Former employees reveal the best and worst things to get at Starbucks

Some drink sizes aren’t worth the price tag. Shutterstock
  • Insider asked former Starbucks employees about the best and worst items on the menu.
  • The chain’s banana-nut bread tastes homemade if you ask for it warmed, one former barista said.
  • Some former employees told Insider that you should skip the tall drinks and hot chocolate if you’re looking for a great deal.
  • They also suggested ordering vanilla lattes with blonde espresso.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Starbucks is the biggest coffeehouse chain in the world, but not everything on its menu is created equally.

Here’s what’s really worth ordering and which items you may want to avoid, according to former Starbucks employees.

If you want a lot of caffeine, order a regular brewed coffee instead of an espresso shot.

Drip coffee is often stronger than an espresso-based drink like a latte or cappuccino. Michael Probst/AP

“Most people make the mistake of paying more for shots of espresso in hopes of getting a big caffeine kick,” Trang Pham told Insider, adding that a cup of regular coffee contains much more caffeine.

According to Starbucks’ beverage information, one shot of espresso contains about 75 milligrams of caffeine, but a small Pike Place medium roast contains 235 milligrams of caffeine.

The banana-nut bread is best when it’s served warm.

You can ask for any pastry to be warmed before it’s served to you. Brittany N/Yelp

The pastries and desserts at Starbucks all pair well with coffee, but Adrienne Powers, a former barista, told Insider said her favourite snack is the banana-nut bread.

“The key to ordering a good pastry at Starbucks is to always ask for it warmed,” Powers said. “The banana-nut bread tastes homemade when it is heated through.”

Blonde espresso works perfectly in a vanilla latte or cappuccino.

You may want to try adding blonde espresso to your next drink order. Jerianne G./Yelp

Starbucks’ blonde espresso is a lighter take on its classic roast, and Powers said it pairs very well with vanilla-flavored drinks.

“There’s just something about the less intense flavour of the blonde roast that really makes vanilla-based drinks sing,” Powers said. “I love to have mine in a vanilla latte with an extra pump of syrup.”

Brewed hot or iced coffee is a great deal if you have the Starbucks app or card.

People with a Starbucks card or the mobile app can qualify for some free refills. Jack M./Yelp

Powers told Insider that the chain’s hot or iced brewed coffee is actually a great value if you have the Starbucks card or the mobile app.

“The beans are actually pretty high-quality, and if you take advantage of the free refills, you might even save money compared to lower-cost coffee shops,” Powers said.

To qualify for free refills, you must use a registered Starbucks card or the company’s app to buy your drink. Only select beverages (hot or iced coffee, cold-brew coffee, and hot or iced tea) qualify.

Hot tea is an affordable option if you’re sitting in.

If you’re staying in, you can opt to have your tea served in a mug. TripAdvisor

Powers told Insider that the chain’s hot tea is also worth trying.

“Our hot tea usually comes in a large mug that gives you plenty to sip on, and hot tea qualifies for free refills if you don’t take it to go. Plus, it’s high-quality,” Powers said.

Since Starbucks doesn’t give free refills for any drinks taken out of the store, sticking around for a free top-up also means you’re getting more for your money.

Instead of ordering two or three small coffees, get a large one and divvy it up.

You can split a large coffee into reusable cups. Reuben L./Yelp

If you’re looking for the ultimate way to make every penny count at Starbucks, Becky Beach, a blogger and former barista, suggested splitting one large coffee into smaller portions.

“The best deal at Starbucks is to purchase a venti coffee of any type and then ask for two or three tall-size glasses,” Beach said. “You can then pour it into the glasses so that everyone gets a small coffee that’s a lot cheaper than buying them separately.”

To be a bit more eco-conscious, have each member of your group bring their own reusable cup.

The hot chocolate may not be worth the money.

Of course, it’s all down to personal preference. Shutterstock

Pham told Insider that ordering a hot chocolate at Starbucks is a waste of money.

“You’re paying $US4 or more for a cup of milk and some chocolate sauce, which is the same sauce we use to make mochas,” Pham said.

Instead, you may want to try ordering a sweet specialty drink with more ingredients, like a Frappuccino, or even a cake pop.

Tall beverages aren’t always a great value either.

Unless you really want a small drink, you might be better off spending a little bit extra. Debora C./Yelp

Buying a small drink at Starbucks may help you save money in the short term, but if you find yourself going back for seconds, bumping up your cup size may be more economical in the long run.

“Everyone should skip buying a tall size, because the grande and venti sizes are a better value,” Beach said.

A tall beverage is 12 ounces, whereas a grande drink is 16 ounces and a venti drink is 24 ounces for cold drinks and 20 ounces for hot.

For just a few cents more, you can dramatically increase the amount of coffee or tea you get.

Skip the sandwiches if you’re looking for something fresh.

If you want a fresh sandwich, you might want to try a restaurant that specialises in them. Dhannah O./Yelp

The coffeehouse chain offers a selection of sandwiches and wraps, but Beach said they aren’t made in-house.

“The sandwiches at Starbucks aren’t made from scratch at Starbucks,” Beach said. “They’re actually shipped from an outside source.”

This may not be too surprising, since Starbucks’ specialty is coffee – but if you’re looking for a fresh sandwich, you may want to visit a chain that specialises in them.