Baristas reveal secret Starbucks menu hacks -- and how to to save money

StarbucksGetty Images/Zhang PengGet your fix for less.

Thanks to substitutions, endless flavours and add-ons, and secret menus and combos, pretty much any drink at Starbucks is fully customisable.

The only downside to these bespoke beverages is that often they end up costing more.

Luckily, we found a Quora thread in which Starbucks baristas and loyal customers share their tips and tricks on how to conquer the menu without breaking the bank.

From how to order a Captain Crunch frappucino to how to get freebies regularly, here are the best takeaways.

Max out on flavour

“Iced Teas are double-strength in pitcher and watered down for your final recipe. Ask for ‘no water’ for a much stronger (and, in my opinion, more effective) flavour,” wrote Josh Whittington, a former Starbucks barista.

Whittington also suggested, “Chai Lattes (hot) are made with hot water to even out the flavour. If you enjoy cinnamon/chai flavours, ask for a Chai Latte with no water. For even better flavour, ask for soy.”

To get the most out of your coffee, Ibai Garcia says to order your beverage at kid’s temperature. “By doing so they will serve you a drink at 135 degrees, which is way more pleasant to drink, and get the full flavour of the coffee,” he said.

Self-described coffee fanatic Ryan Stenson says the best-tasting coffee at Starbucks is a short cappuccino. “It’s the closest they come to making a regular double-shot cappuccino that you’d get at a top-tier (Blue Bottle, Stumptown, Four Barrell, etc.) coffee shop.”

“Order Grande not Venti,” wrote Jim Humphries. “If, like me, you’re in it for the caffeine, don’t bother with Venti, as both Grande and Venti contain 2 espresso shots.”

If you have a few minutes to spare, follow Stephen Carlson‘s advice and ask for a pour over. This way, you’re guaranteed freshly-brewed coffee every time.

Secret drinks worth trying

Doppio Macchiatto — “Soy, extra foam, ristretto (two shots of espresso over a thick bed of soy foam, no liquid. Ristretto means the shots are pulled short, adding an extra complexity to the flavour).” – Josh Whittington

Dirty Oprah —“To impress someone or get a chuckle, order a “Dirty Oprah,” which is basically a dirty (shot of espresso) Oprah chai. Ask for no water because they usually dilute it with water.” – Ricky Yean

Captain Crunch —Strawberries and Cream frappe with some vanilla bean powder and a pump of mocha. – Hamza Alsbaihi

Raspberry Cheesecake —White Chocolate Mocha (iced, hot, or as a frappe), then add a few pumps of raspberry. – Hamza Alsbaihi

Oreo Frappuccino — A double Chocolate Chip frappe with white mocha syrup instead of regular mocha. – Hamza Alsbaihi

The Nutella —Cafe Misto with a pump of chocolate, a pump of hazelnut, and caramel drizzle. – Hamza Alsbaihi

How to save some cash

The Starbucks rewards program is meant to save you some money for frequent spending at the coffee shop. Longtime members like Tracy Chou know how to hack the system to save even more cash. “I use a registered Starbucks card so all my customisations (flavour shots, soy substitutions) are free,” she wrote.

“When making purchases, ask the cashier to ring up each purchase individually,” advises Brandi Clevinger. Because each order gives you one star on your card, divvying up your order will fast-track you to your next free item.

Low-calorie alternatives

“My favourite substitute for any of the fall/winter latte flavours (which are both expensive and high in calories): a grande skim misto with 1 to 2 pumps of the flavour of your choice (hazelnut and peppermint are my favourites),” said Lauren Lachs.

According to Lachs, a regular peppermint mocha with nonfat milk comes to around 370 calories. By ordering her drink combo, you get the same flavour at 110 calories.

For a low-carb and sugar-free option, Kelly Dassow suggests ordering an iced coffee with heavy cream. “They have it in the back and they will get it for you if you ask.”

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