A friend of mine requested a post on iced coffee and methods for making it well. I thought it would be something as simple as ice in a glass (see: my laziest approach), but apparently, there are some people who take it more seriously.
So what is the best way to make iced coffee?
Use 65g coffee/L. For a pourover, bloom for 45s. Water should be 40% ice, 60% hot water. Place ice in the decanter; pour hot water over ~2.5min. Swish the decanter until ice is dissolved, then pour-over fresh ice. Enjoy.
For further details, jump to the “Ice Filtered Coffee / Japanese-Style Iced Coffee” below.
Like most things to do with coffee, some people take it seriously. It could be as simple as popping a bunch of ice into a cup and pouring hot coffee over it, but the coffee community seems to have different ideas about it.
Table of Contents
Why Iced Coffee? Why Not Cold Brew?
Iced coffee is coffee brewed hot and chilled, typically with ice (shocking). Cold Brew is making a coffee slurry that will brew over 12-48h at room temperature or colder.
Iced coffee (done right) allows for you to taste the origin notes and the subtleties of the coffee you’re brewing. Cold brew tends to smooth out particular facets of the coffee, making it more pleasant, smooth, and less acidic. However, that means you can use a lot of different coffees, and you may not be able to tell the unique qualities of what you’re brewing with.
In short: cold brew seems to blunt the uniqueness of the coffee, making it uniformly more enjoyable whether the beans are good or bad.
TL;DR: if you have mediocre coffee, do cold brew. If you have good coffee, make iced coffee.
If you have a cocktail shaker, you can use it for how it was designed: shake it.
Fill the thing with ice to avoid burning your hands while shaking, then once it’s cold enough, strain out the remaining ice.
This will be fast, but as effective as just filling a cup with ice and stirring.
The main reason I’m suggesting a cocktail shaker is that it’s a thin metal cup and is a fairly common item. A thin metal cup would do just as well for…
Since the container is made of a thin layer of non-insulated metal, you can add hot coffee to it and stick it in the freezer. It will rapidly reduce in temperature and allow you to use far less ice for your nice frosty beverage. I managed to cool it off with ~6 ice cubes instead of the usual dozen or more.
Alternatively, you could take a large bowl and fill it with ice or ice water, but that seems like more effort than necessary.
Some have said that using paper-filtered coffee is better because the mouthfeel is different, so give that a go. (Paper-filtered coffee would be things like Aeropress, drip, pour-over, and so on.)
My method: I brewed 60g/L coarse ground coffee for 3 minutes in a french press, then put it in a thin metal cup in the freezer for 3 minutes, added 7 medium ice cubes (the ones made automatically by my freezer) and it was cold enough. The flavor was more nuanced than cold brew, I can confirm. Tasty!
Non-water Ice Cubes
The friend that asked about iced coffee was asking because she often didn’t think ahead enough for cold brew. If that’s you, then a happy medium approach would be freezing some coffee cubes ahead of time.
One suggestion was to use coffee ice cubes introduced into a glass half-filled with milk or cream, and half-filled with fresh coffee. Add the cubes first, then dairy, then the hot coffee.
Others have suggested using coffee cubes in milk. I imagine the milk will not melt it fast enough, so if you were to try this in the cocktail shaker, you should have better results. At least ¼ of the cup should be hot coffee so that the ice will melt, or you may be waiting a while and drinking coffee-tainted milk.
Note: Coffee is oily. Coffee ice cubes were equally oily. Just be aware that you may have some staining oil on your hands when handling the cubes.
Alternatively, you could freeze milk and cream cubes so that you can add them to a cup of coffee, diluting it as much as you may have otherwise. In this, you could also add a flavoring to the cubes so that it’s basically a premade drink – just add coffee.
One thought: try adding vanilla extract to a very creamy coffee, then freeze those. Pop them into hot coffee, and you’d be all set.
Again, I recommend sticking the coffee in the freezer for a couple of minutes; you’ll need much less ice.
I’m not a huge fan of instant coffee in general, but I think it has some important roles, such as making coffee-flavored things.
In this instance, one Redditor, DeimosDeist, suggested the following:
“A cup of milk (or some milk alternative if you want if vegan), 2 heap[ing] teaspoons [of] instant coffee, [and] some sort of cooling (ice cubes or ice cream).”DeimosDeist, Random Redditor
Alternatively, you could make a coffee milkshake while you’re at it. 2 heaping teaspoons of instant blended with milk and/or ice cream. Tasty!
Ice Filtered Coffee / Japanese-style Iced Coffee
James Hoffman (aka The Living Coffee God) has already addressed this particular style, but I’ll whittle down his video (found here) for those who would rather digest it in text form. It’s rather precise in its measurements and instructions, and I find he doesn’t tend to write anything anywhere.
With a pour-over (like the Hario or Chemex), he suggests:
- 65g coffee per liter (5g more than usual)
- Slightly finer grind than you’d use for a pour-over
- 40% of the water is ice
- 60% Hot Water
- E.g., 500ml brew = 200g of ice; 300g of hot water
- Rinse your paper filter in the sink to avoid heating the decanter
- Add the ice into the decanter just before brewing
- Use 2-3x the coffee weight to bloom (65g coffee = 130-195g hot water)
- Bloom for at least 45 seconds
- Brew for 2.5-3 min (if you can; given his instructions to bloom with half your total hot water, I don’t see how you can stretch it for up to 3 minutes, but this is what he said)
- Once all water has been added, stir once in a circular motion, and once in the opposite direction. (I honestly don’t know why this very specific instruction would matter)
- Swirl the decanter to dissolve any leftover ice
- Pour-over fresh ice cubes in a glass
At about the 1:40 mark, James talks about why he made the small tweaks he did.
I have not tried this myself because I do not own pour-over equipment.
I couldn’t find too much on using an Aeropress, but the theory stands for me to think that you could use the same details as the Japanese-style Iced Coffee, except you’d be using the inverted method for the Aeropress.
- Once again, use 65g/L coarse ground coffee; 40% of the water is ice. Take the plunger for the Aeropress, put it half an inch into the shaft, then flip it upside down.
- Add the coffee and the hot water into the Aeropress; place the filter and cap on the top.
- Let steep for ~2 minutes.
- Add the ice to your cup, flip the Aeropress onto your cup and take 30 seconds to slowly push the plunger to the bottom.
- Stir or swirl the cup on until the ice is all dissolved.
- Pour-over fresh ice.
If you have the means to make espresso or something similar (like a Moka pot), you can make a “Freddo Cappuccino”.
Despite the Italian name, it’s uncommon to be found in Italy, and uncommon to be found outside of Greece. But hey, here we are breaking boundaries.
It consists of 2 shots of espresso topped with cold-frothed milk and ice. If you can’t make espresso shots, you could measure out roughly the same amount of Moka pot coffee (2-3oz) as a stand-in. Or cold brew concentrate, I guess.
To froth the milk, you can use one of those electric hand frothers (nonaffiliate).
- Add the desired amount of sugar to fresh espresso (or equivalent)
- Add ice and stir until cold
- Add additional ice until glass is 50-75% full
- Top with cold frothed milk
For some added oomph, consider adding:
- a sprig of rosemary
- a slice of orange
- Mint leaves (muddled, perhaps)
- Stir and steep with a stick of cinnamon
- A dash of vanilla extract
- Flavored Syrups (of course, let’s not forget this)
My Laziest Approach
Now for the pièce de résistance:
- Make coffee in whatever form you want.
- (optional) Stir your desired amount of sugar into the hot coffee until dissolved.
- Fill your cup with ice cubes.
- Add your cream or milk.
- Add a dash of vanilla extract.
- Pour the coffee in.
Iced coffee has a variety of methods to make it, but they’re all fine. Do whatever works for you, try a different method to see if you can taste the difference, and stick with whatever works.