We Tried Starbucks Cold Brew With Lemonade. Here Are Our Thoughts

When Starbucks comes out with new drinks, they're rarely simple. Starbucks holiday menus or new products are oftenmade with various sauces and syrups, and creamers, and they're often a mouthful to order. You're either at the café fumbling your way through ordering a grande Iced Apple Crisp Oatmilk Macchiato with extra apple brown sugar syrup, or you're quietly taking your place at the milk bar stirring Splenda into your plain Pike.

This past summer, though, Starbucks announced a quirky Summer Remix menu, offering simpler ways to "remix" regular orders. All four beverage "remixes" featured one simple alteration to an already-existing menu item, but one remix seems to have garnered more gossip than the rest: the cold brew with lemonade.

While adding nut milk or chocolate foam or caramel sauce to our coffee feels acceptable, something about pouring tangy lemonade into a black coffee seems wrong. We tend to top our javas off with sweeteners or creams to offset the bitter taste of black coffee. Thanks to its fat and sugar content, dairy milk helps smooth out the earthy acidity of coffees like the Starbucks cold brew, which has bold, nutty, or chocolatey flavors (via Era of We).

So, what kind of flavor could a tart, water-based juice add to a bold, earthy cold coffee? We've tasted Starbucks lemonade with a slew of its iced coffee-based drinks for you, so read further to see what the hype (and the hate) is all about.

How much does Starbucks cold brew lemonade cost?

If you're a regular at Starbucks, you've likely noticed the (several) recent price hikes. Increases in prices have been attributed to inflation, but some customers are pointing out that the real reason Starbucks is facing backlash over higher prices has more to do with the chain's massive profits. Alas, as the world gets more expensive, we settle our stress by sipping on coffee, so take our extra thirty cents, Starbucks.

In 2022, a plain, grande-sized cold brew from Starbucks costs about $4.65 on average, according to The Food XP. In comparison, we ordered from a New York location and paid $4.75 plus tax, but some Starbucks locations don't charge extra for the inclusion of milk and classic sweetener. Adding lemonade should tack on an extra $0.60, regardless of whether you choose to add a light, regular, or extra amount. So, a grande cold brew lemonade from Starbucks will set you back about $5.25. After reading our review, you can decide for yourself whether or not that's worth it.

Cold brew lemonade nutritional info

On its own, a grande Starbucks cold brew contains five calories and no sugar, carbohydrates, or fat, as per the company menu. The menu shows that a grande lemonade (16 fluid ounces) contains 120 calories, 28 carbohydrates, 27 grams of sugar, and zero fat.

According to a Starbucks employee, baristas are trained to fill cups until about one-quarter inch high to add a standard splash of lemonade (or milk) into a drink. This would be considered about 4 ounces, so a standard cold brew lemonade from Starbucks should contain roughly 35 calories, 7 carbohydrates, and 7 grams of sugar.

Compared to other sugary sweet Starbucks drinks, this lemony cup of joe is certainly on the lighter side. Might it even be ... healthier? We can't confirm, but thanks to recent buzz online about the potential benefits of a lemon-coffee concoction, Healthline reports that lemon and coffee separately boast plenty of nutritional value. While the findings are tempting, don't forget that Starbucks lemonade isn't just freshly-squeezed lemons, it's made with lemon juice, sugar, and lemon oil (via Starbucks). That being said, cold brew lemonade could certainly be considered more nutritional than, say, the Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew.

Our taste test

On its own, Starbucks cold brew has a bold, smooth coffee flavor with minimal bitterness. It's full-bodied and boasts a more robust, toasted flavor than iced coffee does, with a subtly sweet, smooth hint of cocoa and citrus in each sip.

Starbucks lemonade is mouth puckering-ly sour, very lemony, and slightly sweet. It actually tastes quite fresh and not as sugary as many popular store-bought lemonades do.

So, how does a tangy lemonade combine with an earthy cold coffee? Upon the first sip, our tastebuds were instantly confused. We were desperate to pin down a distinctive flavor while sipping this mixture. When we tried to focus on the lemony flavor, we couldn't get past the coffee aromas that surrounded it, and when we tried to center our tastebuds on the coffee flavor, the lemonade's acidity wouldn't let us.

The equal parts acerbic lemonade, and earthy coffee wasn't a pleasant combination overall. We felt that the lemonade enhanced the bitterness of the cold brew (in a bad way) and that the whole thing wound up tasting sort of like sour dirt — sorry if that's harsh. Each sip left an unsavory aftertaste that almost reminded us of what it's like drinking an especially strong alcoholic drink: there's something in the beverage that should be the forefront flavor (the cold brew), but the sharp, unwelcome bite of alcohol (or in this case, lemonade) is still present with each sip.

Variations of Starbucks cold brew with lemonade

Since the Starbucks app allowed us to — or encouraged us to? — we decided to taste cold brews with varying amounts of lemonade to get a better idea of whether or not the two pair well.

With less lemonade:

We were pleasantly surprised by how this mixture tasted. While it was noticeable that we weren't just drinking plain cold brew, there wasn't a super strong lemonade flavor to this concoction. Rather, a hint of pungent citrus seems to give the cold brew a refreshing, brighter flavor, strengthening its bouquet and rounding out a full-bodied, semi-bitter earthiness.

The best way we can think to explain how a light amount of lemonade changes the taste of the cold brew is this: it's like squeezing lemon into water. The lemon doesn't completely change the cold brew's flavor or even add a distinctive sweetness, but it makes for a brighter flavor profile overall and a pleasantly citrine aftertaste.

With extra lemonade, unsurprisingly, this variation tasted sweeter than the others. Though, we found it to be still only subtly sweet. Here, the lemonade slightly overpowers the cold brew's coffee taste, making the whole drink more refreshing and fruity. There's still some slight acidity in each sip, but it's almost like the enjoyably sharp bitterness of semi-sweet chocolate or grapefruit. Overall, Starbucks cold brew with extra lemonade tastes unconventional but not terrible.

Tasting Starbucks lemonade with other coffee beverages

When we initially heard of Starbucks' cold brew and lemonade combo, we thought it sort of made sense. There are coffee-based cocktails served with orange peels, the Algerian espresso-lemon juice medley called mazagran iced coffee, and it's common to receive a twist of lemon alongside an espresso shot. As per Full Coffee Roast, citrus peel oils can help balance the acidic taste of espresso and minimize its bold, bitter aroma.

As such, we tried lemonade with Starbucks' iced espresso to compare to the cold brew mixture. Sadly, this combination tasted worse than the original, taking bitterness to a virtually unbearable level.

Since cold brew naturally has a more concentrated coffee taste, we wondered how lemonade might work in Starbucks' less bold-tasting iced coffee. While similar, this combination was slightly more acidic, and the weaker nature of iced coffee made this whole beverage a bit too watery, especially as the ice started melting. This wound up tasting kind of like a dirty lemonade or like a weirdly watered-down, zingy coffee.

Finally, we wondered if adding sugar to the cold brew and lemonade concoction could help balance the conflicting combinations of tartness, acidity, and earthiness. We added the standard amount of Starbucks' classic liquid sweetener to a cold brew with lemonade. While some sweetness always helps mellow the harshness of black coffee, adding sweetener, unfortunately, didn't make this mixture miraculously taste amazing — rather, it hardly changed the taste at all.

Is it worth it?

We'll immediately assert that if you typically drink a light 'n' sweet, creamy iced coffee, you will probably not enjoy this conversely bitter combination. However, if you regularly order a black cold brew or iced coffee, this Starbucks "remix" might have the potential for you. And, we can definitively say that lemonade and iced espresso aren't worth trying, no matter who you are.

Ultimately, we think the best way to combine the java with the juice is to include only a little lemonade in your cold brew. We've realized that cold brew and lemonade both have strong, bold flavors; therefore, one must overpower the other for it to work. As such, we found that the standard cold brew with lemonade wasn't satisfying even with sweetener, a cold brew with extra lemonade was weird but alright, and a small splash of lemonade made for a smooth cold brew with a pleasant hint of bright, tart flavor.

If it's a hot summer day and you're craving an iced coffee without the heaviness of milk and sugar, a Starbucks cold brew with light lemonade could be the perfectly refreshing pick-me-up you need.