Iced coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world, but it can be expensive to buy it from a coffee shop if your habit is to drink coffee every day. Luckily, it’s easy and cheap to make the perfect iced coffee at home without depending on a barista.
Many people may try to make iced coffee and write it off as not being good enough to be worth the effort. But the chances are good that you’re making iced coffee all wrong. Read on to learn more about how to make iced coffee perfectly at home.
Start With a Good Coffee for Iced Coffee
To get a good cup of iced coffee, it’s important to start with a strong foundation. That means choosing a high-quality coffee to act as the base for your iced coffee recipe. For the perfect cup of iced coffee, you’ll ideally want to select whole beans and grind them at home yourself. Here are some of the reasons why grinding your own beans is preferable (Source: Coffee Confidential):
- Ground coffee is vulnerable to contamination. Other smells in the surrounding environment can taint the delicate aromas of coffee, and it is more likely to take on these smells if the beans are pre-ground.
- Ground coffee loses its aroma. After fifteen minutes, ground coffee has lost over half of its original fragrance. This means people who drink pre-ground coffee miss out on the full sensory experience of drinking their coffee.
- Ground coffee takes on moisture. Coffee is water-soluble, which is good for brewing but bad for storage. This means pre-ground coffee is more likely to take on moisture from the air that will ultimately dilute its flavors.
- Ground coffee loses carbon dioxide. This carbon dioxide is a crucial part of how the oils in coffee beans are transferred into the liquid coffee. Without it, old pre-ground coffee does not have the same flavor or aroma impact as it would if it was ground just before brewing.
Investing in a coffee grinder and buying whole beans are two steps you can take towards making your base coffee much more delicious and strong. To make good iced coffee, you’ll want to look for a medium roasted bean. Medium roast has an even, balanced flavor that works well as a base for other iced coffee flavors. However, any of your favorite beans will do.
(Source: Pocket Latte)
In a Nespresso or Keurig machine, reusable capsules can be purchased so that home-ground coffee can be used instead of pre-packaged coffee pods. With these pods, you’re sure to get the absolute freshest flavor in your iced coffee.
Using K Pods or Nespresso Pods for Iced Coffee
Pre-packaged coffee pods include pre-ground coffee, so these pods theoretically aren’t as fresh as the coffee you grind yourself. However, they can be a major convenience if you don’t have the time or inclination to grind your own coffee. Since these pods are hermetically sealed within twenty minutes of roasting the coffee, the pods tend to be fresher than loose pre-ground coffee.
Once you’ve decided on the type of coffee bean you’ll use for your iced coffee, the next decision to make is whether to use cold-brew or hot-brewed coffee.
Cold-Brew vs. Hot-Brew in Iced Coffee
Cold-brew and hot-brew are both techniques used for brewing coffee, but they result in very different flavor profiles. While either can be used as the base for a good iced coffee, there are several advantages of using cold-brew instead of hot brewed coffee. Here are a few of the benefits of cold-brew (Source: Java Presse):
- It’s a cold concentrate. The biggest challenge with using hot-brewed coffee in iced coffee is that cooling it down can involve diluting it until it’s too weak to taste good. Cold-brewed coffee has all of the concentrated flavors of hot brewed coffee but doesn’t involve raising the temperature of the drink. This removes the need to melt ice into the coffee.
- It has a sweeter flavor. Cold-brew coffee doesn’t have any bitterness at all compared to regular hot brewed coffee, which makes it a great choice as a platform for sweet iced coffee drinks. Cold-brewing is a good idea if you’re trying to make iced coffee from a dark roasted coffee bean since it can help reduce some of the darker roast’s bitterness.
These aspects of cold-brew make it a smart choice to use in iced coffee drinks. Having a cold-brew concentrate on hand also makes it faster to throw together your own homemade iced coffee drink in the morning without having to wait for a pot to brew.
Can You Make Iced Coffee From Hot Coffee?
It’s possible to make iced coffee from hot coffee, but there are a few things to keep in mind if you plan to try. The biggest thing to remember is that it may take a lot of ice to get hot-brewed coffee down to a cold temperature, and this can dilute it to the point of being undrinkable.
It also takes longer to prepare iced coffee when you’re using hot coffee as a base. If you’re trying to make your own homemade iced coffee to save time and save some money, you won’t be saving a lot of time if you have to sit around waiting for a pot of hot coffee to brew before you can prepare your drink.
A major advantage of using hot coffee as a base for iced coffee is that it’s easier to stir in solid sweeteners like grain sugar and dissolve them if syrup-based sweeteners are unavailable. The coffee’s heat can be used to melt the sweetener into it before any ice is added to cool it down.
Choose a High-Quality Sweetener
Along with choosing a high-quality coffee to serve as the base for your iced coffee drink, it’s also important to choose a high-quality sweetener. The type of sweetener you choose can have a major impact on the final flavor and appearance of your iced coffee drink.
Here are some of the best sweeteners to use in iced coffee:
- Simple syrup: A simple syrup is a syrup made out of sugar that has been dissolved in water to form a liquid sweetener. Simple syrup is a flat sweetener that doesn’t add any additional flavor notes to the iced coffee other than the sugar, so it’s good for a basic iced coffee recipe.
- Honey: Honey is a natural liquid sweetener that blends well in iced coffee drinks and makes an especially good companion for iced coffee recipes that call for herbs or floral notes. Honey has antibacterial properties and is also a good choice if you’re trying to soothe a sore throat.
- Agave nectar: Agave nectar was one of the first popularized alternative sweeteners marketed as an alternative to sugar. Made from the same cactus that is used to create the liquor tequila, agave nectar mixes well with iced coffee and has a similar flavor profile to honey.
- Molasses: Molasses (also known as treacle) is a liquid form of sugar that is leeched out of either sugarcane or sugar beets. Molasses can add a warm, full-bodied, almost smoky flavor to iced coffee.
- Condensed milk: Condensed milk is a thick, sweetened canned milk that is a primary ingredient in Thai coffee. This milk adds a rich sweetness to iced coffee drinks and can also prevent the necessity for keeping fresh milk on hand if you only use it to mix with your coffee.
Along with the basic liquid sweeteners, there are also specialty commercial syrups that you can add to iced coffee to achieve many different flavor profiles. These are a few companies selling specialty syrups to add to your coffee drinks:
- Jo Snow Syrups: Jo Snow Syrups is a California-based company that makes a wide variety of different syrups that can be added to iced coffee. These syrups range from a tangerine vanilla syrup to a “lumberjack” syrup flavored with sea salt, maple, and cinnamon.
- Monin: Monin has more than a hundred different syrup flavors to choose from, so the variations for your iced coffee combinations are almost endless. These syrups come in exotic flavors like apple pie and gingerbread, making it easy to create layered iced coffee drinks all year long.
In iced coffee, liquid sweeteners like those listed above are usually preferred over solid grain sugar. Not only are liquid sweeteners easier to dissolve in a cold liquid, it’s also easy to add additional flavors to liquid sweeteners such as mint, cinnamon, or other spices.
The advantage of using a commercial syrup over making your own simple syrup is that you can try exotic flavors you would find it difficult to make in your own syrups. However, commercial syrups are more expensive than taking some grain sugar and water and mixing up a simple syrup yourself.
Sweet Sauces Used in Ice Coffee
Along with liquid sweeteners, there are also a variety of sauces that can be added to iced coffee to give them extra flavor. Here are a few of the most popular types:
- Chocolate sauce: Chocolate sauce can be used to make a mocha iced coffee, with dark chocolate syrup offering a slightly richer, more bitter flavor than regular chocolate sauce.
- Caramel sauce: Caramel is a confectionary sauce that is created by heating up sugar. This caramelization process lends caramel a deeper flavor than plain white sugar. Caramel is often drizzled into iced coffee without forcing it to dissolve completely.
- Butterscotch sauce: Butterscotch is similar to the flavor of caramel but features additional flavors of butter, salt, and vanilla. Since butterscotch is very sweet, it’s best paired with a more robust coffee flavor to balance the sweetness out.
There are enough different combinations of syrups and sauces you can add to your iced coffee that you’ll never get bored. Part of creating the perfect iced coffee is figuring out what combination of flavors suits you best. Everybody’s perfect flavor combination is slightly different.
Presentation and Appreciation of Iced Coffee
Choosing high-quality ingredients is an important part of making the perfect iced coffee, but how you drink your iced coffee can also make a big difference. These are a few ways you can improve your iced coffee experience.
Add Flavors to Your Iced Coffee
From mint to cinnamon and everything in-between, there are a ton of flavors that work well when layered over the base flavors of coffee and sugar.
When you boil a simple syrup for your iced coffee, try adding ingredients such as cardamom or lavender to add deeper, more complex flavor notes to your coffee’s profile. These herbs or spices can then be filtered out of the syrup with a sieve before bottling it in a container. Simple syrup only lasts a month in the fridge, so be sure to make fresh syrup regularly.
Use a Good Container
Investing in an insulated thermos for your iced coffee is a good idea if you’re planning to try and savor it rather than drinking it quickly. Otherwise, the ice in the coffee will melt and dilute it. Serving your iced coffee in insulation will preserve its flavor better, especially if you’re using hot brewed coffee as your iced coffee base.
Don’t Forget the Garnish
If you make the effort to add extra garnish to your cold coffee drink such as whipped cream, sprinkles, or a dash of cinnamon, you’ll never even miss the fancy, overpriced coffee drinks at your local coffee shop. Since the point of preparing an iced coffee is to treat yourself, it’s worth the extra effort to make the drink look good.
Use a Straw
Using a straw to drink your iced coffee allows you to drink from the bottom of the coffee cup where the coffee is the least diluted, which will help improve its flavor with each sip you take and also gives you a tool to help stir the coffee as the ice melts. With sugary drinks like iced coffee, straws can help reduce the teeth staining and cavities associated with sweetened coffee.
Sit Down and Relax
As tempting as it is to gulp down your iced coffee on your commute to work, you aren’t going to get the most out of your iced coffee by drinking it this way. Coffee is a drink that is meant to be savored and enjoyed slowly. Instead, make a point to be conscious of each sip as you take it and you’ll find yourself enjoying your iced coffee a lot more.
Troubleshooting Iced Coffee
If you’ve tried to make iced coffee at home before and had poor results, there are plenty of things you can do to help improve your final result for your next round of drinks. Follow these tips to avoid some common mistakes when you’re making iced coffee from scratch:
- Use coffee ice cubes. If you’re trying to make iced coffee with hot brewed coffee, one mistake that can instantly ruin the flavor of your coffee is by melting too much ice in it. This can leave your iced coffee tasting watery and bland. To avoid this and still cool down your coffee, save some ice trays of frozen coffee in your freezer and use those instead.
- Don’t mix grain sugar into iced coffee. Solid sugar will not dissolve easily into room temperature liquids and it won’t dissolve at all in a cold liquid. Instead, mix grain sugar into hot coffee before adding coffee or use a liquid sweetener instead to avoid the problem entirely.
- Don’t use unfiltered water. Using filtered water in your coffee machine can make a big difference in any kind of brewed beverage since heating or cooling the water can create off-flavors in water from the tap.
- Don’t let it sit too long. If you set your iced coffee aside to let it cool down and it doesn’t cool quickly, this just increases the amount of dilution in the drink without really dropping it to a drinkable temperature. To chill iced coffee quickly, shake iced coffee in a cocktail shaker with ice. This will drop its temperature rapidly and minimize melted ice.
- Don’t use old coffee. Coffee loses its flavor and potency as it oxidizes, so old coffee is not nearly as strong as fresh coffee. This is even more true for coffee that has already been ground up versus whole coffee beans. Instead, make sure to use only fresh roasted coffee for your drinks for a perfect flavor. (Source: Mashed)
Making sure to get the sweetness and temperature on your iced coffee right can go a long way towards helping you build the perfect cup. But choosing fresh, high-quality ingredients to start with makes a big difference in the final flavor of the iced coffee too.
The Perfect Iced Coffee Can Be Made at Home
Baristas may make iced coffee drinks look fancy and difficult to put together, but anyone can do it with just a little practice. If you gather the ingredients for your iced coffee ahead of time, you might even find that you’ve gained some serious time and money you would have spent buying your iced coffee from somebody else.