Frozen Coffee: Recipe and Tutorial

Have you noticed that frozen coffee is having a moment? It’s all over TikTok, where people of all ages celebrate the wonders of this amazing coffee drink.

Have you noticed that frozen coffee is having a moment? It’s all over TikTok, where people of all ages celebrate the wonders of this amazing coffee drink.

You can banish any FOMO, friends, because you‘re about to get the lowdown on this delicious trend.

Frozen Coffee: A Short History

Nailing down the origins of when coffee was first served cold is rather tricky. However, investigating the topic will present three obvious themes.

  1. The need for refreshment in hot climates
  2. That people tend to enjoy cold coffee sweet
  3. The spread of coffee culture during colonialism

Two prime examples can be found in Algeria and Vietnam.

Algeria

Ethiopian woman grinding coffee.

Coffee most likely came to Algeria by way of Ethiopia in the 1400s.

However, the locals in the area around Fort Mazagran first served French colonial troops with coffee syrup, sugar and cold water around 1840.

On returning to France, the veterans requested that coffee shops recreate the beverage in a tall glass and dubbed it café mazagran.

Vietnam

Vietnamese coffee filters.

Coffee was first introduced to Vietnam in 1857 by a French Catholic priest. Since that time, Vietnam has become one of the largest producers of coffee in the world.

While cà phê nóng (hot coffee) is popular in Vietnam, cà phê đá (iced coffee) also enjoys great popularity. Available as cà phê đen đá (black iced coffee) and cà phê sữa đá (iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk), this coffee aims to please.

Frozen Coffee in Italy

cafe in italy.

The Italians appear to have arrived late to the cold coffee scene. People believe their granita al caffè — a kind of coffee slushie — first came about in the 19th century.

The 20th century saw the introduction of Leccese coffee, which is basically created when hot coffee is poured over finely chopped ice. Sometimes almond milk is added to sweeten this version.

You can also get shaken coffee, which is prepared in a shaker, much like a mixed alcoholic drink.

Frozen Coffee in the United States

Cofee in the united states.

It’s a bit of a no-brainer that frozen coffee has its roots in places where the weather is hot and something cool is bound to be a hit. But what’s with the uptick in popularity in the U.S. where frozen-blended drinks are now far more than just a summer treat?

The reasons vary depending on who you ask, but the bottom line is that frozen coffee is just plain good!

There’s also the fact that you can whip up an impressive frozen coffee drink at home with little more than some basic coffee equipment and a blender.

Plus, it’ll cost you a fraction of what you pay at coffee shops or chains such as Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks.

What Is Frozen Coffee?

what is frozen coffee.

If you’re a little fuzzy on what frozen coffee is, you’re not alone. With the frappés, frappuccinos, iced lattes and cold brew on menus, there’s a lot of freestyling going on in the chilled coffee drinks arena.

Basically, frozen coffee is what the name says — ice and coffee blended together. To help you navigate the options, here’s a quick ABC of popular frozen coffee drink names that are rather similar to one another:

Frozen Coffee Drinks

  • Frappe: Stuck without hot water at a trade show in Thessaloniki, Greece, Nescafé employee Dimitris Vakondios added his instant granules to sweetened cold water in a shaker, producing a sweet frothy concoction. Served with ice and milk, it’s still popular in Greece today. Technically speaking, this version is shaken, not blended. However, you’ll also encounter many cafes using the term “Frappe” to describe a frozen coffee.
  • Frozen Coffee: Blended iced coffee with milk and sugar. Many coffee chains have a version of frozen coffee on their menu. Frappuccino is just one example of frozen coffee. Frozen coffee can be made at home in a blender.
  • Frappuccino: A coffee entrepreneur discovered this blend of espresso, milk, sugar and ice in a Seattle coffee shop and brought it to Massachusetts. The drink quickly became popular among Harvard University students. When Starbucks bought the Massachusetts coffee shop out in 1994, it trademarked the name and introduced the use of a blender to speed up prep time.

Despite their different histories, a frappe and Frappuccino are pretty much one and the same in the States. It’s just that only Starbucks is allowed to name their frozen coffee drink a Frappuccino.

The household use of the term frappuccino is much like the colloquial use of Coke. Just like Coke is often used to describe any soft drink, even if not made by Coca Cola … frappuccino gets used to describe lots of frozen coffee drinks.

How Do You Make Frozen Coffee?

how do you make frozen coffee.

Now that I’ve got you craving a delicious and refreshing frozen coffee, let’s dig into how to make one.

For something with so much wow factor, frozen coffee comes together pretty fast. Dump ingredients in the blender, blend them and serve.

However, there are a number of tips that will take your beverage from pale imitation to party worthy.

Strong Coffee

First and foremost, for coffee lovers, is a strong brew. That’s not only because cold blunts our ability to taste flavors, but all the added ice, dairy and syrups can tone down the coffee flavor if you’re not careful.

Considering that subtle notes are likely to get lost, it’s not really advisable to use your most expensive beans.

Cold Coffee

With the exception of cold brew, which is made by steeping coarsely ground beans in cold water for between 12 and 24 hours, you usually need to cool the coffee after making it.

This is the one barrier to instant gratification with frozen coffee. But it’s easily overcome with a bit of planning.

Simply make your coffee in advance and once it’s room temperature, transfer it to a sealed Mason jar in the fridge — ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Remember, getting a good seal on the lid is important to prevent oxidation.

You can also use any number of iced coffee makers or cold brew coffee makers to prepare the coffee for your frozen coffee.

Ice Cubes

As an alternative, pour hot coffee or cold brew into ice cube trays and stick them in the freezer. That way, you can replace regular ice cubes with coffee ice and prevent your frozen coffee from getting watered down.

You can also do the same with frozen milk and creamer. Just keep in mind that other aromas in your freezer might affect the taste of your frozen coffee or milk.

Blenders

Your blender will need some liquid to effectively crush ice. So, if you’re using frozen coffee and frozen milk or creamer together, be sure to add a little of one or the other in liquid form to help your blending operation along.

Frozen Coffee Recipe

you need to make frozen coffee at home.

Think of this frozen coffee recipe as giving you the basic building blocks for a simple, delicious, coffee drink. Then, it’s up to you to get creative and add the frills, if you’re feeling fancy.

This recipe makes a single serving.

Equipment

A close-up of blender blades.

You will need at least a 600 or 700 watt blender to crush ice. Appliances with a higher wattage will do a better job.

If using frozen coffee ice cubes, you’ll need a couple of ice cube trays as well.

Frozen Coffee Ingredients

  • 8 oz plant or dairy milk/half-and-half/creamer or a combination thereof
  • 6-8 coffee ice cubes or 6-8 ounces of cold coffee and ice cubes
  • 1-2 tbsp of simple syrup
  • Whipped cream

Optional Extras

chocolate syrup for frozen coffee.
  • Cinnamon
  • Cocoa powder
  • Whipped cream
  • Chocolate sprinkles
  • Chocolate syrup
  • Caramel syrup
  • Hazelnut syrup
  • Vanilla syrup

Frozen Coffee Instructions

  1. Add all the ingredients to the blender, together with any optional ones you desire.
  2. Blend until the mixture has a smooth texture and no ice chunks remain.
  3. Pour the frozen coffee into a tall glass. Top it off with whipped cream and drizzle with caramel or chocolate syrup, if desired.
  4. Enjoy!

Frozen Coffee Tips

tips on making frozen coffee.

Pretty straightforward, wouldn’t ya say?

Without any advanced kitchen skills, you can whip up an impressive dessert for after dinner or an amazing breakfast treat.

Now that you know how simple it is, I hope you feel confident to tweak our frozen coffee recipe to get your taste buds doing the happy dance you so desire.

Getting the Right Texture

Texture is a big part of a delicious frozen coffee. Obviously, you want silky smooth rather than gritty.

So, you’ll want to dissolve sugar crystals in hot coffee, use a pre-made syrup or create simple syrup yourself. To make simple syrup simply add hot water to sugar and stir.

Choosing Milk

Arne adds vanilla ice cream to a jug.

Aside from ensuring your blender has the muscle to do the job, bear in mind that going for higher fat creamer, half-and-half or adding the whipped cream will get you closer to smoothie or milkshake territory. Some people even add ice cream!

Oat milk, soy milk, almond milk and other plant based alternatives tend to be thinner. Because of this, they will produce more of an icy snow cone mouthfeel than the creamy texture you are used to from coffee shops.

Chocolate

Arne blends a frappe with alcohol.

If you’re craving mocha flavor, chocolate syrup isn’t the only solution. Using chocolate milk or creamer, adding a teaspoon or two of hot chocolate powder or even cacao will deliver the fix you’re looking for.

Feel free to make this frozen coffee recipe your own with pumpkin spice or even with a splash or Baileys, Kahlúa, Amaretto or the like.

Do note that the presence of caffeine doesn’t cancel out the alcohol if you happen to be driving.

How to Make Frozen Coffee Healthier

make skinny frozen coffee.

Whether you’re watching your weight or just trying to eat cleaner, the good news is that plain black coffee contains very few calories. It’s the added fats and sugars that inspire that serious stare from your doctor.

That doesn’t mean you’re stuck with a bitter black brew. Adding a bit of almond or dairy milk isn’t going to send the count soaring.

If your definition of healthy is a bit more complex than calories alone — and hopefully it is — then hop over to my article that answers the question, “Is coffee good for you?”

With a few tips and tweaks to the basic recipe, there’s no reason you can’t have your iced coffee and drink it too.

Milk Choices

In case you haven’t guessed it already, your choice of milk has a strong influence on the type and amount of fat you’re taking in.

But don’t think that you’re necessarily doing yourself a favor by switching from whole milk to skim milk or from dairy milk to a plant based alternative.

The fat from milk will make you feel more full, so you’ll be less likely to go back for a second helping.

Moreover, unless you decide to use unsweetened plant based alternatives, you are likely adding a lot of sugar without paying attention.

Sugar and Sugar Alternatives

Colored letters spell out sugar on a wooden table covered with granules.

On average, adult Americans consume about 17 teaspoons (70 grams) of added sugar a day. That’s compared to the 6 teaspoons (24 grams) for women and 9 teaspoons (36 grams) for men that the American Heart Association recommends.

I’m not going to lecture you about the impact of sugar on your health. One thing I recommend though is taking a break from sugars for one week to reset your palate. You’ll be amazed how much less sugar you’ll need when you add it back in.

There are also lots of sugar alternatives you can add to your frozen coffee that many people enjoy.

Monk Fruit and stevia are natural, zero calorie options you can consider adding to your frozen coffee. I don’t recommend anything with aspartame because research has established links between aspartame and many negative health conditions.

You can even buy a “skinny” chocolate or caramel syrup made with these alternatives to complement your drink’s coffee flavor.

Size Matters — Trick Yourself With Smaller Treats

When it comes to food and beverage portions, the size of your cup matters. Having a smaller serving is definitely one way to reduce the amount of calories, sugar and fat in your cup of frozen coffee without altering any ingredients.

Frequency — Going Back for Seconds and Thirds

By the same token, even teensy frozen coffees will add up if you’re having four a day, five times a week.

Bottom line? We wouldn’t dream of cutting you off from your favorite coffee drink.

With so many options for substituting ingredients, controlling your serving size or how often you indulge, there’s sure to be a way to enjoy this refreshing brew while living a healthy lifestyle.

Frozen Coffee FAQ

Yes and no. The answer is yes in the United States. However, if you’re traveling in Europe, you can find more varied regional recipes that, for the most part, will use ice cubes instead of blended ice.

Making something that’s really close to Dunkin Donuts Frozen coffee at home is easier than you might think. To do so, blend coffee, milk and simple syrup together. When you think it’s not sweet enough, keep adding simple syrup. A medium Dunkin Donuts Frozen Coffee has 84 grams of sugar, while a large has 111 grams of sugar.

If you’re looking to make a flavored version, you’ll want to add in caramel syrup, chocolate syrup, hazelnut syrup etc in addition to the simple syrup you’ve already used. Note that a medium Caramel Swirl Frozen Coffee at Dunkin Donuts contains 134 grams of sugar. The large has 175 grams of sugar.

Without a blender you won’t be able to get the necessary crushed ice texture. That’s not the end of the world, as you can still create a delicious, perfect blended shakerato.

Never heard of a shakerato? It involves a bit of bartending. You basically shake your cold coffee, milk and ice cubes in a cocktail shaker. The ice will break apart as you shake, but shouldn’t melt unless you add alcohol.

A Mason jar with a good seal on the lid will work as well, but a steel cocktail shaker will conduct the cold better. Just by feeling it you’ll know when your frozen coffee is nice and frosty. By then it should also be beautifully frothy. You can choose to strain out the ice or keep it. It’s up to you!

Using coffee ice cubes instead of coffee and ice is another method.

Avoid pouring freshly brewed, piping hot coffee into a plastic ice tray because the heat may cause it to leach chemicals from the plastics into your ice cubes. There’s less of a risk of that happening with a stainless steel ice cube tray, but better safe than sorry.

Even so, you don’t need to wait for the coffee to cool completely because there’s some fascinating and counter intuitive science called the Mpemba Effect, which proves that warmer water actually freezes faster than cold.

Aim to use them within two weeks. Why? Mold and spoiling obviously aren’t a problem, but something called sublimation is. Sublimation is a bit like evaporation, except that it occurs with solids rather than liquids. In this context, sublimation will cause your coffee to turn into a gas.

Keeping the blocks in a sealed reusable container will not only slow sublimation down but also prevent your coffee from taking on the aromas of the neighboring fish filet or crushed garlic.

I suspect that once you try our recipe, the frozen coffee cubes will all be long gone before the two weeks are up anyway.

Budding coffee scientist that you are, you’ve obviously noticed that tossing granules of sugar into your drink doesn’t work. That’s because the cold liquid stops the sugar from dissolving.

Homemade simple syrup is super easy to make and will quickly solve the problem. To make simple syrup you simply need to add hot water to sugar and stir.

Flavored syrups such as chocolate syrup are also part of the solution because you can blend them with your other ingredients. Plus, it’s easy to trickle a little more over the top if you find your drink isn’t sweet enough.

Totani sells a value pack of flavored syrups on Amazon that’s a great deal. The deal includes hazelnut syrup, vanilla syrup, French vanilla syrup and caramel syrup.

Although not quite as easy to dose, using sweetened condensed milk, sweetened almond milk or creamer will also do the trick. 

If none of those options work for you, you can mix a granular sweetener into your hot coffee during the brewing process. Of course, that means figuring out exactly how much will result in the right level of sweetness in your finished recipe. That may take some trial and error, but it can be done.

The whipped cream that you add to the top of your frozen coffee will also add some sweetness.

Ordering or making a frozen coffee normally includes some form of milk in the ingredient list. If you choose to use a plant based milk alternative, just know it will affect the mouthfeel of the drink on your palate. In general, frozen plant based milks create something that’s more like what you’d enjoy in Slurpee than a frozen coffee because of the lack of creaminess.

Creating a delicious frozen coffee quickly from hot drip coffee is a challenge, but not impossible. The problem is that simply pouring hot coffee over ice and blending it will dilute your frozen coffee creation. The fix is in strengthening the intensity of your brewed coffee before adding the ice. So, if your plan is to use one part coffee, one part ice and one part milk, you’ll want to double the intensity of your coffee during the brewing process.

The milk, sugars and flavored syrups in frozen coffee will greatly tone down any subtle nuances found in coffee beans. With that in mind, there isn’t much point in using the best, most expensive beans. Most people prefer medium to dark roast arabica beans in frozen coffee.

If you’re careful about limiting the sugars saturated fats, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy frozen coffee without compromising your health.

Bear in mind that unless you’re making yours with decaf, you will be consuming a significant amount of caffeine. While caffeine is known to have health benefits, you don’t want to be buzzing when you hit the sack at night. Consider avoiding frozen coffees later in the day if you have trouble getting to sleep.

If you’re curious about the caffeine content in coffee, read my article How Much Caffeine Is There in Coffee and Other Drinks?

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