The Brown Sugar Shaken Espresso Face-Off


Sarah Coldwell

Staff Writer Sarah Coldwell compares the Brown Sugar Shaken Espressos from both Starbucks and Aero Coffee Roasters.

Sarah Coldwell, Staff Writer

Aero Coffee Roasters, a popular destination for students looking for a snack or coffee during free periods, recently announced their new drink: the Iced Brown Sugar Shaken Espresso. To coffee lovers, this may seem similar to the Iced Brown Sugar Oat Milk Shaken Espresso at Starbucks, but that does not mean they are created equal.

Although both drinks are smooth and a good option for a mid-day boost, overall the Aero Brown Sugar Shaken Espresso is the better drink due to its consistency and overall quality. While the Starbucks drive-thru may seem more convenient to the busy high school student, Aero has faster service and is even walking distance from Algonquin.

Both drinks contain brown sugar syrup and espresso shots, with the option of milk alternatives available at Aero for an extra 95 cents. Starbucks offers their shaken espresso with oat milk as the default, but you can also replace it with other milk alternatives such as almond, coconut and soy milk for no extra cost. Both drinks are served in straw-less cups, and a 16 ounce at Aero costs $5.43 (with regular milk) while the same-sized drink at Starbucks costs $5.75.

When I went to Aero, it took me about six minutes to order and receive my drink– much faster than the usual wait time at Starbucks, which can be anywhere from five to 15 minutes. Aero does not have a drive-thru or ‘order ahead’ option, which can be the deciding factor for some people to go to Starbucks. Going to Aero also gives you the opportunity to take a look at the roasters in action; with the optimal amount of parking that Aero offers, not having a drive-thru doesn’t impact the experience. 

The taste profiles are fairly similar: both drinks are sweet, but not so sweet that it drowns out the taste of the espresso. The Aero shaken espresso is significantly more foamy and appears to be shaken more than the Starbucks shaken espresso. The extra foam adds a more palatable flavor, bringing out the sweetness of the milk combined with the espresso. The Starbucks shaken espresso is shaken with cinnamon, which adds a bit of a warmer and spicier taste; however, the Aero shaken espresso is topped with actual brown sugar which makes the taste of the espresso richer and adds a more organic flavor to the drink as a whole.

The biggest difference between the two, however, is the consistency. The Starbucks shaken espresso tends to vary significantly in sweetness, bitterness and intensity of espresso shots, amount of cinnamon and amount of ice. While these pieces on their own may not be crucial, when they are all done poorly the drink as a whole suffers. I find that when I order the Starbucks shaken espresso, it tends to be more ice than actual drink and has either too much or far too little milk. These changes really impact the flavor. On the other hand, I have gotten the shaken espresso from Aero about five times now and each time it is consistent in flavor, amount of ice and amount of milk, which makes the overall drink better.

If neither of these drinks are for you, both coffee shops also provide other options for drinks as well as food. Starbucks offers a variety of refreshers, a type of juice drink, and Aero also offers similar drinks made from tea and other juices. Both shops also have an extensive food menu including pumpkin bread, cookies and sandwiches, the major difference being that Aero’s food is all made fresh in-house.

So next time you’re looking for a sweet, strong, pick-me-up in the middle of the day, consider going to Aero for their Brown Sugar Shaken Espresso!