- Starbucks and Dunkin’ both launched fall menus in August with PSLs and pumpkin cold brew.
- Dunkin’ has been beefing up premium drink offerings, including espresso drinks and adding cold foam.
- Starbucks drinks taste better, but at a higher price they could lose younger customers to Dunkin’.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Dunkin’ launch a very similar menu, with Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew and a Pumpkin Spice Signature Latte, one week earlier.
I bought the three comparable drinks from both coffee chains to see how they stack up.
Starbucks is the classic with years of experiencing selling PSLs, so I tried those first.
This is the PSL’s 18th season at Starbucks, after debuting in 2003. It’s one of the chain’s most popular seasonal drinks of all time, and 500 million have been sold.
Starbucks’ PSL comes in both hot and cold varieties, a helpful transition for the fall drinks that debut in summer.
The PSL is sweet and cinnamony, it tastes like fall. It’s a classic for a reason.
The Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew is a newer addition. The drink is cold brew sweetened with vanilla syrup and topped with pumpkin cream cold foam and pumpkin spice topping. In 2020, it outsold the PSL.
Starbucks’ Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew is my favorite drink of the bunch. It tastes more like coffee than a PSL with less sweetness and just enough pumpkin flavoring in the cold foam.
Next up I tried Dunkin’, which debuted these drinks more recently.
Dunkin’ has been adding premium and non-coffee drinks to its menu for the last few years as it evolved since its 2019 name change.
In 2021, Dunkin’ continued to invest in cold brew and more premium drinks with the addition of Sweet Cold Foam and Smoked Vanilla flavored syrup
The New England-based chain introduced the Signature Pumpkin Spice Latte in 2020, and the Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew is brand new this season.
Dunkin’s take on the Signature Pumpkin Spice Lattes is good but far sweeter than the Starbucks versions, which are already fairly sweet.
Both chains’ iced PSLs come with whipped cream and spiced toppings.
Both the hot and cold versions at Dunkin’ were overwhelmingly sweet to the point where I think they’d be difficult for one person to finish, though I can see why people like them.
Dunkin’s Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew was definitely the biggest disappointment of all six drinks.
I didn’t have a problem with the Cold Brew, which I often get from Dunkin’, but the pumpkin cold foam was not good at all. I wanted to like it as a less expensive alternative to Starbucks, but the foam was unappetizing, with an overwhelming pumpkin flavor in a bad way.
Of course, the taste isn’t the only way to compare the drinks.
The Dunkin’ drinks were much larger than their Starbucks equivalents. To get a fair comparison, I ordered medium sizes of all (grandes from Starbucks).
Though smaller, Starbucks drinks are more expensive across the board.
The medium Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew was $4.39 at Dunkin’, while the much smaller Starbucks version was $4.75.
The hot and iced PSLs were $5.45 each at Starbucks, while the hot Signature PSL was $4.19 at Dunkin’, and the iced version was $4.69.
Ultimately, it’s a smart move for Dunkin’ to capitalize on the flavors Starbucks has proven popular every fall while offering them for lower prices in larger quantities.
Starbucks definitely wins in my taste test, but Dunkin’ might be able to win over the next generation of customers with large, affordable drinks.
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