Ah, the pumpkin spice latte. This coffee drink, often topped with fall-themed latte art, is a sure sign that it is time to put away the summer clothes and pull out the sweaters. Be sure when you pack up summer that you don’t pack away your AeroPress coffee maker. First of all, the AeroPress coffee maker is the right brewer for any season since it allows you to make cold brew, cappuccinos, iced lattes, iced coffee, pour over style coffee and more. Second, your AeroPress coffee maker can help you make a pumpkin spice latte at home that will rival a PSL from any café.
Pairing Spices and Coffee: A History
Before coffee lovers object, we have been pairing pumpkin pie spices with coffee long before Libby canned her first pie filling. Certainly these spices were mixed with coffee before the PSL wave hit in 2003. In the earliest days of European coffee consumption, coffee was grown in and exported from the Indonesian islands. These are the namesake Spice Islands. Frequently, roasted coffee beans were ground in the same spice mill as clove, nutmeg, mace, and pepper corns.
With very few exceptions, coffee shop baristas are making pumpkin lattes 1) without any pumpkin and 2) using generic, overly sweet flavoring from a bottle. By making your own at home, you can very easily infuse the richest flavors from premium ingredients. Using your AeroPress coffee maker, you can brew coffee just the way you like it.
A Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe for AeroPress Coffee Makers
Let’s talk options for the espresso shot. Let’s not talk about how ‘true espresso’ can only come from an espresso machine capable of reaching 9 bars of pressure. It is a tired saw. The goal is to brew a delicious coffee. The versatility of the AeroPress coffee maker, unlike other brewing methods, allows you to customize your coffee experience. With small changes in gear or technique, you have nearly unlimited control. Using your AeroPress coffee maker, you can make a highly concentrated AeroPress espresso shot without an espresso machine.
This recipe is brilliant for dark roasts. Using cooler water prevents extraction of the astringent, burnt match flavors. A rich smokiness comes through along with deep caramelized sugars. The strength of the tight coffee-to-water ratio retains these notes even when diluted with steamed milk. The spices compliment the pungency and elusive honey suckle of dark coffee. If you are inclined toward dairy, froth milk (whole fat milk or half-and-half) to make this an especially rich treat.
Whenever you are using the AeroPress coffee maker intending to mix the coffee into a substantial amount of other ingredients, I recommend using fine to fine-medium ground coffee. This more easily brews strong coffee that can be tasted when mixed.
Concerning the amount of coffee to use, 1 scoop (approximately 15 grams) per serving is a good starting point. We would call that a double espresso in most cafes. Naturally, if you want more coffee flavor (or more caffeine) you are welcome to add more scoops.
A simple variation to add more texture and body to your pumpkin spice latte is to substitute the AeroPress stainless steel reusable filter in place of the paper. Use your coffee grinder to grind slightly finer to create more micro-particles that will add body. Draw the press time longer by 10 or 15 seconds. As you near the end of the press, you will hear a slight hiss. Pause, swirl the AeroPress coffee maker a little, and plunge all the way through. This will force those micro particles past the stainless steel filter and into the cup.
Using Medium and Light Roasted Coffees
If your preference for roast tends toward the medium or light profile, the AeroPress coffee maker is still your best choice. Here are a few suggestions for using medium and light roasted coffees:
Brew at a higher temperature
When coffee is roasted, the woody cellular structure expands. This expansion makes it easier for the flavor compounds to move out of the coffee bean. Therefore less heat energy is needed in the water to pull flavors out. When coffee is not roasted as dark, the flavors need more heat to migrate from the bean into the beverage.
For medium roasted coffee, try water between 195°F - 205°F (90°C - 96°C). For light roasted coffee, heat water to a full boil (take care, this is very hot).
Stir for a longer time
Stirring, also known as agitation or turbulence, essentially washes the flavor compounds from the coffee grounds. Increasing agitation is very effective in extracting flavor. It is a powerful variable and 5 seconds of stirring can make a significant difference.
For medium roasts, try stirring for 20 - 25 seconds. For light roasts, try a 25 – 30 second stir.
Extend your brew time
The longer coffee steeps in water, the more opportunity it has to send out flavors (keep in mind that not all flavors are good and the worst ones wait to come out until the end). It is easy to add time to your brew. It takes patience and a little technique.
When brewing small, concentrated amounts of coffee with longer steep times, we need to limit how much water is allowed to drip past the filter before pressing. There are two techniques to achieve this:
In the Vacuum method, simply insert the seal on the end of the plunger a half inch or so into the top of the chamber to stop drip-through while waiting for your longer steep time. The seal stops drip-through just like putting your finger on the top of a straw stops dripping out of the bottom of a straw.
- If you have an AeroPress Original, AeroPress Clear, or AeroPress Go, try the AeroPress Flow Control Filter Cap. It allows you to eliminate drip-through, extend your brew time for as long as you want, and use whatever grind size you prefer!
There is not a significant difference in your cup of coffee’s flavor between the Vacuum and Flow Control Filter Cap methods. Both have their place and mostly are matters of preference.
Flavor Profiles of Medium and Light Roasted Coffee
It is reasonably safe to predict the notes found in dark roasted coffees. These darker beans tend to carry similar traits regardless of where they were grown or how they were processed. Roast tends to be the primary descriptor. With medium and light roasted coffees, the more gentle roasting process maintains the unique traits of terroir, process, species and variety. While I won’t offer detailed descriptions of what these might taste like (there are too many possibilities), I will recommend some traits to look for when selecting coffee to use for your AeroPress pumpkin spice latte.
Process refers to the way the coffee seed is separated from the surrounding fruit pulp. In the natural process, the fruit is allowed to dry on the seed like a raisin. When done well, these coffees have increased fruit flavors and sweetness. Blueberry, raspberry and strawberry are some common descriptions. When combined with classic pumpkin pie spices, the flavor can be very much like a cobbler.
A word of caution about the natural process is that when done poorly it will carry a compost funk. Natural process needs hot, dry days and regular stirring by the farm workers to prevent mold. Ethiopia and Yemen are well known for quality natural processed coffees.
Washed coffees are not cleaner than others. Washing refers to the process of removing, or washing, the fruit from the coffee seed as soon after harvest as possible. These coffees will carry flavor traits unique to where they are grown and the type or variety of coffee tree they grew on. Coffee has varieties in the same way as apples have Red Delicious, Braeburn, Granny Smith, etc.
Often washed coffees will be sold as single origin coffees. These are coffees that highlight the skill of specific and famed farms or promote flavors unique to their growing region. Coffees from Central and South America can be especially pleasant paired with pumpkin pie spices. Expect the spices to be lively and warming. Depending on the skill of the roaster, these may accentuate notes of pie crust.
Blends can offer a little bit of everything. Coffee roasters carefully select coffees from multiple countries and of various processing methods to curate a well-rounded coffee experience. Most blends are made with a variety of roast profiles. While most coffee companies hold their recipes secret, there are some who advertise the components of their blends.
A blend is a great option for brewing a well-rounded coffee that will have the best chance at complimenting the complexity of a pumpkin spice latte.
Treat yourself to a sweater, a good book, and a home-made pumpkin spice latte using your AeroPress coffee maker. Happy Autumn.
Check out some of our coffee recipes or tutorials on how to make different types of coffee: