Life

Every Single Iced Coffee Drink From Starbucks, Ranked

Starbucks’ iced coffee menu is all sorts of f*cked up. Cold brews with cream, nitro cold brews, iced Americanos, iced coffees, shaken espressos, iced flat whites, iced lattes, iced macchiatos… they really should be given some sort of reward for figuring out new ways to fill their menu with what is essentially the same thing over and over and over again while charging you different amounts of money for it. What kind of sick game are you playing with us, Starbucks? Who are you, Chuck Rhoades from Billions?!

Seriously, this menu is needlessly complicated. Take for instance the weird made-up subcategory “iced mochas.” Iced mochas differ in no way from iced lattes (a different category on the menu) except that they’re made with chocolate. Is there a separate category for the other flavored lattes? Nope, just chocolate. That explains why the drive-thru and in-store lines are always so long — don’t blame the baristas, blame Starbucks because nobody knows what the hell they are ordering. So to save you some time, we’ve decided to break down each one of Starbucks’ iced coffee drinks by tasting and ranking all of them and explaining the differences between drinks like the shaken espresso and the iced macchiato — which, as we said before, are essentially the same thing.

Seriously Starbucks, get a hold of yourself and fix this menu! End rant.

Because there are a considerable number of customizable flavor options at Starbucks, we’re only going to be ranking the drinks Starbucks lists on its online menu, ordering each as-is, size tall (small) with no additional tweaks. We’ll be sure to list how each drink is made so you have a clear understanding of what you’re ordering. We’ve also eliminated a few drinks that we consider minor alterations of a menu item, for example, Starbucks lists both Iced Coffee and Iced Coffee With Milk. They’re so similar they don’t deserve independent rankings, so we’re going to lump them in as one entry and make notes on the flavor profiles of both. Just because Starbucks won’t simplify its menu, doesn’t mean we won’t try to do it for them!

Find out which drinks are worth your time and money, and how to navigate Starbucks’ needlessly complicated categories below. But first…

What Makes For A Great Iced Coffee?

We’ve done all sorts of fast food coffee rankings and blind taste tests and when it comes to good coffee we’re always looking for one thing: balance. A balance between the natural character of the coffee bean itself — which could mean flavors that range from toasty to fruity to floral to bitter and everything in between — and the drink’s other elements. It should be acidic, but not to the point of being sour, with a smooth and pleasant mouthfeel. Sugar should not run the show.

Make sense? Let’s drink.

23. Iced Caffe Americano

Starbucks Iced Ranking
Dane Rivera

What’s In It?

Two shots of espresso, ice, and water.

Tasting Notes:

Just awful. The primary flavors here present themselves as a sort of blank sour wateriness. It’s barely drinkable. It tastes like rainwater filtered through a potted plant. This drink has no redeeming qualities, it’s something you’d only order if you needed a quick kick of caffeine, and this drink definitely delivers a mind-sharpening buzz, but it’s an awful experience to get through.

The Bottom Line:

Starbucks’ worst drink. They don’t have espresso good enough to make an iced Americano work.

22. Iced Flat White

Starbucks Ranked
Dane Rivera

What’s In It?

Two shots of Signature Espresso Ristretto, ice, and whole milk.

Tasting Notes:

Starbucks uses a different espresso for their Flat White’s called Signature Espresso Ristretto, which sure does sound fancy. Too bad it tastes like garbage. Really, Starbucks just doesn’t have great espresso when compared to other coffee chains like Pete’s, Coffee Bean, or even Dunkin, so it makes a drink like this, which relies on the complex flavors of espresso to really sell it, fall, for lack of a better word… flat.

This tastes straight up like dirty water.

The Bottom Line:

Flate White? More like flat garbage. Flarbage.

21. Vanilla Sweet Cream Nitro Cold Brew

Starbucks Ranking
Dane Rivera

What’s In It?

A splash of sweet cream and nitro cold brew coffee.

Tasting Notes:

Weak muddled notes of vanilla hover over a burnt stale flavor that stains the tongue. I’m really surprised I didn’t like this one, I enjoyed the Nitro Cold Brew base that this drink is built upon, but the vanilla sweet cream surprisingly brought out a lot of the hidden bitterness and over-roasted notes lurking below.

The Bottom Line:

Awful, if you want to sweeten up your Nitro Cold Brew, you’re better off doing it yourself than relying on the Starbucks Vanilla Sweet Cream.

20. Iced Chocolate Almondmilk Shaken Espresso

Starbucks Ranked
Starbucks

What’s In It?

Two shots of blonde espresso, chocolate malt powder, ice, and almond milk.

Tasting Notes:

Very nutty with a weird off-putting bitter plant-like aftertaste. The flavors just don’t really work together here, there is a noticeable flatness to it. I really feel this is the weakest flavor in the Shaken Espresso lineup, I’m not sure if that’s down to Starbucks’ almond milk, or just a poor pairing of flavors (why is this one made with almond milk and the others oat milk?) but we’d advise staying away from this one.

The Bottom Line:

The worst flavor in Starbucks’ otherwise very-good Shaken Espresso line.

19. Iced Coffee

Iced Coffee
Starbucks

What’s In It? 3 pumps Classic Syrup, ice, iced coffee.

Tasting Notes:

Some simple syrup masks sour and acidic coffee. The flavor is a bit sickly and stains the palate in the worst way — you’re going to want to pop a strip of gum after you’re through with this one. You can probably mask some of its bad qualities with milk or cream but as this thing comes, it’s not worth drinking.

The Bottom Line:

Sour and sweet, which good iced coffee shouldn’t taste like.

18. Iced Caffè Latte

Starbucks Ranked
Starbucks

What’s In It?

One shot of Signature espresso, 2% milk, ice.

Tasting Notes:

Watery and oddly neutral in flavor. I wouldn’t say it tastes bad because you could hardly taste anything at all here. The slightest hint of bitterness can be sensed if you really strain for it but a powerful burnt aftertaste muddies it up.

The Bottom Line:

Not great, too watery and muddled to really taste the milk or espresso.

17. Starbucks Reserve Iced Hazelnut Bianco Latte

Starbucks Ranking
Dane Rivera

What’s In It?

Two Reserve espresso shots, ice, hazelnut syrup.

Tasting Notes:

I wanted to like this one because I like saying “can I get a Tall Reserve Iced Hazelnut Bianco Latte?” It makes me feel like a total asshole, like the parody of a hardcore Starbucks drinker, plus it has hazelnut and hazelnut is delicious and one of the best flavors to pair with the earthy toasty notes of espresso. Unfortunately, as I mentioned so many times already but won’t stop reiterating, Starbucks doesn’t have great espresso so instead of this tasting like a wonderful bouquet of sweet toasted notes that bounce between everything from chocolate, tobacco leaf, butterscotch and cherries, this just tastes burnt and weak.

The Bottom Line:

You can almost pull out something resembling a pleasing flavor when this hits your palate, but it never quite gets there.

16. Iced Caramel Macchiato

Starbucks Ranked
Dane Rivera

What’s In It?

One shot of signature espresso, two pumps of vanilla syrup, 2% milk, caramel drizzle.

Tasting Notes:

The drink every barista who doesn’t work at Starbucks hates. A macchiato is not, like a frappuccino, a drink created by Starbucks. A traditional Italian macchiato consists of about an ounce of milk spotted with a shot of espresso, and at a lot of independent coffee shops, a macchiato is still that. This leads to a lot of angry customers who have come to expect a full-size drink, thanks to a trend that Starbucks seems to have started and other American coffee shops have since adopted.

I’m sorry, I’m letting resentment from my past as a barista bubble up to the surface.

Anyway, this drink isn’t good, and I’m not just saying that because of some Barista PTSD — the flavors just don’t gel together here. The caramel notes are almost ghostly, and the overall flavor comes across as tasting dirty. The flavors just don’t combine cohesively, it tastes like it needs to be blended to work, which is probably why the Caramel Frappuccino is so good.

The Bottom Line:

Bad, a bitter dirty caramel flavor dominates this drink. Like Snickers dipped in soil.

15. Cold Brew

Starbucks Ranked
Starbucks

What’s In It?

Cold brew coffee.

Tasting Notes:

The slightest hint of bitterness hovers above a naturally sweet body that is a little more acidic than it should be, but overall pretty good. The only thing is Starbucks Nitro Cold Brew is slightly better and has more character than this, so it feels a bit redundant.

It’s okay to kill menu items Starbucks, let this one go.

The Bottom Line:

A bit more sour and less complex than the Nitro version of this Cold Brew.

14. Iced Honey Almondmilk Flat White

Starbucks Iced Ranking
Dane Rivera

What’s In It?

Two shots Blonde Espresso Ristretto, three pumps honey blend, ice, almond milk

Tasting Notes:

Starbucks uses Califia Farms Barista Blend almond milk and if you like that brand it’s pretty safe to assume you’re going to like all of Starbucks’ almond milk-based drinks, because that Califia Farms flavor is pretty prominent. Unfortunately, I think it tastes like plants — there is this weird green vegetal taste to Starbucks almond milk drinks that I just can’t get behind.

The added bitter and sweet notes of honey help to make this a bit more palatable, but ultimately I think this is a pretty mid-tier drink.

The Bottom Line:

It has a plant-y vegetal quality that doesn’t really taste that great to me. Honey does a lot of heavy lifting here but it’s not enough to save this one from the mid ranks.

13. Nitro Cold Brew

Starbucks Ranked
Dane Rivera

What’s In It?

Nitro cold brew coffee

Tasting Notes:

Soft an smooth on the palate with a bitter dark chocolate flavor. I’m getting some subtle cherry flavors on the backend, overall just a really pleasant coffee that is full of character.

The Bottom Line:

I think the Nitro Cold Brew is best enjoyed totally black. There is enough flavor and natural sweetness here that it doesn’t require loads of sugar to be palatable.

12. Iced Espresso

Starbucks Ranked
Starbucks

What’s In It?

Two shots of espresso, ice.

Tasting Notes:

Considering I’ve spent a lot of words reiterating that Starbucks’ espresso is objectively awful, you’d think I’d rank this one dead last but… if you’re looking for that kick of caffeine, straight up iced espresso is the way to go. Starbucks espresso is a real problem when it gets stretched out in a 12 oz drink, but this simple iced shot form factor makes it a lot more palatable. I can taste some dark chocolate and cherry notes in there and can see now how Starbucks can stand behind their espresso blends.

They just don’t seem to be paying attention to how the flavors of their beans interact with their syrups.

The Bottom Line:

When you need a quick sugar-free jolt of caffeine, this is the most palatable way to get it.

11. Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew

Starbucks Ranked
Dane Rivera

What’s In It?

Sweet cream, one pump vanilla syrup, cold brew coffee.

Tasting Notes:

This is the kind of shit that I hate about Starbucks. Why do we need a Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew and a Vanilla Sweet Cream Nitro Cold Brew? They shouldn’t be individual menu items, they are essentially the same thing at the very least Starbucks should stop listing the Nitro version since it tastes rancid. I’m not sure why this one works where the other former fails, but I had a much more pleasant experience drinking this over the Nitro version.

The vanilla flavor still falls a bit flat here, but the way it mingles with Starbucks’ sweet cold brew is a lot more pleasing and the soft frothy mouthfeel makes this drink really pleasant to sip on.

The Bottom Line:

If you want vanilla-sweetened cold brew, don’t get it Nitro style, get this one instead.

10. Salted Caramel Cream Cold Brew

Starbucks Iced Ranking
Dane Rivera

What’s In It?

One pump of vanilla syrup, salted caramel cream cold foam, cold brew coffee.

Tasting Notes:

Sweet buttery and vanilla flavors make way for earthy and sweet caramel notes with a nice subtle salty finish. Really pleasant to drink, which came as kind of a surprise. So far I haven’t loved Starbucks’ Caramel-based drinks, the flavors never taste well mixed together, but this one tastes really balanced.

The Bottom Line:

Starbucks’ best Caramel-based iced coffee drink.

9. Iced Blonde Vanilla Latte

Starbucks Ranking
Dane Rivera

What’s In It?

One shot of Blonde espresso, three pumps of vanilla syrup, ice, 2% milk.

Tasting Notes:

Starbucks’ Blonde espresso is probably the brand’s best tasting espresso, it’s light, buttery, with a mellow body and a pleasing lightly toasted flavor, which pairs nicely with Starbucks’ vanilla syrup. The flavors in this drink are very faint, the vanilla doesn’t overpower and the coffee component never comes across as overly bitter or sour.

The Bottom Line:

Pretty solid, but not remarkable.

8. Iced Caffè Mocha

Starbucks Ranked
Dane Rivera

What’s In It?

One shot of signature espresso, three pumps of mocha sauce, 2% milk.

Tasting Notes:

Deep chocolate notes dominate the flavor profile, it’s deeply sweet like a chocolate bar. The mouthfeel is a bit on the chalky side and the flavors are a bit watered down and muddled, but it’s still hard to dislike this drink. Alas, as I drank it I couldn’t help but wish it was a Mocha Frapp — it has all the makings of a decadent and delicious chocolate coffee milkshake but it doesn’t quite stick the landing.

The Bottom Line:

Delicious but why not default the recipe with whole milk over 2%? The stock recipe is missing some creaminess that would greatly enhance the flavors. We’d suggest a whole milk sub if you order this.

7. Reserve Cold Brew

Starbucks Ranked
Starbucks

What’s In It?

Starbucks Reserve cold brew coffee.

Tasting Notes:

Starbucks Reserve cold brew has a pleasant silkiness to it with a mellow body and subtle notes of dark chocolate and red cherries. It’s very drinkable, there is a nice balance of natural sweetness and bitterness that never result in wince-inducing sips. You don’t need sweetener or cream here, it’s perfectly good black.

The Bottom Line:

One of Starbucks’ best sugar-free coffee options.

6. Iced White Chocolate Mocha

Starbucks Iced Ranking
Dane Rivera

What’s In It?

One shot of signature espresso, three pumps of white chocolate mocha syrup, 2% milk, ice.

Tasting Notes:

This is a weird one because just from a pure flavor standpoint, I really love the way this tastes. It has a pure white chocolate flavor with sweet, creamy, almost velvety notes. In no world does this taste bad… but it doesn’t taste anything like coffee and when we’re talking about ranking the best iced coffee drinks, we kind of… you know… actually want to be able to taste the coffee.

So I like this, but not because I like the coffee. For that it’ll have to live in the middle of our ranking.

The Bottom Line:

If you like your coffee to taste sweet to the point that there are no noticeable coffee flavors, then this is the drink for you!

5. Iced Cinnamon Dolce Latte

Starbucks Ranking
Dane Rivera

What’s In It?

One of shot signature espresso, three pumps of cinnamon dolce syrup, 2% milk, ice, cinnamon dolce sprinkled whipped cream.

Tasting Notes:

For whatever reason, Starbucks’ espresso just tastes really good anytime brown sugar or cinnamon are involved. This has a delicious dessert quality to it, falling somewhere between a snickerdoodle and a cinnamon roll in drink form. It’s sweet, spicy, and citrusy.

The Bottom Line:

Delicious, but Starbucks has another cinnamon and brown sugar flavor that’s a bit better than this — watch for it.

4. Reserve Iced Dark Chocolate Mocha

Starbucks Ranked
Starbucks

What’s In It?

Two shots of Reserve espresso, whole milk, ice, mocha sauce.

Tasting Notes:

Much more distinct and heavy on the chocolate than any of Starbucks’ other mocha-based drinks. The flavors are velvety and inviting here, cherry and stone fruit float about heavy notes of coffee and cocoa with a milk chocolate finish. The way the dark chocolate and espresso compliment each other is nice, the drink presents itself with noticeable bitterness that is softened by round chocolate notes that taste like they’re melting into the tongue.

The Bottom Line:

Starbucks finest chocolate-based coffee drink. If you love chocolate, this is the play.

3. Iced Brown Sugar Oatmilk Shaken Espresso

Starbucks Ranked
Dane Rivera

What’s In It?

Two shots of blonde espresso, 3 pumps of brown sugar syrup, ice, and oat milk.

Tasting Notes:

It tastes like Christmas! Brown sugar molasses cinnamon and some sort of spice (star anise?) sizzle together for a spicy and fragrant iced coffee drink. The oat milk provides a nice nutty character to the aftertaste.

The Bottom Line:

Very reminiscent of a gingerbread cookie, but not sickeningly sweet. It still tastes like coffee, one of Starbucks’ best drinks easily.

2. Iced Toasted Vanilla Oatmilk Shaken Espresso

Starbucks Iced Ranking
Dane Rivera

What’s In It?

Two shots of blonde espresso, 3 pumps of toasted vanilla syrup, ice, oat milk.

Tasting Notes:

I’m not sure if Starbucks’ “toasted vanilla syrup” is actually a definite syrup, but it tastes significantly better in this drink to me. That might have to do with the way the oatmilk brings forth the toasted and nutty notes of the espresso, but seriously, I’m loving this. This is the newest flavor in Starbucks’ Shaken Espresso line and it’s easily the best. Overall this drink has a nice balance of natural sweetness, sweetened vanilla, and the lightly bitter and buttery toasted notes of Starbucks’ blond espresso blend.

It’s one of the few plant-based milk drinks on Starbucks’ menu that I think actually tastes better without the sweet and creamy quality of cow’s milk. Very close to being the best drink on the menu.

The Bottom Line:

Even if you don’t seek out or prefer plant-based milks, give this one a try — it’ll make you a believer.

1. Iced Pistachio Latte

Starbucks Iced Ranking
Dane Rivera

What’s In It?

One shot of espresso, three pumps of Pistachio Sauce, 2% milk, and salted brown butter.

Tasting Notes:

Is this Starbucks’ best-kept secret? Yes, yes it is.

I’m not a huge Starbucks fan so I’m not sure how long this drink has been around, but I’ve never heard it advertised, talked about, or even ordered. I haven’t heard this drink called out at a Starbucks, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen it on the physical menu in-store — which is a real shame because this is one of Starbucks’ best-tasting drinks. Easily.

It’s very reminiscent of hazelnut in flavor but less sweet with a sort of… green aftertaste and a more pronounced nutty character.

The Bottom Line:

Starbucks best drink that no one talks about!

The Big Takeaway:

Simplify your menu, Starbucks — this is madness. Too many of these drinks are painfully similar. Don’t do it for our sake, do it for shorter lines in-store and in the drive-thru and more decisive customers. If you do, people will have an easier time finding your gems!

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