Hacks from a Starbucks Barista :)

Hello my dears! This morning I’ve got a post about a few Starbucks “hacks” for you from an anonymous barista :)

Hello Lemon’s Lovelies!

Now, I know as a rule frugal people don’t buy Starbucks drinks. But say you’re in a hurry and you need a caffeine fix, or you’re a tea junkie like me and couldn’t wait for your kettle to boil some water before your class/work/whatever. Or maybe your with some friends who all want to go to Starbucks (Because, say what you will about Starbucks, but if you want a place to hang out with your friends other than your house, Starbucks is much cheaper than a restaurant or bar), how can you save money?

I’ve worked at Starbucks a long time now, and there’s a few tips and tricks you can do to hack the system :)

Brewed coffee is cheap enough. Ask for a pour over of their bold coffee for a fresher cup. It takes a few minuets, but it’s fresher and costs the same amount. Also, if you and several of your friends all want coffee, ask for a French Press. It’s around 4 dollars and is approximately 45 oz of fresh, hot, French pressed coffee. And you can pick whichever blend you’d like.

If you want espresso, avoid the options already on the menu board. Americanos cost just a little more than a cup of brewed coffee, but packs more of a caffeine punch because it’s espresso and hot water. It tastes like coffee and you can sweeten it just like you would your normal cup of coffee. More bang for your buck. If you want an extra shot, don’t ask for one. Ask for a “grande Americano in a tall cup”. That way, they charge you an extra 30 cents, instead of an extra 70 cents for the shot of espresso. This works because Grande Americanos get three shots. Same would work for a Venti. My manager tells all his partners to do this by default, whether the customer asks for it that way or not, but other stores may not be so nice.

If you like iced drinks, asking for a triple espresso in a Venti cup over ice, and then filling it with milk after the fact at the condiment bar is a great way to get an iced latte for about 2 dollars. Even adding a flavor (which is 40 cents extra) still saves you about 50%. Unfortunately, there’s no real way to do this with hot lattes, as you need a barista to steam the milk for you.

If you and a friend are out and want a Frappuccino, ask for a Venti split into two tall cups. Iced venti cups are 24 oz. Tall are 12. Viola. Two talls would cost you about 6 bucks, a venti, 4.

Gold Card status..have you got it?

If you are secretly a Starbucks junkie, there’s a loyalty program Starbucks came out with. You get a Starbucks gift card (not a credit card), register it online and pay with your card each time. (you can also pay with your iPhone via the Starbucks app!), reloading it as you go (online or in the app!). You get a free drink (Any kind of drink, not matter how expensive) every 10 transactions or so. You get a free tall coffee with each purchase of a 1lb of coffee and a free tall drink of your choice for each 2lbs. You also get a free drink on your birthday. If you have one of these, and are getting drinks for multiple people, ring up each drink separately. You also get free in-store refills once you reach the green or gold status :)

If you buy Starbucks coffee in a grocery store, it will come with a coupon for a free tall cup of coffee. In actuality, the ring code works for any size. In addition to that, if you want a more expensive drink, we can take the price of a tall coffee off for you from the original price. Also, talk about how you’re now out of coffee. The barista will most likely offer you a pound of our coffee for the same price as the grocery store coffee (The grocery store coffee is a smaller bag and is around 7 dollars, the bags in retail stores are 1lb and cost about 9 or 10). They can also grind it custom for you. As a side note, you can get any of our coffees weighed out. You can buy a full 1lb, a 1/2lb and a 1/4lb.

Make friends with a barista! (Lemon has this one down!) 

They will most likely hook you up with free drinks a lot. Further more, if you get to be really good friends, Starbucks baristas get a weekly coffee/tea/VIA markout. My boyfriend’s parents and my parents never have to buy coffee because I get it for free. Furthermore, we get partner shopping days around the holidays, 40% off everything. Starbucks is a great place to get presents for those people you don’t know very well (distant co-workers, secret santas, teachers, etc) and you can save a lot of money by asking a barista you know to buy it for you.

You get 10 cents off your drink if you bring in your own cup/use one of ours :) 

Let me just say, that a lot of people don’t understand why Starbucks drinks are so expensive. We hand-make everything. Well, not everything, but most of it. We make our own whipped cream, the Frappuccinos are hand made with real coffee and milk, teas are full leaf, the mocha is made fresh everyday and the Chai concentrate is all natural. You can get whatever drink you can possibly think of. Our pasteries are now made without HFCS, artificial colors, or preservatives. Our coffees are sourced ethically (Bucks pays a higher price for raw coffee than say, Folgers or DD and all of the espresso and brewed coffee in European stores are certified Fair Trade), and, further more, they treat their employees well. That’s not say we get paid well or that there isn’t bullshit politics, but every barista, part time or full, is given cheap health coverage, 401k, stock options, savings plans, tuition reimbursement, etc, etc. Last year each partner was given a stock grant, and this year we’re each getting a bonus and generous matches on our 401ks because of Starbucks’ success in pulling out of the recession pretty damn well. Furthermore, baristas are specially trained and certified. Yes, not all of them are worth a shit, but we’re not simply counter-help. We learn how to properly froth milk, how to discern different flavor notes in a coffee, etc. Ask someone at DD what the difference between a coffee grown in Latin America as opposed to Indonesia, and they’ll look at you like you have two heads.

A good way to tell if a store is good or not is through two ways:

  • Drive Thru ~ Many drive thru stores are not as good as a cafe-only store, but say that a drive-thru store also has…
  • Newer espresso machines. The older ones have the separate hoppers for the decaf and espresso beans and have two metal steam wands. The newer ones have a retro look to them, with pink enamel on the back and a flying-saucer looking hopper on top. The stores with these machines make more money, and therefore probably have better management/better staff. Also, the espresso is better from these machines, as the shots are timed with each pour, so the barista can better maintain the quality of the pour. The old machines had to be timed and calibrated every four hours or so, and, a lot of times, that just doesn’t get done. However, unlike the new machines, the old machines can only pour two shots at a time. That means if you get a Grande Americano with three shots, will have a fourth one going down the drain, unless you ask the barista nicely if they could throw it in for you. Sometimes, if you’re friendly from the get go, the barista will just do it anyways. And viola! Free shot.

A little warning….

Not that I would believe any of you to be guilty of this, but if you’re ****** to a barista, you’re possibility of them ‘accidentally’ giving you decaf just went up about 70%. By the same token, complimenting the barista on bar on the quality of your drink will pretty much be the highlight of their day. I can say from experience, a man once said to me “You’re so smart [sip] and you make a damn good cappuccino,” the cappuccino part was the one that stayed with me.

Finally, if you come in and ask for a cup of coffee and see that the little red light on the brewer is blinking, ask politely for a fresher batch or just go with a pour over. The red light starts blinking after an hour. At my store, we’re pretty strict about the 30 minute time limit on our coffees, but other stores aren’t.

Hope this helps you save a bit!

Happy coffee drinking!



From one Starbucks junkie to another ;)
One Venti Sipping Lemon
Lemon’s Starbucks Hack :) Order a half and half refresher! The perfect blend of cool lime and berry :)

Published by Kat Barnette

Welcome to my blog! The place where my brain settles into it's comfy couch to unload some of it's creativity :)

6 thoughts on “Hacks from a Starbucks Barista :)

  1. I love the Starbucks education :) Everyone loves getting Starbucks coffee as a gift, one of my favorite go to’s when I need something.


  2. Great post however , I was wondering if you could write
    a litte more on this subject? I’d be very thankful if you could
    elaborate a little bit further. Kudos!


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