Thanks a Latte: How to Make a Pumpkin Spice Latte at Home
Here’s a nifty little recipe for homemade pumpkin spice lattes that could potentially save you hundreds of dollars you’d otherwise be spending at coffee shops this fall season. This is the perfect beverage to serve with a delicious homemade croissant or with homemade bread and jam on a cool fall morning.
Photos and illustrations via CakeSpy
In case you’ve been living under a rock or perhaps in an area devoid of coffee shops, the pumpkin spice latte is a seasonal coffee drink that has attained an almost cult status.
Typically available only from September through November, when its cousins gingerbread and eggnog latte respectively carry the torch through the remaining holiday season.
The latte starts like any other, with espresso and steamed milk kissed with milk foam on top. But then it’s fancied up with the addition of pumpkin or pumpkin syrup, pumpkin pie-type spices, and (why not) it’s often capped with a snowy swirl of whipped cream.
As you might suspect, it’s a highly delicious beverage, and one decadent enough to feel like a bit of dessert in the morning. For the pleasure of this tastiness, coffee shops will charge in the $5 range for a mere cup of the stuff. If you like a daily latte, this can add up in a big way.
So why not make your own pumpkin spice latte, at home? It’s easy, inexpensive, and the results are absolutely delicious. Let’s explore how to do it perfectly.
First, what is a latte?
A latte is a beverage made with espresso and steamed milk. Although today, the definition is somewhat expanded and sometimes the terms for cafe au lait (a latte, but with coffee instead of espresso) and latte are used interchangeably.
What, you don’t have a top-of-the-line espresso machine and milk frother at home? No need to panic. While technically a latte is made with espresso, extra-strong coffee in an automatic drip machine or French press will really work just fine. And as for the milk frothing, there’s a nifty trick for doing it at home.
How to froth milk in the microwave:
This is a nifty little trick adapted from the book On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee.
Take about half a cup of milk (dairy milk tends to work best) and place it in a mason jar or container with a lid. Shake it vigorously (go ahead, pretend you’re playing maracas) for about 30 seconds. The milk will double in volume because of the froth.
Now, remove the metal lid from the jar, or if it’s in a different type of container, transfer to a microwave-safe cup. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. The milk foam will settle on the top.
Remove from the microwave and spoon the foam on top of your latte. Instantly, you have the coffee shop experience! Now, all you have to do is learn how to draw a pumpkin in the foam. But for now, be proud of your frothing skills.
- Various versions of the pumpkin spice latte have made the rounds on the Internet. This version takes a cue from several of these popular versions, using actual pumpkin puree instead of a pumpkin-flavored syrup. This gives the latte a warm, earthy flavor, which works nicely with the melange of spices. Brown sugar (our addition) adds a slight caramel-y flavor to the latte.
- Pumpkin pie spice: If you do not have pumpkin pie spice at home, you can make your own. Combine one tablespoon of ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons of ground ginger, and 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg. This will yield about 2 tablespoons of spice mix. It’s more than you’ll need for a single serving, but once you’ve made this recipe once, you’re bound to want more, so it’s good to have the spices handy.
Regarding the milk
- You can use any type of milk you’d like: whole, 2%, skim. Almond, hemp or soy milk are all fine too, but consider that they will impart a flavor on the latte. Use common sense and adjust the recipe when it makes sense. For instance, if using vanilla soy milk, you may choose to omit the vanilla extract to keep the vanilla flavor from becoming too powerful. Also, the foaming method detailed above may not work as well with non-dairy milk.
- If you prefer a mild coffee flavor: The recipe calls for either four shots of espresso or double-strong coffee, which will give a distinct coffee flavor to the finished result. If you are someone who likes “coffee with your milk,” only use two shots of espresso for this recipe, or use regular strength coffee.
- But I don’t like coffee! Hey, it’s OK. Do you like tea? This recipe also works splendidly with an equal quantity of double-strong chai tea or black tea. If you don’t like coffee or tea, it also works nicely all alone, as a tasty steamed pumpkin milk.
How to make a pumpkin spice latte at home
Makes 2 servings
- 2 1/2 cups milk, divided
- 3 tablespoons canned pumpkin for a decidedly pumpkin flavor; 2 tablespoons for a more subtle flavor
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar (more or less, to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- tablespoon vanilla
- 4 shots espresso, or 1/2 cup double strength brewed coffee
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm 2 cups of the milk, the pumpkin puree and brown sugar until it begins to lightly simmer. Do not let it boil. Once it is lightly simmering and hot, remove from heat.
Away from heat, stir in the spices, vanilla and coffee. Pour into two mugs.
Before serving, froth the milk. Place the remaining 1/2 cup of milk in a mason jar or container with a lid that can be sealed. Shake it vigorously for about 30 seconds, until it has frothed to more than double its original height. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. The foam will rise to the top of the milk. Immediately spoon it on top of your lattes for a perfect finish.
Garnish with a little more pie spice or a drizzle of chocolate. Or, if desired, garnish with whipped cream.
Enjoy, knowing that not only have you been thrifty, but that you’ve created something delicious.