16 Starbucks Hacks You Need To Try

Starbucks is not your usual coffee franchise. This business giant has been a leader in the coffee industry for decades and shows no signs of slowing down. Savvy business decisions, great marketing strategies, and successful international expansion have proven that Starbucks is a great business model and a global trendsetter. Much more than that, Starbucks has built its brand on the idea of personal connection and community. In a highly competitive market, the green logo has become a ubiquitous symbol of consistency, quality, and stellar service.

Coffee is still at its core, but Starbucks also triumphed with tea-based beverages, signature low-calorie Refreshers, and creative blended drinks. All these options and the sheer size of the menu can sometimes be overwhelming and seem overly complicated, but Starbucks has a system that works, and, lucky for you, well-trained baristas are always at your service. If ordinary is not your style, and you feel like you're up for an exclusive Starbucks experience, we have compiled a list of essential hacks that every reputable Starbucks customer should know. Read through and use these ideas wisely to become an expert that will always get that ideal Starbucks drink.

1. Learn how to navigate the app

Despite being one of the largest coffee companies in the world — in 2021, it had more than 33,000 stores worldwide — Starbucks has never lost sight of its loyal fan base. It has continually worked on improving the overall customer experience. As the technology evolved, Starbucks followed. In 2009, the company introduced the first version of the app in the form of a mobile Starbucks Card that allowed customers to easily handle their expenses or find Starbucks stores in the area. After several upgrades and extensions, by 2018, the Starbucks app was the most popular payment app.

Michael Beausoleil at UX Design calls it the "gold standard" because of its top design, excellent user experience, and numerous benefits that you can get from it. The app has an easy-to-navigate menu that allows you to create and customize your order in no time. It works great in providing information about the local shops and their services and has a loyalty program that actually works. The great in-store experience might be why you fell in love with Starbucks, but the app's benefits will probably make you love it even more. So make sure to install it and use it to get even more from your favorite coffee brand.

2. Join the Rewards program

The Starbucks app has several features that can significantly improve your coffee experience. The loyalty program, appropriately named Rewards, is likely one of the most effective ways to get value from all the iced lattes you like to sip in the summer. The Rewards program is organized in a convenient star system that allows you to redeem your stars by modifying your order with any extra espresso shot or a splash of flavored syrup. You can also use them for free drinks, pastries, sandwiches, or Starbucks merchandise. It will also allow you to order your cup of Joe in advance so the store has it ready by the time you get there.

As if that wasn't good enough, the marketing geniuses at Starbucks also thought of the Rewards refill policy that will give you a free refill of brewed coffee or tea when using the Starbucks Card. But keep in mind that the refills are only possible during the same visit. Also, be ready for a free birthday treat, as all Rewards members can get a free Starbucks item on their birthday! There is rarely a loyalty program that gives more than the one at Starbucks, so if you are not a member, you are truly missing out on some great deals.

3. Tweak you icy drinks with light-ice hack

The numerous customize options at Starbucks can sometimes make your head spin, but it is worth remembering that simple tweaks can easily help you adjust the drinks to your taste. The light-ice hack is one of these. Not many people know about this neat twist, though Starbucks even shared on Twitter that any iced drink can be ordered with light ice.

As the light-ice hack gained momentum, it became a controversial order at Starbucks that obviously lacked standardization. Many customers thought of it as an excellent hack, as light ice meant that you would get more drink. However, as some baristas explained on Reddit, this seemingly smart plan might backfire, as the order would include more base liquid such as milk or coconut water, resulting in a watered-down beverage with little flavor.

It seems that the light-ice hack is perfectly legit if you don't ask for more liquid. As another Reddit thread revealed, some customers don't have time to immediately finish their drink, which tends to get watery and bland as the ice melts. If you are one of those or simply prefer the drink with less ice, feel free to use the light-ice hack, but avoid being the cheap, annoying customer who asks for more product.

4. Reduce the calories by ordering Skinny

Starbucks drinks are known for being decadent and indulgent calorie bombs. Often filled with flavored syrups, topped with a copious amount of whipped cream, and drizzled with sugary sauces, they are incredibly delicious, but the calorie count can sometimes be concerning. The good thing is you can easily customize your order by choosing the skinny option. Starbucks explained that most espresso-based beverages and blended Frappuccinos could be ordered skinny. This means that your favorite latte may come with non-fat milk, sans whipped cream, and sugar-free syrup if available at the store.

There are other options that can reduce the number of calories, such as choosing sweetener substitutes or ordering less syrup. The latter might be a great option as sometimes the sheer amount of syrup used in a standard drink can be shocking. For some icy options that are already low on calories, look into some of the drink suggestions that Starbucks shared on Twitter, including Shaken Espresso, Iced Tea, Lemonades, and Refreshers.

5. Get more flavor with no-water order in your Iced Tea

Starbucks is best known for its coffee-based products, but iced- and hot-tea drinks have long been important beverage sectors. As current numbers show, the tea market will likely continue to grow, and Starbucks being what it is, it will probably keep up with the trend. Starbucks shops offer different types of tea, tea-based drinks (both hot and cold), and bottled tea. If you can't find your drink of choice in the standard menu, Starbucks suggests ways to customize your tea, such as modifying the sweetness or adding milk or lemonade. However, there is one more tea hack that you might never have heard of.

Try the no-water order if you want more flavor from your Starbucks tea. As shared on Iced Tea Lover, the no-water order will give you plain, full-strength tea. It seems that the standard Starbucks practice is to brew double-strength tea and then cut it with water to get a slightly milder flavor. If you like your tea strong, try this hack next time you go for the cup of Chai Latte.

6. Replace your Iced Coffee with Nitro Cold Brew

Nitro Cold Brew is a revolutionary brewing technology that infuses nitrogen gas, which has no flavor or aroma, into Cold Brew. The result is a texturally superior chilled coffee that doesn't have to be mixed with ice. Starbucks started serving Nitro Cold Brew in Seattle and soon launched it across the country. Unsurprisingly, it quickly became one of the top-selling beverages. The technique is unique as the coffee is steeped in cold water and then pushed with nitrogen. It is extracted from the tap, and if poured correctly, it will have a unique creamy texture and a foamy head (via Starbucks).

If you order Nitro Cold Brew at a Starbucks store, you'll get it served in a glass. This allows you to see the cascading layers and the bubbles that provide a distinctive texture. The drink gets no ice as that would only break the structure and ruin the creamy texture. Nitro Cold Brew is also a great low-calorie option as it is unsweetened and has no added flavors. So if you want to enjoy real and honest coffee that comes in the chilled form, choose the Nitro Cold Brew and appreciate its complexity, creaminess, and great flavor.

7. Freeze your Starbucks bottled Frappuccino

The Frappuccino's story is one for the books. It was inspired by coffee-based blended drinks sold in Los Angeles coffee shops in the early 1990s. Starbucks managers worked to create a similar and somewhat superior drink, and out of that came the Frappuccino. It was launched in 1995 across the U.S. and Canada, starting a long and flourishing Frappuccino craze. The sales were much better than expected, and the company soon released a bottled Frappuccino that is sold in Starbucks stores and supermarkets. Though these bottled versions are practical, it always seemed like something was missing. TikTok might've figured it out.

According to a viral TikTok video, your bottled Starbucks Frappuccino should be frozen! As the video shows, you need to put the bottle inside the freezer and leave it there for a couple hours (please don't forget about it, as glass packaging might explode as the liquid expands). Don't worry if it seems as if nothing has happened; lightly shake it and pour yourself a glass of thick, creamy, slushie-like Starbucks Frappuccino that resembles the one at the store.

8. Use the refill policy at Starbucks stores

Starbucks loves loyal customers, and it's no surprise that it has a loyalty program that is praised for its awards and convenient use. Apart from the standard benefits of getting free drinks and making online orders, Starbucks is unique for one more special feature included in the Rewards loyalty program -– offering free refills to its members!

Although the policy is not secret, even some loyal customers aren't aware of this option. As explained by Starbucks, you can get a free coffee or tea refill if you have a registered Starbucks account. The catch is you have to take the refill during the same visit to the store. Please abandon the idea of taking advantage of the policy by ordering some over-the-top combination, as the refill policy includes only coffee and tea. Despite some limitations, getting free refills, regardless of what you originally ordered, is quite a generous deal, so make sure to use it wisely whenever you get the chance.

9. Order from the secret menu

Secret menus are common in fast food restaurants and typically include several dishes you can order off the standard list of offerings. Though the information age has slightly changed the idea of keeping anything secret for long, ordering something not listed on the menu will make customers feel special and appreciated. Despite being a coffee company, Starbucks also has several items reserved for true enthusiasts.

There are supposedly more than 80,000 drinks you can order at Starbucks by customizing them, but if you feel you're up for something more exclusive, we've got you covered. Starbucks has an additional list of secret menu items you can order at your local shop. Get into Halloween spirit by ordering these spooky secret specials, or choose one of the colorful secret refreshers. Ordering from the secret menu is a great option, but make sure you know the order and the recipe as the secret menu is not official. It is (more or less) a specific customization of an existing drink that someone has shared, so baristas may not be familiar with all the items (via Hack the Menu).

10. Bring your cup and save money

Although it is slightly strange to label a coffee cup as legendary, the word seems fitting when it comes to the iconic Starbucks cups adorned only with the minimalistic green logo. These cups have transcended their original use and have come to represent a lifestyle and, in some places, even a status symbol. However, classic paper and plastic cups may become a thing of the past, as the company launched a campaign in March 2022 to introduce reusable Starbucks cups. If your local Starbucks store hasn't yet switched to the new cup, there is a way you can help the environment and save money while sipping on your favorite latte: Bring your own reusable cup!

As a member of the Rewards loyalty program, you have the benefit of bringing your own cup in which the barista will whip up your order. In this way, not only are you reducing waste and doing your part in saving the planet, but Starbucks will also reward you with 25 stars for each transaction and reduce the price of your order by 10 cents. So remember to take your favorite reusable cup with you on your next trip to Starbucks. Use this hack to capitalize on being environmentally conscious and feeling good about yourself.

11. Check the local specials

Starbucks is a coffee giant with more than 32,000 stores operating in 80 countries. A considerable part of its success has been attributed to customer service, and the management has often promoted the idea that Starbucks shops aren't just coffee bars but places designed for local communities. Despite the company's current size, the original principles haven't changed. Starbucks has successfully adapted to local customs, primarily by adjusting its menu to suit the tastes of a particular locale, both in the beverage and food departments. This includes standard menu items such as Filter Coffee and Masala Chai in India, which are popular there, as well as seasonal specials for summer or for winter.

Next time you're out and about and see a local Starbucks, try to avoid the urge to go for your classic order. Instead, step out of that cozy comfort zone and take a peek to discover some local flavors. As Starbucks never fails to deliver, you will get quality with the side of creativity, all powered by authentic, traditional flavors.

12. Get your dog a free Starbucks treat

If you're a dog owner, this hack is right up your alley. Although Starbucks doesn't allow pets inside the stores, you can get a dog treat if you take your pet on your daily coffee run. According to Bark Post, if you order an off-the-menu Puppuccino, a barista will give you a small espresso cup filled with whipped cream. Although it is a dairy product, such a small amount shouldn't be harmful to most dogs, but if you want to be sure, you can check with your vet. Puppuccino is a complimentary order and is completely free.

It should be noted that though the company policy does not allow pets inside Starbucks stores, this doesn't include the outside sitting area, so if there are tables outside, enjoy your Starbucks drink while your dog indulges in the creamy Puppuccino. Also, Starbucks has clearly defined the dog-friendly policy when it comes to service dogs.

13. Add an extra frapp shot in your Frappuccino

This Frappuccino hack might become your go-to order at Starbucks as it gives you extra caffeine for free! According to a Reddit thread, many people mistakenly believe that a Starbucks Frappuccino is made with espresso. As the author explains, customers sometimes ask for extra espresso shots in their Frapps, but most don't know that the base for all Frappuccinos is a special frap roast designed for these coffee-based blends. Adding regular espresso might ruin the original taste.

Instead, the author suggests asking for more frapp shots. This will not affect the flavor, and you will get more caffeine in your drink. One user explained that the order would be slightly stronger, but taste-wise, it will resemble the original Frappuccino flavor. Though the comment section includes some baristas who disagree with the idea, others think this is the best solution for an added caffeine kick.

14. Don't forget the foam trick

If you are a loyal customer, you're probably familiar with the VSCCF abbreviation, but if this is the first time you see this, you are definitely missing out. The VSCCF shorthand stands for Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Foam, an elevated version of Starbucks Cold Foam made with non-fat milk. As one barista explained on Reddit, VSCCF is made with whipped vanilla sweet cream. The frothy, meringue-like blend is then used to top the iced drinks, but as it seems, it can also be tweaked on request.

Apparently, you can modify your VSCCF by blending it with fruit. Several baristas discussed this hack on Reddit, and unsurprisingly, it caused a lot of criticisms, with one comment blatantly calling it a "sin." Despite disgruntled baristas, the hack exists, and it's there for you to use if you feel your feathery foam needs just a little bit of something extra.

15. Become friends with the employees at your local Starbucks

Last but not least, and perhaps the most important hack on the list, is to become friends with your local barista. According to an article on LinkedIn, Starbucks is one of the rare, big businesses where you can still get that personal touch. If you're a regular, the staff most likely knows your name, and you will feel comfortable sharing a joke or chit-chatting about your day, the weather, or the miserable results of the last night's game. Customer service at Starbucks is first-class, and you should take advantage of the effort the management makes to make you feel happy and welcomed.

This relationship can bring you more than you expected. If Starbucks is your first stop, a smile and cheer from the barista can set up the tone for the rest of your day. It will also give you an upper hand when customizing your order, and you might even get an added espresso shot or a complimentary splash of your favorite syrup. Never underestimate the power of human connection, always smile at the barista, and never, for the sake of your coffee, try to rush them by saying you are late for work!

16. Try the Disneyland Dole Whip Starbucks Drink Hack

You love Dole Whip when you go to Disneyland and when it shows up at the fair, but did you know there's a secret menu hack for getting a Dole Whip at Starbucks? Interestingly enough, it's not that difficult to accomplish as long as Starbucks has pineapple-flavored drinks on the menu.

When fans of Dole Whips discovered Starbucks' Refreshers menu in the summer of 2022, they decided to do a little experimenting. According to TikTokker @kortneyandkarlee, it turns out that all you have to do is ask for the barista to blend your Pineapple Passionfruit Refresher drink Frappuccino-style instead of serving it over ice as usual. Then, ask for a vanilla sweet cream foam topping. Some commenters suggest asking for vanilla bean powder in it as well. You can also experiment by asking for a Paradise Drink Refresher instead or even asking for a scoop of freeze-dried pineapple powder. The second hack for getting a Dole Whip at Starbucks comes from @LaurenGodwin on TikTok. You start off asking for a Vanilla Bean Frappuccino. Then, you ask the barista to substitute sweet cream for milk and add a scoop of pineapple.

None of these hacks is a perfect substitution for Dole Whips. Starting with the Refresher makes the drink have a slight passionfruit flavor, and Godwin says the Frappuccino version reminds her of a piña colada. However, they're fairly close and a good option if you don't want to try making your own Dole Whip at home.