Today I’m making the best “Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte.” If you are a coffee connoisseur, then you know that there are three types of coffee: good coffee, superb coffee and really bad coffee. And the same can be said for specialty coffee drinks. Here in Louisiana, coffee drinkers are spoiled. The Community Coffee Company has supplied our state with quality coffee beans since 1919. Years ago, I had a unique coffee experience with this company working in their mail order catalog division. It was there that I learned to appreciate fine coffee. (I share my coffee journey at the end of this post.) Now, specialty coffee drinks have become part of our coffee culture. Gourmet coffeehouses, such as Starbucks, have overshadowed mail order catalogs. Since it is autumn, I decided to brew up “Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte.” My coffee beverage is based on the one which appears in Starbooks outlets each fall. Although the recipe takes several steps, it is surprisingly easy to make at home (and much less expensive). And, wow! Move over Starbucks, I’ll take my homemade latte over Starbuck’s any day. My drink is smooth, with pumpkin flavor, a hint of caffeine and a foamy milk topping. Just not as sweet as Starbucks. Of course the best latte begins with superb coffee.
Café au Lait vs Latte
In New Orleans, we are familiar with café au lait. It has been around in our Louisiana culture much longer than the latte coffee drinks served at Starbucks. We love to stop and order begniets and café au lait on lazy Sunday morning or after a late nite event when visiting New Orleans. Now, café au lait has a little competition with the availability of gourmet coffeehouses.
Both café au lait and a latte refer to “coffee with milk.” A traditional New Orleans café au lait has French origins. This drink is made with equal amounts of steamed milk with strong coffee — often chicory coffee. Traditionally, it is served in a white coffee cup. A latte began as an Italian coffee beverage. A latte is traditionally made with espresso, mixed with steamed, foamy milk and often with sugar added. However, café au lait is considered to be the stronger coffee drink. A latte, traditionally served in a clear glass, is uses one part espresso mixed with two parts steamed milk.
Pumpkin Spice Latte
A “Pumpkin Spiced Latte” only appears on the menu of Starbucks café in the fall season. This specialty drink adds the wonderful flavors of pumpkin, spices and a sweet syrup to the coffee drink. It is made with espresso coffee beans and is smooth, sweet with just enough caffeine “kick” to know that you are drinking coffee. With a homemade version of this drink, we can enjoy “Pumpkin Spiced Latte” all year long and at a much more affordable price.
A Good Cup of Coffee
The best “Pumpkin Spice latte” begins with a good cup of espresso coffee. As I travel around our country, I have dumped many a cup of coffee because if falls into the “really bad” category. Just a few tips go a long way for making superb coffee. Although a latte is made with espresso coffee, the steps for brewing both espresso and regular coffee are essentially the same:
- Make sure the coffee brewer is clean. Oils and coffee grinds from old batches of brewed coffee can adhere to the walls of the coffee basket and pot and impart bad taste. Just clean the coffee pot! How simple is that?
- Use quality coffee beans. Yes, the coffee beans make a difference. Get the best ones you can find. Community uses 100% Arabica beans. Find a source which you like and stick with that blend of coffee bean.
- Use fresh coffee beans. Like any other bean, coffee beans can spoil. A coffee bean is the pip inside the fruit from the Coffea plant. Air, moisture and light can cause the oils in beans to oxidize causing the flavor to become “flat.” After beans are roasted, they can lose their “punch” in just several weeks. A short time! Coffee beans stored in an open, clear container exposed to air and light can go flat. Check the expiration date on the beans. If you can’t use all the beans in time, store in the freezer.
- Brew the coffee properly. There are lots of opinions on how to brew coffee. Drip, immersion (or French Press) and pour-through methods all make great coffee, in my opinion. If you are grinding your own beans, grind only enough for one batch. Select a grind size according to the coffee maker. For espresso coffee made in a French Press, select a medium grind.
I love my electric Krups Precision Grinder with a burr-blade system for grinding coffee beans. There is a dial on the side to select to grind coursenss and another dial on the front to select the number of cups to grind. There is a neat little brush hidden the top of the grinder for cleaning out specks of coffee beans.
Making Pumpkin Spice Lattes
There are four steps to making my “Pumpkin Spice Latte” recipe at home. Just work ahead to make the syrup. It can be stored in the refrigerator for two weeks The syrup recipe makes enough for four lattes — 4 mornings worth of coffee. Here are the ingredients for my lattes.
- First, make pumpkin spice syrup. I use canned pumpkin pulp puree in this recipe — not fresh pumpkin pulp. The syrup is simply made with sugar and water which are boiled along with the pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice. Then strain and store the refrigerator. I use 1/4 cup of the syrup in each cup of coffee.
- Second, brew the espresso. Yes, a latte is always made with espresso — Starbuck’s brand this time. I use my Krups burr coffee grinder to grind just enough coffee beans for one batch. A French Press coffee brewer is inexpensive and simple to use at home and makes superb coffee. For two cups of latte, I use 2 heaping Tablespoons of ground espresso coffee and 1 cup water.
- Third, steam the milk and shake to foam the milk. (For two cups latte, I use 2 cups steamed milk, total.)
- Last, pour the hot espresso into a coffee glass, followed by pumpkin spice syrup. Stir. Top with foamy milk. If desired, top with whip cream.
It is that simple. And it rivals any Stabucks “Pumpkin Spice Latte.”
Pumpkin Spice Syrup
Starbucks Coffee Shop outlets use a pumpkin spice syrup to make their coffee lattes rather than adding pumpkin puree to the coffee drinks. At home, I made a syrup by boiling canned pumpkin puree, sugar, pumpkin pie spices and water. I didn’t want solids of pumpkin in my coffee drink, so I strained the syrup through a sieve to remove course pumpkin pulp and and large pieces of spice. However, by pressing down on the fine sieve, most of the pumpkin ended up in the syrup. Tha’s okay.
Brew the Espresso coffee
For these lattes, I used a French Press coffee brewer and Starbuck’s ground espresso coffee.
I located a simple French Press coffee brewer which had been tucked behind several other kitchen appliances. It must have been hiding there since my days at the Community Coffee Company. It is a treat to go shopping in my own kitchen!
I brewed enough espresso for two cups. Place 2 Tbsp coursely ground espresso in the bottom of the press. Heat 1 cup water to 200 degrees–just under boiling. The water will steam and bubble but not boil. (Use a kitchen thermometer for accuracy.) Pour water over ground espresso beans. Let set for 4 minutes to allow beans to expand. Then slowly press down on plunger to extract coffee.
Some of the coffee grounds made it through the sieve in the French Press, so I poured the brewed espresso through a filter. Don’t want the coffee grinds in my cup of coffee.
Foam the Milk
The milk foam is the fun part of the latte. Don’t skip it. I was disappointed that my Starbuck’s latte didn’t contain much milk foam. For my homemade latte, I used whole milk. You can also substitute almond milk (but I couldn’t get it to foam). Heat the milk. Then place the hot milk in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Screw on the lid tightly. The jar will be hot; use caution. Shake vigorously for about 20 times to get the milk to foam.
Alternately, pour the milk into a blender or smoothie maker. Pulse until the milk foams. The blender method resulted in more foam but shaking a jar is simplier.
You can also purchase a little kitchen gadget specifically for foaming milk. (I don’t have one and amd not interested in purchasing yet another kitchen gadget.)
Finish the “Pumpkin Spice Latte”
Pour 1/2 cup brewed espresso coffee into a clear glass coffee mug (to be authentic). Then add 1/4 cup pumpkin spice syrup. Stir. Slowly add 1 cup foamy milk; the foam should float to the top.
If desired, top with even more whipped cream. For this photo shoot, I added alot of whipped cream!
Enjoy your homemade “Pumpkin Spice Latte.” Which latte is better? My recipe, or course. The main difference is that my latte is not as sweet as the Starbuck’s version. If you like sweet coffee drinks, just stir in more sugar. So, move over Starbucks. We’re making latte’s at home! Not just good coffee, it is superb!
The weather has cooled down here in October in Louisiana. It is wonderful outside. I’ll enjoy my “Pumpkin Spice Latte” along with some donuts — or begniets — on my back yard deck.
Pumpkin Spice Latte
- 2 cups water, divided
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 2 heaping Tbsp ground espresso coffee, medium grind
- 2 cups whole milk
- whipped cream, garnish, if desired.
Method and Steps:
- In a medium-size saucepan over high heat, add 1 cup water, sugar, pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The syrup will be reduced somewhat.
- Strain pumpkin mixture through a seive into a refrigerator-proof jar. Cover and store syrup in refrigereator for up to two weeks.
- To make latte, brew ground espresso coffee in French Press Coffee Brewer (or other brewer of choice). For French Press to make two servings, place 2 heaping Tbsp coursely ground espresso in bottom of press. Heat 1 cup water to 200 degrees — use kitchen thermometer (or heat to just under boiling — water will steam and bubble but not boil). Pour water over ground espresso. Let set for 4 minutes to allow beans to expand. Then slowly press down on plunger to extract coffee.
- Divide and pour coffee into two large coffee mugs. Add 1/4 cup pumpkin spice syrup to each mug. Stir.
- Heat milk to steaming but not boiling. Using half of the milk at a time, pour milk in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Screw lid tightly Use caution — the milk is hot. Shake up and down 20 times until milk froths. Slowly pour milk over pumpkin spice espresso coffee in the large mug. The milk foam will rise to the top. Repeat with the remaining milk, pouring into second mug.
- If desired, top with whipped cream.
NOTE: If desired, use a blender, smoothie maker or milk foamer gadget to foam milk.
My Unique Coffee Journey
At one time, I worked in the mail order catalog division of Community Coffee Company. This company had a gourmet catalog which featured the latest in kitchen gadgets, appliances, our own food mixes and specialty coffees. It was a glossy catalog with amazing photos. This was before the Starbuck’s coffeehouses expanded across the country. I had many “hats” at the mail order catalog including food buyer and coffee tester. What a job! After doing quality assurance testing on countless bags of gourmet coffee blends headed for the mail, I learned to appreciate superb coffee.
My short job tenure at Community Coffee Company was interesting and unique. For someone who loves coffee, I was ecstatic. One of my many job duties included sampling each batch of gourmet coffee to assure that the coffee had been properly roasted and packaged I brought home pounds of gourmet coffee to taste. This company used only the best beans in these gourmet blends — the coffee was the best I’ll ever drink. Of course, it was more coffee than I could ever use myself. What did I do with the rest? It went into the freezer, which considerably extends the shelf life of coffee beans.
Fresh Coffee Beans — Always the Best
At Community Coffee, I learned just enough to understand that quite a bit of skill and science goes into making superb coffee. I spent some time with the company’s head coffee buyer who traveled the world in search of the best coffee beans. I learned how coffee beans were purchased, formulated and roasted.. At Community Coffee, coffee beans from Columbia and other markets were blended to produce the correct aroma, body and caffeine. And the formulations constantly changed depending on the market and time of year. Community Coffee management continues to meet weekly at a “cupping table” to score coffee beans for for body, balance, flavor and aroma. Always the best!
About Community Coffee
Community Coffee Company is a fourth generation family owned company which began in 1919. Grandfather Saurage began selling coffee beans out of his store. Then he purchased a horse and cart and sold coffee around town. Soon he realized what a market coffee beans was, and went full time into the coffee business. Now Community Coffee is the largest privately owned coffee bean company in the U.S. In Louisiana, this brand has been the premier coffee supplier for over 100 years. For example, in 2005, the company controlled 52% of the market in South Louisiana and 72% in Baton Rouge.
To assure that their beans were always fresh, individual route salesmen stocked the shelves at their customers’ places of business and rotated the stock. As I said, we are spoiled here in Louisiana. Always fresh! However, during that time period, because this system of using individual salemen was labor intensive, Community Coffee’s market never expanded across the nation. Have you heard of this brand? If not, I am so sorry! You will have to come to Louisiana to enjoy a superb cup of coffee! If you order a cup of coffee at a hotel in New Orleans, you probably will be drinking Community Coffee.
Oh my, how times have changed over the years. Shortly after I left the company, the mail order catalog division was sold. Starbucks gourmet coffeehouses entered the picture changing the coffee scene with specialty coffee drinks. Community Coffee Company introduced their own coffeehouse, CC’s Coffee House, but these coffeehouses haven’t expanded nationwise. Community Coffee is a privately owned company so it is not easy for an individual like myself to know their business plan or market. I see that the packaging has changed over the years, but I’m sure that the coffee beans are the same. And, I will always drink their coffee!