Easy Homemade Starbucks Drinks

Does it seem like most articles on saving money say things like this?

“Cut out your daily Starbucks latte to effortlessly save $40 a week.”

While that advice is effective and accurate, it forgets one major thing. What about those of us who can’t make it through the week without our favorite caffeinated beverage? Yes, cutting Starbucks from your budget cold-turkey will save you a noticeable amount of money, but these easy, DIY Starbucks drinks will keep your budget in check.

Iced Tea and Iced Tea Lemonade

Let’s start with the easiest of the Starbucks drinks to duplicate at home — the teas and tea lemonades. Starbucks used to use the Tazo brand tea for its teas, but switched to Teavana. As an avid Starbucks tea drinker, I don’t notice a huge difference, which means you can stick with Tazo’s Zen, Passion, or Awake tea bags for your DIY brew.

To get the right tea brew, pour 3-4 cups of boiling water over four tea bags. Green and black teas will steep about 3-5 minutes, and Passion tea and other fruity teas will steep a minute or two longer. Add three cups of cold water on top and store your pitcher of tea in the refrigerator.

To make your tea or tea lemonade Starbucks-style, a shaker cup is key. The shaking method that baristas use isn’t just to mix everything together, it actually aerates the tea and makes the drink taste better. I have been drinking Starbucks teas for almost a decade, and I can tell you that there is a noticeable difference in taste between a shaken and a non-shaken tea.

A shaker cup like the Blender Bottle works perfectly for shaking your teas. For sweetened teas, use six pumps of sweetener or save even more money an make your own with sugar and water. Then fill the shaker with one-third tea, one-third water or lemonade, and add ice to the top. Shake and enjoy.

Iced Coffee

The secret to Starbucks iced coffee is that it’s brewed very strong. It’s important to start with a strong ground coffee, using your favorite brand. In my experience, the more affordable brands, like Folgers, don’t brew strong or deep enough, but go with your preference.

Once your coffee is brewed, allow to cool and store in the refrigerator. You can sweeten it with a homemade classic syrup or another DIY flavored syrup, such as white mocha or vanilla syrup. Add half-and-half or milk, and then top off with ice. Yum!

Caramel Macchiato

It’s no secret that Starbucks uses an espresso machine to pour their shots. If you have an espresso machine, then you will have an easy time being your own barista. However, for those of us working with just a coffee maker or coffee press, it is still possible to get close to the espresso taste. I recommend brewing Starbucks espresso ground coffee, which are the same beans Starbucks baristas use in their machines. Brew your coffee stronger than usual.

For a caramel macchiato, start by squirting 5-6 pumps of vanilla syrup in your cup. You can buy a bottle of vanilla syrup or make your own by boiling two cups of sugar with two cups of water, and adding a 1-2 tablespoons of vanilla extract. For hot drinks, fill your cup with ¾ cup of warmed milk.

If you have a milk frother, froth a little bit of milk to make a foam to go on top. Pour strong coffee on top of your foam and milk, then drizzle a caramel syrup in a hashtag pattern. You can use an inexpensive caramel sauce, like Smucker’s caramel sundae sauce, or make your own with heavy cream, butter, and brown sugar. (See also: Don’t Tell Anyone: 11 Secret Starbucks Saving Tips)

Caramel Frappuccino

Starbucks Frappuccinos are more like milkshakes than coffee, but man, are they tasty! To make the popular caramel frappuccino at home, brew strong coffee. Try brewing your coffee with two tablespoons of ground coffee per cup of water for stronger results.

Then you will blend one cup of low-fat milk, one cup of coffee, and two cups of ice, just like this copycat recipe suggests. Instead of blending in caramel sauce or sugar, I recommend making simple syrup and add caramel extract to it. Then blend 5-6 tablespoons of that syrup into your frappuccino with a teaspoon o xantham gum or glucomannan powder for a frothier, thicker frappuccino. Finally, top your drink with whipped cream and caramel sauce.

As long as you have strong coffee and the right flavored syrup, you can technically make any latte or frappuccino. Even though Starbucks has a large menu, as a former barista, I can tell you that majority of the drinks are the same, just with different syrups. For example, the only difference between a white mocha and a vanilla latte is the syrup used.

Latte Art Throwdown Event

Feeling a little sluggish from lunch with almost half your day ahead of you?

Uh oh. You’ve hit the 2 p.m. Slump.

When this happens to me, I like to cure myself with a walk downtown. And with seemingly endless possibilities for delightful destinations, I tend to decide on a coffee.

It’s almost punctilious for me. And nothing rescues me out of the 2 p.m. Slump quite like a truly gifted barista who not only turns over my coffee with a knowing smile, but serves it with the ever-elusive talent of latte art.

Several years ago, we bought a home espresso machine almost for the sole purpose of learning latte art. We did not succeed.

It’s hard, y’all. This is a talent I’m convinced is only bestowed on a lucky few. Lucky for coffee lovers like me, these talented latte artists are going to be in one place for all of us to witness their prowess!

Reve Coffee Roasters is hosting their 2nd Latte Art Throwdown at 7 p.m. March 24 at 200 Jefferson St. It’s $5 to compete and free to watch.

The Latte Art Throwdown will follow rules from the first event in December.

The competition will run on a modified version of the official Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA, if you speak the language). As each barista signs up they will be assigned a bracket position by raffle and will ultimately go head-to head in a single elimination round.

The baristas will be allowed to pour whatever size drink they prefer, with higher scores for harder-to-pour drinks.

As warned in the Facebook event, “making your art actually look like you meant to pour it is more important than trying to pull a perfect rosetta in a cortado.”


Competitors are subject to rules such as no blades and using 0.1 mm tips, but are allowed to bring their own pitcher.

The competing baristas will work side by side on the Reve machines for prizes and, of course, bragging rights.

Judges will evaluate on quality of the pour, including contrast, consistency and purpose. Competitors will have an opportunity to practice on the machines prior to the competition.

Winners move forward and continue until only one is left. And we will call that one, champion.

For the spectator, the raw art of what we witness will be solely from the barista and his/her craft. There will be no stenciling or etching. But it’s just a friendly competition.

Reve reminds everyone “this event is more about connecting with fellow coffee nerds, having fun, and socializing in a setting where everyone can feel comfortable. So, have fun, relax, and enjoy yourself whether you’re competing or not.”

So whether you usually like a heart, leaf, rosetta or anything else you can dream up, this is the group of people who can make all your foamy milk dreams come true!


Great Things about the Breville BES860XL Barista Espresso Machine

The more we can streamline our lives, the more we can manage to get done. The Breville BES860XL Barista Express Espresso Machine allows you to do just that. With an integrated burr grinder, you can grind fresh coffee with perfect consistency, tamp with appropriate pressure and make a shot or two of espresso in under one minute.

espresso (4)

If you are a coffee or espresso aficionado, I don’t have to tell you that a perfect shot relies on doing so many things right at the same time. The fresh coffee bean, the fineness of the grind, the right water temperature, the appropriate water filter, the pump pressure, how to tamp the ground, how long it takes to pull the shot and much more. For newbies, it’s about trusting the machine to get the job done. For experienced baristas, being able to control some or all the variables makes such a huge difference in the outcome.

The BES860XL is designed with both end-users in mind no matter how advanced you are in your pursuit of the art of espresso. All the features and functionality don’t compromise the style. This espresso machine carries on the Breville signature style in stainless steel casing that’s so timeless and will complement any home décor.


The most competitive design feature in Breville’s appliance is the ease of use. This espresso machine is no exception. To brew an espresso, follow the instructions in the User Manual.

One important key to a perfect shot is to preheat your cup by pressing the one cup button and running hot water without the portafilter inserted into the group head. Then place the warmed cup on the warming tray. Another factor is to preheat the portafilter similar to the cup. Of course, the fineness of the grind, the amount and the appropriate tamping force and how long to pull all contribute to the overall “success”.


The BES860ES frothing wand is of commercial grade that comes with a frothing enhancing attachment. The attachment should be used when frothing a large volume.

Fill the pitcher with maximum ½ full. Cold milk is recommended for achieving the best frothing result. Surprisingly low-fat milk produces the most froth and regular milk or cream creates the creamy texture and flavor. Of course, you may use soy, rice or almond milk if you are lactose-intolerant.

There are two steps in frothing the milk including stretching to aerate it and swirling to make it silky with the right temperature between 130 to 150 F. It takes about 2 minutes or so, which is longer than other espresso machines. The BES860XL comes with a stainless steel pitcher.

Credit: Divine Espresso

Other related blog: Bisuzs coffee