Struggling to know which brewed drinks count as handcrafted drinks at Starbucks? There is a wide variety to choose from, but save your Starbucks rewards for the right thing.
I serve up the facts below, separating the Starbucks handcrafted drinks from the standard fare.
Breeze through the drive-thru with ease on your next coffee run, flashing your Starbucks rewards Visa card as you go.
Let's get started!
What Does A Handcrafted Drink At Starbucks Truly Mean?
According to Starbucks, a handcrafted drink means its made with "a bit more love" than other drinks on the menu.
This is a little vague - what they mean is any drink that requires the barista to use complex techniques and personal touch behind the counter.
Wait -- don't the machines make the coffee?
Yes, the espresso machines push hot water through the ground beans. However, it takes skill to pull the shot, steam the milk, and make any custom changes the customer wants.
A simpler rule is this: if it has an espresso shot or has more than a couple of elements to it, the drink is most likely handcrafted.
For example, a seasonal Starbucks hot chocolate drink counts as handcrafted.
Starbucks bottled drinks or pre-made drinks like bottled water or milk do not count, nor do regular coffees or teas that only require a splash of milk and sugar.
Instead, save your Stars for a handcrafted drink worth the investment.
What Starbucks Drink Types Are Considered Handcrafted?
Let’s talk about the handcrafted drinks menu.
There is not typically a Starbucks handcrafted beverages menu, but a wide range of drinks fall into the handcrafted category.
Which are the best handcrafted Starbucks drinks? You'll have to try them all to decide!
If there is an espresso shot in your order, it is most likely handcrafted.
There are so many handcrafted espresso drinks to choose from at Starbucks. Espresso is a highly versatile tool in any Starbucks barista’s kit.
Not only can you get handcrafted espresso-based drinks, but the espresso itself counts as a handcrafted drink.
Pulling espresso shots, even for basic espresso drinks, takes skill. This, combined with your custom unique flavors, can take even regular drinks and completely transform them.
Some of the espresso-based drinks that count as handcrafted beverages include:
Frappuccino And Other Blended Beverages
Did you know that Starbucks bought the rights to the name Frappuccino in the ‘90s?
These delicious Starbucks handcrafted drinks are perfect for cooling off in the summer. Frappuccinos are essentially iced blended drinks with cream and signature Starbucks syrup on top.
There are two kinds of Frappuccino - coffee-based and cream-based. Cream-based drinks can still have coffee and caffeine, so watch out for that.
Frappuccinos are more expensive options that lean into higher calorie counts, making them best as occasional treats rather than daily drinks.
These popular drinks are highly customizable and difficult to perfect. With over 31 rotating flavors, it is difficult to choose a favorite - here are some of mine:
An iced coffee is the perfect mood booster on a hot day.
Whether you love Starbucks iced lattes or iced mochas, you can rest easy knowing your daily cold beverage counts as a handcrafted drink.
Espresso-based iced coffees are available, too. Cold brew and nitro-style are also trendy handcrafted cold drinks.
Cold coffees are considered handcrafted drinks no matter what kind you customize - so get as many espresso shots as you like.
Some stores may not count specific iced coffee drinks as handcrafted ones - check with your barista before ordering to be sure.
My favorite iced beverages and shaken espresso drinks include:
It does not get better than sipping on an iced tea in the summer sun (except when the free drinks are free handcrafted drinks!)
So how can iced teas count as handcrafted drinks?
It may seem surprising, but you can customize a lot of elements to create handcrafted iced teas.
For example, you can choose the amount of ice water, what syrup you want, and which milk and toppings you prefer.
Each of these behind-the-bar additions makes iced tea a handcrafted drink at Starbucks.
Bottled iced teas do not count - they must be freshly prepared behind the counter to gain handcrafted beverage status.
Some of the best-iced tea options include:
Is cold brew considered a handcrafted beverage at Starbucks?
At most Starbucks locations, nitro and cold brew are considered handcrafted, as small batches are allowed to sit in cold water overnight for optimal extraction.
To create cold brewed coffee like the sweet cream cold brew, a barista will mix course ground beans with cold water and steep for 20-24 hours.
These small batches slowly extract the coffee as the water heats up, creating a smoother flavor.
Nitro coffee has added nitrogen to create a sweet, velvety flavor and a foamy head of microbubbles without additional sweeteners or syrups.
This can make it a great alternative to dessert-like frappuccinos or other similar Starbucks drinks. Some cold brews that count as Starbucks handcrafted drinks include:
Handcrafted Holiday Drinks
Seasonal beverages can make any time of year feel really special. The pumpkin spice latte has become so popular that now everyone knows what a “PSL” is.
Part of the fun of the Starbucks seasonal drinks menu is that these limited flavor combos can change depending on the date and location.
It takes regular brewed coffee and turns it into something delicious. These are my favorite seasonal drinks from the handcrafted drink Starbucks menu.
Be sure to confirm that they are currently available in your area (and try not to get jealous of other countries' seasonal beverages - looking at you, Japan!)
Steamers are the perfect type of drink for kids who want something a little fancy or for those who want something simple but still delicious.
Some steamers are seasonal, while others are menu staples. Try customizing them with toppings and syrups to shake things up.
Specialty Hot Teas
Is tea considered a handcrafted drink at Starbucks?
Teas are a little trickier to place in the handcrafted drinks section.
Most simple teas that are pre-packaged or require minimum preparation are not classified as handcrafted beverages.
However, there are a few exceptions.
Other Cold Drinks
To round out the selection of your new potential favorite handcrafted drink at Starbucks list, I wanted to share some of the miscellaneous cold drinks that count as handcrafted.
These are things like lemonades and certain refresher flavors - give them a try!
What Drinks From Starbucks Do Not Count As Handcrafted?
Pre-packaged and pre-prepared drinks are not considered handcrafted. This is because they were not made with that little extra care behind the counter that other menu items are.
Starbucks used to sell alcoholic drinks, but that has been mostly phased out.
If your local spot still sells beer or wine, those do not count as handcrafted and may not count on the Starbucks rewards program.
Brewed Tea and Coffee
A handcrafted drink Starbucks makes will be complex drinks that require additional ingredients.
Simpler brewed beverages like brewed coffees or teas that require minimal customization do not count as handcrafted Starbucks drinks.
Some drinks that do not come under the handcrafted category include:
You can get value for the Starbucks rewards program by adding extra items like whipped cream or vanilla syrup.
However, I do not think it is worth wasting previous Starbucks Stars on.
Are Handcrafted Starbucks Drinks Worth Your Money?
Overall, if you are willing to pay a premium for fancier custom drinks and already have some favorite handcrafted drinks at Starbucks, it can be worth it.
The handcrafted beverage is an investment but can be worth it for Starbucks rewards program members and lovers of certain Starbucks drinks.
Starbucks Brewed Vs Handcrafted Drink Differences
To summarize, Starbucks beverages that require skill, customization, and various ingredients added by Starbucks baristas are considered handcrafted - this applies to most drinks on the menu.
Simpler drinks that require minimal effort and skill, except for perhaps some milk or whipped cream, are considered brewed drinks.
Common Handcrafted Starbucks Drink FAQs
What size is the free handcrafted drink at Starbucks?
According to Starbucks, you can redeem any size or style of handcrafted drink with two customizations for 150 Stars through your Starbucks loyalty program.
What is the cheapest handcrafted beverage at Starbucks?
The cheapest handcrafted drink at Starbucks is the espresso, which comes in at around $2.20 - not bad for the backbone of many expensive drinks Starbucks offers.
Handcrafted drinks at Starbucks require a little more time and love to craft.
I recommend ordering any of the blended beverages above and soaking in the cozy atmosphere while the barista works their magic.
Get creative, put your Starbucks Stars to good use, and get ahead of the trends with one delicious drink - the little things spark joy.