Oh, Starbucks. The coffee chain we love to hate but continue to form lines around the block for. They’ve received backlash for everything from rising drink prices and unnecessarily unhealthy products, to new rewards program, and now, for the amount of ice they put in their cold drinks.

Back in May, a Chicago woman filed a lawsuit against Starbucks claiming that the amount of advertised iced coffee you pay for is not what actually ends up in your cup. The suit specifically cites that the Venti drinks, which are advertised as a 24-ounce drink, contain only 14 ounces of liquid after ice is added.  

Is she just being unreasonable, or are your baristas seriously underfilling your drink? I had to get to the bottom of this in the most scientific way possible. So I drove all around campus and started pouring cups of coffee into my measuring cup.  

beer, wine, coffee, alcohol, tea
Elena Bailoni

I bought a 16-ounce drink everywhere I went. After getting the drink, I would immediately pour the coffee into my measuring cup. I always ordered an unsweetened iced coffee, for the record. I visited three Starbucks locations and one Dunkin’ Donuts.

My goals for the experiment were to see how much liquid actually comes in a cup, how it compares to the amount the lawsuit is claiming they’re leaving out, and to see if most Starbucks stores are consistent with their pours. The Dunkin’ stop was to see if there was a comparable difference between Starbucks and what other coffee chains are giving you.

And now for some quick math before we get to the real results. The lawsuit claims that a Starbucks Venti drink only comes 58% full. Being the broke college student that I am, I decided to stick with the Grande and 16-ounce drinks to save a little cash. Still, using this math, these drinks at Starbucks would have to contain about 9.5 ounces of coffee to be on par. Now let's get started.

Starbucks Location One 

tea, beer, coffee
Elena Bailoni

Armed with my measuring cup shoved inside my purse, I was ready to conduct my experiment. The first Starbucks location I visited was Purdue's nearest off-campus store. It was definitely nowhere near as crowded as the on campus locations. The lack of people inside drove me to the outside tables to measure the drink. I didn’t want the baristas to know that I was onto the potential scandal.  

coffee, jam, tea, wine, juice
Elena Bailoni

The drink came with about 11 ounces of coffee. That means it had 69% of the advertised amount of coffee. It’s a big enough discrepency to be a little upset about, but nothing like what the suit claims. More tests had to be conducted for consistency’s sake.

Starbucks Location Two

tea, chocolate
Elena Bailoni

 I ventured to the store in our residential area for the next test. This store was decently crowded enough that I could hide in the back corner to pour my order into a measuring cup, only to emerge with a cup of ice.  

This cup had almost exactly 10 ounces of coffee. That’s 63% of the advertised ounce-age. Less than the first location but just a tad more than the suit claims.

Starbucks Location Three

coffee, tea, beer
Elena Bailoni

This was the last Starbucks store on my quest. Purdue's notoriously busiest store with the longest line, this place was easy to hide amongst the crowd as I scrutinized my drink contents. 

Another 10 ounce drink for me. I’m sad about the potential six ounces of coffee I’m missing out on, but applaud the consistency between stores. And now for the ultimate test—how do Starbucks pours compare to another chain?

Dunkin' Donuts

sweet, strawberry, juice, cream
Elena Bailoni

This store is so intimate and was so not crowded when I visited that I was driven to conduct my experiment in my car. Probably unnecessary, but I was really trying to avoid being asked why I was carrying around a giant measuring cup. 

The results surprised me. The Dunkin drink also came with 10 ounces of coffee. No differences between the East coast classic and West coast favorite.

So what does it all mean?

Is Starbucks intentionally giving you the short pour? Eh, probably not. All three locations were fairly consistent and on par with another popular coffee chain. If you wanna sue Starbucks, you’d probably have to sue most other chains as well.

Of course, there was plenty of room for error in this experiment. A 24 ounce drink has the potential to store even more ice, so there’s more potential for liquid coffee loss. And they may tend to put in more ice in other types of drinks when compared to the iced coffee.

tea, coffee
Elena Bailoni

Ice in your iced coffee is probably something you’ll just have to deal with. I don’t believe they’re giving you more ice to make you pay more for less—I think they’re just filling the cup with ice (hence the name "iced coffee").

If paying for all that ice in your drink is something that really gets to you, try ordering your drink with less or no ice, or look for stores that size up on iced drinks. As for the Starbucks ice debate, I say case closed.