The Fool-Proof Guide to Ordering at Starbucks

There is no doubt that I am obsessed with coffee. And so are almost all college students. I mean, how else are we supposed to get through the midterm season? And with a Starbucks on every corner, it is constantly tempting.

However, for those that are making their debut into the coffee world, the terminology and numerous options can be confusing and overwhelming. Don’t worry, because here are the all the Starbucks terms and orders, explained!

Let’s start off with the basics. At most coffee shops or franchises, there is the simple: small, medium and large sizes. But, at Starbucks, there is tall, grande, and venti, which just translates into small, medium, and large.

Now onto the actual drinks, you can order. At coffee shops, you can order coffee, espresso, or tea. You may be thinking, aren’t coffee and espresso the same thing? In ways, they are and ways they aren’t.

Coffee and espresso both come from the same bean, but it is the way in which they are prepared that sets them apart. Coffee is prepared with medium ground coffee beans, filters, and hot water.

On the other hand, espresso is prepared by grinding the beans very finely and compressing them down with, depending on the machine, 30-40 pounds of pressure. This method takes a while which is why it is typically served as a “shot” because it is so concentrated and the flavor is at its prime with a smaller amount.


Now with espresso-based beverages, there are many different combinations, and this is where the terms get complicated.


The easiest way to describe these is by ratios. So, the ratio of espresso to milk to foam in a latte is probably one shot of espresso with 80% milk and 20% foam.


As for a cappuccino, it is served with one shot of espresso, 80% foam and 20% milk.


A Macchiato is typically one shot of espresso with maybe 10% foam or steamed milk on top.


Once you start drinking more espresso, and you have found yourself in love with the taste, but can’t quite handle the strength. An Americano is watered down during the preparation process, by filtering the water into the drink, making it the perfect drink for you.


A mocha is basically the same as any other espresso drink, but it contains either a few pumps of chocolate syrup or hot chocolate mix.

Specifically, at Starbucks, and almost all coffee shops, you are also able to order both coffee and espresso with flavoring. There are numerous options, from vanilla to butterscotch. Once you find what works for you, that is when the obsession and routine begins.

And don’t forget that you can always decrease the number of pumps if it is too sweet for you. At Starbucks, a grande usually has four pumps of flavor syrup, and a venti has six, so if you still want the taste of coffee, I recommend half the pumps.

So, once you have chosen your size, coffee or espresso, hot or iced, you are ready to sit down, sip on your drink, and conquer the day!