Introduction: How to Get Huge Discount on a Starbucks Iced Latte Without Doing Anything Shady

Picture of How to Get Huge Discount on a Starbucks Iced Latte Without Doing Anything Shady

"I'll take 'Potent Potables' for $800, Trebek"

If you're anything like me, you like espresso drinks. I personally favor iced latte's. I'm not a huge fan of Starbucks since they changed their standard from hand-made espresso shots to fully automated pushbutton systems.

I find the new pushbutton espresso machine is very stingy with the espresso shots. For a while I stopped going to Starbucks completely, because of it. Normally, I just make my espresso drinks at home, but occasionally I'll venture into a Starbucks and ponder on the eerie groups of Mac-users who congregate but do not speak to each other.

Recently, I did just that. And my step brother and I discovered something interesting...

Step 1: How It Works

Picture of How It Works

So the claim of this Instructable is how to get a cheap iced latte.

Here's the general way it works.

Starbucks as a company isn't very bright. Milk is well over $6 / gallon in some parts of the country, from what I gather.

Edit: After reading some comments, I realize this estimate may be a little off. Buying milk in bulk is way cheaper. But, as a single male living alone, I don't buy milk in bulk.

I think I pay about $9 / gallon for my preferred brand of milk because I like to buy the organic stuff. ($4.50 for 1/2 gallon)

However, Starbucks (and most other coffee establishments) leave infinite milk out for customers to customize / finish their drinks.

Even though milk may be cheaper than $6 / gallon at your local grocery store, it sure isn't FREE. The FREE milk offered at coffee places is the secret here.

Step 2: How It Works, Part 2

Picture of How It Works, Part 2

So, suppose you want an Iced Latte. Starbucks (and other coffee establishments) typically make this drink very simply:

-Espresso <--- note, it's not spelled EXpresso.

Suppose you want a Venti / Large. The cost is about $3.85 IIRC, and a Venti iced latte has 3 espresso shots. Now suppose you want an extra shot, to make up for the fact that the Starbucks pushbutton machine is serving up weak espresso shots. The cost goes up by about $0.50, for a grand total of more than $4.

(Hence the comical name "Fourbucks," since it seems difficult to leave Starbucks without spending $4)

Step 3: Ordering the Drink

Picture of Ordering the Drink

Repeat after me:

"I'll have a quad-shot espresso poured over ice in a venti cup"

Remember, you can get all the free milk you want, turning your iced espresso drink into a latte at no added cost.

Grand total: $2.50 !!!!

For this price, you could easily add a flavored syrup (~$0.25) and still make out like a bandit. But, realize you are not doing anything shady / dodgy / wrong (morally or legally). You are merely ordering off of their menu and helping yourself to the free milk.

Unfortunately, this will only work with iced espresso drinks, because for hot drinks they steam the milk. But, for those hot summer days an iced latte is a nice refreshment. I prefer mine with some mint syrup on occasion.


This has been my first instructable. Thanks to google images, since I was too lazy to take my own pics. Honorable mention goes out to my step brother who was the first to order this.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Be sure to check the prices at other coffee establishments. I used Starbucks as the example because it is practically ubiquitous, however I have found that this works at other places as well.


LizK20 (author)2016-05-24

Wrong in Texas u cannot bring your own cup, for health reasons, call the district health clinic.

buddytym (author)2011-05-18

Step 1) Walk straight past Starbucks and go to your locally owned mom and pop shop.
Step 2) Be really nice to the baristas, talk with them, tip them, smile, and go there often.
Step 3) Bring your own mug or ask for ceramic.

And voila, your coffee will be cheaper and better than Starbucks, it'll be your friend that made it for you, and your friend that gets paid in the end. And the music wont suck.

Viki Blue (author)buddytym2015-09-20

Buddy, LOVE Love the the Ease of your additude. Nice. ;)

oculomancer (author)buddytym2011-08-23

Excellent post, great sentiment and observation.

bloubum (author)2015-04-10

There is one problem with that and I would have thought you (like me) would realize that it makes a big difference in the order you mix it. Pouring hot espresso of ice cause the ice to melt and dilute the espresso. They mix the cold milk with the express there by adding ice to a cool or war solution. So the ice then makes it cold without melting and diluting so much. Not only did those machines they started to use make smaller shoots they just reconfigured it to make the shoots even smaller and claim it is just as strong cause they use the same amount of beans. How are we to know cause we do not see how much they use. Also there have been many times where I turned around left Starbucks because I cannot find a seat because of those MacBook loitering lifers who never leave. Did Fivebucks ever think about limiting the amount of Wi-Fi time so they can increase their profit by faster turn over rather then increasing the prices every season.

artificially_flavoured (author)2009-03-29

I prefer to avoid Starbucks altogether. First of all, they profit off of the poverty of their workers in the middle east and Asia who get maybe a dollar to farm and perform arduous labor while they pay more than seven times AN HOUR that to kids in the United States to stand around and push a button. Second of all, good coffee needs good beans and a different type of grind depending on the drink. It also needs to be made generously and attentively. Every time I've had their coffee, the quality has been bad and it tastes absolutely disgusting. I have a Mr. Coffee coffee machine and somehow my homemade coffee always tends to taste ten times better than that of Starbucks. And cheaper, too. I would advise in buying a good coffee maker (aeropress is indeed nice) or a good manual espresso machine. You'll save LOADS of money in the longrun. And if you're a poor student like me who can't afford to make the jump when it comes to the cost of the espresso machine, then at least buy from a local company or one that's not so senseless as to make profit off the backs of hard-working men, women, and children by forcing them into poverty.

Over 50 percent of Starbucks coffee is grown "fair trade" where they give fair wages and pay fair prices for their coffee. Just sayin'. Secondly, as one of those kids who stands around and pushes a button, I can say this:

1) I don't live in the type of country in which I can grow my own produce for food; I have to work and buy my food.

2) Starbucks pays its starting employees minimum wage. You have to be with the company forever to make enough money to support yourself. You also get in trouble if you get overtime.

3) It's not just standing around pushing a button, it's also steaming the milk to a precise amount of cream, maintaining the store's cleanliness, completing an arduous list of chores, and treating every customer as if they're the only person that ever existed.

DirkV (author)wreakhavokmal2014-10-27

"fair trade" means paying producers an above-market price, if the current market price is $1.20 per pound a fair trade price might be $1.25. Fair Trade farmers cultivate less than 3 hectares of coffee and harvest 1,000-3,000 pounds of unroasted coffee a year. You try staying alive on $3750 a year.

As for the description of your job: "pushing a button, steaming milk, and maintaining cleanliness, I bet a monkey could do it. I would fire you, hire a robot, and pay the coffee producers your salary.

Tiffany13339 (author)DirkV2015-04-02

That is just rude!! No matter what the "job duties" are, at least the person is working. What does it matter which job is hard and which one is not. All jobs require responsibility, respect, excellent customer service, dependability, proper hygiene, common sense, and these are all quality's that many people LACK! So kudos to those that work & keep a job regardless of the level of difficulty.

corpussalus (author)DirkV2015-01-17

I bet you wouldn't last your probationary period.

are you implying that starbucks is morally obliged to cease paying coffee importers who pay 3rd world country land owners and labourers for coffee crops altogether because someone else should buy it for a higher price which certainly couldnt possibly effect the demand driven consumer price?

i dunno. but thats the sort of drift i got. coz like yeah the US of A can afford anything, and if they can't afford it, they simply borrow some more, or rattle nukes till its affordable, and still pay the kid an insanely high minimum wage
(on a world scale) to stand around and push a button.

its funny yanno coz in these economies, strangely enough, they still get by well enough to produce the coffee they buy. if it was that bad, they'd ALL die and then there'd be no more coffee and then the world would get mad as withdrawal symptoms and probably start WW3

none of it makes any sense.

nissim.hadar (author)qualia2012-02-10

" insanely high minimum wage " - in the U.S.???
Its 3 times as high in Australia.....

corpussalus (author)2015-01-17

Basically, what shelbiina said. You're the one who's 'not very smart', not starbucks. Your shots are dead 6-10 seconds after they've been pulled from the machine. That means they -taste terrible-. I bet your 'hack' of deadshot room-temperature milk with no ice 'drink' (retch) requires like ten packs of sugar. If you like drinks like that, just get ice cap syrup from the grocery store. Pleb.

shelbiina (author)2014-12-20

Looool have fun with your nasty dead shot latte, unless you can get over to the condiment bar and pour the milk (while 6 other people are crowded around you trying to put raw sugars in their coffee) within a matter of seconds.

ZannapdosB (author)2014-08-09

I sincerely hope that 1.) you're not going to the same store every time you do this and 2.) that you pouring the milk isn't visible to the baristas. contrary to what you're saying in this, baristas are pretty smart. if you're going to the same store every time and they see you doing this, they're going to start giving you decaf shots. (also, you're upset about the espresso shots not being as good, but you're making them even worse by not adding milk to them, because the shots taste worse when they hit ice. ask for light milk in it, at least, so the shots dont get ruined. you wont be charged for that).

zimitt (author)2013-01-20

In the past, before Starbucks changed over to automated shots, I enjoyed my espresso drinks, long. The shot is left to run longer and the result is a long shot that has more extraction from the shot and a stronger drink.
Since their change in machines, Starbucks cannot pull a long shot. I still always ask for long and they will always say that they cannot do that but they can give me an extra shot. Ive never been charged extra for this. They even often ask if Id like it in a larger cup.

kutz (author)2012-03-01

Dear goodness, there are a lot of angry coffee lovers in withdrawal here! Not to say that I'm dissing anyone in the comments but isn't it just coffee? I love that cup of burned beans just as much as anybody else, but there isn't any way that's "correct" or "perfect". We can all post about why our coffee is so much better prepared or higher quality until our fingers snap from typing so much, but it all comes down to the fact that we should just go with what we like best. Thats also kinda why I like Instructables so much, is because if you like something, you can share it with everyone so that they can try it too!

Im just trying to say that we shouldn't condemn people for a particular method in their Instructable, but rather provide constructive criticism to improve it. So there's my two bits about all that :P

Anyhow I think that Starbucks has enough money and success that we can get away with a cheap drink once and a while x3

djimdy (author)2012-02-12

The outrage by people here is not surprising. After all, outrage is much easier than a fair discussion. FWIW, I wouldn't bother with this instructable, but that said, your guide does lean on the side of being taunting.

But on the face of it, I don't see this as dodgy so much as a question of which standards you are willing to play by in the game of money vs. convenience. I don't really care what the baristas think. They may be shareholders, but they're still just working stiffs who more than likely have little-guy axes to grind just like most of us, not the suits who set the prices and policies, otherwise, they'd be wearing the suits.

So those suits have determined that $4+ is what the market will bear for the convenience of having that iced latte made for you by a stiff without you having to cheap out and raid their condiments section.

Want to raid the condiments section? I guarantee they've thought of that and are willing to accept it. Bravo to you for having the balls to do this on the backs of Starbucks' profit margins. And I'm not being snide. There's nothing stopping you from refilling that cup with milk and straight up drinking it, either. "Good Will" is a corporate policy for a reason; it makes the company more appealing and customers more content.It's even tax-deductible.

Not all customers have the same standards, so there is slack in the system. Sure, if it happens too much, there will be a lockdown from the suits. But it won't happen too much, because the profit impact is negligible, compared to the impact there would be if they wanted to go Scrooge on everyone just because of a few guys gaming the system. Think about that the next time you fly United and want an extra pack of peanuts. Or the next time you are travelling and want to use an American hotel's toilets when you don't stay at that hotel.

Pantharen (author)2012-01-11

OK, first off I have been drinking Starbucks since 1985, and when every I ordered an Iced Espresso.

I always order it the same way. 3 shots over ice, no water.. The hot coffee melts the Ice, so you dont want to add extra water and make it taste like Sonic's iced **** in a cup. Then I add coffee creamer 18% is much nicers than 2% or 3.25% milk.

So, you're not the first one to think of this game plan, others have been doing it much longer..

dakotacat (author)2011-12-17

You can get a medium iced mocha latte at Dunkin Donuts for $3.49 (including tax). They are sweet, creamy, and delicious and taste less bitter and so much better than Starbucks, at a lower price.

suckrpnch (author)2009-12-17

The milk is there as a small addition, not a full drink. People like you help keep starbucks as expensive as possible, by misusing the milk. Cheapskates have been doing this for years at all coffee houses, and it is pretty lame. Make your coffee at home, if you can't afford it...

suckrpnch (author)suckrpnch2009-12-17

Don't get me wrong. It probably isn't a huge deal, but I would definitely put this under "Shady Methods".

Creamaster (author)suckrpnch2010-01-21

 I would have to disagree. You can't blame Starbucks' high prices on milk stealers, please. 

suckrpnch (author)Creamaster2010-01-21

I didn't "blame Starbuck's high prices on milk stealers", those are your words.

Creamaster (author)suckrpnch2010-01-25

Right, I see that now. How could I have missed it?

So this is okay by you then?:

I would have to disagree. You can't blame people who misuse the milk for Starbucks' high prices, please.

Because those are your words. But hey... this is interesting. It turns out that even with the new and improved "your words" built right in, the essential meaning  is essentially exactly the same as before.


I would not have guessed that.

Creamaster (author)Creamaster2010-01-25


moniiiiiiiica (author)Creamaster2011-11-12

i work at starbucks and let me tell you, it does raise the price so please stay out of things that you are ignorant about.

Creamaster (author)moniiiiiiiica2011-11-14

Sorry, but I have a hard time believing that if milk prices dropped by half tomorrow, that the price of a coffee at Starbucks would drop - at all. I think they charge lot of their coffee because they put a lot of work and expense in to sourcing and growing and company branding - and charging a premium. For profit. I doubt the price of milk, while a factor, is the defining difference that makes Satrbucks so much more expensive than other coffee shops.

I'm not trying to troll you folks but it's a coffee shop, not a milk shop and they put the milk out for free because it's not a huge expense. If it was, they'd charge for the milk too.

(Also, you can't possibly know my ignorances - and dont tell me what to do.)

suckrpnch (author)Creamaster2010-01-25

You seem really angry. I don't know why. I said that this type of practice helps "keep starbucks as expensive as possible". I didn't say that this type of practice makes starbuck's expensive.

I don't know what your problem is.

Creamaster (author)suckrpnch2010-02-01

You may be picking up on some of my residual frustration at your inability to explain your post. But clearly you have no idea what you where actually trying to say so fugettaboutit.

suckrpnch (author)Creamaster2010-02-01

I sense the fact, that you are having a hard time forming full thoughts into sentences. I explained my post, so fugettaboutit.

timothymh (author)suckrpnch2010-02-13

 Bold. Print. Is. Bold.

bomboy422 (author)suckrpnch2011-01-30

i dont think people "misusing the milk" (the purpose of whick IS adding to your coffee or tea) make the coffee prices at starbucks so high...starbuck's is popular, and popular is expensive.

wreakhavokmal (author)suckrpnch2011-01-07

I Absolutely AGREE! Please, for the love of God, make your cheap coffees/lattes at home; we WON'T miss your patronage! :P

danielsard (author)suckrpnch2010-03-02

fully agree with this post(er)

irmab (author)2010-01-25

Hey, I know you, aren't you the guy who invented cheap tomato soup by ordering hot water at a diner and "helping yourself" to the free ketchup on the table?

moniiiiiiiica (author)irmab2011-11-12


moniiiiiiiica (author)2011-11-12

you think starbucks isn't very bright? you are the one that is not very bright. Espresso shots must be paired immediately with milk or water or they lose their almost sweet less bitter carmely taste. If you put them on ice they will just taste bitter and gross. Also that is not a latte at all. A latte is made with steamed milk?? how could you not know this. lol this is just embarrassing that you even ventured to even put this on the web. You are not a barista so please don't try to be.

rpattay (author)2011-09-22

Adding espresso directly to ice shocks it and makes it bitter.
When a barista makes an iced latte, milk is added to the espresso, followed by ice.

DuhTabby (author)2011-09-15

"eerie groups of Mac-users who congregate but do not speak to each other"....stil laughing.

Toaoe (author)2011-07-15

While it probably is shifty to do it this way, I still say it's pretty clever.

lhdore (author)2011-04-13

Baristas! Join the IWW! Bargain for your working conditions, your pay, and your benefits from a position of strength.

codongolev (author)2008-06-11

just thought i'd say this:

gas is 4 bucks a gallon. (at least where i'm from.)

people go to the gas station and complain about gas prices.

then they go to starbucks and get a latte.

proportionatley speaking, a latte is like $20 a gallon.

stop buying the latte.
(or use this technique!!)

cas6767 (author)codongolev2008-06-11

If cars ran on coffee we'd be screwed.

codongolev (author)cas67672008-06-12

yeah. but if we drank gasoline we'd be screwed too.

cas6767 (author)codongolev2008-07-03

good point but that's covered in another instructable...

codongolev (author)cas67672008-07-03

really, I wouldn't put gasoline anywhere near my mouth....

cas6767 (author)codongolev2008-07-03

But it's freakin delicious. Seriously tho, I might play around with some crazy voltages that will one day blow a hole through my torso but tetranitrate gargles kerosene, shaves with fire, uses lighter fluid as after shave while juggling HV capacitors he shorted with his tongue. Drink gasoline? I wouldn't put it past him.

codongolev (author)cas67672008-07-03

but if you blew a hole in your torso, it could be awesome.

codongolev (author)codongolev2011-01-13

I mean, if you did it right.

(and yes, I have been thinking about that for the past three years.)

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