Starbucks can be an expensive addiction, but for those of us who’ve already dipped our toes into the blonde espresso pool — there’s no turning back. The chain’s loyalty program is cool, because after you acquire 125 points (you earn 2 for every $1 spent), you get a free reward. But what if I told you that you don’t need to spend $62.50 to cut down your coffee cost?
Kelsey Kotzur, an account associate at Haddad Brands in New York City, gets a venti vanilla latte every morning. During colder months, the milk-to-espresso ratio for hot lattes is picture perfect, but when spring and summer roll around, Kotzur says her iced lattes are overpowered by dairy.
“I get that the point of a latte is to pair espresso with milk, but not when it’s a 90/10 split of milk to espresso,” the 24-year-old told The Daily Meal. So, she asked several Starbucks baristas for help. One worker suggested asking for extra ice and another told her to ask the cashier to fill the milk to the second line on a venti cup. Normally, dairy is filled to the third line for that size.
Kotzur says these solutions only worked the way she envisioned them to about 10 percent of the time. On every other occasion, her morning coffee had to be choked down or it ended up in the trash.
“I have spent so much money on these drinks to just not enjoy them or throw them out completely,” the Brooklynite said. Venti iced lattes are $5.93 each, which can be deadly to your wallet if they’re purchased every workday.
After complaining to her boyfriend, Jared Masinton, about these frustrations, he suggested this simple solution: Order an iced triple espresso with six pumps of vanilla syrup in a venti cup, and just put in your own milk. Iced drinks don’t use steamed milk because that kind of defeats the purpose, so pouring in your own or requesting a side from the barista just skips the middle man. Whole, skim, and non-dairy options are usually available by the sugars and napkins, anyway.
This semi-DIY iced latte has the same ingredients as a regular one and only costs $3.43. So if you buy a regular flavored latte every weekday, this hack will save you $12.50 a week. That’s enough for at least three more coffees! Plus, you’ll get the drink you truly wanted and will be able to sip it until the very last drop.
Of course, this experiment was done in the Big Apple, where sales tax is nearly 9 percent, but the price difference shouldn’t vary much nationwide. The common person’s luxury coffee just became more affordable, folks. For more ways to hack Starbucks beverages, here are the chain’s super-secret menu items and how to order them like a pro.
Updated May 1 at 2:05 p.m. ET:
After publishing this article, Alice Nelson — who works at a Crows Coffee in Kansas City, Missouri — reached out to The Daily Meal with a notable counterpoint to this Starbucks hack. The small-business barista says that by adding more than a splash of milk or half-and-half to espresso shots, you might actually be costing the shop.
"The cost of that milk or half and half is figured into the over all cost of drinks yes, but for adding an ounce or two, when you are adding 8-10 even 20 for a large cup ounces of milk to your shots you are STEALING!" Nelson told The Daily Meal. "Starbucks may be able to afford such a theft, but every time another article of this nature pops up, we at the small local shops brace ourselves for the inevitable onslaught of those trying to save money. This inevitably raises the price for everyone else when shops start going through more milk than usual."
Nelson also opined that this method compromises the taste of your coffee.
"If you don't like the ice to espresso ratio, get a smaller size and/or ask for more shots," she said. "This should be posted under the heading, 'Things to do to make your barista hate you.'"