a siphon.

18. If you’re running late or early, don’t worry! 

Starbucks has a ten minute rule: they will open ten minutes before the advertised opening time, and stay open ten minutes after the stated closing time.

19. Ask for a sample.

If you’re not sure if you’re going to love that brewed coffee or drink, ask for a sample. This is best asked when the store isn’t too busy.

20. Starbucks at airports, Target, and Barnes and Noble are licensed stores.

When you go to a Starbucks at Barnes and Noble or Target, it’s a licensed store, which means the employees at that location aren’t Starbucks employees but Barnes and Noble or Target employees. The menu (most notably food) is limited as is the drink menu. The food and drink may also cost more than a regular Starbucks store.

21. Get free water.

Instead of paying for bottled water, ask for a cup of water from the barista.

22. Ask for light ice.

If you want less ice in your drink, order “light ice” which means more coffee and less ice. You can also ask for a scoop in terms of the drink size. So you can ask for a short or tall scoop of ice for a grande drink.

23. Love foam? Order a bone dry cappuccino.

A bone dry cappuccino is espresso and a thick layer of milk foam (no steamed milk at all).

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