Everything You Need to Know About Starbucks Coffee Sizes

Your cut-and-dry guide to understanding Starbucks’ cup sizes, each cup’s caffeine content, and everything in between.

Tall Starbucks to go cup on wooden table
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Starbucks may be going strong on a half-century legacy, but customers aren't any less likely to be perplexed while looking at the menu. The most obvious reason being that Starbucks' beverage size offerings are not the traditional "small/medium/large" many of us have come to expect; instead, they come with names pulled from multiple languages. Add to that a plethora of flavor combos, drink terms, and different specs for a hot versus cold drink and you have a recipe for caffeinated confusion.

So, if you've ever found yourself with a furrowed brow in the Starbucks line wondering, "what's closest to a medium?," use this handy breakdown to help you make the most of your next ordering experience.

Starbucks coffee sign hanging outside a shop
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What's in a Name?

Though founded in 1971, Starbucks went through some major changes after Howard Schultz, a New Yorker who fell victim to "love at first sip," got involved with the company and traveled to Italy in 1983. His admiration for the baristas and language of coffee in Milan flowed into his vision for his new American coffee shop. Soon, terms such as macchiato, latte, and grande were added to the menu, and the now iconic green aprons became the signature uniform of Starbucks baristas.

Understanding Capacity and Caffeine

There are a few factors that go into how many shots of espresso are in a Starbucks coffee drink, most notably whether the drink is hot or cold, and whether it's made with milk or without. This guide should bring some clarity, however there are some exceptions to the following rules.

For example, Flat White lattes are made with a special shot of espresso called a ristretto, or "short shot." It's the same amount of ground coffee, but a finer grind extracted with half as much water, yielding a highly concentrated espresso. The extra space afforded from less liquid means Flat Whites will always contain an additional shot compared to a traditional latte.

Another exception to the standards listed below is the popular Frappuccino: They contain a single shot of espresso, no matter what size you order.

Starbucks Sizes

Starbucks Vente,Grande and Tall.
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Demi

The one and only thing served in this quaint 3-ounce cup is an espresso shot — a single or a double, one or two ounces respectively. "Demi" comes from the French word demitasse, meaning half-cup (as the petite cup the term refers to has a capacity that is about half a standard coffee or tea cup), but its roots also reveal its use in Italy as early as 1906.

Short

It may come as a surprise, but "Tall" isn't the smallest of the cup options at Starbucks, it's the "Short." Reserved for hot drinks only, such as standard brewed coffee, the Short comes in at a scant 8 ounces, and doesn't quite fit into the small/medium/large scheme. Espresso drinks ordered in this cup size contain just one shot of espresso, regardless of whether they're made with milk (like a latte or cappuccino) or water (like an Americano).

Tall

A "Tall" beverage is the second smallest at 12 ounces, but the closest to a standard "small." Both hot and cold Starbucks drinks are available in a Tall cup size, but the espresso amount varies between the two. Drinks made with milk have one espresso shot, while Americanos and shaken espressos in this size contain two shots.

Grande

Grande is Italian for "large," but at 16 ounces, the "grande" cup at Starbucks is the loose equivalent of a medium-size coffee. Customers can order hot or cold beverages in this size. Grande Strabucks beverages will contain two shots of espresso, but like the Tall, an Americano or shaken espresso will have one extra — in this case, three shots total. Talk about a boost.

Venti

Here's where we veer off course a little further because a "Venti" size at Starbucks means 20 ounces for hot drinks and 24 for cold. ("Venti" means "20" in Italian.) The Venti is equivalent to a large in "standard" sizing. Fair warning: Venti cups can prove a bit cumbersome due to their height. Nabbing a Venti has the air of seriousness around your coffee consumption – it's about to be one of those days and you want to be prepared.

Hot drinks in a Venti will have the same amount of espresso as a Grande - two shots. The extra space is simply taken up by milk and syrup, in most cases. But that Americano? It packs a wallop with four shots of espresso.

Also keep in mind that any cold Venti drink comes in a vessel that allows for four extra ounces, so these drinks do include extra espresso compared to their warm counterparts – one extra shot to be exact. This means three shots of espresso for milky drinks and an additional one for shaken espresso.

Trenta

The "Trenta" is the largest of all Starbucks sizes. This cup of near obscene proportions weighs in at 31 fluid ounces and is only available for cold drinks. (For good reason, too – can you imagine a hot drink still being remotely warm by the time you finish a Trenta?) Translating to "30" in Italian, this size caused quite the stir back in 2011 when it was reported that 31 ounces is, in fact, a larger volume than most human stomachs. For those who opt for a Trenta-size latte, may the odds be ever in your favor.

When in Doubt...

Regardless of your size or caffeine preferences, a great rule of thumb at Starbucks is: When in doubt, ask your barista! "Barista" is also an Italian word – for a person who serves alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. While there may not be any alcohol at Starbucks, there's no shortage of drink combos and the green-aproned professionals serving them up most definitely know a thing or two about navigating the menu.

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