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Can you help me make Starbucksy drinks at home?
December 16, 2013 12:10 PM   Subscribe

I just received an espresso machine and am prone to buying $4 iced lattes every day. How can I duplicate the taste I love at home?

My parents just sent us an espresso machine for Christmas. HOORAY! I have always wanted one but never wanted to actually purchase it, so this is awesome. I am not big on hot drinks but am super into iced whatever latte concoctions. Can you give me some recipes that will kick the coffee shops' asses?

At Starbucks I like iced white mochas and caramel macchiatos. At the place downstairs from my work I like iced almond or vanilla lattes. I think at the latter they make their own flavored syrups, and I am not averse to doing that as long as it's not difficult and can last a while. I've made vanilla syrup before and it's pretty easy/tasty.

I would prefer for it to be a quick/easy thing I can do in the morning before work. Brewing hot coffee takes too much effort and cold press coffee took the right amount of time but I would often forget to do it at night. Health/calories/fat isn't really a concern (though we'll talk again after I've had 6 months of daily macchiatos, I'm sure), though if you could think of some way to make this healthier that'd be fine. I tend not to eat breakfast. I prefer iced to hot recipes, but if you have a super amazing recipe that only works hot I'll not turn you away. I will also accept brand recommendations for widely available espresso and ingredients. Or even locally available if you live in the ATL!

Thanks y'all!
posted by masquesoporfavor to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
i make a triple batch of iced coffee concentrate, store it in a quart-sized mason jar, and portion it out over a couple days. diluted with milk, it's delicious. and you can add whatever flavor syrups you want, either buying them or making them.

this is by far the easiest way to make an iced latte that i can think of. it takes like 5 minutes of work for 3-4 days (ymmv) of iced daily coffee. no espresso machine needed.

i know you say that you forget to do it at night, but what if you did it like every 3 to 4 days? because i would totally forget to do it every night but i set a reminder every 3 days and then i'm like, oh shit coffee time.
posted by kerning at 12:19 PM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can tell you exactly how to make an off-brand Starbucks iced caramel macchiato, because I worked at a competing coffee shop and so many people asked for them that we had to learn how to replicate them. Never got any complaints!

You add milk, ice, and vanilla syrup to a glass, leaving a couple inches at the top. Add espresso on top, pouring gently so that it floats on top, one or two shots depending on how strong you like it. Then, caramel drizzle on top, lots of it. We'd ring them up as "upside-down iced vanilla lattes with caramel drizzle".

Any syrup and caramel will work, but you can probably buy them from Starbucks itself.

Look up youtube videos that will show you how to tamp the grounds down correctly! It's tricky at first, and you may wind up with some underextracted (sour, thin) or overextracted (bitter, burnt-tasting) shots, in the beginning.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:19 PM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Here is how the two drinks you mention are made at Starbucks.

White chocolate mocha: pull espresso onto pumps of white mocha sauce. Pour in milk. Pour in ice.

Caramel macchiato: pull espresso onto vanilla syrup. Pour in milk. Pour in ice. Apply caramel drizzle. There is no caramel syrup in a caramel macchiato because that shit's nasty.
posted by threeants at 12:21 PM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Any recs for white mocha sauce? There are some on Amazon and it would be delicious to buy them all but if there's a go-to I'd love to skip the legwork!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 12:22 PM on December 16, 2013


Well, for starters a machiatto is probably one of the least calorie/fat coffee drinks out there. I think it's been appropriated by Starbucks as something totally different, but a machiatto is really just an espresso with a dollop of steamed milk.

An iced latte is really just espresso and milk and you're going to be sad trying to make it with anything other than espresso. The order is important - espresso first, then add cold milk, the top off with ice. The espresso is obviously always going to be hot, but then you add the milk to cool the espresso and let the espresso diffuse, and then top with ice for the extra chill. If you want to add flavors go to town, but add them in between the espresso and the milk. Since espresso is, by it's very raison detre, a very quick and easy thing to make, these should be easy peasy and delicious in the morning.

The iced cappuccino is a dumb drink because why would you cool down a warm drink and then add more warm on top. Don't make these.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:22 PM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you want to add flavors go to town, but add them in between the espresso and the milk.

Slight note, if you're using gloopy, viscous sauces like many of Starbucks', it is important that you pull the espresso onto that, not before, or else it won't get all flowy.
posted by threeants at 12:25 PM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Any recs for white mocha sauce? There are some on Amazon and it would be delicious to buy them all but if there's a go-to I'd love to skip the legwork!

We used Guittard chocolate sauces and they were (and are) amazing. It seems to be easiest to find in giant jug size, though.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:28 PM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Go to Cost Plus World Market for Torani Drink Syrups. They have white chocolate and a bunch of other great flavors. Experiment around until you find the ones you like. You can also make sodas out of these so...bonus!

Go to Your DeKalb Farmer's Market, they have a ton of delicious coffees there, at really reasonable prices. Have them grind you some for your espresso machine. If you like iced, just make a bunch and put it in the fridge in an airtight container for morning consumption.

Then, do some milk, syrup and coffee into a Solo cup and you're out the door!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:29 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I swear this is the most I will ever write on drink condiments, but just to note that the white chocolate Torani syrup is assumedly very different from what is used for white mochas at Starbucks, if that's what you're trying to go for. Starbucks uses "syrups", which are the sugarwatery Torani flavors-- i.e. classic (simple syrup), vanilla, peppermint-- and "sauces", which are rich, viscous, and fattysugary-- mocha, white mocha, caramel brûlée, and pumpkin spice.

(bored wageslave killing time before my shift at You Know Where)
posted by threeants at 12:41 PM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's all about the milk.

Right away, you're going to want to read a good tutorial on how to steam milk using the steam wand of your espresso machine.

I don't want to poopoo the machine you're getting, but there's a strong chance that the steam wand on there isn't going to be as powerful as the wands they use at starbucks, and that it's going to be much harder to get a good result. That said, most big chain coffee places fucking destroy the milk, anyway, so even without such a powerful steam wand you should be able to do at least as well as the burnt nasty shit they do at starbucks.

If you have a lot of trouble getting the desired effect, there are some accessories you could try. I've had OK luck with handheld milk frothers. If you want to throw a little money at the problem, companies like Nespresso and Breville make milk steaming machines.

After you get your milk down pat, you're going to want to get some flavoring syrups, since it seems like you really enjoy flavored coffee drinks. Big secret about these: you absolutely DO NOT need to buy Torani type products at all. You can make pretty much any flavored syrup from grocery store ingredients. When I worked in a cafe, we did three flavored drinks: vanilla lattes, mochas, and something called a "cubano" which in our shop was cinnamon + vanilla and tastes a bit like a pumpkin spice latte. We made all the syrups in house, and I had to do it constantly as side work.

Vanilla syrup: simple syrup + vanilla extract (the exact same vanilla extract you buy at the grocery store)

"Cubano" syrup: simple syrup + vanilla extract + ground cinnamon (the exact same cinnamon you buy at the grocery store). You could easily make up a "pumpkin spice" syrup with either a custom cinnamon/nutmeg blend or just a pre-packaged ground "pumpkin pie" spice from the supermarket.

Mocha syrup: melted chocolate. We used fancy chocolate but there's no reason you couldn't do this with (good quality) chocolate chips from the supermarket.

The upshot here is that, if there's a flavor you can get in extract or powdered spice form in your area, you can add that to simple syrup (which is literally just sugar water) or chocolate to make any coffee flavoring you can imagine.
posted by Sara C. at 12:44 PM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Here's the Torani White Chocolate Sauce. Which is different than the syrup.

Personally though, Hershey's from a can. That's the ticket.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:46 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, and here is my ex-barista recipe for an iced latte:

Get a tall glass and fill with ice all the way to the top. More ice than you'd usually use for a cold drink.

Add cold milk and any syrup you want to use. Unless you want an iced mocha, about which more in a moment.

Pull a shot of espresso to pour into a small glass like a shot glass or 4-oz heavy bottomed juice glass, rocks glass, whatever you have on hand that fits under the grouphead. It needs to be glass and not ceramic or metal or plastic.

Cut off your shot (if the machine requires it) and pour the espresso over the ice in your glass.

(And, no, you don't steam milk for an iced latte. I promise the coffee places you're getting your iced lattes from now aren't steaming the milk.)

NOTE ABOUT ICED MOCHAS: If you want an iced mocha, add your chocolate sauce to the bottom of the glass you're pouring your shot into, then stir to incorporate after the espresso is finished. Then pour that mixture over your ice and cold milk. If you do a mocha the same way you do other syrup drinks the chocolate will chill and coagulate at the bottom of the glass, ruining your mocha.
posted by Sara C. at 12:54 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Re white chocolate drinks specifically, the way I'd go about making white chocolate syrup would be to melt good quality white chocolate chips and water down the resulting ganache to your desired thickness.

You could also use a different infused syrup instead of the water, thus creating the really fancy drinks places like Starbucks are known for. You know, like "white chocolate hazelnut" or "mint mocha" or the like.
posted by Sara C. at 1:00 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fill your ice cube trays with coffee to make iced coffee drinks .
posted by hortense at 2:06 PM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you like the specific flavor of Starbucks drinks, you can buy their syrups and sauces directly from them here.
posted by quince at 2:37 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Caramel macchiato: pull espresso onto vanilla syrup. Pour in milk. Pour in ice. Apply caramel drizzle. There is no caramel syrup in a caramel macchiato because that shit's nasty.

FYI, I worked at Starbucks for a while and it goes vanilla syrup, milk, ice, espresso shot, and caramel drizzle, like showbiz_liz said. The rationale was that the espresso was the macchiato, or "mark," on top. Vanilla syrup, espresso, milk, ice, caramel would be an "iced vanilla latte with caramel drizzle" in Starbucks-speak. They call the traditional macchiato that Lutoslawski describes "espresso macchiato" (the espresso is "marked" with foam.)

I only put on my pedant hat in case you really care about the subtle difference in flavor between a caramel macchiato and a vanilla latte with caramel. Quite a few customers did.
posted by fozzie_bear at 3:13 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Personally, I like the Monin syrups way better than the Torani. You can try to look at your favorite locals to see what brand they use. I find that most good places use Monin, and they have free shipping from Monin if you buy $15 or more in product (so, two syrups). You can also buy the Starbucks syrups at a Starbucks if you really like how theirs taste. I got the gingerbread one this season and the cashier even gave me a pump to go with it (which they don't always do), so that was nice!
posted by freezer cake at 3:37 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


The last I knew, you couldn't buy the Starbucks sauces from the store, but you could buy the syrups. They were like $6 or $8. Figured that's worth mentioning in case they are still that price since on the site linked above they are $13 and you'd have to deal with shipping. Also, I think it's pretty easy to find basic syrups in the grocery store in the coffee section.

The first coffee house I worked in, we used Dilettante chocolate and caramel sauces. It's been a while, but I don't believe I've had anything as good as those, since. And I think a majority of our former customers feel the same way. We also used Dolce for our syrups and I really liked them because they had a bunch of flavors (also good for making Italian Sodas, if you're looking for something caffeine free - syrup, seltzer, and an optional shot of half and half). However, it looks like the other brands mentioned also have a lot of flavors and that Dolce doesn't seem to have as many as it once did.

All the combinations are probably delicious, but in particular, my favorites were: caramel sauce and apple syrup, chocolate sauce and cherry, raspberry, or almond syrup, and iced banana lattes. Maybe look for sample packs if you want to try different flavors.
posted by wintrymix at 3:38 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've dated someone that worked at starbucks and other coffee shops, and she's very knowledgeable. We've attempted to make the same drinks at home. Some are pretty close, some not really. Some turned out better. My point, I guess, is that feel free to try and replicate starbucks drinks, but also realize that you could also, through experimentation, create a drink you prefer to starbucks.

That said, most big chain coffee places fucking destroy the milk, anyway, so even without such a powerful steam wand you should be able to do at least as well as the burnt nasty shit they do at starbucks.

Ignore this nonsense. What coffee snobs don't understand (and I LOVE good coffee, not starbucks.. I'm about to make a french press as I'm typing this) is that to many of the customers buying starbucks they LOVE these drinks. They're getting exactly what they want, and a trip to Wedocoffeerightstore would just send them running back to starbucks. Enjoy and make what you like, ignore everything else.
posted by ratherbethedevil at 6:25 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know you said you preferred iced recipes, but ratherbethedevil made me realize, I don't think anyone mentioned temperature. If you do want to steam milk, I agree with the article Sara C. linked that the metal pitcher should be hot enough that you don't want to keep your hand there for more than a second or two, but if you want to be safe or you don't have any nerves in your hand, you could get a thermometer until you're more comfortable doing it by touch. 150-155°F is a good target range. 140°F is in the range of you could pretty much guzzle it and the heat shouldn't bother you. 180°F is scalded milk. I'm not sure when scorching starts, but I personally don't think drinking scalded milk tastes very good, so probably safe to keep it below that.
posted by wintrymix at 7:17 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


FYI, I worked at Starbucks for a while and it goes vanilla syrup, milk, ice, espresso shot, and caramel drizzle, like showbiz_liz said. The rationale was that the espresso was the macchiato, or "mark," on top.

Oops, yes, this is right of course. I always get this wrong in the store because the idea of an iced drink being "upside down" or not seems ludicrous to me, but yeah.
posted by threeants at 7:22 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


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