PSL vs. The Home Brew and My Pumpkin Spice Challenge

You know those mornings where your sweet angelic toddler got up a full hour early and nap time seems about a life time away? Well, on those morning my Starbucks PSL is basically my lifeline.


This is a pretty legit scenario. Now, my sweet husband who likes to track everything we do on a spreadsheet may suggest to you that I spend entirely too much money on such things. Preposterous! Simply, it is my reward for navigating little J’s tantrum about not putting puzzle pieces in the dog’s mouth. This time of year however my latte obsession switches to the obvious PSL (Pumpkin Spiced Latte). This delightful piece of goodness can brighten anyone’s day and quickly get you into the fall state of mind.


A friend of mine recently sent me a link to a recipe where I could make my own PSL at home. That sounds unbelievably intriguing because my normal Starbucks order can cost me around $7 depending on which location I go to (Triple grande non-fat, no whip, 1 pump.) So I decided the best way to determine if this was even worth it was to conduct a little taste testing comparison.


Ordering my tall non fat PSL from my neighborhood barista

Ordering my $4.60 tall non fat PSL from my neighborhood barista


Once I got my official Starbucks PSL home, I gathered the ingredients to attempt to make my home brew version.

Milk, Espresso, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Allspice, Brown Sugar, Ground Ginger

Milk, Espresso, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Allspice, Brown Sugar, Ground Ginger


What was best about this was that I already owned all of these ingredients so compared to the $4.60 I spent on my Starbucks PSL, my home brew was costing a nice $0. According to the recipe provided by Refinery29 I mixed my spice and sugar ingredients together.

It looked like this

It looked like this


I then heated my milk up and put in 1 TSP of this mixture in each cup. Refinery29 states that they used coffee to make their latte but this latte connoisseur decided that was unacceptable.

My espresso maker making magic...

My espresso maker making magic…


After my espresso was made I poured some into each cup and frothed the milk. If you do not have a frother it’s not that big of a deal, the latte will taste the same without it. However, if you find yourself in a Bed Bath and Beyond I’d go ahead and grab yourself one.


Frothing it up!

Frothing it up!


Now that we had the home brew and the Starbucks PSL made it was time to do a little comparison. My best friend, Michelle, is in town and assisted me with this experiment. We came up with 6 categories: Smell, Appearance, Taste, $, Simplicity and overall winner.


Smell: On smell, Michelle and I both agreed that the Starbucks PSL smelled sweet. You could almost feel the sugar hitting your nose hairs (seriously…) but to me, I added that it reminded me of fall. It smelled familiar and lovely. We both decided that the home brew smelled a lot like nutmeg and espresso and had a more natural scent.


Look:  The Starbucks PSL looked orange upon first glance which we both agreed looked artificial however the foam was perfect and you could see the pumpkin spice sprinkled on top. My home brew did not fair as well with it’s appearance, the foam disappeared quickly and it basically looked like coffee.



PSL 10

Home Brew

Taste:  The PSL had a much creamier and less spice intense flavor. We both agreed that it was a good pumpkin spice balance whereas the home brew did not resemble pumpkin to us. The home brew had a very strong nutmeg flavor and it was almost too much spice.


$: This was so obvious to us. It cost me almost $5 to for  small PSL at Starbucks, insanity! However, I was able to create our home brew using items already found in our cabinet!

Simplicity:  Getting in my car and driving down the road to my nearest Starbucks took about 10 minutes total there and back. I would have to be honest and say that making my quick home brew took almost the same amount of time.


Winner: After careful consideration we gave PSL the win in Look, Taste and Simplicity and gave the home brew the win on Smell and $ so our winner in this battle is the PSL

We weren’t 100% satisfied with these results. Michelle suggested that we need to add more pumpkin flavor. Thankfully, my well stocked cabinet provided some pure pumpkin mixture so we decided to create our own recipe and put it to the test:


12oz non fat milk
1 TSP of pumpkin spice (or the mix provided by Refinery29)
1 and 1/2 tablespoon pure pumpkin
2 oz espresso per cup

We poured the milk into a pot and added both the spice and the pure pumpkin. Using a whisk, we mixed all the ingredients together until the milk became an appropriate temperature.



We poured the espresso into each cup and added the milk and pumpkin mixture. I frothed the milk and reheated my Starbucks PSL to start the new challenge.


Smell:  The PSL was still ridiculously sweet and we decided that home brew #2 actually smelled like pumpkin although not at all over powering.

Look:  The home brew #2 looked like a normal latte and since it did not have the orange PSL appearance it actually appeared more appetizing.

Taste: Michelle and I both agreed that the home brew #2 was the most natural pumpkin tasting out of all three.

$: Same as the home brew #1, this did not cost anything as I had all the ingredients in my pantry and fridge.

Simplicity: This recipe was a little more time consuming than both home brew #1 and driving to my nearest Starbucks.

Overall Winner: Comparing all three- Home Brew #1, Home Brew #2 and the Starbucks PSL- here are our findings:


Starbucks PSL held strong in Simplicity categories where our Home Brew #2 took the win with Look, Taste, Smell and $.


Does this mean I am done waiting in line at the Starbucks drive thru to get my PSL fix? Absolutely not, but on a day where little J is napping and I’m stuck in the house, this recipe (home brew #2) is a definite winner. I am still on the hunt for the best Starbucks PSL home brew recipe. While this challenge was fun, I do not believe that we have found a perfect match. Home Brew #2 took the win but I am still searching for another recipe to put to the challenge!!!


Happy PSL-ing

PSL 13

❤ E



3 responses to “PSL vs. The Home Brew and My Pumpkin Spice Challenge

  1. The PSL is one of my favorites, but after hearing so much about the poor ingredients used to make it, I’ve been looking for good alternative recipes. Saves a ton of money too! I love the style of this post and how you did it step by step. Great post!

  2. Pingback: High Five Monday – Loving October | thelifestylelady·

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