Because we’re all sick of ordering "light ice"

By Rebecca Firkser
Updated February 13, 2018
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Credit: Illustration by Lauren Kolm

Like many twenty-somethings, I worked as barista for a summer while home from college. The coffee shop wasn't a big chain, but it still got busy on weekday mornings. A typical 8 a.m. crowd was usually made up of teenagers asking for triple-shot lattes with four types of syrup and adults yelling at me because I didn't make their macchiato the same as Starbucks, so I was always overjoyed when a customer ordered an iced coffee. The method was simple, and always the same because we only served iced coffees in size large: Half a scoop of ice, five-second pour of hot coffee from the tank behind the register, dump a little out because that guy definitely said “room for milk,” affix with a plastic lid, and done.

Not many other coffee-oriented establishments offer iced coffee in such large quantities. Knowing the amount of ice that's typically dumped into those 12-ounce plastic cups has turned most of us into “light ice”-orderers, but what happens when you forget? You're left spooning out ice or sipping on a very watery coffee, and neither are ideal. Who actually fills the cup with enough coffee for decent caffeination? Armed with a glass measuring cup, I set out to explore a bunch of chain coffee shops to see just how much iced coffee you actually get in a cup.

Note: I ordered a small coffee at every venue I visited. Most shops’ small size was a 12-ounce cup while others were larger, which obviously affected how much coffee was poured into the cups.

Ranked from least to most coffee in a size small cup.

Starbucks

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Starbucks was certainly the most disappointing ration of coffee to ice of the shops I visited—unless, of course, you like a very large amount of ice. There were exactly 8 ounces of coffee in the cup.

Stumptown

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With a little over 8 ounces of coffee, it seemed as though Stumptown wasn’t trying to be stingy so much as they wanted me to know how much coffee should be in a proper serving.

Gregory Coffee

Credit: PHOTO BY REBECCA FIRKSER

This cup seemed smaller than others I was handed throughout the day, yet there really was a reasonable amount of coffee to drink: 10 ounces.

Dunkin’ Donuts

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The cup seemed large, so I was excited to get measuring, but a small iced coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts yields about 11 ounces of coffee.

Caffe Bene

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Though the cup was the same size as most of the other smaller size smalls, Caffe Bene gives a respectable 11 ounces of coffee. (I won’t call DD’s 11 ounces respectable because I felt like I was being duped with their larger cup.)

Pret a Manger

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Although Pret a Manger’s size small cup was on the larger side of all the cafes I visited, the shop gives just under 12 ounces of coffee.

Panera

Credit: PHOTO BY REBECCA FIRKSER

Panera’s small is served in a 20-ounce cup; better yet, the coffee is self-serve. At first, I couldn’t find the ice machine, so I filled my cup most of the way with coffee, then added the minimal amount of ice I prefer. I measured 16 ounces of coffee, as I was going for an average person’s portion—though I obviously could have filled it to the brim.