11 Drinks That Are Red Flags For Starbucks Baristas

For many people, visiting their local Starbucks for a favorite latte or Frappuccino is a daily ritual or even a form of self-care. And sure, making coffee with an excellent coffee maker at home is simpler than ever, but that daily cup of joe somehow just tastes better when someone else prepares it. So somewhere between the ambiance of the coffee shop, the friendly baristas, and that first sip of sweetened deliciousness, many have fallen in love with the coffee giant.

And yet, at any Starbucks location, there's a whole world behind the counter that most customers never learn about. Amongst the hustle and bustle, there's a barista preparing a regular's drink in a very specific manner and another who has become the Frappuccino aficionado that all the teens in the surrounding city know by name. All told, every Starbucks location has its own story. Baristas, or the staff who prepare your coffee, are integral to that Starbucks story. Though a specific customer's drink order will generally get lost in the mix of memories throughout the day, a few drinks stand out as red flags to baristas. A red flag, in the world of Starbucks, is a drink that is complicated, a little dangerous, unusual, or otherwise makes baristas behind the bar raise an eyebrow. Of course, many of these drinks are absolute favorites of ours, so don't take it personally if your go-to appears among these red flags; we're right there with you.

Mocha Frappuccinos

Behind the bar at Starbucks is an elegant dance of cooperation between the staff at registers, those behind the espresso bar, and baristas running the blenders. If there is enough staff for each location, baristas can make drinks quickly and efficiently. Still, if the baristas behind the counter are also working the blenders, Frappuccinos can be a real issue. Baristas despise preparing these blended drinks, and the reasoning ranges from complicated recipes to interrupting the flow of creating beverages efficiently.

In addition to being a pain to make, these blended beverages are a red flag for baristas because they can indicate a new coffee drinker or young Starbucks fan who may need help knowing what they want. And perhaps the most Shirley Temple-esque of all is the Mocha Frappuccino. While it is one of the absolute tastiest of Starbucks' Frappuccinos, it can also create a fair amount of confusion for novice Starbucks visitors. It's awfully easy to mistake an Iced Mocha for a Mocha Frappuccino if you're new to the terminology. While the two are easily twisted, an iced mocha is actually the perfect beverage you can upgrade to in order to avoid this red-flag drink. The flavors of these two drinks are practically the same. If you're concerned that an Iced Mocha may be too bitter between the espresso and mocha, consider a White Chocolate Mocha instead.

Medicine Ball

Every now and then, a secret menu Starbucks drink finds its way onto the regular menu. The Medicine Ball is one of these drinks. It became an official menu item after going viral and store managers reported selling dozens of them each day. The drink is best prepared in a venti cup with two tea bags: one Peach Tranquility and one Jade Citrus Mint. Those are then steeped in a mixture of hot water and steamed lemonade. Finally, the whole thing gets a healthy dose of honey to finish it off.

While the Medicine Ball isn't a regular menu item anymore, you can still order it in person or on the app, but you may want to take great pause when you do so. After all, the Medicine Ball is associated with a person who is feeling under the weather. As a result, this drink has become a major red flag for baristas and alerts them to stay away from the person ordering it. No one wants to get sick, and in the era of COVID, there is so much more at stake than a simple cold. Thankfully, if you're in desperate need of a Medicine Ball, but shouldn't go out, you can replicate the beverage at home by buying the Teavana bags from your local grocery store. Also, if you'd like the drink to be a little less sweet, you could add lemon to your water rather than a mixture of steamed lemonade and water.

S'mores Frappuccino

Few Frappuccinos were more beloved than the S'mores Frappuccino, even launching a Change.org campaign to bring it back after it had been discontinued. And while there's always hope for a triumphant return for this summer-time favorite, many baristas have less fond feelings for the multi-step preparation of this beverage.

In fact, as Starbucks explains, the drink has more steps than a typical Frappuccino. First, your barista added a layer of marshmallow-flavored whipping cream at the bottom of your cup, topped that with milk chocolate, and then added the Frappuccino blend of graham syrup, coffee, milk, and ice. On top, you got another whipped cream drizzle with crumbles of graham crackers. Though this one has a rather long process to make, it sure was delicious, and while the issue is over time, we're willing to bet that many baristas empathize with ordering this red-flag drink anyway. Sometimes, taste just wins out, even in the case of tedious layered drinks.

Extra Dry Cappuccino

The difference between a latte and a cappuccino can be a little complicated. After all, both drinks involve three basic elements: espresso, milk, and foam. Where's the difference, then? It's between the amount of milk and foam in each type of drink. Cappuccinos, when made correctly, need to have roughly half of their weight accounted for in foam. When ordering in a coffee shop, you can also specify if you want your cappuccino to be extra dry or extra wet.

An Extra Wet Cappuccino is, more or less, a latte. An Extra Dry Cappuccino, though, is something else entirely. It will be coffee with almost entirely foam on top. When someone orders an Extra Dry Cappuccino, it can be a red flag for baristas because this type of drink is difficult to get right. Though the process is simple, getting the weight just right for the customer can be demanding because the customer typically knows precisely what they want, and nothing else will do.

Another thing that can make a barista nervous about a cappuccino is how similar the word sounds to a Frappuccino. While a cappuccino is a hot drink that is normally unflavored, a Frappuccino is blended, with the coffee taste being secondary. It is easy to confuse the two terms. If a customer is handed a hot drink when they expect a blended one, it can create a difficult situation that leaves the barista behind on drink preparation and the customer unhappy.

Iced Matcha Latte

When you order a Matcha Latte at Starbucks, your barista will make it using matcha powder. Though green tea and matcha come from the same plant, they are pretty different. Matcha leaves are grown in shaded areas to help increase chlorophyll, and you also get L-theanine in matcha. Healthline explains that by consuming whole tea leaves through the powder, matcha drinkers can see a significant positive impact on their health.

In a hot Matcha Latte, the matcha powder gets easily dissolved in the steamed milk. However, when a customer orders an Iced Matcha Latte, the powder is much more difficult to dissolve. The barista can't simply expect powder to dissolve quickly in cold milk. This is why a Starbucks properly made Iced Matcha Latte needs to be shaken. In fact, according to Reddit baristas, before Iced Matcha Latte could be prepared using the shakers, that matcha just made a gross mess in iced drinks. Some baristas will even use the blender they typically use for cold foam to blend up their matcha. When using the blender instead of the shaker, the drink will have far less extra foam than the shaker creates. These options are better than just stirring up the matcha and hoping for the best. Truly, that matcha powder works best in steamed milk.

Iced Cappuccino

Just like an extra dry cappuccino can be a red flag, so can the concept of an Iced Cappuccino. No such drink exists on the Starbucks menu, but it once did. Essentially, an Iced Cappuccino involved making an Iced Latte and then topping it with hot foamed milk, as a barista would with a typical cappuccino. However, Reddit reports plenty of confusion between baristas about what and if an Iced Cappuccino exists. In fact, some baristas will prepare an Iced Latte with cold foam on top if a customer orders an Iced Cappuccino today.

But that isn't the only issue with these drinks. Many people are used to getting cold or even frozen coffee at gas stations, often called cappuccinos. Wawa, for example, offers a Mocha or Caramel Cappuccino, and this drink is a frozen coffee beverage. This can create a fair amount of confusion for new Starbucks visitors when they first arrive at Starbucks. To order a favorite drink similar to what they get at a gas station, you may hear a customer order a flavored Iced Cappuccino when they probably mean a Frappuccino or Iced Latte. In our mind, the easiest way to get an Iced Cappuccino is to order an Iced Coffee with cold foam on top. Even still, translating a true cappuccino to an iced version isn't really possible.

Layered Drinks

Layered drinks sure are pretty. They are often very colorful and make for fabulous photos. On occasion, layered drinks have appeared on the Starbucks menu. The S'mores Frappuccino, for example, is a layered drink. Starbucks Melody reports that in 2014, the chain tested out a trio of tropical layered Frappuccinos. They had a fruit layer, followed by a fruit mousse middle section, and then the top layer was a coconut coffee part. Of course, each got a topping of citrusy whipped cream. These drinks were only available for a short while at a small number of stores in San Diego County.

Even the favorite Caramel Macchiato is a layered drink with sections of vanilla syrup, milk, espresso, and caramel drizzle. The Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino and Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino are two other layered drinks on the base menu. In the past Starbucks has also offered the ever-so-pretty Berry Prickly Pear Frappuccino. And there are also plenty of secret menu drinks that are layered. While these options are delicious and beautiful, they are red flag drinks because layered drinks can be challenging to get just right. And if a barista does not get a layered effect right, you will know it instantly by looking at the drink. Not only that, but since layered drinks involve taking extra care to place and pour the parts just right, they also tend to take a little extra time, and when a shop is busy, this can be stressful for baristas.

Extra Hot Latte

A typical hot Starbucks drink is steamed to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. However, you can ask for a drink to be steamed to a cooler or even hotter temperature. If you choose to have an extra hot drink, you'll end up with a drink that is roughly 180 degrees. Though this increase may not seem like a lot, it is actually much hotter.

This request is a red flag for several reasons. For one, a drink this hot may end up with a different taste. While you may have ordered the drink hot so it would be ready for you to drink later on, this may negatively impact your experience. If you're planning on drinking it right away, the drink may be way too hot to enjoy and could potentially burn you. So, if you choose to order an extra hot latte, don't be surprised if your barista winces as they hand it to you, be sure not to spill it all over yourself, and don't take a drink too early.

Raspberry White Mocha

One of the best parts of Starbucks is the ability to customize every drink strictly for your taste. And while one person's yum is undoubtedly another's yuck is perhaps no more true than it is at a coffee shop. Starbucks baristas even find themselves astounded by the kinds of drinks they create for others to enjoy. On Reddit, they even share some of the worst drinks they've been asked to make. For some, that is the Raspberry White Mocha.

To make a Raspberry White Mocha, you'll request that raspberry syrup be added to a White Chocolate Mocha. While this can happen in varying amounts, you'll probably find that you don't want to have as many pumps of raspberry syrup as white chocolate mocha syrup. With the sauce and syrup combined, the drink can become exceptionally syrupy, thick, and sweet, making the Raspberry White Mocha a red flag for baristas. In ordering a drink like this, there's always a risk that the customer will not enjoy the drink due to its pronounced sweetness or ridiculous texture.

White Chocolate Mocha with Oatmilk

We promise we're not poking at White Chocolate Mocha here. We love this flavor sauce, but it does have a relative minefield of potential red flags. One of these comes from sheer concern for the customer. Just as there are plenty of ways to customize a drink to your taste preference, there are also plenty of ways to alter a drink for your health. For example, some may choose non-fat milk or sugar-free syrup, and other customers order their drinks in such a way as to avoid dairy.

When a customer orders a drink with non-dairy milk, it is normally an indication that they are trying to avoid dairy. This is very easy to do at Starbucks because most syrups are dairy free. The sauces, on the other hand, are a little more complicated. White chocolate mocha sauce, for one, has dairy in the form of condensed skim milk, via Starbucks. However, this may be a little unexpected because regular mocha sauce does not have dairy, according to Starbucks' nutrition facts. So when a customer orders a White Chocolate Mocha with oat milk, baristas will grapple with the decision of whether they should point out that the White Chocolate Mocha is a dairy product. This discussion could result in a frustrating and uncomfortable confrontation or even a thankful one. But if a barista does not mention it, they run the risk of the customer potentially feeling unwell later on. It's an uneasy tightrope walk.

Caffè Americano

It's no secret that we love a great Americano. After all, we consider it one of the best hot drinks Starbucks has to offer. We love the flavor and feel of an Americano because it is simple, but it still spotlights that toasty roasted taste we love about espresso. However, you should know something really important before ordering an Americano: They come out ultra hot. In fact, they come out so hot, we've often gotten our Americanos double cupped because they're too hot to hold otherwise.

When customers order an Americano and it comes with a side of grimace, it's a sign that this drink just may be a red flag. Since Starbucks has been sued in the past for drinks that are too hot, baristas tend to be on high alert when it comes to hot drinks. So if you still decide to risk it on this delicious drink, you'll want to wait a few minutes to let your drink chill a little. But don't worry — if you're in desperate need of your caffeine kick, consider asking for a few ice cubes for your Americano to cool it down. It'll reduce your risk of a burn and even calm your barista's nerves for your safety.