What gives?

By Tim Nelson
September 06, 2019
Zhang Peng LightRocket via Getty Images

Unless you’re opting for a weird frappuccino, the best approach at Starbucks to maintaining the energy you need is to extract as much caffeine at the lowest cost per milligram possible.

You’d think that ordering a Nitro Cold Brew, their variety of cold coffee poured directly from a keg that went nationwide earlier this year, would fit that bill perfectly. But as Katherine Kreuger at Splinter recently discovered, Starbucks is afraid to sell its Nitro Cold Brew in its venti size. What’s up with that?

Upon closer inspection, this provision against a venti cup of Nitro Cold Brew doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. You’d think it’s because there’d be too much caffeine in a venti for anyone to not jump out of their skin, but the numbers don’t add up. According to Starbucks’ own product information, a grande Nitro cold brew contains 280 milligrams of caffeine in a 16-ounce cup. As anyone with a basic command of romance languages knows, Starbucks’ proprietary name for “large” implies there’s 20 ounces of coffee in a venti. All things being equal, a hypothetical venti Nitro Cold Brew would contain somewhere around 350 milligrams of caffeine, maybe slightly more.

Watch: How to Make Copycat Starbucks Egg Bites

Given that the average eight-ounce cup of coffee weighs in at around 100 milligrams, that sure seems like a lot. Here’s the thing, though: That would place it nowhere near the top of Starbucks’ most caffeinated venti drinks, even allowing some wiggle room for the math I did above. A venti Pike Place roast weighs in at 410 milligrams of caffeine, while a venti Blonde roast features an astounding 475 milligrams. That doesn’t even factor in added shots of espresso, either. And yet, Starbucks’ website will let you look up the nutrition facts for a venti of those coffees, but the idea of a venti Nitro Cold Brew is somehow too dangerous to even comprehend.

That leads us to one possible conclusion: Starbucks doesn’t want you to get such a good deal on Nitro Cold Brew. With no ice in a nitro, they must realize that pouring that much coffee messes with their profit margins. Unless those cold brew kegs crap out whenever you try to pour more than 16 ounces of coffee at once, this has to be the most plausible explanation.

So next time you’re craving some cold brew at a Starbucks, just ask for a venti Nitro Cold Brew and see what happens. It’s not like they don’t have plenty of venti cups at the ready. Just provide them with the data-driven argument laid out here and see who blinks first. I mean what are they going to do, call the cops?

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