I’ve written in the past about Starbucks and how it claims to offer 87,000 different drink combinations. I haven’t ever questioned that number though, and in retrospect I really should have. Fortunately, the Wall Street Journal’s Numbers Guy did question it:

Over the following weeks, I placed several phone calls and sent several emails, but didn’t get an explanation for the calculation. Nor could the company tell me who did the math. “It’s something a statistician put together, based on our menu board,” Starbucks spokeswoman Lisa Passe told me. “If you take all of our core beverages, multiply them by the modifiers and the customization options, you get more than 87,000 combinations.” She said a spreadsheet contained the relevant calculation, but added, “it’s not something we’ve ever circulated.”

Turns out he never did get a straight answer. The math isn’t simple. You’d have to know all of the various syrups, sizes, milk options, cream options, etc. You’d have to know all of the drinks and bean types, and you’d have to keep up with menu changes. I’m not surprised that no one seems to know the true answer. It would be nice if Starbucks could justify their marketing somehow, though.

I guess at the end of the day it doesn’t matter much. Even if it’s closer to 8700 than 87,000 the simple fact remains, there’s no shortage of choice at Starbucks.

Mack is on a mission to change the world through code and prose. An entrepreneurial journalist based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Mack is the co-founder of Taproot Publishing, a digital publishing company that helps communities understand themselves better.
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8 thoughts on “Does Starbucks really offer 87,000 drink combinations?”

I can’t believe that a companies marketing materials would be so misleading. Who can you trust anymore? My confidence has been shaken to the core.

While the legitimacy of the claim may be dubious, at least they consulted a statistician. Way back in the day, when Heinz claimed “57 varieties,” it was a bald-faced lie. Heinz just picked the number at random, thinking that it sounded good.

Of course, today, I’m sure there are more than “57 varieties” of Heinz products, but that’d hardly the point.

This is now on our reader boards but can easily be substantiated using 8th grade math:

It’s not a hard calculation…
How many options would you have for your size and temperature? 7
multiply this times the number of shot combinations that are offered for each drink size (for simplicity we will assume nobody gets more than a triple shot: so 3) 7×3=28
Multiply this by the number of options you have for your first syrup/sauce (currently at my store we have 16 syrups or plain :17 ) 7x3x17=357
Multiply this by the number of options you have for your second syrup/sauce (assuming we don’t count the same syrup/sauce twice and no counting none: 15) 7x3x17x15=5355
Multiply this by our liquid options (2%, nonfat, whole, breve, soy, water, or nothing… without mixing or including heavy whip: 7) 7x3xa7x15x7=37,485
Multiply this by your options for whip cream or not (yes or no: 2) 7x3x17x15x2=74,970

Now last but not least… was that decaf or regular??? multipy times 2 and we get 149,940 combinations for an espresso drink
This calculation actually surpasses the claim by quite a bit.

Also: I didn’t factor in more than 3 shots (although more are often ordered.) I didn’t factor in sugar or sugar substitutes like equal or splenda. Nor even the number of pumps you can request for each syrup. I also limited the drink to two syrups to make the calculation more simple.

Oh yeah… we have more than 87000 drinks.
149,940 was the simple answer

AHHHHHH THANK U SO MUCH JUSTIN!!!
since u explained everything i understand it know lmao..
i have this for my project and it’s like wayyyy confusing… but u made everything make sense ahhhhhhhh thanks u so muchh once again!!!!

I can’t believe that a companies marketing materials would be so misleading. Who can you trust anymore? My confidence has been shaken to the core.

Thanks for the comment Paul. I’m going to guess that was sarcastic? 🙂

While the legitimacy of the claim may be dubious, at least they consulted a statistician. Way back in the day, when Heinz claimed “57 varieties,” it was a bald-faced lie. Heinz just picked the number at random, thinking that it sounded good.

Of course, today, I’m sure there are more than “57 varieties” of Heinz products, but that’d hardly the point.

This is now on our reader boards but can easily be substantiated using 8th grade math:

It’s not a hard calculation…

How many options would you have for your size and temperature? 7

multiply this times the number of shot combinations that are offered for each drink size (for simplicity we will assume nobody gets more than a triple shot: so 3) 7×3=28

Multiply this by the number of options you have for your first syrup/sauce (currently at my store we have 16 syrups or plain :17 ) 7x3x17=357

Multiply this by the number of options you have for your second syrup/sauce (assuming we don’t count the same syrup/sauce twice and no counting none: 15) 7x3x17x15=5355

Multiply this by our liquid options (2%, nonfat, whole, breve, soy, water, or nothing… without mixing or including heavy whip: 7) 7x3xa7x15x7=37,485

Multiply this by your options for whip cream or not (yes or no: 2) 7x3x17x15x2=74,970

Now last but not least… was that decaf or regular??? multipy times 2 and we get 149,940 combinations for an espresso drink

This calculation actually surpasses the claim by quite a bit.

Also: I didn’t factor in more than 3 shots (although more are often ordered.) I didn’t factor in sugar or sugar substitutes like equal or splenda. Nor even the number of pumps you can request for each syrup. I also limited the drink to two syrups to make the calculation more simple.

Oh yeah… we have more than 87000 drinks.

149,940 was the simple answer

btw… my first calculation was a typo not a mis-calculation. All the other numbers reflect that 7×3=21… as can see by 7x3x17=357 since 21×17=357

AHHHHHH THANK U SO MUCH JUSTIN!!!

since u explained everything i understand it know lmao..

i have this for my project and it’s like wayyyy confusing… but u made everything make sense ahhhhhhhh thanks u so muchh once again!!!!

AHHHHHHHHHHHH SAME AS JENNY aka my friend

who sent me this website 🙂

i needed this for a project<3

thanks so much.