The untold truth of Starbucks Frappuccinos

Ah, Starbucks. The coffee giant that seems to take up space on every street corner you see. And while you may love the company or possibly hate it, chances are you've sipped on a Frappuccino at some point in your life — one of their main claims to fame.

Starbucks launched in Seattle, Washington in 1971, but it took a while for the company to become the behemoth it is today, and some might say part of that success is all thanks to the Frappuccino. Before the blended beverage's launch, Starbucks had 425 stores. That number jumped to 1,015 just a year after the official launch of the Frappuccino. And from then on, the world was changed. 

Sure, you've seen those classic domed lids and green straws — or perhaps you drink one or two a week — but what exactly is in this blended beverage? And what else should you know about it? Well, we decided to take a look. Grab your Grande Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino and take a seat. This is the untold truth of Starbucks Frappuccinos. 

Starbucks Frappuccinos have been around a while

While Starbucks has continued to come out with new, interesting Frappuccinos over the years, like the ridiculously popular Unicorn Frappuccino or the spooky Phantom Frappuccino, they've actually been around a lot longer than you may think. 

The concept of the Frappuccino was first born during a very hot California summer, in 1993. A few managers in an L.A. store wanted to try something like the blended coffee drinks they were seeing at small local coffee shops, so they asked Starbucks headquarters for permission, and a blender was shipped to their store to begin development trials. 

After plenty of research and feedback, Starbucks launched their full-fledged Frappuccino program in 1995, but the OG Fraps were nothing near what you can get at Starbucks stores today. According to Starbucks, the first two flavors were coffee and mocha, and they were made using Italian Roast coffee brewed at double strength — they didn't even have whipped cream! They've sure come a long way in the last 25 years.

Starbucks Frappuccinos start with a special base

As it turns out, one of the first ingredients in the list for a Frappuccino is Starbucks' signature Frappuccino Syrup, which boasts its main ingredient as none other than sweet, sweet sugar. Each of the types of Frappuccinos, whether it's a coffee-based drink or a creme-based drink, include Frappuccino Syrup as part of the base, giving it the sweetness and texture of a Starbucks Frappuccino we all know and love.

According to a Starbucks employee on Quora, the sugar base essentially acts like a glue to keep everything else in the drink from separating. Another Starbucks employee says they use a mixture of sugar, water, and color to make the syrup, basically creating something similar to the simple syrup used in cocktails. 

According to one barista, the Frappuccino Syrup for coffee-based frozen drinks looks and tastes a lot like maple syrup. They say adding less of the syrup to your Frappuccino not only lowers the sugar content, but makes your drink a lot less smooth. 

Starbucks Frappuccinos are not made with fresh espresso shots

If you're thinking a Java Chip Frappuccino is going to pump you full of espresso shots while masking the taste of coffee, think again. Frappuccinos aren't actually made with espresso shots from a Starbucks espresso machine at all. 

Frappuccinos utilize a proprietary ingredient called Frap Roast, which is used in place of hot coffee. Essentially, it's a powdered mix that's paired with cold water, according to one Starbucks employee on Reddit. They say it smells and tastes like coffee, but it's more similar to an instant coffee, which smells a little burnt.

According to another former Starbucks partner on Reddit, it's actually designed to be incredibly bitter, specifically for Frappuccinos, mixing with all of the sugar and syrup put in the drink — it takes a big amount of bitter to counteract all that sugar.

But if you really do want really espresso in your blended drink, you can certainly have it your way.Employees say you can ask for it with shots, but remember the Frappuccino recipe isn't specifically designed for the addition of espresso shots, so your drink may not have the same consistency you're used to.

Starbucks Frappuccinos are finished off with a specific amount of milk and ice

The two main ingredients filling up the cup for your Frappuccino are milk and ice, but just as the rest of the recipe, the type of milk and the quantity of ice is specific. 

When you order a Frappuccino, you're probably getting whole milk in the cup, unless you ask for an alternative. One Starbucks employee says that Starbucks actually defaults to adding whole milk to Frappuccinos right off the bat — you can opt for a milk or milk replacement with less fat, but that also means your Frappucino will be less creamy. 

And part of that consistency has to do with the ice added to these blended concoctions as well. If you pay close attention, you'll usually notice a barista putting a scoop of ice into the blender, but they choose a specific scoop color depending on the drink. Generally, the amount of ice added is about the same size of the actual ordered beverage — tall, grande, or venti. Not adding the right amount of ice can make it too thick and chunky or too thin and runny, ultimately changing the entire experience.

Starbucks Frappuccinos contain a ridiculous amount of sugar

It's certainly common sense to know that when you get a drink from a coffee shop that's literally anything other than just drip coffee or an Americano, you're probably going to be upping your sugar count for the day. But when it comes to Starbucks, having a Frappuccino adds an outrageous amount of sugar to your day. So just how much are you consuming? 

Even the smallest size of Caramel Frappuccino, a Tall (12-ounce), is packed with 46 grams of sugar, while a Grande (16-ounce) has 66 grams. Considering the American Health Association recommends that men consume only 36 grams of sugar per day, while women should consume 25 grams, a Frappuccino puts you well over that mark. Really, even in that little 12-ounce cup of Caramel Frappuccino, you're getting more sugar than you should consume in an entire day. Is it worth it? 

Starbucks Frappuccinos take way longer to make than other drinks

Going through the Starbucks drive-thru doesn't normally take that much time. After all, that's the whole purpose, right? Quick, delicious coffee. Well, be sure to build in a few extra minutes if you're ordering a Frappuccino. 

According to one Starbucks employee on Reddit, the goal in the drive-thru is to answer a customer within 15 seconds of them arriving at the speaker and have their drink out to them within another 30-45 seconds. But according to that same employee, Frappuccinos slow them down considerably.

Part of that may be because of the sheer number of steps and ingredients it takes to make a Frappuccino, but it also has to do with the number of drink changes to consider. Another Starbucks employee on Reddit says that Frappuccinos are often more customized and they take a bit more precious time to get right, putting all of the ingredients in perfectly so it doesn't come out runny or chunky.

There are ways to reduce the calorie counts of Starbucks Frappuccinos

A regular Starbucks Frappuccino is generally not a healthy option for your daily life. Sure, they're totally fine once in a while as a treat, but is packing on more than 400 calories for just a Grande something you really want to do every day? 

Turns out, there are hacks to reduce the calorie count of your favorite blended drinks. Thank goodness! According to Starbucks, one of the best ways to save calories right off the bat is to order your Starbucks Frappuccino without whipped cream. Sure, it's totally not as Instagram-worthy without the domed lid, whipped cream, and all that drizzle, but it's sure to save you 80 to 100 calories. 

Other options include changing your milk from whole milk to nonfat, asking for sugar-free syrups, or asking for your drink to be made with less syrup. Want to really reduce the count significantly? Ask for your Starbucks Frappuccino to be made "light," and you'll get sugar-free syrup, non-fat milk, and no whip automatically.

There are other Starbucks Frappuccinos flavors around the world

With as big of a household name as Starbucks is, it's no wonder they boast over 20,000 stores around the world. At this point, most people in their lives have sipped on a drink from one of those classic green and white cups. And while Starbucks are blending up the classic Caramel Frappuccino and Mocha Frappuccino in the U.S. and Canada, there are so many unique flavors at Starbucks stores worldwide, catering to the diversity of international palates. 

A spin off the mocha and caramel classics, Starbucks lovers can order a Mocha Cheesecake Frappuccino, as well as a caramel version in the UK. In China, there's a Mango Passion Fruit Frappuccino, a Red Ruby Grape Frappuccino in Singapore, and a Pistachio Bon Bon Frappuccino in Malaysia. And while all of these sound ridiculously interesting, the Milk Tea Panna Cotta Frappuccino found in the Philippines may just be the most fascinating, with black tea powder on top. 

These flavors sure make the Vanilla Bean Frappuccino seem just a bit boring now, don't they? 

​There's a bottled version of the Starbucks Frappuccino too, sort of

After the booming success Starbucks experienced from the launch of the famed Frappuccino, they started looking at ways to make it more accessible to everyone. Who wouldn't want to pick up a Frappuccino from the store on the way home — even if there isn't a Starbucks nearby? Sounds brilliant, right? 

Well, not so fast. Just a year after they officially launched, Starbucks worked with Pepsi to bottle their signature beverage in 1996, bringing a ready-to-drink coffee beverage to stores throughout the U.S. and Canada.

But is the bottled version even close to what you get in a Starbucks coffee shop? Definitely not. The bottled Starbucks Frappuccinos come in vanilla, mocha, caramel, and coffee, along with some light and seasonal options, and they're basically like iced coffee in a glass bottle. With virtually no resemblance to the in-store blended beverage, other than coffee, milk, and sugar, it's surprising Starbucks would name this bottled beverage after its famed Frappuccino. Or, was it just to capitalize on the rise in fame at the time? 

Only Starbucks can call them Frappuccinos

If you've ever ordered a blended coffee drink at any other coffee shop or drive-thru other than Starbucks, you may have noticed the slew of different names attached to these similar menu items. There's everything from frappes to fraps to granitas and anything in between, and that's because nobody can use the same name that Starbucks holds near and dear to their company branding.

As it turns out, using the term Frappuccino is specific only to Starbucks, and they have the trademark to prove it. The blended beverage has been trademarked for years, and every time another company tries to mimic it, Starbucks steps in, even if the other company is using a play on words when it comes to the popular drink name. Starbucks sued a Canadian company for using the term 'Freddiccino' because of how similar the beginning and ending of the drink's name was to Starbuck's proprietary claim to fame. Long live the famed Frappuccino!