(Practically) Free Starbucks: DIY Recipes to Recreate Your Favorite Drinks for Cheap
Almost every list of tips for saving money will tell you that cutting down on your Starbucks habit can save you thousands of dollars a year, depending on how often you go. While that may be true, giving up your daily latte habit in exchange for weak and bland office coffee (or worse, instant) is easier said than done.
While there’s certainly something to be said for the convenience factor, most of us choose Starbucks because it tastes better than the alternative. The real key to saving money by making your own coffee? Learning to do it right. Most DIY Starbucks recipes suggest using inauthentic ingredients like vanilla flavoring instead of syrup and strong-brewed coffee in place of espresso shots, but making these substitutions will result in unsatisfying beverages. A minimal investment upfront in the best coffee grinder inexpensive stovetop espresso maker, a milk steamer wand, and bottles of your favorite flavored syrup will allow you to duplicate your favorite Starbucks drinks at home on the cheap.
Lattes are a classic for a reason–the combination of energizing espresso and creamy steamed milk is indulgent without being too sweet. Measure out your milk using the mug you plan to drink it in, stopping about an inch and a half from the top to account for the increase in size when the milk is steamed. You can use a milk steamer to warm and foam your milk, or you can shake warmed milk to create foam without a special tool. Pour the milk over a shot of espresso and you’re all done.
For a flavored latte: add one ounce of syrup to the espresso in the mug before adding milk.
For an iced latte: combine a fresh espresso shot with cold milk first, then add ice. This prevents the ice from being melted by the hot espresso and diluting your drink.
The process for creating a delicious, foamy cappuccino is exactly the same as for a latte, but you’ll need to adjust the way you steam and foam the milk so that the drink will have an equal amount of steamed milk and foam, rather than being mostly milk with a little bit of foam. Because foamed milk is more voluminous, a cappuccino also requires less milk. If using a specific tool to foam the milk, keep it barely under the surface to create smooth microfoam instead of large bubbles. This is easiest with higher-fat dairy milk, and hardest with light non-dairy milks like soy and almond.
3. Caramel Macchiato
Although coffee snobs may protest that this isn’t a “real macchiato,” true Starbucks fans know that it’s delicious anyway. To DIY this sweet treat, you’ll need milk, espresso, caramel syrup, and vanilla syrup. Although the last ingredient may seem inessential, it’s crucial to include it if you want that authentic Starbucks taste. You can prepare this drink like a latte with vanilla and caramel, but to achieve that correct “look” as well, follow these instructions. First, add vanilla syrup to your mug. Steam your milk, and make sure to create a small amount of foam. Add the milk to your mug first, then top with a shot of espresso, which will create layers of color in your drink. Finally, top your drink with a crosshatching of caramel syrup. You’re all done!
The exact ingredients for this DIY drink will vary depending on which flavor you want to recreate, but the basic formula is one shot of espresso, two cups of ice, one cup of milk, and one shot of your favorite syrup, plus whipped cream and whatever toppings you’d like to add. Just blend the base ingredients for an inexpensive take on this frosty and caffeinated favorite.
As you can see, saving money by trading Starbucks for at-home dupes is easy, as long as you’re willing to use the right ingredients to make sure that your creations taste just as good. If the up-front cost of $40 or so for ingredients seems steep- just remember that after only ten drinks you’ll have broken even. Make the switch–soon enough you won’t be able to remember why you ever paid $4 for a latte you can make yourself in five minutes! Plus, this way your name won’t ever be spelled wrong again.