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What Are the Sizes at Starbucks? Complete Overview & Tips

starbucks paper cups

With more than 30,000 locations worldwide, Starbucks is the most popular coffee chain on the planet. Indeed, Starbucks changed how the world thought about coffee and simultaneously changed our culture, especially in the United States. Yes, McDonald’s has been selling coffee for decades and was selling it long before Starbucks. Still, Starbucks was the first restaurant chain to focus on coffee exclusively and deliver it in various flavors.

One thing Starbucks did with their coffee which alternately amuses and confuses many of their patrons, was to name the sizes of their coffee differently than the norm. Gone were the small, medium, and large sizes you could buy at most fast-food restaurants, to be replaced with sizes like “Tall,” “Grande,” “Venti,” and “Trenta.” What do those names mean, and what size coffee do you get when you order one? When you order a Tall, you get 12 ounces of coffee. A Grande is 16 ounces, while a Venti is 24 ounces. A Trenta is 31 ounces and is the largest drink you can order at Starbucks.

Now that you know what the sizes are at Starbucks and what it means when you order them in terms of the number of ounces of coffee you will receive, it is a good bet you have more questions about Starbucks’ interesting method of naming their coffee sizes. What do those names mean, for example, and why did Starbucks choose such an interesting and often confusing method of naming their sizes? Read on to find out why and get the facts about the different sizes Starbucks offers.

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What Is a Small at Starbucks?

The tall, which at 12 ounces is Starbucks’ small, is where much of the patron confusion starts. Marketing experts look at this name as one of the most brilliant instances of language manipulation by a corporation because tall rhymes with small but means something almost completely opposite. The brilliance of it is that the name convinced consumers to think less about the size of the drink they were about to consume and, more importantly, the price tag that went with it.

Even more confusing is that Starbucks offers a “short” size of 8 ounces. To further add to the confusion, the short is not even on the menu, so if you have never heard of it, you won’t know to order it. The short is only used for a short list of hot drinks and contains a single shot of espresso.

Want to add to the confusion? Then you’ll be delighted to know that Starbucks also offers their Demi, which is the smallest drink they offer at 3 ounces. What’s interesting about this size is that it’s inspired by the word demitasse, which is French for “half cup.” The Starbucks Demi is exclusively for espresso shots and will hold one, two, or three of them.

starbucks cup tall
Image Credit: Sorin Sîrbu, Unsplash

What Is a Medium at Starbucks?

The most confusing size at Starbucks is arguably the Grande because, in Italian and Spanish, Grande means “large.” The reason it’s confusing is that the Starbucks Grande is their medium-sized drink and is 16 ounces. Add to the fact that, years ago, 16 ounces of any beverage was considered a large, and you can see why some people get frustrated when ordering at Starbucks. You’ll get two shots of espresso when you request a Grande.

What Is a Large at Starbucks?

At Starbucks, their Venti is considered large and is 20 ounces. Interestingly, when you order a hot Venti drink, it comes in a 20-ounce cup, while a cold venti drink comes in a 24-ounce cup, but you still get only 20 ounces of coffee drink. When you order a hot Venti, you get two espresso shots, but in a cold Venti, you get three shots.

Of course, Starbucks doesn’t end the confusion there but adds just a bit more with their Trenta, which is 31 ounces. You can’t order a hot drink this size as the Trenta comes in a plastic cup. Also, Trenta drinks don’t contain any espresso (unless your order it on the side).

starbucks coffee cup on the dashboard
Image Credit: Erik Mclean, Unsplash

How and Why Did Starbucks Choose Its Coffee Size Names?

Thousands, and possibly millions, of people have wondered how and why Starbucks chose the names for their coffee sizes. It’s not a very long or involved story. The former chairman and CEO of Starbucks was a man named Howard Schultz.

In 1983, Mr. Schultz visited Milan, Italy, and was so enamored by the warmth of the Italian people and the artistry that they brought to their coffee brewing practices that he decided to take a small part of it back to the original Starbucks in Seattle, Washington. He named the coffee sizes using Italian names, and those same (somewhat confusing) names are still used today. Starbucks’ short and tall were not inspired by Italy, but that’s a different story.

How Many Drink Sizes Are There at Starbucks?

Six cup sizes are served today at Starbucks restaurants. They include the following:

  • Demi, which is 3 ounces. This size is also sometimes referred to as a sample-size cup.
  • Short, which is 8 ounces and is for hot drinks only.
  • Tall, which is 12 ounces and is for both hot and cold coffee drinks.
  • Grande is 16 ounces and is for both hot and cold coffee drinks.
  • Venti is 20 ounces for hot drinks and 24 ounces for cold beverages.
  • Trenta is 30 ounces and is only for cold coffee drinks and other cold beverages, including iced tea, lemonade, and Refreshers.
hand holding a cup of Starbucks drink
Image Credit: Kadarius Seegars, Unsplash

How Many Shots of Espresso Come in Each Starbucks Cup Size?

Espresso shots are put into many of the drinks that Starbucks makes, and the number of shots you get differs based on the size of the drink you order. Below are the sizes and the number of shots of espresso in each.

  • Demi: 1 or 2 shots, depending on your request
  • Short: 1 shot
  • Tall: 1 shot
  • Grand: 2 shots
  • Venti, hot: 2 Shots
  • Venti, cold: 3 shots
  • Trenta: No shots (cold drinks)

The number of shots you receive will differ if you order a flat white, an Americano, or an iced, shaken espresso. For example, a Flat White Short will have two espresso shots, while a Short Americano will only have one shot.

Do You Get More Caffeine in a Larger Starbucks Drink?

Even if you order a larger drink like the Venti or Trenta, it’s not always guaranteed that you will get more caffeine in your drink. For example, a short drink and a tall drink at Starbucks contain the same amount of espresso. The only way to order a larger coffee at Starbucks and get more caffeine is to order a simple brewed coffee. The larger the cup when you request a simple brewed coffee, the more caffeine you will get in your cup.

frappuccino in starbucks cup
Image Credit: Olena Bohovyk, Pexels

Is there a Difference between Hot and Cold Drink Sizes at Starbucks?

If the names for the drink sizes at Starbucks weren’t confusing enough, there’s a slight difference between the cup sizes for hot and cold drinks. For example, four cups hold hot drinks ranging in size from 8 ounces to 20 ounces. They are Short, Tall, Grande, and Venti. Starbucks’ cold drinks range in size from 12 ounces to 30 ounces and are Tall, Grande, Venti, and Trenta.

The Tall and Grande have the same amount of liquid in each, 12 ounces and 16 ounces, respectively. The Venti comes with 20 ounces if you order a hot drink but 24 ounces if you order a cold drink, as the cold drinks come with 4 ounces of ice.

Who Founded Starbucks?

As ubiquitous as Starbucks is today, it was once a very small coffee shop in Seattle, Washington. In fact, the very first Starbucks didn’t even roast its coffee but instead bought coffee beans roasted by Peet’s Coffee, one of its competitors. That was back in 1971, and the three founders of Starbucks, Zev Siegl, Jerry Baldwin, and Gordon Bowker, were coffee fanatics tired of the weak, badly brewed coffee they could find in their local market. The first Starbucks to sell brewed coffee was opened in 1982. Howard Schultz, the man who came up with the naming system for their coffee sizes, was hired the same year.

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Final Thoughts

The sizes of drinks at Starbucks are no different from those you can get anywhere else. Still, because they use different (and admittedly confusing) names, many customers have trouble determining the correct size. As we’ve seen today, you can order six sizes when getting a coffee at Starbucks, and two aren’t on the regular menu. This naming can be a bit frustrating for new customers, but if you’re a Starbucks regular, you’ll realize how much coffee you’re getting after one or two tasty trips. The good news is, no matter what size you order, Starbucks brews up some delicious coffee!

Featured Image Credit: kevser, Unsplash


Ollie Jones

Oliver (Ollie) Jones is a zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia. Originally from the US, he thought he loved coffee before his big move down under, but his discovery of the flat white and the cafe on every corner has taken his coffee passion to a whole new level. He's so excited to share his knowledge and experience with readers worldwide (and keep testing coffee drinks while he's at it).

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