16 Simple Starbucks Hacks You Need For The Best Experience

A trip to Starbucks can be a delightful experience, whether it serves as a morning pick-me-up or an essential pit stop during a road trip. Starbucks is delicious and memorable, but it's not uncommon for first-timers to feel somewhat overwhelmed, as the menu offers an array of beverage sizes with unique names and an ever-changing selection of drinks.

However, with frequent visits, you'll eventually discover numerous hacks to enhance your Starbucks experience, taking it from good to great. While many people have heard of the so-called "secret menu" at Starbucks, which features creatively designed drinks, our Starbucks hacks extend beyond these mysterious offerings. We aim to share tips and tricks that can significantly transform how you enjoy your average Starbucks stop. By learning about these hacks, you can unlock a whole new level of Starbucks. You'll quickly go from a novice to a Starbucks connoisseur, making each visit an adventure in taste and discovery.

Switch out your milk

Today, when you order a latte, the default milk is 2%. However, it wasn't always this way. Before 2007, when baristas prepared your order, they did so with whole milk, unless you specified otherwise. When the big switch happened, only a few kinds of milk were available. Now, there is a whole menu of different choices you can make.

There are many reasons someone might want to switch out their milk. Everything from health concerns to allergies and general preferences might play a role in the decision. Whatever your reasons, switching out that 2% milk for something else is as easy as requesting it from your barista or specifying it in the app (and makes Starbucks easier for vegans). In addition to whole milk, you could also request almond, half and half, coconut, heavy cream, non-fat milk, oat milk, soy, and even vanilla sweet cream. Of course, each of these kinds of milk will have a different impact on your drink and change it from the original recipe.

Add more sweetener

A vast majority of Starbucks drinks have sweeteners in them. If there's any kind of flavoring in it, that also acts as a sweetener, and if the amount included simply isn't enough for your liking, you can add more pumps of it.

Knowing the difference between syrups and sauces is essential when making these adjustments. Syrups are on the thinner side and will make your drink more flavorful and sweet. Sauces, on the other hand, are much thicker. Adding too many more pumps than the recommended amount will impact the mouthfeel of your drink. It'll become thicker — and not in a pleasant way. When ordering in the app, you'll know the difference between sauces and syrups because they're adjusted in different areas. When ordering in person, note that you can always ask your barista, but mochas and pumpkin spices will always be sauces. If you enjoy chai tea lattes, be aware that the chai concentrate is also relatively thick. It won't create the same thickness a sauce does, but it does add quite a substantial taste.

Request agave syrup

While the Starbucks traditional oatmeal in its breakfast lineup was a great addition, it got a significant upgrade in 2013 when Starbucks introduced a slew of other toppings you can add to your oatmeal. One of these inclusions is a packet of agave syrup.

Now, it is intended for use in oatmeal, but if you simply ask your barista for a packet of it, they will probably be more than excited to hand it over. After all, it's not a common request, but baristas know it is a delicious syrup. This one goes well with iced teas, and you can even request that your barista add it as a drizzle on the inside of your cup for an excellent secret menu item. We also like it as a sweetener for hot tea, and given that the syrup melts in so well with the hot water, it creates an even smoother drink than a granulated sugar might.

Flavor your cold foam

When cold foam made its debut at Starbucks locations in 2018, customers could request it as a topping for iced drinks, and it was included by default on the Cold Foam Cascara Cold Brew and its nitro variation. While this innovative beverage addition was undeniably delicious and set the stage for the cold foam era, the cold foam experience has evolved considerably since then.

Now, when ordering cold brews, nitro, and iced drinks, you can enhance your beverage with a cold foam topping. If you're using the app, you'll notice that the default options include specific cold foam flavors available at your local store. However, when ordering in person, you have the flexibility to choose from any of these flavors or even request a customized cold foam creation. Since Starbucks prepares cold foam from scratch, it's as easy as selecting a syrup flavor and asking your barista to incorporate it into your cold foam.

Ask for a bigger cup

Depending on the size of your coffee order, you may encounter a common issue faced by many Starbucks aficionados. Baristas often fill your drink to the brim, which can lead to spillage during the car ride after leaving the store. Additionally, if you need room in your cup to add extra ice, sweetener, or cream, an already full cup won't provide much space. Fortunately, there's an easy solution to this predicament.

To ensure such a tragedy doesn't befall your drink, simply order your drink in the next size up. Using the app, you can adjust your preference with a few taps, while ordering in person merely requires asking for a larger cup. Keep in mind that your barista will still provide the same amount of liquid as the original cup size. This hack is especially useful on hot days when you want to add extra ice to your iced beverages. By opting for a larger cup, you can not only prevent spills and messes but also have the flexibility to customize your drink to your liking.

Order a French press and stay awhile

Starbucks is a fabulous place to sit, hang out, get work done, and meet with friends. If you love fresh, hot coffee, instead of ordering a cup and taking it to your table, ask the barista if you can request a French press pot of coffee. Provided the location has French presses, there's a good chance you'll be able to have some of the freshest coffee Starbucks can offer. Starbucks uses French presses when offering samples to new baristas, so most locations should have them.

You'll be handed a French press full of coffee and hot water as well as a cup. When roughly five minutes have elapsed, slowly press down on the plunger on top of your French press. With the mesh layer properly in place, as you pour your French press coffee into your cup, it will strain out a vast majority of the grounds, and you will have delicious hot coffee. Plus, the typical French press makes more than one cup, so you'll have a refill to enjoy whenever you are ready.

Venti iced lattes have more espresso than hot lattes

Starbucks recipes come with a very consistent measurement system. For instance, when preparing hot lattes, Starbucks employs a specific system of adding sweeteners based on the drink's size. A tall latte, which is the smallest size, receives three pumps of sweetener, while a venti latte, the largest size, gets five pumps. Interestingly, this ratio is altered for iced lattes.

In the case of iced lattes, a tall or grande size will receive the same number of sweetener pumps as its hot counterparts. However, a venti iced latte is given six pumps of sweetener, one more than its hot version. This rule applies to both syrups and sauces, meaning a venti iced mocha contains six pumps of mocha sauce, while the hot venti mocha has only five. Therefore, if you are ordering an iced latte or mocha, we recommend going with the venti size, even if you normally choose a grande. This way, you are getting the most flavor for your buck.

Order a chai tea with tea bags rather than the concentrate

At Starbucks, you actually have two types of chai you can choose from. Most people tend to gravitate towards the chai tea latte, but you can also order a chai tea. The difference here is primarily with the types of chai used and whether the drink comes with steamed milk as a default.

The difference in price is not small, either. A grande chai tea latte will run you about $5.45 before customizations, while a chai tea will run about $3.65 prior to any additions you make. The chai tea latte includes both steamed milk and a chai tea concentrate, a liquid that your barista will add to your frothed milk to create a smooth and creamy tea drink. The chai tea, on the other hand, is prepared using tea bags that are steeped in hot water instead of mixed with milk. Of course, just like every other drink at Starbucks, you can add your own sweeteners, flavoring, or even splashes of milk to liven up that rather humble chai. If you don't mind a chai tea that is a little more on the simpler side and is a little cheaper than a chai latte, we definitely recommend giving a regular chai tea a try.

Request more or less ice based on the weather

A delightful iced beverage can be the perfect refreshment on a warm day, but there is one major drawback to these chilled treats: Ice can melt rather quickly under the right conditions. To counteract this issue, we recommend customizing the amount of ice in your drink based on the weather conditions in your area.

For example, if you're going to be outside and enjoying your Starbucks, but it will be blisteringly hot, order that drink with extra ice. That way, it will stay colder longer. On the other hand, if it is already quite chilly outside, but you are one of those people that will have a cold drink no matter the temperature, you can probably ask for light ice. Since it's already freezing outside, your drink probably doesn't need a whole lot of help from the ice in the cup to stay cold.

Get a few ice cubes in your Americano

The hot water at Starbucks is unbelievably hot. If you've ever ordered an Americano or a hot tea, chances are, you may have needed a sleeve or even an extra cup to protect your hand. And we love hot coffee, but sometimes it can be far too hot for too long. Fortunately, there is a simple request you can make to make your Americano a little less scalding.

Some people choose to ask for a mix of cold water and hot water in their Americano, but we have found that this request can lead to coffee that is actually too cold. Even if you request specific amounts, the results can still be a little inconsistent. Instead, we recommend asking your barista to add an ice cube or two to your Americano. This helps jumpstart that cooling process so you can comfortably enjoy your beverage sooner.

Remove the water from your tea for more flavor

When baristas prepare your iced tea, they add an amount of water to help dilute the tea a little bit. After all, iced tea straight from the pitcher at Starbucks is actually more of a concentrate than the iced tea you may prepare at home. However, these iced teas do obviously come with ice. So, if you are looking for a more flavorful iced tea and expect the ice to dilute it a little, we recommend ordering your iced tea with no water.

Unless you specifically ask to have your barista leave out the ice, that will remain, and the rest of your cup will be filled with that iced tea. Be warned, however, you will experience a very potent tea flavor. To be sure this is a hack you actually want to use, we recommend beginning with a light water option to see if you still like the taste. We are really big fans of this hack because you can make this change in person as well as in the app.

Switch out lemonade for juice

One of our go-to beverages at Starbucks is an iced tea lemonade. We enjoy it with any flavor of tea Starbucks is offering, but the Passion Tango Tea Lemonade is simply exceptional. It is an awesome evening drink because there is very little caffeine in it, so it won't mess with your nighttime sleep schedule. The Green Tea Lemonade is delightful as well, but this one obviously does have caffeine because of the green tea.

However, if lemonade isn't your favorite drink of choice, you can actually switch out this lemonade for a different juice. Apple juice is nearly always available because it is used in several drinks on the menu, but throughout the year, other fruit juices appear as well. The apple juice at Starbucks is from Tree Top. It's quite tasty and is 100% juice. If you're not a fan of apple juice, peach juice has lately become a common addition. No matter which you choose, either change will significantly alter the flavor of your drink, so make sure that you actually like the juice before adding it in.

Bring your own cup

Do you find yourself with a cabinet full of reusable mugs that often go unused? Put them to good use by bringing one with you to Starbucks when placing your order. Not only will you contribute to environmental sustainability, but you'll also receive a small discount when you hand your cup to the barista.

Though the discount may seem modest at just 10 cents, it can accumulate over time, especially if you frequent Starbucks. Additionally, using your reusable mug helps reduce waste sent to landfills, making it an eco-friendly choice. Unfortunately, this hack is most effective when ordering in person, so you'll need to either use the drive-thru or step inside the store to place your order. When using the drive-thru, make sure to inform the barista that you have your own cup for them to use as you place your order. This ensures they won't prepare your drink in a separate container before transferring it to your mug. By utilizing your reusable cup, you'll save money over time and contribute to a greener planet.

Save money with stars

The Starbucks rewards system is actually quite good. We recommend purchasing a Starbucks gift card, adding it to the app, and then paying with that gift card. That way, you get double the stars for your purchases.

There are five different star levels that will earn you delicious rewards like drink customization and even free merchandise. At 25 stars, you can customize your drink for free with extra espresso or even your favorite non-dairy milk. 100 stars earn you a bakery item, snack, or coffee. With 200 stars, your next drink or breakfast sandwich could be free. Earn a free lunch or bag of coffee with 300 stars, and at the 400-star level, you can pick up a piece of merchandise that is $20 or less. Those 400 stars can also contribute to an item that is greater than $20. Your barista will just take $20 off your purchase. With regular Starbucks visits, the stars don't take long to add up, and you even get rewards by preloading a gift card. Plus, Starbucks will even send a credit for a free drink on your birthday.

Get free refills

If your Starbucks order tends to be more on the basic side and you plan on spending some time at the store, don't forget to utilize the free refill policy. This hidden gem lets you get more out of your Starbucks experience, giving you an extra dose of your favorite brewed coffee or tea.

To cash in on this deal, start by ordering a brewed coffee or tea, and then enjoy your beverage at your leisure. Once you've finished your drink, simply head back up to the counter and show your barista your Starbucks account. They will then provide you with a refill of your original drink free of charge. While this hack doesn't work for iced tea lemonades, it does surprisingly apply to cold brews, making it an even more appealing option. One of our favorite ways to utilize this trick is by visiting a Target store with a built-in Starbucks. Begin by stopping at the Starbucks counter and placing your order, then, take your Target stroll and pick out your purchases. Once you've checked out, return to the Starbucks counter and request a refill.

Ask for your barista's favorite drink

Baristas spend a significant amount of time around coffee and tea, honing their skills and expertise in crafting delectable beverages. Additionally, they enjoy discounts, which encourages them to explore new and experimental drinks. As a result, your favorite barista likely has a go-to drink that they particularly enjoy. The next time you're looking for something different, consider asking your barista to create their personal favorite for you.

They may inquire about your dairy preferences or the general type of drink you prefer, but there's a high probability that the concoction they craft will be nothing short of delightful. However, it's essential to approach this hack with a measure of caution. While it's an exciting way to try something new, there is a chance that the drink may not align with your taste preferences. In these cases, returning the beverage to the counter might not be the best look. Instead, consider this an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and expand your palate, while keeping in mind that taste is subjective, and each person's preferences may vary.