Starbucks For Dummies – The Tutorial

Eeee!!!! I am officially on vacation!!! Just finished working the world’s loooongest closing shift. Now I don’t work again till next Tuesday!!! I’m leaving for my hometown tomorrow afternoon. It’s only a 90 minute drive, but I’m praying the snow lets up so the roads are clear by then!

Anyways, despite my excitement, I am seriously sleep deprived. I was up way too early this morning to fill my empty tummy.


Pecan protein pancakes!

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup egg whites
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp ground flax
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice
  • 2-3 tbsp roasted pecan pieces

All blended up and cooked to deliciousness. Seriously, this was an awesome batch.

I was feeling kinda “meh” about the gym today, but it was just pure laziness. I dragged my butt over there and got my weight workout in. Trying to beef up the weight lifting – gotta look the part of a personal trainer too! ;)

10 minutes on the stairmill
10 minutes on the rowing machine

A1 – Squat w/ heels raised on plates:
3 sets @ 30 lbs x 10

A2 – Dumbbell shoulder press:
3 sets @ 15 lbs ea x 10

B1 – Step-up:
3 sets @ 40 lbs x 10

B2 – Underhand grip lat pulldown:
3 sets @ 50 lbs x 12

C1 – Horizontal woodchop:
3 sets @ 35 lbs x 10

C2 – Back extension:
3 sets @ 4kg x 10

C3 – Hanging leg raises:
3 sets @ bw x 10

15 minutes on elliptical, 1 minute sprints, 2 minutes recovery

I went down in weights a little so I could focus on my form today. I like doing this from time to time, keeps me in check ;)

Was a hungry hungry hippo, and running late for work by the time I made it home. Whipped up a quick lunch.


Two scrambled eggs, onion, red pepper, spinach, laughing cow and Franks hot sauce on a Lavash wrap. Couple small tangerines on the side. Clementines are better.

Then it was off to work, which was surprisingly not that busy tonight!! Even though I was running late, I still threw together a packed supper before leaving. No five-buck sub for me tonight.

101_1559 101_1561

Obviously, as simple as it gets. Hummus + tuna sandwich and a pear. There were obviously snacks in there too. Including a short nonfat sugar-free hazelnut steamed milk and an unsweetened black iced tea lemonade.


Ever since returning to work at Starbucks, I’ve been fielding a few questions about what kind of drinks I would suggest. Both Lara and Averie suggested I do a “Starbucks Tutorial” of sorts to clear things up!

First, I published a list of Starbucks How-To’s a while back with tips to order smart. But today I’ll get a little more detailed so you reeeeally know what you’re doing ;)

First, lets start with the basics – espresso.

espresso.jpg (440×586)

Sources for images can be accessed by clicking on the picture.

Espresso is essentially condensed coffee. A little bit of water run through densely-packed coffee grinds. It actually doesn’t contain as much caffeine as most people think. One shot, or 1 oz, has about the same caffeine as 6 oz regular brewed coffee. However, drinking it straight can mean you’re consuming your caffeine more quickly – so you may get a bit of a head rush!

Next up is the latte. The latte is the heart of every Starbucks drink. They may sound fancy and complicated, but they are really just different flavoured lattes.

A latte is just espresso + steamed milk and a lovely dollop of milk foam on top. That’s it!

Starbucks uses flavoured syrups in all their drinks. Anything like a pepermint mocha, gingerbread latte or caramel macchiato are just lattes with said syrups added for flavouring.

Every store is different, but here are the syrups my store is currently offering:

  • Vanilla, Sugar-Free Vanilla
  • Caramel, Sugar-Free Caramel
  • Hazelnut, Sugar-Free Hazelnut
  • Cinnamon Dolce, Sugar-Free Cinnamon Dolce
  • Toffee Nut
  • Raspberry
  • Classic (an unflavoured simple sugar syrup)
  • Peppermint
  • Caramel Brule
  • Pumpkin
  • Mocha (a rich chocolate sauce)
  • White mocha (another “sauce”)
  • Chai

Now, one thing that confuses people the most about Starbucks are our weird cup sizes. There are four, although the smallest isn’t usually advertised.

How much syrup, coffee and milk goes into these cups depends on size. I’ve made a handy-dandy chart for you to understand it. It must be known that 1 pump of syrup = 0.25 oz and 1 shot of espresso = 1 oz.


So if it’s the caffeine you’re after, you can get away with a short instead of a tall, or a grande instead of a venti.

The iced sizes are almost the same, but the iced venti cups are 24 oz, 6 pumps and 3 shots.  It’s a beast of a size.

There are three more drinks worth mentioning. A cappuccino.

Ha, not all of them are pink!!! I chose this picture because you can clearly see the distinction between the milk and foam. While a latte is espresso and milk with just a dollop of foam, a cappuccino is espresso + half milk + half foam. Usually, you just “free pour” the milk into the cup (i.e. don’t hold foam back with spoon) and the milk and foam will naturally separate like this. They’re a little stronger tasting because there’s less milk to dilute the espresso.

There’s also an Americano.

caffè americano

This is just espresso + hot water. Almost like a stronger tasting coffee (except so much better!)

Finally, the Misto.

Café Au Lait

This is half brewed coffee + half steamed milk. Sort of like a weaker version of the latte, but also lower cal because it has less milk.


Okay, so how can you take all this info to order yourself a drink? You can…

  • Ask for different milk – skim, soy, lactaid or eggnog
  • Ask for a sugar-free syrup
  • Ask for less or more pumps of syrup
  • Add a syrup flavour to a plain drink, or try combining flavours
  • Ask for one less or one extra shot of espresso
  • Turn your coffee or tea into a misto
  • Ask for more foam or extra foam (extra foam will cut the cals a little too)
  • Ask for no whipped cream (or extra!)
  • Ask for it in decaf, or just get it without the espresso

So hopefully that helps!! I know there is a lot of “lingo” involved at Starbucks, but that’s really designed to help the baristas, not scare away customers. With this information, I can decide I want a latte with a mix of SF Vanilla and Caramel syrup, skim milk, an extra shot of espresso and extra foam (yes, that’s one of my fave drinks!). It doesn’t matter if I can call that out as a “double-tall-sugar-free-vanilla-caramel-nonfat-extra-foam-latte.” All you need to do is double check with your cashier and barista to make sure they got all your requests!


Question of the Day: What is/would be your Starbucks drink?


P.S. I will be maintaining a somewhat regular posting schedule while home for the holidays. I’m bringing my laptop and my mom has wireless internet. It might not be at the usual time, but short updates will be going up! It will give me an excuse to take a small break from the family craziness everyday ;)

Posted on December 23, 2009, in Workouts and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 33 Comments.

  1. I ALWAYS order a nonfat chai latte.

    I’m a bit disappointed to learn that the addition of the chai is simply a syrup with flavor. :-( At least that’s what I think I read. You’d think I would have noticed this considering all of the times I’ve ordered it.

    I enjoyed this post. Next time, I’m going to try a nonfat chai misto. The half-milk, half-coffee combo is actually what I thought the latte was.

    • I would call the chai “syrup-like” we use a concentrated version of normal liquid chai base that we dilute a little with hot water, then add steamed milk. But since it’s a Tazo product, the ingredients are still pretty good:

      *Ingredients: An infusions of (water, black tea, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, ginger root, cloves, natural flavours, star anise) cane sugar, honey ginger juice, natural flavours and citric acid. * * * But a tea misto with the chai tea bag is an even better idea, then you can just add the honey yourself if you feel so inclined :)

  2. Right now, my drink is a 2 pump PS soy misto and I always get confused looks from the barista’s. My second go-to drink is a soy carmel macchiato (which you didn’t discuss!! ;) )

    • Hey Leah! A caramel macchiato is essentially a vanilla latte with the espresso shots thrown in last instead of first (and of course, the yummy caramel drizzle). Macchiato means “mark,” by putting the shots over the milk, we’re “marking” it. Although, it’s kind of butchering the REAL Italian macchiato drink, which is plain espresso “marked” with a dollop of foam.

  3. In the summer I get a Venti No-Classic Black Tea w/ light ice. In winter I vary depending on mood but I like Americanos!

  4. Yayer!!!!!! Only one more day for me and then I’m freeeeeee!!! I love the looks of that lavash wrap. I’m copying you. The only wraps I can find here that are soy free do not look that delicious though! xoxo

  5. Yay for being FREE! Have an awesome time at home and drive safe!!!!!!!

    Have to disagree with you on the Americano/drip. I really love drip coffee with just milk and sweetener, In the UK, they don’t brew decaff so I get Americanos, sometimes with sugar free vanilla (used to love this but they now use a different sweetener in it here in the UK and it’s gross). I always ask for a little hot milk- so much creamier than cold, and it keeps my drink piping hot. Nothing worse than luke warm coffee! In the US, I loved the vanilla soy milk they used but they use plain here in the UK (it used to be one sweetened with apple juice which, for the record, makes coffee disgusting!) Also loved the raspberry mocha chip frappuccino that they made back in the day… In the US, am more than happy with just Pike Place. We don’t have half and half in the UK so I’ve never tried it, but I imagine cream in coffee would be a lovely change. I drank it black for years but decided that was too cliche (“ooooh the anorexic with her cup of black coffee!”) so started adding a splash of milk and have never looked back. Strong coffee with lots of cinnamon, sweetener and a splash of skim and I am a happy camper :)

  6. Susan, have a fabulous holiday and safe travels back home.

    I love me my morning coffee but I must confess I’m a Second Cup girl – mostly because there is one less than a kilometer away from my home. My drinks of choice right now are the soy carmel corretto or the London Fog – depending if I’m in the mood for coffee or tea.

    We also have a Starbucks in our Indigo store just down the street a bit further…so when I’m there I tend to order safely… a grande non-fat caramel machiatto. Maybe now with your tutorial I will venture into uncharted territory!!

  7. YAY for vacation!! Enjoy your break and I hope you have a safe trip there!

    Those pancakes sound lovely! Thanks for the ‘bucks tutorial – I’m so boring when I go there. I’m a black coffee girl BUT I have enjoyed many caramel macchiato and mochas.

  8. Great tutorial! Thanks Susan :)

    I like a grande half sweet vanilla nonfat Joy tea misto

  9. I’m a tall non fat chai kind of gal. I need to try this Chai misto that I’ve seen you write about on here!

  10. Thanks for the tutorial- I’ve always wondered what was in the different drinks. I’m super boring and order plain coffee whenever I go to starbucks. The xmas blend is sooooo good

  11. Were those step-ups done with 2 of the 40# dumbbells or 2 of the 20# ones??

    My drink of choice is a little different than what I usually get. I usually do a grande skim latte. I prefer 2% milk in my lattes, as you need some fat to appreciate the fat soluble components to espresso.

    In my heavy days, I would have a grande caramel machiatto *and* a fantasy bar (which is called something else now). And that would be pretty much every day……

    Travel safe, Susan!

    • Ha, 20# dumbbells! I don’t think I can even pick up a 40 lb dumbbell! I can technically do step-ups with 30 lb ones, but it’s just too much on my hands, and I don’t trust my balance with a barbell on my back.

  12. Thanks for the Starbucks 411! I’m definitely not up to par with coffee lingo. I normally order a skinny latte but that’s all I know of! Haha. I think next time I’ll get a cappucino.. I love the foam!

  13. Yay for vacation! And those pancakes look delicious! Love the pecan addition :)

    Thanks for the starbucks tutorial! That was really helpful. I usually just get a coffee there :)

  14. This is so helpful! I don’t like to drink my calories so I usually get an Americano (iced or hot) with sugar-free syrup. Then I add some nonfat milk (and mayyybe a splash of half-and-half if I’m feeling it) so it’s still less calories than a misto…I think? I don’t think tea mistos are that common here so I’m afraid to order them! The other day I got my Americano and she only put one pump of SF hazelnut in there and I couldn’t taste it :-( so sad. I don’t do Starbucks often since I have my K-cup brewer at home, so whenever I splurge I feel so fancy. Which is kinda silly since there is a Starbucks on every block and in every grocery store around me!

    • Yes, adding your own milk would be less calories. But, if you’re feeling like a milky treat, a misto is always a better way to go than a latte. Americano mistos are super good too! And even though I work in a cafe, I always advocate making your own coffee at home. Maybe I’m a control freak, but it just always tastes better when I make it myself! ;)

  15. Thanks so, so much for the tips! :)

    My current favs are a tall non-fat peppermint mocha (only half the syrups) or tall non-fat 1 pump pumpkin latte. I’m interested in trying a misto though. My boss gave me a Starbucks card for Christmas, one of my favorite gifts!

    My absolute favorite drink is the white chocolate mocha but the calories are way too much so I almost never get it.

    I love the eggnog lattes when they are done correctly but my Starbucks always scorches the eggnog. :(

    I’d like to try the caramel brulee but have had conflicting reports on whether it’s gluten free or not.

    • White chocolate mochas used to be my favourite drink back in the day before I knew what calories were!!! :P It’s pretty sweet though, I bet you can still get away with just a pump of the stuff in your coffee ;) Not sure about the gluten in caramel brule. It’s more of a “sauce-like” syrup, a little different than the usual ones. I can tell you it’s really good. Kinda like a caramel-y toffee nut.

  16. Ok from the bottom of my heart: THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Not only did I not even expect you to humor me, the fact that you did it like 10 hrs after I asked, you freakin rock!!!

    Ok so here’s the questions:
    1. Americano. Would you say that if someone’s goal is strongass coffee that they order say a venti drip with 2 shots of espresso in it?
    Or would you order simply a venti Americano?

    2. The misto. So it’s intersting that there’s actually LESS milk in the misto than in a traditional latte. I knew the misto was coffee not espresso. I didnt know that it was also less milk. I guess that would make sense b/c since it’s “just ” coffee and not as strong as espresso, too much milk could overpower it. Again if “strong” is one’s goal, would you say order a misto or a latte?

    Also, lattees….
    Part of me despises the sugar free taste of things, part of me is ok with it. Which of the sugar free syrups are best? I do not like hazelnut syrup so i guess it’s just vanilla and caramel? Basically, I want it to taste “authentic” and so which is better inyour opinion?

    Also love Ellie’s comment about milk. I HATE when I Add milk or cream that it cools the drink down TONS and then I am left with a much colder coffee or drink than I’d prefer. What do you recommend in order to not piss off the barista? Ask them to make the latte or americano hotter than usual?

    I dont want to be a high maintenance customer BUT I also want what I want :)

    You dont have to answer this, you’ve already FAR Surpassed expectations and I love ya!!!!!!!!!!

    • Averie, wonderful questions!!

      1. A venti Americano actually has four shots of espresso, which is only equal to about 24 oz of coffee. You’re MUCH better off with the 20 oz venti coffee with the two extra shots (like drinking 32 oz of coffee!). Also, if it’s caffeine you’re after, go with a milder roast. The longer you roast a bean, the less caffeine it has.

      2. Lattes are typically both stronger in caffeine and taste. Especially since you’re only getting half a cup’s worth of coffee in a misto.

      3. I’m a bit of a caramel snob, so I’d say vanilla is the best of the sugar-free syrups. I like my caramel sickly sweet, and sucralose just doesn’t do it for me!

      You CAN ask the baristas to top your drip coffee off with steamed milk behind the counter. But from the sound of it, the Starbucks employees in your area are kinda irritable! Maybe it’s because there’s so many in the States, they just end up with more nasty employees :P You can’t order plain coffee extra hot, but anything that’s milk based (even mistos) can be ordered extra hot. That’s a common request and you won’t get dirty looks for it :)

  17. GREAT tutorial!!!
    i love the peppermint mocha..but i only ask for 1 pump..2 pumps is way too sweet!

  18. Lynn at The Actors Diet

    i love the tutorial! i’m a tall, decaf soy misto kinda gal

  19. what an awesome tutorial! i always have so many wonders about starbreezies drinks haha. so you’re def the barista with the mostista. haha that was horrible

    my go to drink is either a black coffee with sugarfree haze & splenda or love me some decaf americano with sf hazelnut!

    have fun at home and enjoy your fa fa fa fareeeedom!

  20. What a great tutorial! I love those flavored syrups – one pump for me too! Enjoy your time with your family.

  21. mmmm panCAKES!

    love the starbucks tutorial. haha i used to memorize those cal count SB books like in the 8th grade, so i know my SB stuff!

    fave drinks? YES YES YES americano! I used to sprinkle cocoa+vanilla powder with 1 sweet and low (I was a slave to sweet and low for a while) but i actually love just plain coffee+espresso. Or sometimes a pump of mocha or vanilla or whatnot. And I also used to love getting unsweetened BT or PT with a pump of raspberry, melon(RIP), or classic. Iced venti americano with an extra shot+vanilla= mmmm. I love coffee.

  22. Thanks- didnt know about the short- will tell my Dad- he always wants the most caffeine in the least amount of water!

    If calories were no object ever, I’d get a venti capuccino. However, when I’m just craving “something” but don’t want too many cals I’ll either do a grande extra shot bone dry nonfat cap. Or an americano with foam on top. :-)

  23. This is awesome :) Totally didn’t know there was a short option. I wish they could do their seasonal syrups in sugar-free!
    Thank you for this and the mention!
    I don’t have a “usual” at Starbucks–I like soy lattes, caramel macchiatos, and sometimes just plain coffee!

  24. holy crap i saw 6 new posts from you and i am trying to read my new blog posts in chronological order and IT TOOK FOREVER TO GET TO ONE OF YOURS. thank god i’ve arrived.

    this was such a fun post! i drink americanos but i do love the occasional chia tea latte with soy milk. i WISH coffee shops stocked almond milk though! that is my fave. luckily i have an espresso machine.

    oh boy, hope it is not too long before i get to your next post :P

  25. wa….. so delicious

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