What is in a Pumpkin Spice Latte?

Pumpkin, spice, and everything nice: It’s the charm of fall’s favorite drink. It’s the sweetness cut with spice and creamy pumpkin that gives it its iconic status; that it happens to also get you caffeinated is almost incidental.

What is a Pumpkin Spice Latte?

A pumpkin spice latte is essentially pumpkin pie in latte form. It’s a spicy, sugary take on the classic latte, which is a 1:3 ratio of espresso to milk. In taste, at its best, it is creamy from the pumpkin with accents of a vanilla sweetness and a kick of earthy spices that are recognizable but never cloying. The pumpkin, too, adds to the latte’s milk to make for an even richer and immensely sippable fall beverage.

What Are the Ingredients in a Pumpkin Spice Latte?

Here’s what’s in a pumpkin spice latte. Taken apart, the latte is essentially six ingredients: pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice (or allspice), vanilla, sugar, and the usual combination of steamed milk and espresso. It’s ultimately still a latte, of course: non-espresso pumpkin spice latte ingredients are mixed together before being steamed into a creamy, foamy, and weighty cup of milk, then poured over two espresso shots to make a latte. A sweet, autumnal elixir of a latte, but in fact still a latte.

Where Did the Pumpkin Spice Latte Originate?

While experimenting with coffee latte flavors is not a Starbucks invention, the Seattle-based company is credited with popularizing it after spending time and money on developing a marketable autumn latte that could replicate the success of other lattes it had rolled out nationally, including the eggnog latte and the peppermint mocha. Product Manager, Peter Dukes, is ultimately credited with developing the pumpkin spice latte in all its spicy autumnal glory, circa Spring 2003. The latte was poll-tested alongside 19 other flavors of varying tastes–ranging from what would later become the cinnamon dolce latte and miscellaneous flavors like an orange-and-spice combination. The “PSL,” as it would later be branded, was perfected by a process of, yes, eating pumpkin pie and drinking espresso, with researchers settling on flavors of pumpkin and spice and specifically insisting on a pumpkin sauce over a syrup–notably boasting a weighty mouthfeel.

It has since become a craze, inspiring pumpkin spice cereals, snack bars, ice creams, and more.

How Do I Make a Pumpkin Spice Latte at Home?

There’s no wrong way to make a pumpkin spice latte, but let’s get started with a base pumpkin spice latte recipe that should be a real crowd-pleaser for an afternoon treat or breakfast party:

  • Gather your ingredients. You’ll need a tablespoon of granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons of pumpkin puree, half a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice (or allspice), a cup of your milk of choice (whole and 2 percent work best), a quarter-teaspoon of vanilla extract, and either 2 ounces of espresso or 4 ounces of a strongly-brewed coffee (consider making this beforehand in an AeroPress).
  • Combine non-espresso ingredients. If you have a frother or an espresso machine, you know the drill. If not, however, this is where a microwave is a handy substitute: cover the ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl and cover with wrap, venting with a couple of small holes. Microwave for one minute and then whisk until the milk starts to foam.
  • Add espresso. Pour the espresso into your desired mug, then layer the milk over it.
  • Add any extras, then enjoy. If you have whipped cream, this is the time to add it. A sprinkle of cinnamon also goes a long way. Congratulations: You have a homemade pumpkin spice latte.

How Much Caffeine is in a Pumpkin Spice Latte?

The amount of caffeine in a pumpkin spice latte depends on the espresso. Because the espresso amount does not change for a pumpkin spice latte, the caffeine content is the same as a plain latte. Assuming there are two shots of espresso, or two ounces, that means the caffeine can range anywhere from 120 mg to 140 mg in a pumpkin spice latte.

When is Pumpkin Spice Latte Season?

When does the pumpkin spice latte start? Autumn is primetime for the pumpkin spice latte. The pumpkin spice latte is a treat for the fall season and well worth looking forward to. It may seem like all branding and hype, but the “PSL”–whether store bought or homemade–is truly a Hall of Fame-worthy all-star of flavored lattes.