All fitness fanatics, coffee purists and calorie counters must now stand firm. Because this article is about iced coffee. With cream! With ice cream! With sauce! With toppings! With everything! At least that's the cliché that mainstream coffee chains in this country still like to uphold.
All fitness fanatics, coffee purists and calorie counters must now stand firm. Because this article is about iced coffee. With cream! With ice cream! With sauce! With toppings! With everything! At least that’s the cliché that mainstream coffee chains in this country still like to uphold.
However, the Starbucks menu classic has grown up and, of course, has been put through the hipster mill with panache. That’s why I’ll also show you iced coffee without ice here. We’ll even talk about cold brew and look at how you can make iced coffee yourself without immediately consuming enough energy for a small company.
A while ago, I wrote an article about iced coffee, which I now want to expand on, revise in one or two places and, above all, enhance with new ideas. Keep in mind, though, one rule still applies: sugar + instant coffee = it doesn’t get any worse!
Table of Contents
The Origin: Italian Purism & American Gluttony
In the article on the latte macchiato, I talked at length about how we are excellent at reducing Italian coffee culture ad absurdum.
After all, what would you call it when a cooled espresso, extended with water and ice cubes, suddenly turns into a main meal with ice cream, whipped cream and everything the dessert counter has to offer?
The American iced coffee and the Italian Caffè Freddo have about as much in common as a fat Caddy and an agile Vespa. So, it’s no wonder one would easily assume that iced coffee American style is once again proof that we don’t actually like coffee.
Under the thick layer of ingredients, it’s easy to hide the fact that most coffee chains simply pre-brew a huge batch of filter coffee from the wholesale bag, let it cool down for ages and then sell it over several days, depending on how busy they are.
There’s nothing wrong with that basic methodology, but you can imagine what such a long standing time means for the taste and complicated aroma balance of the coffee: nothing good, of course.
That’s why the first rule in the Coffeeness Manifesto for good iced coffee is:
- Even cold coffee must be fresh!
- Use decent coffee beans!
- Put some effort into the preparation!
OK, I’ll stop being bossy. Let’s take a look at the rules in detail, first turning our attention to the various methods of preparing cold brew coffee.
The Best Methods for Preparing the Base of Iced Coffee
Unless you’re using a Delonghi Dinamica with the TrueBrew Over Ice function, you have two options: you can take a shortcut by brewing the coffee hot and then letting it cool (even quickly) using various methods or tie yourself down to making cold brew.
Either way, the trick is to make sure that the cold coffee doesn’t taste like the bitter and sour dregs at the bottom of your coffee mug. You know what I’m talking about — it’s that last cold sip that we always drink with a shudder.
This happens because the (uncontrolled) temperature drop ensures that most of the desirable flavors quickly dissipate, leaving only the muscular acidity and bitterness at the end.
In addition, a coffee can only taste good cold if everything is already right in terms of taste when it’s hot. In this case, cheap crap from an industrial roaster — with its excess of chlorogenic acid — should definitely be avoided, precisely because there’s nothing to mask the bad taste when it’s cold.
Iced Coffee From a French Press
I’m a big fan of the French press when it comes to making perfect iced coffee for more than one person. However, we have to rethink it a bit for the cold version: we don’t want to let the coffee cool until it forms a layer of algae, but rather get it cold in a quick and aromatic way.
Normally, we would fill up a 1 liter French press with about 55 grams of coarsely ground coffee and 1 liter of hot water. Of course, since we include the ice over which we later pour the coffee, we halve the liquid. Here’s how we do it:
- Use coarsely ground coffee.
- Heat the water to around 95 degrees Celsius (203 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Fill a 1 liter French press with 55 grams (3.5 tablespoons) of ground coffee and only 500 milliliters of water.
- After the recommended brewing time of about 3-4 minutes, pour the coffee over about 500 grams (2 cups) of ice.
Our cooling turbo for iced coffee needs to be really effective, so use ice cubes or crushed ice, rather than cocktail ice. Since very hot meets very cold here, things go faster that way. For other French press sizes, you can find the respective gram numbers in this table.
|Size||Coffee powder quantity||Time||Grinding degree||Water temperature|
|0.35 L||20 g||3-4 Minutes||rough||95°C (203 °F)|
|0.50 L||28 g||3-4 Minutes||rough||95°C (203 °F)|
|1 L||55 g||3-4 Minutes||rough||95°C (203 °F)|
|1.5 L||80 g||3-4 Minutes||rough||95°C (203 °F)|
Note: If you use an inherently strong coffee, the thick aroma framework will come through even if you dilute it heavily with ice.
Iced Coffee From a Pour-Over Dripper
If you want to experience me in absolute Zen mode, all you have to do is watch me work the pour-over dripper once. I’m an absolute fan of this method, so I use it whenever I need cold coffee.
Here, too, we stick to the rule of halving the water and diluting later with ice. The basic conditions for a good serving of coffee are:
- 150 milliliters (5 ounces) water
- 30 grams (2 tablespoons) coffee powder, ground medium-fine
- Water temperature around 94 degrees Celsius (201.2 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Brewing time around 3 minutes
You can find step-by-step instructions in the pour-over dripper guide. Just keep in mind that for iced coffee, it’s important at this point that you don’t (!) brew directly on ice, but first, take a detour via the pot.
In my opinion, a pour-over coffee develops its aroma best when it’s allowed to rest for a few minutes. So, give the coffee time to brew and only then pour it over the ice.
Iced Coffee From an AeroPress
Not everyone will have an AeroPress at home, but I still like to include this method because it produces really strong coffee even when hot.
Because you press directly into a cup or glass, this method is ideal for whipping up single servings of cold coffee without any waste. Our cooling turbo here consists of about 150 grams of ice per cup.
I explain the method of preparation in detail in the AeroPress article, so here’s just a quick run-through:
- Add 22 grams (1 ¾ tablespoons) ground coffee per cup.
- Set the brewing temperature around 90 degrees Celsius (194 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Push the press plunger into the brewing cylinder slightly, then turn the whole thing upside down.
- Grind the coffee.
- Insert the filter into the filter holder and moisten with hot water.
- Fill with water up to the maximum mark.
- Stir for 10 seconds.
- Infuse for 30 seconds.
- Put everything together, press the coffee into a cup using gentle pressure.
With AeroPress iced coffee, in particular, I have to provide a little warning: even if it might seem easier to brew directly into a cold decorative beverage glass, it’s better to use a thick-walled latte glass for your iced coffee or brew into a cup, first.
Pouring hot coffee into an ice-cold glass creates violent surface tensions that can cause a thin-walled glass to explode — and by explode, I mean explode.
Iced Coffee From a Portafilter Machine
Iced coffee and espresso basically get along great because the concentrated sip of coffee brings a full flavor-punch. However, this aroma framework is a bit delicate, which is something that anyone who has ever forgotten to drink their espresso right away can probably understand.
I also think that an espresso should retain its basic character, even in iced coffee. So, in other words, instead of prolonging it forever, we want to keep it concentrated. Of course, you can also do as the Italians do and convert it to Caffè Freddo straight from the portafilter.
Instead, I have another idea, and I’ll tell you about it further down in the various recipes. Oh, the suspense is almost unbearable!
Cold Brew & Iced Coffee: Are They the Same Thing or Two Separate Acts?
An iced coffee article without a cold brew paragraph is so 90s. Plus, the mere fact that iced coffee is again a topic outside of Women’s Health and Reader’s Digest Magazines is, in my opinion, mainly due to the cold brew trend.
Of course, the result is simply cold coffee, but making cold brew involves the slower method of cold extraction. That’s why you can hardly compare naturally cold and cooled coffee in terms of taste. Try the results from a Coffee Gator or a Takeya Deluxe cold brew maker, and you’ll see what I mean.
In the cold brew article, I dedicate myself, in detail, to every single aspect of cold brewing, with a video and all the bells and whistles. At this point, when it comes to iced coffee, I just want to say that anyone who takes the time and trouble to conjure up cold brew should enjoy it in its purest form. It’s totally worth it!
Iced Coffee Recipes: Classics, Curiosities & Ideas for Hazardous Waste
Now, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that most people prefer black iced coffee without any calories to the various mixed recipes because it shows more finesse, gourmet skill and blah blah blah.
Friends, it’s almost summer, and we should all drink what we like. We can work on our bikini bods tomorrow or next week.
To be clear: that doesn’t mean I approve of monster creations with mountains of whipped cream and chocolate sauce, along with half of a box of cookies. However, there are plenty of ideas about how to make your own iced coffee both delicious and classy, which is what we’re coming to now.
In the previous article, I introduced several recipes, including the Iced Black Eye and the Iced Bulletproof Coffee, so you can find those recipes there. So, we’ll look at some other ideas now.
Iced Latte Macchiato
Here’s the thing: while we have no problem preparing cold coffee, it’s a bit more difficult with milk foam. From a purely physical point of view, cold milk foam is a bit of a contradiction in terms since we need water vapor to build the structure.
However, that doesn’t mean it can’t work. Actually, all milk frothers, whether electric, manual or battery-powered, can froth cold milk as well. It’s just that it won’t be very stable.
Furthermore, cooling warm milk foam doesn’t work. Don’t worry, though, you don’t have to do without a great iced latte macchiato. Here’s my recipe, which involved a bit of trial and error.
- A single espresso fresh from the portafilter (stronger if you like, such as a double ristretto).
- A dash of vanilla pulp or extract, for a really smooth result (optional).
- About 200 milliliters of refrigerator-cold milk of your choice.
- Crushed ice (no ice cubes and, please, not ultra-cold!).
- A screw-top glass, mason jar or even a cocktail shaker.
With this method, we simply craft the necessary milk foam using brute shaking force and get extra stability from the crushed ice, for a stylish, layered look.
If you don’t have any experience with a cocktail shaker, a screw-top glass is the best way to go because you’ll really have to go at it hard.
- Pour milk (with optional vanilla) and crushed ice into the glass and close tightly.
- Shake it like a polaroid picture! (Or more precisely: shake it, shake it, shake it.)
- Pour the shaken milk with the crushed ice into a tall glass.
- Pour the espresso slowly over the top in the center and serve immediately.
Of course, there’s a showy element to this preparation. However, since the espresso gets really cold as soon as it comes into contact with the ice, and the milk becomes ultra-smooth with the right shaking technique, this delicious iced latte melts in your mouth, just like a good latte macchiato.
Don’t forget that if you use cold milk foam from a milk frother, you’ll have to make the espresso extra cold beforehand.
Iced Coffee With Vanilla Ice Cream: Affogato al Caffè and Its Friends
Don’t worry, dear purists, even with this version, we leave the syrup bottles and the cream siphon safely aside and get really traditional like the Italians. However, as it’s an iced coffee without ice (made of water), the Affogato al Caffè is more of a dessert than a real summer drink — and it’s quick and dirty.
Basically, all you have to do is put a scoop of vanilla ice cream into a cappuccino cup or a small, thick-walled glass from the fridge and pour a (double) espresso from the portafilter directly on top.
The whole thing becomes a very melty affair, which is especially fun because of the very flavor-forward mixture of sweet ice cream and bitter coffee. I’m sure I don’t have to mention it again — but I will anyway — that a creamy vanilla ice cream with real vanilla is three times tastier than the artificially colored gloop from a giant tub, right?
If you want, you can also go wild with chocolate, stracciatella or nut ice cream, reach for vegan variants or come up with your own ice cream-coffee mixture. I’d tend to stay away from the super-sweet and fruity end of the ice cream spectrum, though.
I tried it with mango ages ago, and it was just kind of good, though sour sorbets can be quite tasty. We’ll see why later.
Of course, this blend also works great with all other cold coffees from pour-over filters and the like, and there’s nothing better than pimping out an already cold (and good) coffee with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Or two. After all, you don’t treat yourself to anything else.
Sweet Iced Coffee Without Sugar — Is That Possible?
Although I’m straying quite far from my core beliefs in recommending ice cream for iced coffee, I’m sticking to the maxim that additional (crystal) sugar is completely unnecessary in most cases.
Truth told, I have no problem at all with fat — freshly whipped cream without added sugar looks great on iced coffee. Just please don’t use the industrial crap from a spray bottle. Not to mention, we don’t even want to start raving on about using good butter in bulletproof coffee.
What I’m getting at is that we all love iced coffee precisely because it’s not only skinny but also a little sinful. However, we shouldn’t skimp on the wrong end of the taste scale out of false caution; we should simply trick our brains.
Fat, whether a lot of it or just a little, always comes to the rescue. As an intense flavor carrier, it ensures our brain has the feeling that something really tasty is about to arrive when we drink iced coffee.
Now, we’ll bring a few more ingredients into play that our brain associates with “sweet” — even though there’s no sugar involved. These include, first and foremost:
- Cinnamon. As in “cinnamon and sugar.” This is exactly the link your brain makes, too. Try it out — you always subconsciously taste sugar as a flavor. So, when you sprinkle cold milk foam with cinnamon, it’s quite light, yet still feels like a calorie bomb on your tongue.
- Vanilla. We used it earlier. Our first association is with its basic spicy sweetness, but vanilla also enhances the sweetness of milk and tempers the bitterness of coffee.
- Pure cocoa. The best brain teaser for all chocolate fans. You just have to dose carefully, otherwise it will be too bitter.
- Salt. Wait, what? That’s right, salt! Every baker knows: everything that’s supposed to taste sweet needs a little salt. However, in iced coffee with milk or cream, you should only sprinkle in a mini-hint, or else you can forget about enjoying a tasty beverage.
If you really don’t want to do without real sweetness, there are plenty of alternatives to industrial products. Just please make sure to use harmless substitutes.
I don’t want to give a real recommendation, even if birch sugar, coconut blossom sugar or erythritol are currently highly regarded in alternative cuisine.
Iced Coffee With Citrus Flavors
In the original article, I went into detail about using citrus fruits in iced coffee. At this point, I just want to point out that pure iced coffee plus ice (made with water) and lemon juice or grapefruit make a cracking refreshment.
Iced Coffee With a Vacation Feel — Vietnamese Iced Coffee & More
The longing for cold coffee is widespread throughout the world, which is why every country with a coffee culture worth mentioning has its own method of getting through the hot season.
At the top of the trend list is Vietnam. Vietnamese iced coffee thrives first on its in-your-face roasts, secondly on its very own equipment and thirdly, on ultra-sweet condensed milk. The whole thing is called Cà Phê Dá or iced pour-over. In any case, there’s no sleeping after one of those.
There are variations of Cà Phê Dá all over the world. In California, people keep themselves awake with a Palazzo, which is basically just a chilled double shot with sweetened cream. The Mazagran comes from Austria and mixes cold coffee with cognac or maraschino. While we’re on the subject …
Iced Coffee Cocktails — Raise Your Glasses, But Which Spirits Should You Choose?
Even though The New York Times already addressed the topic of iced coffee cocktails five years ago, the trend has only really taken off recently.
“Doing nothing and taking it easy” is, after all, the best part of summer.
So, to keep it simple, the easiest way would be to just add a suitable spirit to your iced coffee mixture.
Of course, Kahlúa, Bailey’s and other cream liqueurs lend themselves immediately but again bring quite a bit of industrial crap into our oh-so-elegant base mix.
However, a well-matured rum is quite a different matter and, with its softness, goes quite well with pure iced coffee. A suitably round whiskey without too much peatiness also makes a good impression, but you’ll quickly be under the table on a hot day.
The fact that cold brew and tonic go together excellently is certainly no longer news to you, so there’s no question that gin can’t be too far behind. Which gin goes best is really a question of the style your coffee dictates.
Coffees with nice citrus acidity and definite floral notes are optimal for use as cold brew too, pairing just as well with a very waxy, classic gin as they do with an ultra-floral interpretation like Hendrick’s.
There are also fearless bartenders who can whip up iced coffee with Champagne, Campari, Mezcal or Prosecco. However, there’s an extremely fine line between “yum” and “yuck,” and you’ll have to experiment a lot before you get something drinkable.
Just Don't — Which I Strongly Advise Against When It Comes to Iced Coffee
I’m only writing this paragraph because there are always experts who think powdered iced coffee is a good idea. Or those who drink a frappé from Mickey D’s without irony. Iced coffee from a Thermomix is also a slap in the face of every fragrance lover — the keyword being “instant coffee.”
I can understand every one of you who doesn’t feel like spending almost 10 dollars in a coffee shop for good iced coffee just because the owner has to pay rent for his Brooklyn apartment and the fees for the five-language daycare center with a dolphin therapist.
However, while good coffee isn’t a cheap product, it’s certainly not so expensive that you should have to give up taste, freedom from chemicals and, above all, the fun of preparing it. As we’ve seen, making iced coffee really is as easy as pie.
The Best for Last: 'Instant' Iced Coffee for Those in a Hurry
Yes, we’re all lazy. Otherwise, there would be no fully-automatic machines. Plus, sometimes it’s just too hot to spend an eternity working in the kitchen until your iced coffee is ready. That’s why clever minds and sloths use a simple trick.
Prepare a pot of coffee — preferably in the French press, which takes no effort and gives you the ideal amount. Again, make sure you use half the amount of water. Once the coffee is ready, carefully pour it into an ice cube tray. Let it cool down a bit before popping the tray into the freezer.
Once frozen, the coffee ice cubes go really fast on a hot day: put the coffee ice cubes in a glass, fill it up with (preferably) room temperature milk, add a few of our sweet alternatives and your afternoon-on-the-patio refreshment is ready.
Of course, if you want it to go faster, you can also use warm milk. Then again, the refreshing effect won’t be quite as pronounced, and you’ll have to sip a little faster.
Don’t worry, this version is nothing against all the ideas that I’ve presented to you here, but rather a compromise solution, with which even an old whiner and coffee pedant like myself can get along just fine.
Do you still have ideas for iced coffee? Which version do you prefer to drink? Can I help you in any other way? The comment section is waiting for you!