How to Hack the Starbucks Menu + Diy Drink Ideas


Anyone else obsessed with Starbucks? Let’s be real, we’re all guilty of loving that overpriced, yet delicious, coffee chain. The morning just doesn’t feel complete without an iced coffee! I am a major coffee and tea lover, and Starbucks is the one thing that I can’t stay away from. Let’s just say the majority of the baristas at my local Starbucks know me by name. What they always comment on is how I never order the same drink. I order something different each time, and there’s no consistency. I’ve never been one of those people who order the same drink each time I go. There are just too many options, especially once you’ve learned how to hack the menu! In fact, you may never order off the menu again! It also opens up so many different options and flavor combinations that you won’t see on the menu. Let’s get started!

To understand how to hack the menu, there are several things you have to know. The first thing is important, which is how many pumps of syrup go into each size drink.

Syrup Amounts Per Size

Hot Drinks:

Tall: 3 pumps

Grande: 4 pumps

Venti: 5 pumps

Iced Drinks:

Tall: 3 pumps

Grande: 4 pumps

Venti: 5 pumps

With this knowledge, you can adjust the sweetness of your drinks, no matter the size you order. The next thing you need to know is the types of syrup they offer.

Starbucks Syrups:

Classic (basically is just sugar and water)


Toffee Nut


Cinnamon Dolce



White Chocolate Mocha


Lastly, you need to know the types of milk they offer, as well as the amount of milk that goes into each drink (which I will discuss later in the post).

Types of Milk that Starbucks Offers:




Almond Milk (dairy free option)

Coconut Milk (dairy free option)

Soy Milk (dairy free option)

*Starbucks also offers half and half and heavy cream

What’s The Difference Between A Latte and a Macchiato Anyways?

The next thing you need to know are what the different coffee drinks consist of. You’d be surprised at the amount of people who are avid coffee drinkers, but don’t know what is going into the coffee they order. The amount of milk or cream in your coffee is dependent on the type of coffee you order. If you like stronger coffee, you’ll want to avoid coffees with high milk content like lattes. Conversely, if you don’t like strong coffee, you’d be better off with a drink that mostly consists of milk, because the coffee flavor won’t be as strong. Here are the types of coffee that Starbucks offers:

For People Who Prefer Milky Coffee:


Lattes are a go to drink for most people, but many of them don’t know what a latte consists of. The main thing you should know that a latte mostly contains milk. A latte has the highest milk content of all coffee drinks, and contains shots of espresso in a cup of steaming milk (I like to think of it as coffee flavored milk). If you aren’t a fan of milk or if you’re trying to cut calories, a latte may not be the best choice. However, if you don’t like the taste of coffee, lattes are generally a good choice because this is the drink with the highest milk content, so it has a milder coffee flavor. The milk and espresso shots are also mixed more evenly in a latte than in other drinks.

Usual Latte Formula: 1/6 espresso, 4/6 steamed milk, 1/6 foamed milk


In the Starbucks version of a macchiato, the milk content is still pretty high, so I think of it as along the same level of a latte. The only real difference is simply the order that the espresso shots are put in. In a macchiato, the milk is put it first, then espresso shots on top, and the drink is topped with foam. Because the espresso shots are on top, the first few sips are more bitter than in a latte, where it is mixed more evenly.


Yet another milky drink (though not as much as a latte or macchiato). Cappuccinos are fun to order because of the large amounts of foam on top. Granted, you get less coffee in the cup because of the foam, but I love the foam! This one is great for people who like milky coffee, but want a stronger coffee taste.

Usual Cappuccino Formula: ⅓ Espresso, ⅓ steamed milk, 1/3 foamed milk

Flat White:

A flat white generally is served with whole milk and is served unsweetened if you order it off the menu. It has the same amount of espresso as a latte, and is basically a latte with a little bit less milk. If you order this off the Starbucks menu without any specifications, it will be made with whole milk and no added syrups or sweeteners.

Caffe Misto (also known as Cafe Au Lait):

This drink consists of equal parts brewed coffee and steamed milk. Unlike the previous drinks mentioned, this drink is made with brewed coffee rather than espresso shots, so it has a lower milk content. If you order this off the menu, it comes unsweetened without any syrups or sweeteners.

For People Who Prefer Stronger Coffee:

Brewed Coffee That Starbucks Offers:

Blond Roast

While the caffeine content doesn’t vary a significant amount, lighter roasts are generally considered more caffeinated than darker roasts.

Pike Place:

Pike Place is a medium roast, and is a good median between blonde and dark roast.

Dark Roast:

Dark roast has the least amount of caffeine of the three and has a bitter, smoky flavor.

If you order these drinks off the menu, they will come black unless you specify otherwise. Unlike in a latte, if you order milk or cream with these drinks, they will only come with a splash on top. Therefore, these drinks will have significantly less milk than in a latte or macchiato, and a stronger coffee flavor.

For People Who Prefer Iced Coffee:

Cold Brew Vs. Iced Coffee:

Unlike with iced coffee, cold brew is made from coffee beans that are steeped in cold water rather than in boiling water. Personally, I prefer cold brew because iced coffee tastes watered down in comparison. When hot coffee is topped with ice cubes, naturally, the ice will melt in the drink and water down the coffee. That is why I prefer cold brew, because it is brewed in cold water and is specifically meant to be served iced, so the ice cubes don’t melt and dilute the drink. Cold brew also tastes smoother, has a much stronger coffee flavor than iced coffee, and has a higher level of caffeine. Cold brew is my personal favorite coffee drink, and my go to order!

With this knowledge, you can now hack the menu!

Here’s an example:

Let’s say I want an iced vanilla latte but I want to cut back on my sugar intake. If I know that there are 4 pumps of vanilla in a grande, I can order a grande iced latte with 2 pumps of vanilla, which would be half the amount of sweetnessthat usually goes into it. I would ask the barista for a grande iced latte with 2 pumps of vanilla. See how easy that is? You can easily manipulate the amount of syrup you are getting in your coffee rather than just ordering off the menu.

Using the same example, let’s say I want to cut back on calories but I don’t like bitter coffee, so I still want a latte. I could order the iced latte with almond milk instead, because it has fewer calories and significantly less sugar. It also tastes much creamier with almond milk! I only recommend it for iced drinks though, because it tastes strange in hot drinks. Going with this same example, I would tell the barista that I want a grande iced latte with almond milk and 2 pumps of vanilla. Bonus: this drink would only be roughly 100 calories! You would also save at least 10 grams of sugar just switching from regular milk to almond. If I wanted to make this a venti, I would simply up the pumps of vanilla to either 3 or 4 pumps, and it would still be around 150 calories or so (with almond milk).

Here’s another example:

Let’s say that I want an iced coffee that’s less milky than a latte, but I don’t want to drink it black either. I also want the drink to have half the sweetener. In this case, I generally will order a grande cold brew with almond milk and 2 pumps of classic. This means I will get the iced cold brew with just a splash of almond milk (remember, it’s not a latte or macchiato so it’s just going to be a splash of milk) and half the sweetness that is usually in a grande.

Referring back to the syrups that Starbucks offers, now that you know the types of syrups they offer, you can mix and match the flavors in your coffee.

Here are some flavor combinations that you could try:

Grande coffee of your choice with 2 pumps of vanilla and 2 pumps of toffee nut

The combination of vanilla and toffee nut taste like french vanilla!

For a venti size, ask for 3 pumps of vanilla and 2 pumps of toffee nut

Grande coffee of your choice with 3 pumps of vanilla and 1 pump hazelnut (try this iced!)

This drink tastes just like cake batter!

For a venti size, ask for 4 pumps of vanilla and 2 pumps of hazelnut

Grande coffee of your choice with 3 pumps of mocha and 1 pump of hazelnut

This drink tastes like Nutella! You can change it to 2 mocha 2 hazelnut if you want to up the hazelnut flavor

For a venti size, ask for 4 pumps of mocha and 2 pumps of hazelnut

For all drinks, refer to syrup amount chart and adjust sweetener as needed

What I Usually Order at Starbucks

I am an iced coffee gal, so I will typically get a cold brew. If I ever try any of these flavor combinations, it will be in a cold brew with a splash of half and half or almond milk. Cold brews are my go to because the coffee tastes much better and much richer! I sometimes will do a grande cold brew with half and half or almond milk, and 2 pumps of classic. I also like the vanilla sweet cream cold brew, which is one of the few times I will actually order off the menu. I don’t drink hot coffee too often, but whenever I do, it is usually a grande blonde roast with half and half and 3 pumps of whichever syrup I am in the mood for (I don’t like dairy free milk in hot drinks!)

Now that you know how to hack the menu, you can not only adjust the sweetness instead of just ordering off the menu, you can also invent your own flavors with different syrup combinations. This opens up so many more options to try! Are you a fan of Starbucks? What do you usually order from there? Let me know your favorite Starbucks drinks in the comments below!