Pumpkin spice season is like Christmas if you put the kids in charge. It’s sugar-laden chaos where they just keep opening their presents earlier and earlier every year.
Don’t blame Dunkin’ Donuts for this, either. They do this because people are buying it. I sat in a drive-thru this week as a Dunkin’ employee explained to me that they had sold out of all of their pumpkin donuts, munchkins and muffins by 3 p.m.. This was Aug. 19, the first day of their national rollout and they’d already been cleaned out.
Then they screwed up one of my coffee orders.
The Dunkin’ pumpkin spice coffee menu, ranked worst to best
It’s been six years since the last time I did a full rundown of the Dunkin’ pumpkin spice menu. It was a more innocent time when we still pretended that pumpkin spice could at least be contained to months that ended in “ember.” We’ve also said goodbye to the Pumpkin Creme Brulee and Pumpkin Mocha as listed menu items. Although, you can still get chocolate in a pumpkin drink if you want. Heck, you can probably ask for a chocolate swirl in your green tea if you want — and it’d probably be only the third-weirdest request the employee got that day.
The 2020 fall menu centers less around crazy pumpkin flavors and more to actual variety. On the surface, it seems cool. But all it really means is that we get something that technically meets the definition of a chai latte and a new type of non-dairy milk.
Here’s all the new coffee content hitting the menu this fall, ranked worst to best.
7. The Pumpkin Iced Coffee they forgot to put the pumpkins swirl in
While a normal black iced coffee is pretty good, there’s a unique sort of disappointment that comes when you take that first sip and realize “Oh. Shoot. This isn’t what I ordered.”
The worst part is that, usually, you know that something is wrong on the first sip. But then you talk yourself into “Maybe I just haven’t I found it yet” as you plunge the straw down further like you’re trying to find a pumpkin oil deposit in the depths of the cup.
At this point, there are two options. 1) Shrug your shoulders and soldier through the disappointment, always thinking “What could have been” with that coffee that eluded your grasp. 2) Go back to Dunkin’ and request they make it right, all the while feeling like some sort of maniac, knowing that the employee is going to complain about you later in a Tik Tok or whatever social media nonsense they’re into.
Complain all you want about me including this. There’s a very real chance you wind up with this during your next Dunkin’ run.
6. Iced Oatmilk Latte
Note to self: Never order another iced latte without some sort of flavor shot. It’s just milk — or oat milk in this instance — that had a little bit of coffee flavor. This tastes like an espresso shot poured into a half-gallon bottle of milk stuff.
Non-sugar-blasted iced lattes should come with a disclaimer.
5. Iced Signature Pumpkin Spice Latte
I remember liking the Pumpkin Spice Latte the last time I had it. I did not like this.
What was good: The sugary whipped cream up top.
What was not good: Everything else.
Listen, I’m as game for a sugary coffee bomb as anyone. But it at least has to be a good sugary coffee bomb.
This was a janky mess of chalky sweetness. It feels like my tongue is getting yelled at by a frozen spice rack.
The sweet elements present in the drink are cloying and chalky with a dry gut-punch of nutmeg. The sweetness and spices don’t get along well. If anything, it’s the bitterness of the coffee that makes this taste decent.
Still, I hate how much I keep drinking it. This thing has a strangely addictive quality. I drank this the same way I watch reality TV, begrudgingly and angry at myself the whole time.
4. Chai Latte
I don’t know what kind of pre-mixed chai-flavored milk they’re using for this, but it is not very good. There’s barely any chai flavor. It tastes like a cup of black tea with cinnamon and way too much milk.
The end result: Chai milk with some caffeine. It’s OK. But it’s vague, weak and overly milky.
I’m starting to get the feeling that whoever made these drinks for me was trying to offload their entire milk inventory on me.
3. Hot Pumpkin Coffee
As weird as it is to get a black coffee in mid-August, this is still solid. Pumpkin spice and coffee play well together. The flavor swirl does a good job of fusing with the coffee to create an overall sweet, fall-themed blend of flavors.
I didn’t even get milk, but it still tastes a little watered down, which is probably more a criticism of Dunkin’ coffee than anything.
What that said, milk really goes a long way in rounding out the flavor for the Dunkin’ pumpkin menu. Without it, this is all pretty thin. it’s like a guitar and an 80s synthesizer. Yeah, the synth is cool, but you need a little but more of a foundation to make it actually work.
2. Hot Signature Pumpkin Spice Latte
This was way better than the iced version and I have no idea why. It’s warm, milky and has a really good spice buzz. It’s certainly sugary, but stops just short of being too sweet. It’s crazy how much better this was than the iced version, coming through as smooth and pleasant as opposed to janky and cloying.
You know when would be a great time to release this? The fall. Maybe they should try that.
1. Pumpkin iced coffee
At this point, it feels like the entire Dunkin’ apparatus is optimized for mixing iced coffee with flavor swirls. For whatever reason, the coffee blend they use for iced drinks blends so much better with flavor swirls, doing a much better job of creating lush sips of flavor that hold up even as the ice starts to melt.
This doesn’t really taste like coffee, which is the point. It hits the tongue with a balanced melange of spices — not super sweet, but a rounded hit from the pumpkin spice, nutmeg and cinnamon. Plus, you get that little buzz of caramel-like sugar sweetness to take the bitter edge off of the coffee (if that’s something you’re trying to avoid).
The final word
Pumpkin spice season isn’t perfect. It happens too early and it involves a lot of crappy ideas. But you know what? That’s not pumpkin spice’s fault.
Vanilla Coke was bad. Cookie Dough Oreos are garbage. But you don’t hear people complaining about vanilla and cookie dough flavorings going into too many things.
Not all pumpkin spice products are bangers. There are going to be a lot of swings and misses. In this case, the hot pumpkin spice latte and the regular pumpkin iced coffee are good. Everything else is junk.
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“I ate it so you don’t have to” is a regular food column looking at off-beat eats, both good and bad. It runs every other Thursday-ish at noon-ish.
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Reviewed By This Is Article About I ate it so you don’t have to: Every Dunkin’ pumpkin spice coffee – in mid-August was posted on have 4 stars rating.