What Is a Frappe? From Greece With Love!

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

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Unless you've been to Greece, or practically live to taste coffee, you may find yourself asking, "What is a frappe?"

Unless you’ve been to Greece, or practically live to taste coffee, you may find yourself asking, “What is a frappe?”

I spend a lot of time in Cyprus and the Greek islands. And this Greek number just happens to be one of my summer favorites.

As your friendly neighborhood coffee expert, I’m itching to tell you all about this cold coffee. So I won’t delay you any further. Let’s explore the ins and outs of this delicious iced coffee drink!

What Is a Frappe?

A frappe is a whipped instant coffee mixed with ice-cold water and ice. Some Greek versions of this refreshing drink add a splash of evaporated or condensed milk.

Think of the frappe as the more laid-back cousin of traditional iced coffee. It’s practically a rebel without a cause (waving at all you James Dean fans!).

Basically, this iced coffee breaks all the rules and does its own thing. For starters, you’d assume it uses an espresso base. It doesn’t. The frappe dares to use instant coffee granules instead.

Some baristas sub instant coffee for chilled hot-brewed coffee or cold brew. I guess they can’t bring themselves to use instant bean juice. But in Greece, they go the freeze-dried instant coffee way.

Whichever coffee you choose to use, don’t confuse an American Frappuccino, for the Greek version. They may be similar, but they’re not the same.

You can whip up this cold coffee in your kitchen in no time. And the best part? Absolutely no espresso machines or coffee shop baristas required!

The frappé truly is the drink for the coffee lover floundering on a hot summer’s day.

Is There Coffee in a Frappe?

A Jar of Instant Coffee on a Shelf

There is indeed coffee in a frappe. Instant coffee, that is. In Greece, they use plain ol’ Nescafé. I know, I know, not very glitzy, but it’s authentic.

If you can’t find Nescafé, use a high-quality American instant coffee brand instead. Starbucks VIA, Maxwell House or Mount Hagen will do. But to keep things 100 percent authentic, try to look for Nescafé. There’s a reason for this, as you’ll see later.

As I mentioned before, some baristas won’t serve you this drink with instant coffee. If you’re like me, and can’t abide instant coffee, I’d suggest going with moka pot coffee. A one-cup Bialetti should brew you a nice coffee base that you can then chill. Alternatively, use cold brew instead.

If you can’t do without espresso, then I suppose you can brew a double shot. But remember, it won’t be an authentic Greek frappe you’ll be making. And if you decide to go this way, keep it real, and use a manual espresso maker.

Frappe Origin Story: Who Invented This Chilled Coffee Icon?

Cool Greek Frappe Recipe

Part of understanding the question, “What is a frappe?” involves knowing its origins. Before the original frappe there were drinks dubbed café frappé popular in coffee shops across Europe. Some were strange concoctions of fruit juice or liqueur over shaved ice.

Greek frappé origins are as interesting as the coffee itself. It all began with Nescafé representative Dimitris Vakondios. The story goes that he couldn’t find hot water to make instant coffee drinks at the 1957 Thessaloniki International Fair.

So, what did he do? He winged it! He took instant coffee, cold water and ice, put these in a shaker and, well … shook. Thus, Dimitris created a chilled coffee beverage that became one of Greece’s most popular coffee drinks.

Since then, this iced coffee classic has become an icon of Greek culture. Frappe is a coffee shop staple all over Greece, Cyprus and the Greek islands.

It’s also a staple in coffee shops in Bulgaria, Albania and in Serbia, where they serve it with milk or ice cream. There’s also the French version of the frappé, which contains coffee, ice cream and ice.

Not surprisingly, the Greek frappe is also a hit in Australia, New Zealand and Canada, all of which have a sizable Greek diaspora.

Perhaps surprisingly, an almost identical version, known as the cabinet, is popular in Rhode Island. It contains coffee syrup, ice cream and milk. Some versions of this American café frappé even use a fruit juice, tea or hot chocolate base and almost always feature whipped cream as a topping.

Frappe vs Frappuccino

Now, my caffeine amigos, onto a topic of controversy! Is the frappe just a fancy European Frappuccino?

Before I answer, think on it a while. Which came first, the frappe or the Frappuccino? I say the frappe. The Starbucks Frappuccino only launched in 1992. Starbucks bought out its inventor, the Coffee Connection, then trademarked the name “Frappuccino.”

Frappuccino Starbucks

So, what exactly is the difference between these two iced coffees?

Well, a frappe consists of ice, topped with whipped instant coffee, cold water and an optional splash of milk. It’s a creamy, velvety iced coffee with a satisfyingly smooth texture.

On the other hand, a Frappuccino in its most basic form consists of espresso, crushed ice, milk and syrup. These ingredients combined in a blender or frozen yogurt machine, form a thick type of frozen coffee. Typically, you’d top this iced coffee with whipped cream and other flavorings.

The main difference between the two is that one is hand-made and uses instant coffee and ice cubes. The latter goes through a blending process (in a blender or frozen yogurt machine) and uses espresso and crushed ice.

Frappe vs Dalgona Coffee

In many ways a frappe reminds me of that curious Asian specialty, Dalgona coffee. But again these two cold coffees are not the same.

The hand-whipped Dalgona coffee originated in Macau and quickly gained popularity in South Korea. It gets its name from the famous Korean candy Dalgona, which tastes like a sweet cup of joe.

At the height of the 2020 pandemic it trended on TikTok and Instagram. Thousands of coffee-mad influencers flexed their skills at making this whipped coffee on their socials.

Generally, Dalgona coffee has the same instant coffee base as a Greek frappe. Where the two cold coffees differ is in the prep.

Dalgona coffee comprises equal parts instant coffee, sugar and water, whipped into a velvety, blond frenzy. To make the recipe, simply top a glass of hot or cold milk with the luscious whipped coffee base. Obviously, very different from a frappé.

How to Make a Coffee Frappe (The Authentic Greek Way)

On a hot summer’s day, when a piping hot traditional coffee won’t do, make yourself an authentic frappe. It’s the perfect drink to cool you down, pick you up and satisfy your coffee cravings all at once.

Here’s how to make it:

Ingredients You’ll Need:

  • 1 heaping teaspoon Nescafé instant coffee granules

  • 1-3 teaspoons granulated sugar (per your personal preference)

  • 8-10 ounces (236-295 milliliters) ice-cold filtered water

  • A pitcher of ice cubes

  • An optional splash of fridge-cold evaporated or condensed milk. You could also sub for cow juice or non-dairy milk

Optional Ingredients (Frappe Variations with Non-Traditional Ingredients)

  • Liquor: Tia Maria, Kahlua, Baileys

  • Flavoring: flavored syrups (vanilla, almond, hazelnut) or sweet sauces (caramel, chancaca, chocolate syrup)

  • Toppings: whipped cream, milk foam, cocoa powder, chocolate-covered coffee beans

Equipment You’ll Need 

  • Large plastic container, Mason jar or cocktail shaker

  • Hand-held milk frother or whisk (optional)

  • Teaspoon (for dosing, mixing)

  • Tall coffee glass (for serving)

  • Straw (for serving)

Coffee Frappe Recipe (Serves 1)

  1. Assemble all your ingredients and equipment.

  2. Then, take your plastic container, Mason jar or cocktail shaker. Add 1 heaping teaspoon of instant coffee, sugar and a touch of hot water. This prevents the granules from sticking to your container.

  3. Next, pour in 1-2 ounces of ice-cold filtered water.

  4. Seal your plastic container, Mason jar or cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. You should begin to see a gradual color and texture change. The coffee mixture goes from a blackish-brown to blonde, thickening into a creamy and velvety whipped coffee.

  5. To speed up the process, you could use an electric milk frother. Simply place it into your coffee drink and whip until the mixture is frothed up.

  6. Place some ice into your serving glass and pour in your whipped coffee. 

  7. Top with 8-9 ounces of ice-cold filtered water until the froth extends slightly above the rim of the glass.

  8. At this stage you could add a splash of milk to this delicious drink. A splash of dairy or non-dairy milk is an acceptable substitute for evaporated or condensed milk. 

  9. You could also add liquor, flavorings, whipped cream and other toppings at this stage. But remember these aren’t traditional.

  10. You’ve now made yourself an authentic Greek frappe! Now all that’s left for you to do is straw-up and enjoy!

How to Enjoy Coffee Frappe

Greek Frappe Recipe Ingredients

A frappe is best enjoyed immediately to appreciate its luscious, creamy and velvety consistency. Serve this coffee in a tall glass and (straws at the ready, people) sip rather than drink it.

Most Greeks take at most two teaspoons of sugar with this cold coffee classic. Anymore and you’ll practically announce your tourist credentials. Naturally, a frappe with no sugar (sketo) isn’t that popular. But frappé metrio (with one sugar) and frappé glyko (with two sugars) certainly are.

If you’d love some milk with this coffee, ask for it me gala (with milk). You’ll most likely get served your frappe with evaporated or condensed milk. In fact, if you’re in Cyprus or Northern Greece, they don’t use water at all.

Greek frappe is popular as a breakfast coffee especially in the hot summer months. It is, in fact, the “Greek breakfast of champions.” But don’t expect to get this iced coffee as an after-dinner coffee. In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any coffee served after dinner in Greek restaurants.

What makes a frappe shine is its versatility. And while it might not be authentic, you can customize it to your heart’s content.

Craving something sweet for your taste buds? Throw in a mocha drizzle or caramel swirl for an extra dose of sweetness. Feel like dessert? Why not add vanilla ice cream to your frappe?

You could even booze up your frappe! A nice shot of ouzo, coffee liqueur or Baileys will do. Or why not go all out and make it with coca cola instead of water as the Danish do? The possibilities are endless.

Authentic or not, this iced coffee is always a delicious treat!

Final Thoughts: Enjoy More of This Chill Coffee Delight

So, there you have it, folks: the scoop on what makes a frappe so irresistible! You’ve now joined that exclusive club of coffee lovers who know how to make an authentic Greek frappé at home.

In my opinion, the frappe is not just a deliciously decadent, ice-cold treat, but the ultimate summer pick-me-up. Make sure to try one!

After reading this, I hope you’re in the kitchen whipping yourself up a frappe right about now. As usual, I’d love to hear all about it in the comments section.

What Is a Frappe FAQ

No. A frappe is an instant coffee-based cold drink while a milkshake is ice cream and milk, blended.

An authentic Greek frappe consists of ice cubes topped with whipped instant coffee, sugar and ice-cold water. A splash of milk is sometimes added.

A Frappuccino consists of espresso, crushed ice, milk and syrup, blended into a thick frozen coffee. A frappe consists of whipped instant coffee, water, ice cubes and a splash of milk.

A frappe is a type of cold coffee. Cold coffees can be hot-brewed coffee over ice, an espresso-based iced cappuccino or americano or cold brews. A frappe consists of whipped instant coffee, cold water and ice cubes.

Your coffee expert
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Arne Preuss

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

More about Arne Preuss

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

More about Arne Preuss

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