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How to Make Iced Coffee at Home

Hot day having you craving a deliciously cold, creamy brew? We explain all you need to know to make the perfect iced coffee at home

Usually associated with the summer months, sipping an iced coffee is no longer the preserve of the summer months, with many more people enjoying such drinks all year long. Whether for cooling yourself down on a hot day or just enjoying the sweet, smooth flavor, sales of cold coffees over the past few years have and continue to rise, with drinks such as Starbucks’ frappuccinos at the forefront of this new national obsession.

If you’re partial to an iced coffee (or perhaps you just enjoy trying out new coffee recipes at home), but are looking to curb the dollars you spend on your favorite drink, then you’ve come to the right place. Our step-by-step guide below takes you through our methods for making the perfect iced coffee. In addition, we explain the difference between iced coffee and cold brew, teach you how to make cold brew concentrate and include links to some of our favorite coffee makers.

For this article, we also asked Kaleena Teoh, co-founder and Director of Education at coffee training campus Coffee Project NY, for her thoughts on iced coffee, which you can read below.

What is iced coffee and why do people like it?

If you’ve been searching for a recipe for iced coffee online, then you’ll likely have noticed several suggestions on how to achieve that cool cup of caffeine. However, in its simplest form, iced coffee is coffee served over ice. Where recipes tend to differ is in their method of brewing the coffee, how they want you to introduce the coffee to the ice and whether or not they recommend add-ins such as sweet syrups, milk and chocolate spreads.

No matter the method adopted, the reasons that people give for enjoying ice coffee is that the cooler temperature makes its more refreshing than hot coffee, plus it’s more harmonic with sweet add-ins such as syrups and more mild and sweet in flavor – where hot coffee is seen as amplifying the richer or more bitter and astringent notes in coffee.

What’s the difference between iced coffee and cold brew?

Many recipes and explainers tend to use the terms “iced coffee” and “cold brew” interchangeably; but the two are very different things, as Kaleena explains: “The main difference between the two [iced coffee and cold brew] is the brewing method. Regular iced coffee is usually brewed hot and poured over ice, while cold brew is brewed using cold/room temperature water. Iced coffee usually has a more vibrant acidity and sweetness, while cold brew has a more balanced and chocolatey profile.”

How to make iced coffee at home

How you make iced coffee at home will differ slightly depending on whether you’re using regular filter coffee or espresso. We’ve included both methods below:

How to make iced coffee with espresso

1. Fill your desired glass with ice cubes. Most people use tall glasses; personally, I like to serve iced coffee in a stemless wine glass. Those wanting a sweeter iced coffee should line the inside of the glass with vanilla, chocolate or caramel syrup, for example, before adding ice.

2. Brew a double-shot of espresso using an espresso machine, an espresso pod in a single-serve coffee maker, stovetop coffee maker or Aeropress, then pour your espresso over the ice.

3. Fill up the rest of your glass with chilled, filtered water or milk. For a more luxurious finish, top your drink with whipped cream and drizzle syrup.

Tip: If using a syrup, combine it with your espresso, milk and ice in a cocktail shaker before serving.

How to make iced coffee with filter coffee

1. Brew up a batch of coffee using your preferred method – be it in an automatic drip coffee maker, pour-over setup, single-serve machine, percolator, French press or by simply using instant coffee powder. I recommend making it slightly stronger than usual, since regularly brewed coffee doesn’t stand up to dilution with ice as well as something more concentrated such as espresso.

2. Similarly, compared to a shot of espresso, the larger volume of hot coffee used here will melt your ice too quickly. As such, allow brewed coffee to come down to room temperature or chill it in the refrigerator for an hour before you move on to the next step.

3. Once your coffee is cool, you can serve it over ice. Make sure you leave room in your glass for any milk, coffee creamer or simple syrup that you might want to add for sweetness and creaminess.

How to make cold brew coffee at home

Want to make yourself some delicately flavored, energy-boosting cold brew instead? Then follow these simple steps:

1. To make cold brew concentrate, you’ll first need to choose a brewing vessel. Any food-safe airtight container will do, with cold brew enthusiasts known to use everything from mason jars to reusable water bottles, and even ziploc bags. You can also purchase specially designed cold brew pitchers online, which greatly simplify proceedings thanks to their built-in filters. Personally, I like to get some extra utility out of my French press by using it as a cold brew pitcher.

2. The quantity of cold brew concentrate you make will depend on your coffee consumption habits and the size of your brewing vessel. No matter the total amount, add coarsely ground coffee and filtered water to your brewing vessel in a ratio of 1:4. Coarsely ground coffee works best for making cold brew since the larger grounds lead to slower flavor extraction, making over-extraction and the development of bitter, unpleasant flavors less likely. Filtered water isn’t a necessity per se, but using water without any impurities will produce coffee with a cleaner taste.

3. Once you’ve added your grounds and water to your brewing vessel, you can pop it into the refrigerator and leave the mixture to steep for between 12 and 24 hours. The longer you leave your mixture to brew, the smoother-tasting and more strongly caffeinated your concentrate will be.

4. Once your chosen brew time has elapsed, remove the container from the fridge and filter out the grounds using a strainer or paper filter. Decant your cold brew concentrate back into its original container and store it in your refrigerator for around 7-10 days. It’s important to remove all the grounds once you’ve finished brewing; the grounds will continue to extract as long as they’re in contact with the water, which can lead to harsh and unpleasant flavors developing over time.

5. Once your coffee concentrate is filtered, it’s time to serve. Since you’ve made cold brew coffee concentrate, it will require further dilution before serving. We’d suggest you start with a ratio of 1:2 with milk or water. If you find the resulting drink a little weak, you can try diluting 1:1 for a stiffer cup of coffee.

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