There is no such thing as a “small” on a Starbucks menu. The sizes, as everyone who’s listened to a bad stand-up comedy show knows, are tall, grande and venti. Starbucks does offer a small; there’s just so little demand for it that they don’t put it on the menu. And they don’t call it a small. (Maybe Starbucks is a little stupid.)
In Australia, a Starbucks tall is 354ml, a grande is 471ml and a venti is 593ml. You should order none of these. What you should order is a “short.”
It’s not secret; the baristas know what it is, they’ll grab the smaller cup and pour it just fine. A short is a full-fledged member of the Starbucks product offering. It’s just not on the menu.
A Starbucks short is 236ml, like a mostly filled ceramic coffee mug, or a to-go cup at a fancier café.
The short is especially good for a cappuccino. As Slate noted years ago, a proper cappuccino has a thick head of foamed milk. Beyond 230ml, the foam breaks down and the milk dilutes the coffee. (The World Barista Championship says cappuccinos should be just 5 to 6 ounces which works out to around 170ml.) And at Starbucks, a short cappuccino has just as much espresso as a tall. It’s the same drink, made better, for a little less money.
Even drip coffee is better at 236ml. As Gawker’s Tom Scocca said five years ago, the correct coffee size is small:
When you drink a coffee larger than a small coffee, the coffee gets cold before you can finish it. You begin with a steaming, uplifting sip, and by gradual stages you end up sucking down cold, aroma-less dregs. Everyone knows this. Even people who disdain small coffee will confess that their larger beverages end in misery.
This is why (if you have time for multiple coffee runs) you should order the short even if you drink a lot of coffee. Your coffee will always be hot. Plus you can space it out as you like, and maybe even cut down and build your tolerance back up.
Why does Starbucks hide the small? Slate believes it’s to keep people paying more. But the chain used to have smalls on the menu! The sizes were short, tall, and grande. But American customers kept demanding bigger sizes, and Starbucks added the venti (Italian for twenty), and knocked the short off the menu, with some Australian franchisees following suit.
We won’t re-argue the case for small coffee. You are free to make your own choices. We just want you to make informed choices, and not let a coffee chain’s menu make them for you. When you’re at Starbucks, try the short.