Archive for April 24th, 2007|Daily archive page

The Secret Starbucks Cappuccino

Starbucks Short Cup

I’m not a Starbucks fan, but some people can’t help it. Actually, if the coffee machine at work is broken I sometimes have to settle for Starbucks since it’s the closest place to my office (although a Coffee Bean is scheduled to open in a month or two…)

When I am forced to go, I only order a cappuccino or one of their teas, never the crazy concoctions or frozen slushie drinks. I don’t order a tall, grande or venti. I order a short.

Starbucks has a size that they don’t feature on their boards. If the current sizes are too large for you, ask for a “short” cup.

Here’s a little secret that Starbucks doesn’t want you to know: they will serve you a better, stronger cappuccino if you want one, and they will charge you less for it. Ask for it in any Starbucks and the barista will comply without batting an eye. The puzzle is to work out why.

The drink in question is the elusive “short cappuccino”—at 8 ounces, a third smaller than the smallest size on the official menu, the “tall,” and dwarfed by what Starbucks calls the “customer-preferred” size, the “Venti,” which weighs in at 20 ounces and more than 200 calories before you add the sugar.

The short cappuccino has the same amount of espresso as the 12-ounce tall, meaning a bolder coffee taste, and also a better one. The World Barista Championship rules, for example, define a traditional cappuccino as a “five- to six-ounce beverage.” This is also the size of cappuccino served by many continental cafés. Within reason, the shorter the cappuccino, the better.

More on the economics on the “short” cup over at Slate. More proof of short cups on Flickr.

So besides getting better flavor from a short cup, you’ll also save some change. The short cup costs less than most of the more exotic items on the menu.

Why doesn’t Starbucks feature the short cup on the menu? They claim that they don’t have enough room on the menu boards. And the Slate article mentions that the short can’t be found on their website or other signage either. But the real reason?

Economics has the answer: this is the Starbucks way of sidestepping a painful dilemma over how high to set prices. Price too low and the margins disappear; too high and the customers do. Any business that is able to charge one price to price-sensitive customers and a higher price to the rest will avoid some of that awkward trade-off.

This isn’t breaking news, but I thought I’d share in case you haven’t heard about this by now. Anyway, it tastes better and it’s cheaper, so why not go short?

Oh, and you also might want to know that apparently Starbucks baristas will make anything you can think of. They technically aren’t allowed to say “no” to something they’re capable of making. So let your mind go crazy and watch the baristas go nuts.


Plastic Glass


I always seem to like things that look like the original more than the original itself. That said, I love this Beaker Juice Glass from CB2 (that’s Crate and Barrel’s more IKEA-like line) that were recently mentioned on Productdose.

They look like those plastic clear juice cups that everyone used to have around their kitchen. CB2 says…

Paper-thin, light as a feather drinking cups take us back to lemonade stand days every time we pick them up. But these are handblown, heat-tempered, chem lab beaker glass with a neat retro ring design. Keep ’em stacked by the sink.

And at $1.95 a piece, why not keep some by the sink?