Illustration by Lauren Kolm

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

Rebecca Firkser
February 07, 2018

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.


Photo by rebecca firkser

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.



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


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


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


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


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’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.

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