Starbucks is almost everyone’s favorite coffee shop–they dominate American coffee with their delicious coffee concoctions. But the one thing that confuses everyone is the different names for coffee sizes. How many Starbucks cup sizes are there, and why can’t they be small, medium, and large?
There are five Starbucks cup sizes: short, tall, grande, venti, and trenta. The official menu generally only lists tall, grande, and venti to save space. Starbucks cups were named this way to emulate Italian coffee shops and give a warm, welcoming environment.
Of course, this isn’t the whole story. There’s a lot of history behind the sizing of the Starbucks cups and why we only see three of the five sizes on the regular menu.
In this article, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about Starbucks cup sizes, from their history to what’s currently offered.
Starbucks Cup Sizes
The naming at Starbucks might seem silly, with “tall” being the smallest on the menu (spoilers: it’s not the smallest size available). It’s not just to be pretentious and confusing, however. The names have meanings and history in addition to housing some pretty good coffee.
Before we get into the history of why the drinks are named that way, here is a quick breakdown of the five different sizes at Starbucks, what they’re called, and how much coffee they each offer.
Short is the smallest size at Starbucks, with 8-ounce (88.72 mL) cups. However, Starbucks still offers a short drink, even though it’s not on the printed menu. Shorts are often used for espresso and other more potent coffees, but you can order any hot drink in short.
Technically, Starbucks does offer a “demi” espresso shot in a 3 ounce (88.72 mL) cup. However, this is rare in America and not on many listed or secret menus. If you ask for a shot, a Starbucks is more likely to give it to you in an 8-ounce (236.59 mL) cup.
A tall at Starbucks is equivalent to a small coffee anywhere else. It’s a 12-ounce (354.88 mL) drink, available in both hot and cold cups. Tall is a standard cup of regular coffee, and tall drinks generally have one shot of espresso in them.
Grande, Starbucks’ 16-ounce (473.17 mL) drink, is a standard “medium” at other coffee shops. Grande means “large” in Italian and was named because, at the time, it was the largest size available.
Grande is available for all of the drinks on the Starbucks menu and is the most popular size.
“Venti” is Italian for twenty and represents Starbucks’ equivalent of a typical coffee shop’s large. It’s currently the largest size available for hot coffee and the largest size on the standard menu.
Technically, there are two venti sizes: hot venti and cold venti. Hot venti is truly twenty ounces (591.47 mL), while cold venti is twenty-four ounces (709.76 mL). This accommodates the ice and ensures that cold coffee drinkers get just as much beverage as hot coffee drinkers.
Trenta is the newest addition to the Starbucks cup sizes, measuring in at 31 fluid ounces (916.78 mL). However, it’s only available for cold drinks and in specific locations.
Starbucks introduced trenta (Italian for thirty) primarily for iced teas and summer drinks, so it’s not available in every store.
What Is the Biggest Cup Size at Starbucks?
The biggest listed cup size at Starbucks is a venti—20 or 24 ounces (591.47 or 709.76 mL)—but you can still order a trenta at many American locations. Because it’s not listed, you’ll have to ask for it and be prepared to settle for a venti if they don’t offer the trenta.
Trenta is only available for cold drinks, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get caffeine. For example, in a Trenta Cold Brew, there is almost 400 mg (0.01 oz) of caffeine (as much as five espresso shots).
However, most of the drinks are higher in sugar than caffeine, especially in a cup that large. Starbucks offers all of its cold drinks in trenta.
If you love hot coffee, the largest size is still the classic venti. You’ll be able to drink twenty ounces of your favorite brew, but they don’t offer hot drinks in trenta (likely because of the unavailability of sizable hot coffee cups).
Of course, if you want 30 ounces (887.21 mL) of hot coffee, you could buy two grandes. But that’s up to you.
Why Are Starbucks Cup Sizes Tall, Grande, and Venti?
Starbucks cup sizes use Italian names like tall, grande, and venti because after Howard Schultz took a 1983 trip to Italy, he decided to recreate the feeling of Italian coffee houses in his own establishments.
To understand more about why Starbucks’ most diminutive coffee is “tall,” we’ll have to dive into the history of Starbucks, its CEO, his love of Italian coffee shops, and the growing demand for larger sizes of coffee cups.
Starbucks: A History
It all started back in 1983 when a man named Howard Schultz went to Italy. Originally from Seattle, Howard Schultz owned a tiny coffee shop called Il Giornale.
He traveled to Italy and fell in love with the European coffee shops. They showcased a love of coffee as a drink and a culture.
After his monumental trip to Italy, Howard came back inspired. He wanted his coffee shop to have the same warm, welcoming environment he had seen overseas. To emulate this, he made some changes–including naming the coffee sizes “short” and “tall,” as they did in Italy.
Of course, this was just the beginning. In 1992, Schultz bought a small local coffee chain called Starbucks, which he had been an employee before opening Il Giornale.
He incorporated his drink sizes and the Italian coffee shop feels into the chain, added “grande” (Italian for large), and became a huge success.
Throughout the 1990s, the only sizes on the menu were short 8 ounces (236.58 mL), tall 12 ounces (354.88 mL), and grande 16 ounces (473.18 mL). However, the market was changing, and people were drinking more coffee.
Starbucks added another size, venti 20 ounces (591.47 mL), to respond to the demand for larger servings. They took “short” off the posted menu to conserve space.
At this point, Starbucks also added the “cold venti.” When customers bought an iced coffee in a venti, they received a 24-ounce (709.76 mL) cup instead of the standard 20 ounces (591.47 mL).
Starbucks implemented this standard to accommodate the ice in the cup–they didn’t want their customers receiving less coffee just because it was cold.
This system worked for years. Throughout the 2000s, the three drinks offered were tall, grande, and venti (and cold venti).
In 2011, however, the company decided to up their game once more and introduced the trenta. After testing in Arizona and Washington, they agreed that a larger size was necessary.
The trenta, only available for cold drinks, marks the last of the Starbucks cup sizes (so far). While it’s not on the official menu, it’s still available in most American Starbucks stores.
As far as we know, Starbucks isn’t planning any smaller or larger sizes or changing its unique naming system.
Whether you like it or not, the Starbucks cup sizes and names are here to stay. They provide an air of uniqueness to the coffee shop.
Some might call them pretentious, but Starbucks introduced them to make the coffee shop unique and welcoming. Judging from the number of people who flock there daily, I’d say they did a pretty good job.
Starbucks offers five sizes of coffee drinks, even if they only have three on the menu. Now that you know the history, it’s easier to understand why “tall” is their smallest drink. They wanted to offer a unique and welcoming coffee experience.
So next time you go to a Starbucks, show off your knowledge (and love of coffee) and order a trenta!