Starbucks customers are crying over filled milk.

Specifically, a federal lawsuit claims that the Seattle-based coffee giant deliberately underfills its lattes by approximately 25 percent.

“Starbucks lattes are uniformly underfilled pursuant to a standardized recipe,” says the lawsuit filed against the company this week. “Tall lattes are not 12 fluid ounces. Grande lattes are not 16 fluid ounces, and Venti lattes are not 20 fluid ounces. Starbucks cheats purchasers by providing less fluid ounces in their lattes than represented.”

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Starbucks has yet to respond to the lawsuit, but a company spokeswoman said Friday that the company is aware of the claims, “which we fully believe to be without merit.”

“We are proud to serve our customers high-quality, handcrafted and customized beverages, and we inform customers of the likelihood of variations,” the spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

Starbucks is the latest chain to face a lawsuit over allegations that it cheats customers. Sandwich chain Subway, for instance, recently settled a lawsuit that it shorts customers an inch on its Footlong subs.

The lawsuit against Starbucks, filed in a federal court in California, claims that the chain decided to save on the cost of milk in 2009. Milk is one of the chain’s most expensive ingredients, the lawsuit says.

To create a latte, the lawsuit says, standardized recipe requires baristas to fill a pitcher with steamed milk up to a “fill-to” line that corresponds to the size of a customer’s order. The steamed milk is then poured into a serving cup with a shot of espresso and topped with a quarter inch of milk foam. 

Yet the lawsuit says that Starbucks’ recipes “result in beverages that are plainly underfilled” and that the fill-to lines are “too low, by several ounces.” 

The lawsuit also claims that the serving cups are too small to accommodate the ounces listed on the menu — a Grande, for instance, holds 16 ounces when completely full, but the standard recipe for a latte calls for it to be filled until a quarter inch below the rim.

“By underfilling its lattes, thereby shortchanging its customers, Starbucks has saved countless millions of dollars in the cost of goods and was unjustly enriched by taking payment for more product than it delivers,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit seeks nationwide class-action status.

Starbucks, like many large restaurant chains, routinely faces lawsuits from customers over a variety of issues. One customer has sued the chain over hot coffee. Others have filed lawsuits complaining that they were served drinks tainted with cleaning solution.

Contact Jonathan Maze at jonathan.maze@penton.com
Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmaze