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How can I get a good cup of coffee at Starbucks?

After years of not going anywhere near Starbucks I've become a regular visitor. Not because I love the coffee but because it is the only place in my neighborhood where I can sit and work with a cup of coffee. The problem is that whatever I do, I can't stand the coffee. The regular coffees are hot watery, a regular latte tastes like warm milk, a double latte tastes like nothing on earth, that cappucino is undrinkable, I am totally challenged when it comes to the other complicated orders that people around me seem to delight in ordering ("Cinnamon Dolce Creme Latte," well, I say what?). I made the mistake of switching to the chai tea latte and got a cup full of sugary water. The only thing worth drinking is the chai tea bag tea.

I don't care what I get, I just want it to be drinkable. Any suggestions?

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  1. Can't be done. Starbucks stopped using good coffee when they expanded out of Seattle. You may as well ask how you can get a good cup of coffee out of Yuban.

    1. Ask them where the local coffee shop is and go there!

      when I have to go to SB...it's a regular house coffee - make sure it's fresh and very hot...little room for cream and it usually works.

      1. I think Starbucks' espresso is much better than their coffee. Order an americano with extra room so that it won't be too watery.

        11 Replies
        1. re: melon

          Agreed - the americanos are much better than their regular coffees. This is probably the way for gumnaam to go.

          1. re: LulusMom

            This is exactly what I was going to suggest.

            By and large, I go for an Americano whenever I'm ordering a coffee anywhere ... the flavor is just superior to whatever "medium coffee" they are brewing.

            If nothing else, an Americano is brewed fresh, it hasn't been sitting in a coffee pot for hours.

            My preference is an Americano black or an Americano with a splash of soy (just to cool it off a bit).

            1. re: PaulF

              The drip coffee is replaced every 20 or 30 minutes.

              1. re: a_and_w

                At Starbucks ... but I was referencing the "anywhere" part of my post.

                1. re: a_and_w

                  Actually there is a timer on every pot of daily coffee ( bold, regulr and decaf) and after one hour, if it is not gone, it is replaced.

                  1. re: Cathy

                    I stopped ordering drip coffee at all of my local Starbucks because the people who work there are so lazy, they just let the coffee sit until a customer comes in, then they check it and tell you you have to wait 4 to 5 minutes for a fresh pot, this after having to stand in a long line. I know they're SUPPOSED to change it regularly, but it's been my experience that they seldom do and the coffee is revolting.

                    1. re: Fuser

                      I have a friend who is deaf and her tastebuds are far more refined/sensitive than mine are- you know, lose one sense and the others make up for it-. She takes back poorly made frapps, capps, and coffees and they will re-make and usually give her a coupon for next one free. They do want you to be happy. Don't be afraid to complain if it is made badly.

                      1. re: Fuser

                        Fuser - this sounds like a management issue at one particular location. If the manager is anywhere near reasonable and wishes to keep their job (unless it's a Sodexho-hosted store at the airport, grocery store, bookstore or university), they will deal with the problem ASAP. Believe it or not, there are fairly rigorous quality-control measures in place to ensure this does not happen on a regular basis. Before the automated-machine days for pulling espresso, grind was to be checked every hour and shots timed (although in my experience, this did not happen). I do not know, however, what the policy is on the new machines.

                2. re: LulusMom

                  I have to strenuously disagree re the Americanos being better than the regular coffee. My experience is you have to get several shots in your Americano to make it taste as strong as a similarly-sized cup of regular coffee.

                  If the drip isn't doing it for you, consider getting a double or triple "short" (it's not listed on the menu but they still carry it) cappucinno.

                  1. re: a_and_w

                    I also vote for the americano. It's the only thing I drink.

                    1. re: a_and_w

                      and ask them to steam the milk fresh.

                3. Given that you don't like the coffee at a coffee establishment, I would think you're abit out of luck, regardless of what "suggestions" people offer. From what I've seen, people either 'drink Starbucks' or 'don't drink Starbucks.' If you don't like their coffees, lattes, teas, and cappucinnos, what's left? Sandwiches?

                  My suggestion - find a Mud truck.

                  1. Thanks guys. Rocknrope, I just want to know how to order a good cup of coffee. As I said in my post, I do like their chai tea in a tea bag, but it took a lot of trial and error to discover that there was such a thing. If you've ever visited a Starbucks, you'll notice that the choices are many and complex, daunting to a newby like me, and some help in complexity reduction is what I am looking for. Something similar to Viennese coffee would be great, as also would a good espresso (unfortunately, they don't serve espresso in espresso cups though you can get regular sizes in a cup if you ask). I guess what I am asking for is help in translating Starbucks lingo into regular coffee language.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: gumnaam

                      No worries, sorry if I came off snarky, I realized that after I read what I wrote.

                      1. re: gumnaam

                        Yes, most of the Starbucks (at least in the Phoenix or Seattle area) do serve espresso in espresso cups. You just need to tell them that the espresso or doppio espresso is "for here". You may need to repeat it to the server since most of the 'buck drones are indoctrinated to serve coffee in “to go” cups. Coffee (especially an espresso shot) is meant to be served in a porcelain cup.

                      2. what about ordering a single espresso, and a cup of hot water in another cup? then you can add as much hot water to the espresso as you want. also - I always ask if they have actual ceramic mugs, if I plan on sitting down (they usually have a couple back there). I think coffee or tea in paper cups always tastes crappy.

                        1. If you do not like the coffee, lattes, or caps, then it is safe to say that you do not like Starbucks. Have some tea or find a new place.

                          1. Your local Starbucks is suppose to have espresso cups to serve your espresso in. You have to ask for it "for here." If they don't have espresso cups, ask the manager. He will order some for you. The key is communication.

                            From your post, it seems like you like stronger flavors and components. Starbucks is an AMERICAN corporation aimed for the average AMERICAN coffee consumer.

                            If you sit there, you have the option to order a Turkish/French press of espresso. They will bring you the entire thing and might charge for a cup of coffee.

                            If you want more Chai flavor in your Chai Tea latte, ask for 3/4 Chai MIX and 1/4 steamed milk.

                            It's not fair to knock Starbucks for what they are...it would be like me going into McDonald's and expecting kobe burger quality.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: BellaDonna

                              I had forgotten about the French Press option. A Tall Americano with two shots may also be a good strong coffee on the go.

                              1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                                A tall americano comes with 2 shots, get a 3rd for extra jolt and flavor. I would also recommend the french press option. You also get your choice of any of the coffees they have on hand, you aren't limited to the coffee of the day.

                              2. re: BellaDonna

                                There's no such thing as "a French press of espresso." Espresso is espresso; French press is French press.

                                OP: drink straight espressos. It's the only thing Starbucks does remotely correctly and with their superautos, it's nearly impossible for them to screw up.

                                1. re: John Manzo

                                  I've always found the exact opposite to be the case. The superautos prevent the espresso from ever being any good. I'm not a starbucks hater at all either,

                                  1. re: amkirkland

                                    Starbucks' superautos, like most of their kind, brew a mediocre cup of espresso. Not nearly as good as something a skilled barrista can pull, but probably better than what you'd likely get if you turned the typical minimum-wage Starbucks employee loose with a Pavoni. Consistency before excellence--the motto of all chain establishments.

                                  2. re: John Manzo

                                    You absolutely can get a french press of espresso roast.

                                2. My ex boyfriend used to work at starbucks so i know all the secrets to a great cup of coffee

                                  If you want a stronger cup of coffee, try a Redeye. its coffee with a shot of espresso. This makes for much more flavor and much more of a caffeine jolt!

                                  If you want to get more chai flavor out of your chai latte, you have to ask for NO WATER. The water completely takes away from the flavor of the tea!

                                  Also, make sure that when you get a cup of coffee there that the pot is somewhat fresh. Just ask them, they will tell you. Sometimes if you get the coffee thats been sitting there a while the flavor is off!

                                  1. Hey, this is great stuff. Americano with extra room, chai latte with no water, the redeye seems just the ticket, and I didn't even know you could get a French press! Thanks all.

                                    (Again, I'm not knocking Starbucks-hey, I go there don't I? Just trying to make sense of the bewildering array of choices so that I can get a good cup of coffee while I sit and work.)

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: gumnaam

                                      You can get a grande Americano with extra room. A grande is supposed to have 3 shots. For a milk option, always opt for non-fat. Soy just sweetens the coffee/latte even more.

                                      IMO, Starbucks is better in Seattle.

                                      1. re: gumnaam

                                        they get a few bags of their "black apron" coffees for sampling at each store. If they really like you'll they'll make you a press of it or another special coffee that they don't brew, like the arabian mocha sanani.

                                        I've heard lots of complaints about starbucks, but never that it was too weak.

                                        1. re: kindofabigdeal

                                          I agree, I'm surprised, very surprised, to hear somebody say SB coffee is watery. If anything, to me it's alright because it's strong....not that the beans are good but that they use a lot of grounds per cup. Which is why I think people like it. I don't know that I've ever had a cup of coffee at a fast food type place (which is what SB is) that is less "watery" (stronger...but that's misleading).

                                          I usually just get the medium coffee of the day and it's never tasted burnt or like it was sitting around too long. Maybe I've just been lucky. I don't go there very often though.

                                          1. re: kindofabigdeal

                                            It isn't even if 'they like you'...I like Sumatra and absolutely hate the House Blend and if the only choice is House (because it is late in the day and they don't have any other caffienated coffee available), I ask for a tall cup of French Pressed Sumatra...in a "for here" cup. They tell me I will have to wait about 4 minutes. I say 'fine", get charged $1.60 for a tall coffee, sit down, open up a book or my computer and wait and have a fresh cup of Sumatra. Sometimes they will just leave the FP with me, or give out free samples of the Sumatra, and also sometiems they don't have a tall sized 'For Here' cup and I get my coffee in a larger sized ceramic cup. It isn't a secret...I have done it in stand alone stores all over the US.

                                        2. My usual order at Starbucks is a Grande non-fat, quad latte.

                                          4 shots of espresso in a grande cup and steamed non fat milk.

                                          If I don't have the room in my stomach for that much, but still want the jolt I just get a quad espresso and add a little cream and sweetener. I am also a fan of the vanilla, chocolate, nutmeg and cinnamon shakers.


                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: nyctravelguide

                                            Starbucks has the best espresso shots of any of the so-called chain coffee houses. However, if you're going for caffeine, then the "Light note" coffee of the day is the way to go. Regular, light-roasted coffee is always the way to go when caffeine is the main focus, contrary to what the people say about getting quad-shot lattes!

                                            Here is a link to a thread about coffee in the Bay Area, however many of the posts apply to coffee in general. I think you may find it informative.



                                            From your fellow coffee enthusiast

                                          2. If I'm going, I usu order a steamed milk with a little froth and some vanilla (easy/not too sweet). Cheesey, but it reminds me of Danny Kaye and it puts a smile on my face.

                                            1. I tolerate coffee's of the day,whatever they happen to be.Theres only one coffee I drink there that I truly like,its called Yukon,starbucks used to have great coffee,for quite a while now it just tastes like a cup of charcol water.
                                              I like Millstone French Roast better than all Starbucks and Tullys coffees.

                                              1. sb is gross. it always tastes burnt and like it's been sitting there for about 6-12 hours.

                                                1. I like SB. I go in, order a "large coffee in a double cup with a sleeve". The look of confusion in the barrrissstaah's eyes is priceless. Makes the beginning of the day pretty special.

                                                  I add a little skimmed milk, and I'm good to go.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                    LOL I tried that based on your suggestion jfood. The look of confusion was indeed priceless. More than worth the price of my coffee. Thanks for making my day!

                                                    1. re: ChocoHound

                                                      My pleasure. And you got out of there for under $2.

                                                  2. I find their coffee bad too, but I needed morning coffee the other day and figured I'd do it the way they want people too - I got a caramel latte. Someone had recently made me caramel lattes at home and they were surprisingly good. The SB'scaramel was also yummy. That's what they do - the make coffe-flavored drinks, not coffee.

                                                    1. They could have a light mainstream brew on hand,Its all so burnt tasting.Probably if they got some regular tasting coffee people would be reminded that Denny's coffee isn't too bad....and refills are free.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: billjriv

                                                        If you get regular, plain coffee the refills on any size are 50¢ within the same store on same day/visit. I see people drinking one inside in a 'for here' cup then getting one 'to go' .

                                                        1. re: Cathy

                                                          I was just going to post that too. It's actually pretty terrific if what you want is a place to sit and read/work. I've done the refill thing many times. I've actually asked for a "refill" (i.e. a regular coffee) even when I've ordered an Americano. They (obviously) won't refill the Americano, but they never seemed to mind giving me a refill of dripped coffee. That could just be my local SB, not sure.

                                                      2. I don't drink the SB coffees because I believe that the best coffees are flavorful, and not so strong. I always get Tazo chai at SB when I go.

                                                        1. SBUX has been geared to dessert drinks for some time. Ergo, it's espresso is optimized for milk drinks with syrups, not drunk as normales or doppios.

                                                          Provided I can tell tht the milk is not being resteamed (and they're now supposed to steam fresh, although that doesn't happen everywhere), when I have no practical choice but SBUX, I'll get an 8oz capp. It's not on the menu anywhere. But any SBUX-owned shop will pour one.

                                                          As far as the suggestion to go to an indie - many (if not most) indies are even worse options for espresso. If you want to find a good indie, use <a href="http://www.espressomap.com"> the Espresso Map.</a>

                                                          1. I know of a lot of things that people say as a complaint about starbucks, but I've never heard hot watery. I've never found it to be weak. The flavor always accurately matches the beans (which is what most people's beef is with).

                                                            RE: capuccinos - I practically ask for blood sample before I let someone make me a capuccino. I've had maybe one decent one in the states. That sort of thing takes practice, and they just don't practice.

                                                            1. My preferred method of ordering a good coffee at Starbucks goes something like this:

                                                              1. Walk into Starbucks
                                                              2. Look for "Sumatra" or "Komodo" on the chalkboard
                                                              3. Order one of the above or move on

                                                              7 Replies
                                                              1. re: braineater

                                                                do you ever have them french press it if it's not being served? At one point the policy was to press anything that wasn't offered for the same price. I've never been anywhere that really followed that though, normally its closer to 4 dollars and you get the whole press.

                                                                1. re: amkirkland

                                                                  I wasn't aware that they have/had such a policy, so I've never asked. That would be nice, but as the one near my work is generally pretty busy, I don't think they'd much like being asked to stop and press something for me. Anyway, I normally skip Starbucks and go to Peets, which is just up the street, unless I'm with someone that's dead set on something very specific from Starbucks.

                                                                2. re: braineater

                                                                  And avoid anything with "Verona".

                                                                  1. re: Shazam

                                                                    Interesting.... back when I was drinking Starbucks b/c there wasn't anything else around, Verona was my favorite.

                                                                    If I go to a Starbucks now (which is rare given all of the other options), I order the whatever "mild" drip coffee they're serving. Definitely always take the mild over the regular, particularly if you're interesting in getting the most caffeine for your money.

                                                                    1. re: Shazam

                                                                      you're the first person I've ever heard of disliking verona

                                                                        1. re: braineater

                                                                          i really really dislike the verona as well!

                                                                  2. Not all Starbucks coffees are created equal. Some are terrible, some excellent. Also, as with all things that come from the ground, at times the same type of coffee will taste slightly different. The trick is to know which ones you like.

                                                                    I like full bodied and strong coffee with a lot of flavor. The ones I look for (just as "braineater" mentioned above) are Sumatra & Komodo Dragon. They are full bodied, lots of nuances, smooth... I've tried just about all Starbuck varieties over the years and love these.

                                                                    WHOLE BEANS:
                                                                    I used to always buy Sumatra... then they came out with Komodo Dragon around 2 years ago... I buy that exclusively now. Its my favorite... and has such a kool name too! Its easy to make great coffee when you are doing the brewing at home... cause you can make it exactly how you like it... whatever strength.

                                                                    BY THE CUP STRATEGY AT THE STORE:
                                                                    When buying brewed coffee I find even the "stronger" called traditional brew is too light... tastes terrible. I always add a shot or 2 of espresso to the drink... even when they are brewing Sumatra or K. Dragon. The number of shots depends on the size of the cup and the type of coffee. To get it right takes a little experimenting.

                                                                    THE LINGO:
                                                                    REDEYE = Cup of Coffee with 1 shot of espresso
                                                                    BLACK EYE = Cup of Coffee with 2 shots
                                                                    DEAD EYE = Cup of Coffee with 3 shots

                                                                    1. Get a Venti coffee and add a shot or two of espresso.

                                                                      1. "How can I get a good cup of coffee at Starbucks?"
                                                                        Take one of their cups with you and fill it with home made coffee the next time your going back there (LOL). I went there for one of the same reason you did, it was the only place around. Although I never found their strong version (whatever they call it) to be weak. I felt like whatever the coffee of the day was it always had the same underlying flavor, like all their beans have been burnt or something. In the Los Angeles area (The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf) have been popping up here and there. I find it to be a better alternative to your (normal dig), sorry I didn't want to use that foul nine letter word again in my post. Tee He He

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: bluesman

                                                                          Funny, I'm not a *huge* coffee drinker, but I can't stand Coffee Bean.

                                                                          If I'm at Starbucks, I've found the most reliable is the Americano.

                                                                          Or, my newest incantation is an Iced Coffee w/ Sugar Free Cinnamon Dolce syrup, to which i have them add cinnamon (the powder) and which they then will foam to disperse the spice throughout the coffee (though the two are technically immiscible.

                                                                          If I'm not drinking coffee, I love the Passions Tazo Tea, hot or cold... I do love how the iced version is over a dollar more than the hot version... They claim it's due to brewing strength, but it makes me want to order a hot cup of tea alongside a cup of ice...

                                                                          1. re: Emme

                                                                            The iced coffee and iced tea are brewed triple strength. If for some reason, you don't drink it and the ice melts, the flavor is still very strong the next day and not at all watered down. If you let ice melt in a single strength bewed tea, it is all watery.

                                                                            1. re: Cathy

                                                                              I understand the principle, but I personally brew the snot out of one tea bag, so I end up with triple strength tea regardless... I get the idea but for some reason still get irked by it.

                                                                          1. I have come to love- hot passionfuit tea in a large store provided mug or green tea latte- with no melon substituting sugar free or regular vanilla (I discoved after getting a weird flavored drink how to really order it* they sneak things in there...). I also like their drip- go figure- but I add a little milk and a packet of splenda to my venti drip.

                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: natalie.warner

                                                                              I always amazed at the long lists of complaints about Starbucks everywhere; yet, they have now expanded to 9,000 stores and there is a continual line when I am in one of them, they are busy for 16 hours every day.

                                                                              So if Starbucks is so terrible, how come they are doing so well, and why is there ALWAYS a line waiting to buy coffee?

                                                                              1. re: menton1

                                                                                Possibly for the same reason McDonald's sells so many whatchamacarcass sandwiches.

                                                                                1. re: menton1

                                                                                  It's because the people who like Starbucks enjoy it. All the others who don't just want to express their dislike of Starbucks and imply that the folks who DO like Starbucks don't know what "real" coffee is supposed to be.

                                                                                  I agree with you, they must be doing something right for there to be a such a strong consumer following.

                                                                              2. Their formula for brewing drip coffee is wrong - 2 tablespoons per 6 oz of water - yikes. However, if you try this same formula using a french press, the results are remarkably better. As I worked at multiple Starbucks for 3+ yrs, I would always here the complaints about the drip coffee. Given the right circumstances, a side-by-side comparison of drip vs. french press with a customer would prove remarkable differences in terms of strength, oil content and complexity of flavor (think Gazebo has lots of citrus? try it 'pressed).

                                                                                The aforementioned one-hr drip timer is policy, but in slower store environments, this could be overlooked and result in a bad cup. I would wait for a lag in service, ask someone in apron to find a good non-blended coffee and make you a press of it - not only will it be a better cup, they may also comp it if they've not tried the coffee themselves. Good luck!

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: azhotdish

                                                                                  I have seen that they just don't make a new pot after an old one 'times out' later in the evening and they ask me to try it and if I don't like it, then then make me a fresh pot. They almost never charge me if I have to wait for a fresh pot, also...

                                                                                  1. re: Cathy

                                                                                    I am inside a Starbucks right now,ordered a tall for here coffee and the timer went off as she turned around to find a for here cup. . The nice cashier apologized, asked me if I could wait 4 minutes and brought out the cup of hot, fresh Joya del Dia for me, no charge. It is about 1 p.m. on a Tuesday, close to a High School and kind of busy.

                                                                                2. I didn't know you could get a whole french press at Starbucks... THANKS for the tip!!

                                                                                  When I want a coffee that I know will be the same consistency from franchise to franchise, I go to Tim Hortons for a regular, or a double-double (two milks, two sugars) if I'm feeling splurgy (with the cals). It's not great coffee, but it's good and never burnt tasting.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: jinxed

                                                                                    I go to TH when visiting family in Detroit. It is not bad. My dad really liked their coffee.

                                                                                    Some stores seem to have the small (one cup) french press pots and some stores have the larger (8-10 cup) pots...I just know it tastes better to me.

                                                                                    Always ask for a "For Here" cup...that makes it taste better, too. :)

                                                                                  2. Their coffee sucks. Make your own.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                      It's this sort of insightful, nuanced discourse on food and drink that I come to chowhound for. Thanks!

                                                                                    2. Went through the drive thru today. My order was 2 grande iced caramel lattes, skim, no whip. The response through the window was "do you want a caramel macchiato?...they are better!" SIGH. If I wanted a vanilla caramel latte, thats what I would have ordered. I really do honestly prefer Dunkin Donuts Iced Caramel Swirl latte, skim, no whip, stirred.

                                                                                      1. I'm not sure if this is out yet, but around Christmastime, they sell gingerbread lattes: they're my absolute favorite!

                                                                                        1. You want an Americano. It's espresso and hot water, and it's utterly smooth and delicious and everything brewed coffee ought to be, but seldom is. It's my go-to drink at Starbucks.

                                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: birdmother

                                                                                            Leaving aside the quality of the beans for a moment, does anyone know if all Starbucks do pour overs? That would be my technique of choice to get a good cup of coffee. (I do not consider an Americano coffee.. its a watered down expresso... nothing wrong with that.. just not coffee ).

                                                                                            1. re: cwdonald

                                                                                              The regular stores do, not kiosks.

                                                                                              I order 'bold' after 2 p.m. and most stores (those without drive through) always have to do a pour over because they don't make a full container, since it has to be discarded after one hour and they don't have as much demand in late afternoon.

                                                                                              You can always ask for a French Press of any flavor, to try out a bean (the press makes about 3 tall cups and is around $4) if you are staying inside the store.

                                                                                              1. re: Cathy

                                                                                                Thanks for the reply. Aren't most of the kiosks as well as the super market ones franchise. I would never go to one of those by choice.

                                                                                                Thanks for the suggestion about ordering a bold past 2pm. I usually resort to a macchiato (real not the carmel garbage) or expresso then since they do not have the bold. Now I have options.

                                                                                              2. re: cwdonald

                                                                                                I don't think they do pour overs but you can ask for any of their coffees brewed in a French press.

                                                                                              3. re: birdmother

                                                                                                Uh, Starbuck's espresso is already watery enough. Adding water to mop water does not make the mop water taste better. Espresso should be about (not exagerrating) ten times stronger than Starbuck's make it.

                                                                                              4. turn left out the door go 100 feet to the next......... (sorry, i couldn't resist)- can't help either-as i don't even drink coffee