The Definitive Guide to Starbucks Handcrafted Drinks

Starbucks handcrafted drinks

If you thought Starbucks lingo couldn’t be more confusing, here comes the handcrafted beverages.

This guide covers everything you need to know about Starbucks handcrafted drinks and how to get them for free.

What is a Handcrafted Drink at Starbucks?

A handcrafted drink at Starbucks is any drink that is handmade behind the counter. Handcrafted beverages include espresso-based drinks, hot chocolate, cold brew, iced coffees and teas, refreshers, frappuccinos, steamers, and tea lattes.

Ready-to-drink beverages and hot brewed coffee or tea that are simply poured into a cup when you order are not considered handcrafted.

We recommend checking with the barista when you are not sure if a drink is handcrafted.

Handcrafted drinks are considered superior to brewed beverages as the baristas apply their craftsmanship to balance different ingredients to make delectable treats.

These drinks usually take some complex preparation like pulling shots of espresso, steaming milk, blending, steeping (especially for cold brew), and adding toppings.

Let’s take an in-depth look at the various categories of Starbucks handcrafted drinks.

1. Espresso Drinks

Espresso-based drinks like caramel macchiato and lattes are some of the most popular handcrafted beverages at Starbucks.

Pulling excellent espresso shots takes great skill even if the final process involves simply pressing a button on a machine. As the foundation of espresso-based drinks, the shots impact the final flavor of even the most complex espresso drinks.

Starbucks uses fully automatic espresso machines which have been calibrated to grind and dose the correct coffee beans and tamp the grounds all at the pressing of a button, and then pull the shots.

Still, the barista has to effectively manage her time between making espresso, steaming milk, and adding flavors and toppings to promptly serve the drink at the right temperature without compromising its final flavor.

Handcrafted espresso drinks include

  • Espresso
  • Espresso macchiato
  • Americano
  • Cappuccino
  • Flat white
  • Espresso con Panna
  • Undertow coffee
  • Caffe Latte
  • Caffe Mocha
  • Caramel macchiato
  • White mocha
  • Vanilla latte

2. Hot Chocolate

Starbucks hot chocolate is handcrafted as a bit of skill goes into steaming the milk and adding mocha sauce, sweeteners, and toppings.

The different types of handcrafted hot chocolate beverages that you can order at Starbucks include

  • White hot chocolate
  • Hot chocolate (regular)
  • Toasted white hot chocolate

3. Cold Brew Coffee

Although cold brew including nitro cold brew is steeped in advance and merely poured into your cup when you order, Starbucks classifies it as handcrafted.

So whether you prefer the bubbly nitro with its cascading effects or regular cold brew, you now know that it is handcrafted. Here are some handcrafted cold brew drinks to try

  • sweet cream cold brew
  • vanilla sweet cream nitro cold brew
  • Nitro cold brew
  • chocolate cream cold brew
  • salted caramel cold brew
  • cold brew with milk

4. Iced Coffee

Most of the iced coffees at Starbucks are espresso-based. Whether it’s the iced shaken espresso, iced Americano, iced lattes, or iced mochas, these handcrafted beverages offer a superb way to pep yourself in summer.

Starbucks handcrafted iced coffees include

5. Iced Tea

Apart from the bottled ready-to-drink teas, Starbucks iced teas are handcrafted and they include

  • iced chai tea latte
  • iced peach green tea
  • iced green tea
  • iced herbal teas such as the iced passion tango tea
  • iced matcha tea latte
  • iced London fog tea latte
  • iced black tea
  • iced royal English breakfast tea latte

6. Frappuccinos

For most people, it is never in doubt that Starbucks frappuccinos are handcrafted. These blended treats have revolutionized the coffee industry by bringing younger customers to Starbucks. There are thousands of frappuccino flavor combinations that include seasonal treats.

Here are some of the main menu frappuccinos

  • mocha frappuccino
  • caramel frappuccino
  • java chip frappuccino
  • strawberry creme frappuccino
  • matcha creme frappuccino
  • double chocolaty chip creme frappuccino
  • mocha cookie crumble frappuccino
  • caramel ribbon crunch frappuccino

7. Steamers

Starbucks is no longer solely for adults as there are some amazing hot drinks that your kids can enjoy. Apart from the traditional hot chocolate options, steamers are excellent hot handcrafted drink options for your kids.

You can choose between cinnamon dolce creme and vanilla creme when buying a steamer.

8. Refreshers

These hand-shaken treats combine fruit juice with the extract of green coffee. Refreshers have a moderate pepping-up effect. Examples of handcrafted refreshers are

  • pink drink
  • dragon drink
  • Strawberry Acai
  • star drink
  • kiwi starfruit
  • kiwi starfruit lemonade
  • mango dragonfruit
  • strawberry acai lemonade

9. Handcrafted Juice

Starbucks has both hot and cold handcrafted juices such as caramel apple spice which is served hot and the cold strawberry lemonade.

Ready-to-drink juices are not handcrafted.

10. Hot Tea Lattes

Handcrafted hot teas have no coffee and they include

  • London fog tea latte
  • Royal English Breakfast tea latte
  • Chai tea latte
  • Matcha tea latte

3 Ways to Get a Free Handcrafted Drink at Starbucks?

There are three ways to get a free handcrafted drink at Starbucks at participating stores

  1. Redeeming 150 Starbucks stars for one handcrafted drink
  2. Using the BOGO Happy Hour offer
  3. Using the refill policy for the qualifying handcrafted beverages

What is Starbucks Rewards Program?

It is a loyalty program where you get redeemable stars for every dollar spent at Starbucks stores. You can earn more stars when you preload your Starbucks digital card and pay with it. Starbucks credit card holders earn stars for purchases at Starbucks and everywhere else at different rates.

Starbucks stars are in redeemable tiers of 25, 50, 150, 200, and 400 stars respectively, and each tier qualifies you to redeem specific items from the Starbucks menu for free at participating stores.

For example, you can customize any drink for free when you redeem 25 stars such that you only pay for the drink, and all the extra additions such as espresso shots, toppings, and flavors will be free.

For 50 stars, you can get free brewed coffee such as cafe misto and customize it absolutely free. Since some baristas may not be aware that you can do this for 50 stars, simply redeem the drink hassle-free on the Starbucks app and be sure to select the correct Starbucks store and head there to collect it.

For 150 stars on the Starbucks rewards program, you can order your choice of one handcrafted beverage and customize it without paying a single penny.

How Starbucks Happy Hour Works

Starbucks occasionally implements Happy Hour Thursdays at selected stores where when you buy a Grande or larger size handcrafted drink, you get the second drink for free. The price of the complimentary handcrafted drink can not be more than the paid drink.

What is Starbucks Refill Policy?

Starbucks refill policy is a benefit that is available to Starbucks Rewards members which allows them to order brewed coffee or tea for free as a second drink after paying for their first drink so long as they don’t leave the store.

If you leave the store before redeeming your free drink, your rentering the store is considered a new visit which precludes you from getting free drinks on the previous purchases.

Since Starbucks refill policy is limited to brewed hot and cold coffees and teas with no lemonade, you can only order plain cold brew coffee, iced coffee, or iced tea as these are the only qualifying handcrafted beverages.

Non-Starbucks Rewards members are charged about 50 cents per drink for the refill policy.

You can not get a free frappuccino, latte, refresher, or iced tea with lemonade using the refill policy at Starbucks. Teavana shaken iced teas infusions are also not part of the free refills.

Cheapest Handcrafted Beverage at Starbucks

Caramel apple spice and Caffe Americano offer the best value for the buck at less than $3 in tall cups. For milk coffee lovers, a tall Caffe latte will set you back slightly less than $3.50 which is nearly a dollar less than the other pimped-up lattes of the same size.

Wrap Up

Starbucks handcrafted drinks are not limited to lattes and frappuccinos as there are hundreds of items on the Starbucks handcrafted drinks menu including kids’ beverages.

If you are a regular customer at Starbucks, you may want to register for the Rewards program and start collecting the stars, and who knows, you may use them for a free handcrafted drink in the future.

And who doesn’t like Happy Hour when you can avail yourself of a complimentary handcrafted drink?


Patrick is first a coffee lover and then a trained barista. His bucket list includes sky diving and sipping on Java in the Himalayas.

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