Copycat Starbucks pumpkin cream cold brew recipe

Nothing says autumn quite like pumpkin-spiced everything. There's something about the combination of sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves that makes everything taste better. These warming spices take the bland flavor of pumpkin (a winter squash that tastes pretty similar to butternut or acorn squash) and elevate it to something that not only tastes good but actually makes us feel good on an emotional level, too.

Everyone has pumpkin-spiced treats these days, but Starbucks pumpkin spice latte is probably the most iconic. People line up every year to grab their first PSL of the season, and it comes earlier and earlier every year (in 2020, it's August 28th, well before the official start of autumn). But thanks to the pumpkin cream cold brew, you don't have to wait: You can enjoy a refreshing glass of pumpkin spice in the middle of the summer.

It turns out this spiced syrup is surprisingly easy to make, and for a fraction of the cost of a Starbucks drink. Better yet, you can make it in advance and enjoy it all week long. Read on to learn how to make the copycat Starbucks pumpkin cream cold brew you can make at home.

Gather the ingredients to make copycat Starbucks pumpkin cream cold brew

Our first step in making copycat ingredients is to go straight to the source. Luckily, Starbucks lists all the ingredients for pumpkin cream cold brew right on their website. It starts with cold brew coffee that's sweetened with vanilla syrup, so we added coffee, sugar, and vanilla extract to our ingredients list. The Starbucks coffee is then topped with a "pumpkin cream cold foam" and pumpkin spice.

The cold foam contains cream, milk, and the same vanilla syrup used to sweeten the coffee. It also includes Starbucks pumpkin spice sauce, the same sauce used to make their pumpkin spice latte. That means we're essentially making a two-for-one copycat with this one! We dug into what goes into this syrup and found it contains condensed milk, sugar, pumpkin puree, salt, and a few additional ingredients for color.

For a full list of ingredients and step-by-step cooking instructions, scroll down to the directions portion of this article.

The secret ingredient in copycat Starbucks pumpkin cream cold brew is sweetened condensed milk

Most copycat Starbucks pumpkin cream cold brew recipes leave out the sweetened condensed milk when making their pumpkin syrup. That's a huge mistake because this ingredient makes all the difference. Pumpkin syrup that's made with just water, sugar, pumpkin, and pumpkin pie spice is thin, and it turns out lacking. It tastes like pumpkin pie, sure, but it's missing the luxurious, rich flavor and smooth texture that makes Starbucks' so craveworthy.

Sweetened condensed milk is something of a magical ingredient. We've used it to make 3-ingredient fudge, and it's what kept our copycat Wendy's Frosty from tasting too icy. It's a combination of milk and sugar that's been reduced down until it's thick and syrupy. That gives it body, thickening and sweetening the pumpkin syrup without having to add extra sugar.

If you're following a dairy-free diet and still want to make Starbucks pumpkin cream cold brew, don't despair. You can make your own homemade condensed milk using alternative milk. Simply simmer 2-1/2 to 3 cups of alternative milk until it's reduced to one cup. Then stir in 2/3 to 3/4 cup white sugar, depending on the desired level of sweetness.

Should you use canned pumpkin puree or pumpkin pie mix for this copycat Starbucks pumpkin cream cold brew?

For this copycat Starbucks pumpkin cream cold brew recipe, you'll want to pick up a can of pumpkin puree. Be careful not to accidentally grab a can of pumpkin pie mix. Pumpkin pie mix is pumpkin puree that's been mixed with sugar and spices. Since we're also adding these ingredients, the syrup would be way too sweet and spicy. You can use the pumpkin pie mix in a pinch if it's the only canned pumpkin product available, but you'll want to reduce the sugar and pumpkin pie spice in our recipe.

Many people are surprised to learn that canned pumpkin puree is not always made from pumpkin. It can be a blend of any number of winter squashes, from butternut to acorn squash. That means you could roast your own squash, if you like, but using the canned product is pretty convenient.

We won't need very much pumpkin for this recipe, so be ready to whip up your favorite pumpkin pastry while you're at it. You can also freeze pumpkin puree in a bag, muffin tin, or ice cube trays for up to three months.

Brewing cold brew for copycat Starbucks pumpkin cream cold brew

Starbucks cold brew is totally different from their iced coffee. According to an infographic on their website, Starbucks makes their cold brew coffee by adding coffee grounds to cold, filtered water and letting the mixture sit for 20 hours before straining. The iced coffee, on the other hand, is double-strength, hot-brewed coffee that's served over ice.

If you like, you could certainly make a batch of hot coffee and let it cool down in the refrigerator before proceeding with this recipe. But it's also easy to make cold brew coffee at home. You don't even need any special equipment! Start by coarsely grinding coffee beans and combining them with cold water in a jar. You'll need one ounce of coffee grinds for every cup of water. Cover the jar and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours before straining out the grinds. Resist the temptation to squeeze or press the grinds while you're straining to avoid making the cold brew bitter. It will last up to two weeks in the refrigerator, so feel free to make a large batch.

This recipe makes cold brew concentrate, so it's too strong to drink it straight. You'll want to dilute the concentrate with equal parts water before serving. So 1/2 cup concentrate and 1/2 cup water will make the one cup of cold brew needed for Starbucks pumpkin cream cold brew.

Sweeten the coffee with a little vanilla syrup for the perfect copycat Starbucks pumpkin cream cold brew

Starbucks cold brew isn't made with any sweetener, but they do add flavored syrups to most of their cold coffee drinks. The pumpkin cream cold brew uses vanilla syrup, which is surprisingly easy to make at home. You'll only need two tablespoons, but it's hard to make a batch of simple syrup that small. Instead, we'll make a small batch that yields about 3/4 cups. You could certainly scale the recipe up to make more, if you like. The syrup is good for about one month in the fridge, and it can be used for coffee drinks or cocktail recipes.

The basic ratio we'll use here is equal parts sugar and water. Combine 1/2 cup water and granulated white sugar in a small saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Then, stir in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and let the syrup cool before storing it in a sealed jar in the refrigerator.

Create the pumpkin spice syrup for this copycat Starbucks pumpkin cream cold brew

Now it's time to make PSL magic happen: Let's make our copycat Starbucks pumpkin spice syrup. This recipe makes about two cups of syrup, which is a lot considering that we'll only use 1/4 cup in our copycat Starbucks pumpkin cream cold brew. It's also worth noting that this syrup is only good in the fridge for up to two weeks because it's made with sweetened condensed milk. But once you taste it, we don't think you'll have trouble using it up. Like vanilla syrup, it can be used in lattes or cocktails, and it also tastes heavenly drizzled over vanilla ice cream.

Start by combining the water, sugar, canned pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, and salt in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook for about ten minutes, until the syrup is slightly thickened. Remove the syrup from the heat and stir in the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla extract. Strain the syrup through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any pumpkin solids and let it cool before storing it in a sealed jar in the refrigerator.

Use a frother to make the perfect copycat Starbucks pumpkin cream cold brew

Now that all our syrups are made, and our cold brew is ready to drink, it's time to replicate Starbucks' iconic pumpkin cream cold brew. We'll need to make the cream cold foam by combining the heavy cream, milk, and pumpkin syrup. You can absolutely switch up the type of milk used here, too. Use all heavy cream for a thicker, richer drink, or half-and-half if you don't want to buy two types. You can also use all milk (or alternative milk) to reduce the fat content, but keep in mind that the drink won't thicken up as well without the cream.

Then, mix the ingredients until they're frothy and roughly doubled in size. The quickest and easiest way to create the foam is to use a battery-powered milk frother. You can find them for less than $15, and they take up very little storage space in the gadget drawer. If you don't have a milk frother, you can also whisk the mixture by hand or use an electric whisk or immersion blender.

Put it all together to create this copycat Starbucks pumpkin cream cold brew

Grab your cup of cold brew coffee and mix it with a few tablespoons of vanilla syrup. You can also serve it without any sweetener at all, or add extra vanilla syrup, depending on your taste preferences. Just keep in mind that the pumpkin cream cold foam is also sweet, so don't go too crazy. Pour the sweetened coffee into a 12-ounce glass and add enough ice to fill the glass half full. Pour the cream cold foam on top of the coffee and sprinkle it with pumpkin pie spice.

If you used cream and milk or half-and-half, the foam should float on top of the coffee without mixing. It creates a really cool visual effect, similar to Thai iced tea. Foam made with milk or alternative milk only will mix almost immediately, so take your photo quickly if you're after one. Either way, mix the drink with a spoon or straw before taking a sip.

How close did we get to the original Starbucks pumpkin cream cold brew?

When it came to flavor, we hit the nail on the head with this recipe. The vanilla syrup added the perfect level of sweetness to the smooth cold brew, and we appreciated the extra hint of vanilla flavor in the coffee. The pumpkin cream cold foam was pretty spot on, too. It really did taste like fall! The warming flavors of the pumpkin pie spice pair perfectly with the pumpkin puree, and the addition of sweetened condensed milk made this syrup rich and lucious.

If we had one, tiny nit-picky comment, it would be the color. Starbucks pumpkin cream cold brew is a little darker, with an almost amber color. The pumpkin puree we used was bright orange, but it didn't contribute as much color to the cream foam as we thought. Looking back on Starbucks' original ingredients, they use annatto, a red seed that gives foods an orange hue. It's a small thing, and the color doesn't affect the taste, but we might drop a few seeds into the syrup the next time around.

Copycat Starbucks pumpkin cream cold brew directions

Prep time: 10 minutes (plus time to let the cold brew coffee brew and syrups to cool)

Cook time: 15 minutes

Serves: 1 coffee drink

Ingredients:

(For the vanilla syrup — makes about 3/4 cups syrup)

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

(For the pumpkin spice syrup — makes about 2 cups syrup)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 3/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract

(For the pumpkin cream cold brew)

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin syrup
  • 1 cup cold brew coffee
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla syrup
  • Pumpkin pie spice, to taste

Directions:

  1. To make the vanilla simple syrup, combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium heat. When the sugar is dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Let the syrup cool before storing it in a sealed jar in the refrigerator. It should last about a month.
  2. To make the pumpkin spice syrup, combine the water, sugar, canned pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, and salt in a small saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium-high heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the syrup from the heat and stir in the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla extract. Let the syrup cool before straining it through a fine mesh strainer. Store the syrup in a sealed jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
  3. To make the pumpkin cream cold brew, combine the heavy cream, milk, and pumpkin syrup in a jar or glass. Using a milk frother, mix the ingredients until they're frothy and roughly doubled in size.
  4. Pour the cold brew coffee and vanilla syrup into a 12-ounce glass. Mix well before adding enough ice to fill the glass half full.
  5. Pour the cream cold foam on top of the coffee and sprinkle the top with pumpkin pie spice.