The 17 Worst-Value Drinks To Order At Starbucks

It's no secret that we love a tasty Starbucks drink. With the delicious options and ease of customization using the handy Starbucks app, it's easy to like this coffee all-star. Plus, who can resist the thrill of trying out an intriguing Starbucks secret menu item?

That said, when we pause to tally the cost of our Starbucks habit, it can be a bit of a wake-up call. If you've taken the time to add up your orders, you've no doubt noticed that frequent Starbucks trips can certainly put a dent in your wallet.

Not all Starbucks drinks will break the bank. In fact, there are plenty of Starbucks drinks to order at a great value. On the flip side,  drinks can seem overpriced for what you receive, especially considering that certain customization options are already included in other drinks. But which ones actually give you the least bang for your buck? We decided to explore the menu and find out. The prices we reference come from our local Starbucks in Central Florida at the time of writing, and since pricing can vary by location, your experience might differ slightly.

Chai Frappuccinos

Any drink that offers less of the featured flavor and is more expensive is automatically one of the worst-value drinks at Starbucks. Unfortunately, the Frappuccino version leaves quite a bit to be desired when it comes to cold chai offerings.

No doubt, Frappuccinos, like the indulgent Chai Creme version, are delectable treats. They're creamy, smooth, and have that wow factor that makes them perfect for a social media snapshot. But here's the thing: In terms of the amount of chai concentrate, the Chai Frappuccino doesn't quite measure up to an Iced Chai Latte. In fact, our estimates suggest it contains roughly half of the amount of concentrate.

Despite this, you'll pay more for a Frappuccino than an iced latte. This could be due to the Frappuccino's status as a more buzz-worthy, social media-friendly drink. Nonetheless, the Chai Frappuccino may not be your best bet when it comes to cold chai options from Starbucks.

Caramel Apple Spice

Starbucks, with its tempting assortment of drinks, can sometimes catch us off-guard with its pricing structure. A perfect case in point is the Caramel Apple Spice. While this beverage has become a go-to favorite when we're looking for something without caffeine, it's important to scrutinize its cost-effectiveness.

The Caramel Apple Spice is simply a dressed-up version of Steamed Apple Juice. Add some Cinnamon Dolce syrup, a touch of whipped cream, and a drizzle of caramel to the latter, and you've essentially got the same comforting concoction, but still for a lower amount, even with three changes. But here's the kicker: The Caramel Apple Spice is priced significantly higher.

This difference in pricing shines a spotlight on the inflated cost of the Caramel Apple Spice. It's essentially a jazzed-up juice, but you're paying a premium for making it easy to order and because it has a fancy name.

Iced Coffee

In the universe of coffee lovers, there are generally two distinct tribes: those who swear by hot coffee and those who can't resist an excellent iced brew. Fans of hot coffee might grimace at the thought of a chilled beverage, while iced coffee enthusiasts are known to enjoy their preferred brew even when winter's chill is at its peak. If you fall into the latter category, we have a surprising suggestion: Skip the standard iced coffee.

Our advice is about not only shaking up your routine but also getting more bang for your buck. How? By switching to a Starbucks Iced Americano. This alternative doesn't just offer a more potent caffeine kick, but it's also typically cheaper than its Iced Coffee counterpart.

By choosing an Iced Americano, you're not just swapping out your regular iced coffee for freshly pulled espresso shots with cold water over ice. You're also making a smart, budget-friendly choice. Despite being a more cost-effective option, the Iced Americano doesn't skimp on flavor or customization possibilities.

Espresso Frappuccino

When the word "Frappuccino" comes to mind, you might immediately envision a frosty beverage adorned with a generous drizzle and perhaps some sprinkles or other toppings. However, not all Frappuccinos on the menu are quite so extravagant.

Take, for example, the Espresso Frappuccino and the regular Coffee Frappuccino. Both of these beverages feature a minimalist approach, with their bases consisting of Frappuccino roast coffee, ice, and ample blending time. Instead of being topped off with a generous dollop of whipped cream, they're presented with a cold foam lid rather than the typical dome top. They are, in essence, the "no frills" versions of the Frappuccino.

While the Espresso Frappuccino may appear very similar to the Coffee Frappuccino, it's worth noting that the addition of a single espresso shot causes the price to jump by a whole dollar. This price difference is even more noticeable when considering any additional syrups or whipped cream you might want to add. This added espresso shot can also impact the consistency of the Frappuccino. The result is a more expensive beverage with an altered, less enjoyable texture.

Coffee Frappuccino

While the Espresso Frappuccino has its own set of pricing quirks, the Coffee Frappuccino isn't entirely free from its odd pricing issues either. A basic Coffee Frappuccino, even without any added sprinkles, flavorings, drizzle, or whipped cream, will cost you $5.45. It's a relatively steep price for a simple, unadorned beverage that's basically a blended Iced Latte.

Now, let's consider the Caramel Frappuccino. This blended treat comes with whipped cream and caramel syrup included in the price. This sweet delight will cost you $5.65, just a mere 20 cents more than the base Coffee Frappuccino.

This pricing detail is significant. If you were to start with a Coffee Frappuccino and decide to add syrup, it would cost you an additional 80 cents. That means you'd be paying significantly more to customize a Coffee Frappuccino than you would for a Caramel Frappuccino, which already includes these extras in its base price.

Solo Espresso

Being a regular at Starbucks comes with its own perks. One of the best is the ability to play barista and tweak your favorite drinks to your heart's content. This customization, however, often comes with an additional cost. A prime example is the extra espresso shot, which typically sets you back a dollar.

However, if you were to order a solo espresso shot as its own drink, devoid of any additional flavorings, it would cost you $2.95. That's nearly triple the cost of adding an espresso shot to another drink. It's quite a revelation, especially considering the discrepancy between this standalone price and the charge for an added shot in another beverage. This vast price difference is notable, but it gets even weirder. If you were to order a Doppio, which is two espresso shots, that will cost you $3.35; three shots as a triple will cost only 10 cents more at $3.45; and a quad shot will cost $0.30 more at $3.75. At this rate, it's less than adding four shots to a drink.

Iced Matcha Tea Latte

Beyond its beloved coffee, Starbucks boasts many delightful teas. We quite like the Matcha offerings at Starbucks, and we actually prefer the price of the Matcha Crème Frappuccino over the Iced Matcha Tea Latte.

The Iced Matcha Tea Latte is a straightforward beverage consisting of matcha powder, milk, and ice. On the other hand, the Matcha Cream Frappuccino brings a little something extra to the table. Not only is it blended, but it also includes milk and additional sweetener. Plus, it's only 20 cents more than the iced latte.

Here's where it gets interesting. If you fancy a sweeter latte and decide to add a sweetener to the Iced Matcha Latte, you'll find yourself forking over an additional 80 cents. Suddenly, your customized Iced Matcha Tea Latte costs more than the Matcha Cream Frappuccino, which already includes the sweetener and offers the same amount of matcha.

Mango Dragonfruit Refreshers

When perusing Starbucks Refresher line, you might stumble upon some intriguing pricing peculiarities, particularly regarding drinks featuring the mango dragon fruit flavor. We adore the Mango Dragonfruit Refresher, but its cost becomes a bit perplexing when compared to other similar offerings.

The Dragon Drink, for instance, is essentially the same as the Mango Dragonfruit Refresher, with one key difference: Instead of mixing the refresher liquid with water, the barista adds coconut milk. The Dragon Drink is priced 50 cents more than the regular Mango Dragonfruit Refresher, which seems reasonable considering the addition of coconut milk.

However, if you decide to customize your regular Mango Dragonfruit Refresher by adding coconut milk yourself, the price of the drink increases by 70 cents, not just the 50 cents you'd pay for a Dragon Drink. This suggests that, despite appearances, the Mango Dragonfruit Refresher with added coconut milk is a less economical choice compared to the Dragon Drink.

Pineapple Passionfruit Refreshers

In June 2022, the Pineapple Passionfruit Refresher was introduced to Starbucks' lineup, joining the ranks of other delightful refresher beverages. While it's undeniably delicious and refreshing, it, unfortunately, falls into the same pricing quirk as the Mango Dragonfruit Refresher.

Starbucks offers a delightful spin-off of the Pineapple Passionfruit Refresher known as the Paradise Drink. Much like the Dragon Drink, it incorporates coconut milk but retains the core ingredients used in the Pineapple Passionfruit Refresher. However, the pricing anomaly relating to the addition of coconut milk applies here too.

If you're craving a bit of coconut milk in your Pineapple Passionfruit Refresher and decide to add it yourself, you'll encounter a similar cost increase as with the Mango Dragonfruit Refresher. But if you opt for the Paradise Drink, which already includes coconut milk, you'll find it more economical. We suppose the lesson might be that even if you want a slight upgrade to your drink, it isn't always best to order it as a change to the base drink but instead look for a drink that already has those inclusions on the menu.

Cold Brew with Cold Foam

Cold Brew and Cold Foam at Starbucks are a match made in heaven. But for those who prefer their cold brew unadorned, Starbucks also offers a straightforward cold brew option. With no added frills, this base drink is priced at $4.45.

While we're big fans of the standalone cold brew, we can't deny that the addition of cold foam brings an extra layer of indulgence. Yet, for those who want to personalize their beverage, adding cold foam as a customization will set you back an additional $1.25, bringing the pre-tax total of your drink to $5.70.

Here's where it gets a bit peculiar. The menu features cold brew options that already include cold foam and even various syrups within their base cost, and these drinks are priced at $5.25. This implies that customizing a basic cold brew is more expensive, even though you're replicating a drink that's already available on the menu for less.

Cold Brew with Milk

When customizing your cold brew at Starbucks, you might fancy a bit of milk added in. Thankfully, Starbucks offers this option, but the pricing can get a tad confusing. You're presented with two choices: a cold brew with milk or a cold brew with vanilla sweet cream. The former is a simple addition of milk, while the latter introduces a more decadent twist with vanilla sweet cream.

A Cold Brew with Milk is priced at $4.45, whereas the Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew will set you back $4.75. Here's where things get a bit tricky. If you decide to tweak the cold brew with milk by swapping the milk for vanilla sweet cream, the price shoots up by $1.25, landing you with a $5.75 bill even if you're asking for just a splash of cream. Meanwhile, the pre-designed Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew is only $4.75.

So, despite logic suggesting that the Cold Brew with Milk should cost the same as Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew, that's not necessarily the case once customization comes into play. If you're aiming for a cold brew with a touch of creamy indulgence, it's more cost-effective to order the Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew that's already on the menu. This way, you can savor the same delicious flavors without the extra cost.

Nitro Cold Brew

Starbucks' regular Cold Brew isn't the only cold coffee with some intriguing pricing dynamics. For example, if you're ordering a Nitro Cold Brew straight from the menu as a Vanilla Sweet Cream Nitro Cold Brew, you'll find that this drink with just the addition of sweet cream only costs you 50 cents more compared to a plain Nitro Cold Brew.

However, if you decide to order a Nitro Cold Brew and then customize it by adding Vanilla Sweet Cream, the price increase is a substantial $1.25, bringing your total to $6.50 instead of the $5.75 you'd pay for the pre-designed drink on the menu.

As with the Cold Brew with milk, the most cost-effective strategy here is to order the Vanilla Sweet Cream Nitro Cold Brew directly from the menu if that's what you're craving. And just like before, logic would suggest that a regular Nitro Cold Brew should be significantly cheaper, but that's just not happening here.

Horizon Organic Milk Box

While it may be tempting to indulge in the convenience of purchasing a box of milk for your youngster alongside your daily Starbucks order, we highly recommend taking a moment to explore alternative options because the Horizon Organic low-fat and the chocolate option milk box comes at a higher cost, amounting to approximately 30 cents per ounce. In contrast, cold milk from the Starbucks menu would only cost you 20 cents per ounce.

Not to mention, the advantages of selecting cold milk from Starbucks extend beyond price. By opting for this alternative, you gain the flexibility of selecting the exact type of milk that suits your preferences. Unlike pre-packaged milk boxes, which may offer limited choices, Starbucks provides a range of milk options to cater to our individual dietary requirements and preferences. Whether you prefer almond milk, oat, soy milk, or any other alternative, Starbucks can accommodate your needs.

Ethos Bottled Water

On hot days, it's undeniable that iced coffee is a delicious choice. To keep your body healthy, we recommend also grabbing a bit of water. In doing so, you may be tempted to purchase an Ethos bottle of water at Starbucks to complement your coffee order. However, we strongly encourage you to avoid this practice, as bottled water at Starbucks costs $2.45. Instead of getting the bottled stuff, you can order a venti iced water for free. Not only will you save money, but you'll also receive the same refreshing, purified iced water that baristas use for other iced beverages requiring water.

To ensure a smooth experience, be sure to order your iced water at the time of placing your order rather than at the point of pickup at the end of the bar. This allows the baristas to incorporate it into their workflow seamlessly. Delaying the order of your iced water can disrupt the baristas' process and can lead to a longer wait for other customers.

Iced Tea Lemonade

We love lemonade mixed with iced tea as much as the next person, but we have to wonder, is ordering an iced tea lemonade worth 100 extra reward stars? We consider this a worst-value drink at Starbucks because, unlike an iced tea which will only cost you 100 reward starts to redeem a free drink, an Iced Tea Lemonade in any flavor will cost you 200 rewards stars. This is the same price as any other crafted menu option on the menu.

What's more, unfortunately, you cannot customize a regular iced tea in the app to include lemonade. However, you can add a juice blend like apple or even peach. We recommend trying the apple juice option, as it adds a delicious twist to most of the iced teas available at Starbucks. For instance, adding apple juice to a passion tea creates a delightful, fruity sangria-like experience.

White Hot Chocolate

If you're craving a smooth, caffeine-free drink, Hot Chocolate is a fantastic choice. Starbucks has two options: regular and white. The difference between the two lies in the type of mocha sauce used. For the regular Hot Chocolate, baristas use the standard mocha sauce that's also used in a regular mocha latte. On the other hand, the White Hot Chocolate uses a white chocolate mocha sauce.

Interestingly, the White Hot Chocolate is priced nearly a dollar more than the regular. Fortunately, there's a trick to getting the same drink for less. Order a traditional Hot Chocolate through the Starbucks app, remove all mocha pumps, and replace them with white chocolate mocha sauce. You'll end up with a white hot chocolate that costs less than if you had ordered it directly. If you'd like to add a twist to your beverage, consider creating a tuxedo hot chocolate by keeping half of the mocha pumps as regular mocha and making the other half white mocha.

Caffe Latte

Navigating the Starbucks menu can often feel like navigating a maze of options. As you delve deeper, you may find that the Café Latte, a staple of the Starbucks menu, isn't necessarily the best value for your money. For a grande size, you're looking at a price tag of $5.25 for espresso and steamed milk, crowned with a dollop of foam. Any additional flavors you might wish to add, such as syrup, will set you back an extra 80 cents, bringing your total to $6.05.

Interestingly, a Caramel Macchiato, which includes vanilla syrup, espresso, steamed milk, a hint of foam, and a caramel drizzle, is priced at $5.75. This means that customizing a café latte would inherently make it more expensive than some of the unique drink offerings already available on the Starbucks menu. The takeaway here is to consider the entire menu before embarking on a journey of customizations. You might inadvertently end up spending more than necessary.