As the weather heats up, a lot of people tend to ditch real coffee and grab a sugary, coffee-flavoured milk drink instead.
Now if you like these drinks, then go right ahead - seriously, this is not some pretentious barista power trip… But if you want learn how to make a tasty iced coffee with real coffee – then I’ve got a few pro barista tips on how you can get some seriously tasty results.
1. Choose the right brew method
There are a few different methods you can use to make real iced coffee, here are 3 of the most popular:
- Cold Brew
- Iced Filter
Each method produces a different flavour and has its own pros & cons depending on what you’re looking for. Let’s take a look at each method
Cold Brew Iced Coffee
If you’re new to cold brew coffee, here’s a quick summary: Cold brew involves infusing coffee grounds in cold water for up to 24 hours. Once brewed, filter out the grounds, store the liquid concentrate in the fridge & you’re good to go.
This method produces an iced coffee that is really smooth & chocolaty, with a very low acidity. It works great with or without milk, it’s versatile enough to mix with all sorts of other ingredients, and it keeps for up to 2 weeks in the fridge. The downside? It takes a full day to brew – so you need to be prepared in advance. Also, some people find the smooth flavour of cold brew a little too one-dimensional, lacking the delicate acidity extracted using hot water.
If you want to get into the details of how to make cold brew, we’ve got a separate guide on how to make cold brew coffee here.
Iced coffee made with espresso is stronger, punchier & has different flavour balance to cold brew. Also, with espresso you don’t need to brew it ahead of time – in fact, it tastes way better when you make it to order.
The simplest recipe is to make what is typically called an Iced Latte. Simply grab a tall glass, add ice, milk & then a shot (or 2) of espresso. One thing you’ll notice with iced coffee is that espresso can taste sharper & has less of the natural sweetness compared to when you brew it hot. This is because our body doesn’t perceive sweetness as well at low temperatures as it does at higher temperatures.
Now you could make up for it by adding some sugar (we’ll get to that in a minute), but another tip is to try pulling your espresso shots a little shorter for iced coffee (aka a ‘ristretto’ shot). This will shift the flavour balance away from the edgy, bitter flavours and emphasise the sweetness a little more at this serving temperature.
Iced Filter Coffee
When I say ‘filter coffee’ I’m talking about pourover filter brewers like the v60, batch brewers like Moccamaster or even the ever-popular Aeropress. Iced filter coffee is great for serving black, as it helps maintain more of the delicate acidity than either cold brew or chilled espresso.
Now, if you just take your everyday batch of filter coffee and chill it in the fridge, it’s probably going to taste sharp & bitter, and be pretty watery when you pour it over ice… The solution is to make it fresh so that the coffee doesn’t have time to oxidise. To avoid the melting ice watering down the brew, we’ll need the same amount of ground coffee you usually use, but half the amount of water. That way, when the hot coffee melts the ice, you end with a similar strength to standard filter coffee.
For a single-cup pourover coffee brewer (like the v60), try using 21g coffee, 150g ice & 150g water You can adapt this recipe to any size brewer by using a ratio of 1 part coffee : 7 parts hot water : 7 parts ice. While this method is great for preserving the delicate flavours of a lighter roasted specialty coffee if you’re drinking it black - but it’s not an ideal method for mixing with milk or other ingredients.
2. choose the right coffee
Our body doesn’t perceive sweetness as well at low temperatures as it does at higher temperatures. This means that some types of coffee will taste great hot but be overly edgy & bitter when chilled.
Typically, a light or medium roast coffee with lots of natural sweetness will give best results at lower temperature. In contrast, a dark roast coffee will often need a lot more sweetening to prevent it tasting smoky & bitter at lower temperatures.
In terms of specific varieties, I suggest looking for ‘natural’ or ‘honey’ processed single origin coffees or blends. The pleasing chocolaty, fruity sweetness of these varieties really seems to shine when served cold. Some roasters even have specific blends designed to taste best when served cold (like our cold brew blend) Of course, in the end there’s no hard & fast rules. If you’re brewing an iced filter coffee, the delicate acidity of a washed coffee can also be really tasty.
3. sweetener secrets
Some people need a bit of extra sweetness in their iced coffee, particularly if you’re using espresso coffee. Of course, normal sugar wont dissolve in cold liquids, so the best option is to make a simple syrup. Simple syrup works like this:
- 1 cup of boiling water
- 1 cup of raw sugar
- Stir them together
Once this has cooled, pop it in the fridge and add a half shot of this to your iced coffee. I find the raw sugar has a nice, neutral taste that balances better with the coffee than ordinary white sugar.
An alternative way to sweeten your iced coffee is to take a tip from Vietnamese iced coffee and add some sweetened condensed milk. It’s creamy & sweet, like melted iced cream…speaking of ice cream…
4. Ice alternatives
Adding ice cream to coffee is nothing new, think of the classic Affogato. Ice cream also makes a really indulgent substitute for ice cubes in any type of iced coffee.
One of my favourite ways to use it is to make a cold brew spider (or ‘float’ for the non-Australians). Take 1 part cold brew concentrate, 1 part sparkling water (or tonic) and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Another alternative to plain ‘ol ice cubes is to take some coffee and freeze it in a tray. You can add these cubes to your iced coffee to supercharge the flavour. That way, when the ice starts melted the coffee gets stronger – not weaker…
Bonus Tip: Chill those glasses
Just a quick tip, use a glass chilled in the fridge or the freezer for best results. It helps keep the coffee cold, and it looks cool too.