top of page

Too Much Pumpkin, Not Enough Spice

Pumpkin flavored coffees sampled for story. (Photo Credit: Tatum Koster).

By Tatum Koster | October 4, 2021

Pumpkin spice season is upon us, so break out your fuzzy socks, light a candle, and come with us as we taste test pumpkin spice iced coffees in Albany.

My friend Caroline Stevens and I decided to trek to some of the most popular coffee shops in the Albany area, including Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Uncommon Grounds, Whole Foods Market, and a pre-made coffee from Target. We kept the order as close to the same as possible: an iced coffee with cream, sugar, and a pumpkin spice swirl at each location. Each drink was given a rating out of ten, solely based on the overall taste of the coffee and whether we felt it was something we would indulge in again. These reviews are based on personal preference and are not meant to discredit any of the coffee shops.

Stop 1: Dunkin' Donuts

Dunkin' Donuts' small iced coffee with pumpkin spice swirl. (Photo Credit: Tatum Koster).

The exact order: a small iced coffee with pumpkin swirl and two creams.

The price: $3.01

The pumpkin syrup at Dunkin’ Donuts is on the sweeter side, so we skipped out on the additional sugar to avoid an overwhelming amount of sweetness. This one was a great way to start our adventure. It was just the right amount of coffee flavor to give you that caffeinated kick but not too overpowering for a bitter taste. “It’s the perfect ratio of cream and sweetness,” said Stevens.

Dunkin’ Donuts understood how to create the perfect melody of cream, sugar, pumpkin, and coffee that danced on our

taste buds. The perfect addition to your morning routine to get in the fall spirit. This coffee was lacking a little something extra to pull it up the charts to a perfect ten: maybe some cold foam and caramel drizzle next time would boost this beast.

Dunkin’ Donuts offers its own mobile ordering through its app for those in a rush or who want to avoid the pressures of ordering a coffee face to face

Overall we gave this drink a solid eight out of ten.

Stop 2: Starbucks

A tall iced coffee with pumpkin syrup, cream, and sugar. (Photo Credit: Tatum Koster).

The exact order: A tall iced coffee with pumpkin syrup, cream, and sugar

The price: $3.83

In comparison to all of the other drinks, Starbucks’ take on the pumpkin iced coffee had more of an orange tint rather than brown, which was appreciated as it made the drink more appealing to the eye.

Stevens stated, “It has a robust coffee flavor.”

This is a common favorite among most coffee lovers, but for us, it was not as impressive as its preceding reputation. There was a hint of pumpkin in the first sip, but it was mostly overpowered by the coffee taste. I would have appreciated it more if the bitterness toned down and the pumpkin spiced up. Next time I might ask for another pump of cream to balance the drink out a little more. Starbucks also has a mobile ordering app and accepts ApplePay.

Overall, Starbucks earned a six out of ten.

Stop 3: Uncommon Grounds

Uncommon Grounds regular iced coffee with pumpkin swirl. (Photo Credit: Tatum Koster).

The exact order: A regular iced coffee with pumpkin swirl

The price: $3.78

Uncommon Grounds is a personal favorite spot of mine to sit down with a bag full of work to whittle away at while customers flow in and out. Uncommon also leaves their cream and sugar out for you to mix in on your own, allowing you to be in control and decide when enough is enough. However, the coffee itself did not meet the expectations set by the environment. “I’m not tasting any pumpkin spice,” said Stevens. It carried a strong, bitter coffee taste, which is personally not what I enjoy. If you’re looking for a minor pumpkin flavor and a major coffee taste, this may be the spot for you.

In the end, we gave Uncommon Grounds a three and a half out of ten.

Stop 4: Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods small iced coffee with pumpkin swirl, cream, and sugar. (Photo Credit: Tatum Koster).

The exact order: A small iced coffee with pumpkin swirl, cream, and sugar.

The price: $4.86

For those yet to discover the cafe within Whole Foods Market, it is located toward the front left corner of the store, past the registers. The downfall is that this was the most expensive location, which can be a major repellant for students trying to fulfill their caffeine addiction without breaking the bank.

As for the coffee itself, we felt it carried a softer pumpkin taste as it fell on our taste buds. It didn’t have the aggressive flavor to it that usually comes with pumpkin spice. “It tastes like a pumpkin cookie,” Stevens said.

Although it was an iced coffee, it warmed up the soul with its toasty pumpkin taste. The bitter coffee taste was on the tame side for this one, leaving us satisfied.

The coffee itself earned a seven out of ten, but if the price was a factor, it might’ve lost a point.

Stop 5: Target

Target's Stok pumpkin cold brew coffee. (Photo Credit: Tatum Koster).

The exact order: SToK Pumpkin Creamed Cold Brew Coffee

The price: $4.69

We decided to provide an easy, college-friendly option for our last coffee: pre-made and bottled. This one allows you to bring it back to your dorm, store it in your Microfridge, and pour yourself a cup in the morning on the way to class. You can also purchase cream and sugar to add to fit your personal preference. The total cost of $4.69 includes 48 ounces of cold brew, enough to satisfy multiple coffee cravings.

After adding our cream and sugar, this one had the perfect kick of cinnamon spice that one expects from a pumpkin spice coffee. There was enough spice to leave your nose tingling and the right amount of pumpkin to balance it out.

For taste, SToK cashed out with an eight out of ten.

The next time you are feeling a hankering for a pumpkin spice iced coffee, I would recommend driving or catching the bus to Target. It’s not the cheapest option, but you are getting the most bang for your buck. It’s also one of the best options to customize the flavor to your personal taste. Happy pumpkin spice season!


bottom of page