What Is Mazagran Coffee? This Original Iced Delight Still Packs a Punch

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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I must confess I'm always on the hunt for the next coffee recipe to tickle my tastebuds. In all my rummaging, I came across mazagran coffee. And to be honest, it intrigued me.

I must confess I’m always on the hunt for the next coffee recipe to tickle my tastebuds. In all my rummaging, I came across mazagran coffee. And to be honest, it intrigued me.

This isn’t your average iced coffee recipe. It packs quite a punch and is full of bold and zesty flavors.

Now, I know some of you may come at me and ask: do coffee and citrus really go together? I assure you, in this cold coffee recipe, they do! So, without further delay, let’s unpack the hype behind mazagran coffee.

Overview: What Is Mazagran Coffee?

Picture this: it’s a hot summer’s day, and you’re craving something more than iced coffee or cold brew. Enter mazagran coffee, the original iced coffee.

This drink is a refreshing and zesty iced coffee, served black. It has a strong-brewed coffee base, typically espresso, moka pot coffee or cold brew concentrate. Ice-cold water (ice cubes optional) and freshly squeezed lemon juice top this coffee base for a refreshing twist.

Starting off as plain ol’ coffee and cold water, mazagran rose to fame in Europe, where it soon became a summer cult favorite of the French and Portuguese. It is here that the lemon twist largely came in.

This iced coffee drink is truly a game-changer. It has the kick of a strong coffee and the refreshing chill of iced lemonade. What’s more, this cold coffee has the right amount of sweetness to keep you hooked.

Over the years, mazagran coffee has evolved, reinventing itself with every stride. The basic recipe remains the same: strong coffee (with optional sugar or simple syrup), cold water, lemon juice and ice. But modern baristas and coffee enthusiasts have gone the extra mile.

Today, you might find variations with added mint, sparkling water for a fizzy twist or even a dash of honey. In some parts of the world, mazagran coffee is a soda-like drink that mixes cold brew coffee with lemonade or cola. Some even add alcohol, turning it into the ultimate boozy coffee treat.

This popular coffee recipe is forever changing proving that the best ideas never go out of style – they just get better with age.

A Brief History of Mazagran Coffee

Many think of mazagran coffee (also masagran coffee) as the “original iced coffee.” This is somewhat debatable, in my view. For starters, the Japanese were sipping on some form of cold coffee, dacchikōhī (Dutch coffee) as early as the 17th century. Iprefer to think of mazagran coffee as the “original modern iced coffee.”

This coffee’s roots trace back to 1840s Algeria. Here, French soldiers stationed in a fortress named Mazagran, in Mostaganem, Algeria, were looking for a way to beat the desert heat. On a whim, the thirsty troops mixed their coffee with sugar and ice-cold water. This clever invention was not only refreshing, but seriously energizing. Later, additions like lemon juice or sweet coffee syrup with cognac or rum (this helped troops stay awake) became the norm.

Alegria History Mazagran

Fast forward to the 1960s and mazagran coffee finds itself in Europe. French soldiers returned to France from Algeria in the 1960s, bringing with them an Arabic-like coffee tradition. They also brought this drink with them and ordered it in droves. Thus, they influenced the popularity of these coffee drinks. The French, ever the innovators, introduced mazagrin glasses especially for this coffee. These tall glasses resembled the original ceramic and terracotta mazagran coffee cups in Algeria, Morocco.

Other schools of thought say that the Portuguese brought the drink to Europe from their colony in Mazagan, Morocco, as early as the 16th century. Whichever story is true, once mazagran coffee reached Europe, it really took off! It spread to other countries, including Portugal, Spain and Austria.

In 1994, Starbucks and PepsiCo partnered, developing a line of carbonated coffee beverages named “Mazagran Spice Blend.” Unfortunately, these cold coffee drinks, piloted in California, didn’t take off. Eventually, Starbucks discontinued the drink.

But all was not lost; the coffee extract birthed the much-loved Frappuccino. Today, mazagran coffee is undergoing a renaissance, especially among the hip fourth-wave coffee crowd. It’s a popular drink, offering a refreshing, energizing and thirst-quenching twist.

Regional Variations

If you thought Mazagran coffee was a one-trick pony, think again. This zesty brew has gone global! Coffee lovers everywhere, from Europe to Asia, are putting their own spin on it. Let’s look at some interesting variations shaking up the modern coffee scene around the world.

Mazagran in Europe

Let’s start with the OG recipe twister: Portugal. As mentioned, the Portuguese enhanced the original Algerian recipe, making it their own. They kept the coffee and lemon combo but tossed in rum for an extra kick. Because why not, right?

Also called Portuguese iced coffee, Portuguese mazagran is a treat in the hot Iberian summer heat. Practically every café in Lisbon serves it, often with the famous custard tart, pastel de nata.

Next stop, France. The French have their take, cafémazagran. They stick to the classic combo of strong-brewed coffee, freshly squeezed lemon juice and sugar or simple syrup. However, they add an unmistakable French flair. Sometimes, it comes with a dash of rum or Perrier sparkling water for a fizzy finish. If you’re a fan of coffee sodas, such as espresso tonic, this is your jam.

In Austria, they turned mazagran coffee into a boozy delight. Here, they mix coffee with still or sparkling water, ice and rum, creating a boozy beverage. They often down this delicious concoction in one gulp!

Further south in Catalan country and Valencia, Spain, mazagran coffee is heavy on the ice, and instead of fresh lemon juice they add lemon peel. It is cafédeltemps or cafédeltiempo, which translates as “weather’s coffee.” Like the Spanish latte, it’s a much loved coffee drink.

As Europeans share so much culinary history, perhaps this is why the Italians drink hot coffee, specifically espresso, with lemon peel. This is a popular drink in Italy’s Campania region, which includes Capri, Naples and the Amalfi Coast.

Here, this “hot” version of mazagran coffee is caffèallimone or caffècanarino. If you add a few drops of that famous liqueur limoncello, it makes caffècorretto.

Mazagran in the Americas

Café con hielo y limón

Despite the poor uptake of Starbucks’ Mazagran Spice Blend in the 1990s, coffee shops across the U.S. are beginning to embrace this classic iced coffee drink. Here, American coffee shops are putting their own spin on it.

We’re all about cold brew, so naturally, we prefer cold brew mazagran coffee. Imagine your favorite cold brew coffee mixed with ready-made ice-cold lemonade like Newman’s Own or Country Time. Alternatively imagine it mixed with carbonated water, fresh lemon juice, a touch of simple syrup and plenty of ice. The perfect pick-me-up!

Further south in Brazil, they follow in Portugal’s footsteps, adding rum to the original mazagran coffee recipe. A good thing too as Brazilian rum, or cachaça, is absolutely delicious! They also have their own iced coffee, mocha cola (coffee topped with cola or other carbonated drink), which packs quite a caffeine punch!

Mazagran in Asia

Asia has also got itself into the mazagran coffee game. In Japan, where they’re always ahead of the curve with their coffee innovations, mazagran coffee appears as iced coffee lemonade.

The basic Japanese iced coffee, aisukōhī or korikōhī, is often flash-brewed using hot water, and immediately chilled over ice. They then top this coffee with lemon syrup (or lemon juice with simple syrup), chilled sparkling water and ice. This drink, served in a tall glass, is exactly what it sounds like: a blend of strong cold-brewed coffee and tart lemonade. The result? A refreshing drink that’s tangy, rich and hits the spot.

Last, but not least, let’s swing by Vietnam. Known for their bold coffee culture, the Vietnamese have a citrusy concoction called càphêchanh. It’s very much like the classic Vietnamese iced coffee càphêsuada.

Only this drink mixes Vietnamese iced coffee with lime juice instead of lemon, giving it a unique twist. It’s bold, bright and bursting with flavor. If you’re looking to try something a little different, this is a winner!

How to Make Mazagran Coffee

Now, let’s get down to business: How to make mazagran coffee. You don’t need much for this recipe. But whatever you do, make sure the ingredients are of the highest quality. Here’s my step-by-step guide to crafting one serving of this refreshing and zesty coffee treat:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (240 milliliters) strong-brewed coffee (preferably made from a double espresso, moka pot or cold brew concentrate)

  • 1/2 (118 milliliters) cup fridge-cold filtered water (use a sparkling water, such as Perrier, San Pellegrino or La Croix if desired)

  • 1/4 (60 milliliters) cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 2 tablespoons (25 grams) brown sugar or 3.5 tablespoons (40 milliliters) simple syrup

  • Lots of ice (optional)

  • Lemon slice, twist of lemon peel or mint (garnish)

Equipment

  • Coffee brewer (preferably an espresso maker, moka pot or cold brew jug)

  • Citrus juicer

  • Glass pitcher (for mixing)

  • Tall glass

  • Glass mixing tube or stirring spoon

Mazagran Coffee Lemon Coffee

Directions

  1. Brew up a batch of your favorite strong coffee. For this Portuguese iced coffee recipe, a coffee base of espresso, moka pot or cold brew concentrate will do. 

  2. While the coffee is hot, stir in the sugar (if using brown sugar). This will help it dissolve completely. Adjust the sweetness to your taste preference – some like it sweeter, some like it with just a hint of sugar. Then, allow it to cool.

  3. Mix the brewed coffee (and sugar) with cold water and freshly squeezed lemon juice in a glass pitcher. This is where the magic happens – the lemon juice combines with the coffee and sweetener to give this iced coffee its unique, refreshing zing.

  4. If using simple syrup, you can sweeten the drink at this stage. Unlike sugar granules, simple syrup dissolves in cold coffee easily, hence you can use it at this stage of the recipe. And, although not traditional, you may also substitute cold water with chilled sparkling water.

  5. Fill a tall glass with ice cubes. The more, the merrier! Remember, iced cubes are optional, so only use them if desired.

  6. Pour the coffee, fresh lemon juice and water mixture over the ice and using a tall stirring spoon or glass mixing tube, stir away!

  7. To finish, garnish your mazagran coffee with a lemon slice, twist of lemon peel or mint. It adds a nice touch and will enhance your coffee’s lemony (or minty) aroma. 

  8. Sip and enjoy this perfect blend of coffee and citrus.

Pro Tips

  • You may use any ground coffee (from fresh coffee beans, of course!) to make your espresso, moka pot or cold brew coffee concentrate. However, I recommend a light, fruity coffee like an Ethiopian Sidamo, Kenya AA or Venezuelan Táchira. The fruity notes in these single-origin coffees will complement the citrus flavors well.

  • Add alcohol to this cold coffee to “zest” things up a bit. A white or aged rum like Bacardi, Plantation or Doorly’s works just fine.

  • A tiny pinch of salt dampens bitterness from the coffee and citrus, enhancing the overall flavor of the drink.

  • Although not traditional, replacing traditional lemons with Meyer lemons gives this iced coffee a sweeter, orangey twist.

Final Thoughts: Mazagran Coffee

Hope you’ve all enjoyed reading this blog and recipe on mazagran coffee. Whether you’re a coffee newbie or a seasoned sipper, mazagran coffee will certainly shake up your summer caffeine routine.

Say goodbye to plain ol’ iced coffee and hello to your new summer obsession. Because trust me, once you go mazagran, you’ll likely never go back! Enjoy!

Have you had mazagran coffee before? How does it compare to your other iced coffee experiences? I’d love to hear opinions and any other tips you may have on making iced coffee. Let’s get into it in the Coffeeness comments section below!

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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