By now you’ve surely noticed them: clear plastic Starbucks cups, chewed green straws protruding, piled into overflowing trash cans in cities across our great nation. The reason for the influx of non-insulated containers for what’s alleged to be coffee is the gradual rise of the iced caffeinated beverage.
Iced tea has been around for about as long as tea has, but the popularity of cold coffee has a long history too- and it’s just as easy to make at home. There’s no need for a trip to the coffee shop every time you want to enjoy a delicious, summer-appropriate cup of coffee as long as you keep it simple.
We’ll leave the chocolate caramel covered, whipped coffee milkshakes to the chains. For the best-iced coffee at home, we must turn to the East, from which a tried and true recipe has been refreshing the people of a proud and ancient culture for generations. Sugary American concoctions are fine if that’s your thing, but here at Roasty, I think we’re turning Japanese.
I really think so.
The Ideal Iced Coffee
Roast Profile and Origin
The Japanese method tends to highlight lighter and fruitier notes, so we suggest brewing with a lighter roast coffee. African coffees like Yirgacheffe and most Kenyan beans are ideal. Yirgacheffe in particular has the fruity and chocolaty flavors that are perfect for iced coffee.
You can also try lightly roasted Latin American beans, like Honduran or Guatemalan. For those of you who prefer less acidity and a stronger flavor, try a medium roast instead.
Iced Coffee Grind Setting
As for the grounds, different sizes work best with different brewing methods whether you’re brewing for cold or hot coffee, so feel free to experiment. Generally speaking, these are the guidelines for grind size by the method:
- Pour Over: Medium Grind
- Chemex: Medium Coarse Grind
- Aeropress: Fine Grind
- French Press: Coarse Grind
- Cold Brew: Coarse Grind
Just like with your grind and roast, the overall best coffee beans for your iced coffee is really going to depend on what method you are using to brew in the first place. However, we have gone ahead and picked some of our favorites for making this type of refreshing brew.
Volcanica Ethiopian Yirgacheffe
First up, we have an Ethiopian Yirgacheff from one of the top gourmet coffee brands: Volcanica. This medium roast is great for iced coffee, particularly cold brew because the cooler temperature lightens up the heavier body and earthiness to showcase the fruity and winey notes.
The original intensity stands up well to being diluted with ice, so you can count on enjoying this one to the last drop.
Café Britt Costa Rican Tres Rios
Next, let’s take a look at this Costa Rican coffee from Café Britt. These medium roasted beans hail from the Tres Rios region and come with the incredible plum flavor that the subregion is known for.
The underlying notes of this brew are really what help it shine as an iced coffee. You can look forward to the taste of sweet honey, nuts, and citrus. Plus the acidity is really mild, which is great for people with sensitive tums.
Farmer’s Market Jo
Lastly, we have one of our top recommendations for cold brew (one of the most popular methods to use for iced coffee). This is a medium roast that has some pecan nuttiness, bittersweet chocolate notes, and wild honey flavors, making for a great summer refresher.
Additionally, this coffee is USDA Certified Organic, Fair Trade Certified, and Kosher Certified Coffee.
How to Brew Iced Coffee in a Large Batch
For a single cup, check out this video. For a large batch, we like to use the OXO Cold Brew mentioned above, but a simple Mr. Coffee Iced Tea Maker is a great alternative. Here’s how it works:
What You Need
- A Mr. Coffee Iced Tea Maker
- Drip coffee filters
- Freshly roasted coffee beans of your choosing
- Burr Grinder
- Kitchen scale
1. Collect The Water
Fill the pitcher with water up to the indicated water line (use filtered water if possible). Then, pour the water into the reservoir on the Iced Tea Maker.
2. Collect The Ice And Add The Filter
Now, fill the pitcher with ice up to the indicated ice line. Place the steeping basket on top of the pitcher and insert a fresh coffee filter.
3. Measure and Grind The Coffee Beans
To make 2 quarts of iced coffee, measure 210 grams of whole beans or 14 tablespoons of ground coffee to the steeping basket with the filter. If you’re grinding the beans yourself (you are grinding the beans yourself, right?), use a medium coarse grind.
4. Set Up The Machine
Once the steeping basket and pitcher are ready to go, put on the steeping lid..
Make sure the lever on the steeping basket is in the up position to allow the coffee to drain straight into the pitcher.
5. Brew and Serve
Plug it in, turn it on and watch it brew. The maker will brew it hot, then filter it through the ice to cool it quickly. The machine will turn off automatically once the coffee is finished brewing.
Be sure to let the machine cool down before cleaning!
How to Serve Iced Coffee
If you’re using the large batch Iced Tea Maker method, then you can serve it in any glass, jar or cup you like. For other methods, you’ll be pouring hot coffee into an ice-filled serving container, so you need one that can withstand the stark temperature change. Pint glasses, ceramic mugs, and other less durable containers are likely to crack and spill your hard-earned brew.
As glass goes, mason jars are best for this. A Yeti Tumbler will keep the coffee cold for up to 2 hours, staving off excess dilution and preserving the flavor for much longer.
How to Store Iced Coffee
First off, if you are storing a brew to use for iced coffee, you will be storing it in the fridge. This is not the case with hot brews that you want to continue drinking hot because reheating coffee is a great way to ruin the flavor. However, it’s perfectly fine for iced coffee.
No matter what temperature brew you are working with, the best way to store it is in an airtight container. This helps keep it fresh for longer. However, keep in mind that coffee continues to oxidize after you brew. So hot coffee will go bad in about 30 minutes if you don’t put it in an airtight container.
One Day Storage: Hot Brew
If you are working with hot coffee, you can store it in an airtight container in the fridge for a few hours. We wouldn’t recommend going more than a day, even with the proper container as it will have lost most of its flavor by that point.
This option is best if you would prefer to brew one big batch to sip on throughout the day rather than several small batches.
One Week Storage: Cold Brew
For avid iced coffee drinkers without a ton of time, cold brew is definitely the way to go. Undiluted cold brew concentrate will keep in your fridge for up to a week. Also, because it is a concentrate, less is more. One large mason jar can easily last the average coffee consumer Monday through Sunday as many dilute with a 1:1 ratio.
If you do decide to dilute, a cold brew will still last a few days. So if you lead an extra on-the-go lifestyle, all you would have to do is pout it over some ice and go. Going for a cold brew is also the better option if you are making iced coffee for a crowd because you can make a big batch the day before your event to save some stress.
One way to seriously step up your iced coffee game is to make the ice part coffee too. Would that be coffeed coffee? Who knows. Let’s dive in.
There are a few ways to make these. The simplest one is to simply brew some regular coffee, pour it into an ice cube tray, freeze for about 5 hours then either use immediately or transfer to a ziplock bag. The bag is to keep the cubes from absorbing any funky freezer flavors. You could also put a gallon bag around the tray itself to begin with if your tray is an appropriate size.
For the mocha add equal parts coffee and milk with some chocolate milk mix. Going for that sweet caramel macchiato? Swap out that chocolate mix for some caramel. Lastly, for the Vietnamese iced coffee, use a 3:1 ratio of coffee to condensed milk.
Additionally, coffee cubes are a great storage choice if you have a bit of leftover coffee that you don’t want to waste.
Let’s be honest. There are a lot of coffee lovers out there who absolutely cannot stand the taste of cold brew. But don’t fret! You can still get an extended storage time.
The main thing that makes cold brew taste different form your average hot brew is that it is brewed cold. Yes, that is kind of a no-brainer, but there is actually a way to cheat the cold brew system. Just hot bloom your cold brew.
All you need to do is set aside a portion of the water you need for your cold brew, boil it, let it cool for a few seconds, and wet your grounds with it. Let them bubble or “bloom” for just about 30 seconds. Then, quickly add in the rest of your cold water and steep overnight as usual.
What this does is it gives you the richer complexity of a hot brew while still maintaining the smoothness and storability of a cold brew. You’re welcome!
Alternative Brewing Methods
Iced Coffee in a French Press
The best way to get iced coffee from a French press is to go ahead and make a cold brew. So be prepared to start the night before you actually want to drink your brew. We have a full guide on using this method here. But we will include the basics here too:
First, you are going to measure and grind your beans. Then, you will add them, along with the water into your French press. You can either leave the lid off, or, if your fridge can accommodate it, you can put the whole thing with the plunger NOT depressed into your fridge.
Let the brew steep for 14 to 24 hours, then push down the plunger to strain the grounds out of the brew. Once you’ve filtered your brew, pour the concentrate into whatever carafe you plan to store it in and clean out your French press.
Now that you have your concentrate, all you have to do is pour some of it over a bit of ice, dilute with water, and voilá!
Iced Coffee from Hot Coffee
The method we describe above using Mr. Coffee’s Iced Tea Maker technically uses hot coffee. However, there are other ways to make iced coffee using a hot brew without the specialized kit.
First, you can simply brew an extra strong batch using your hot brewing method of choice (anything from an automatic drip to an Aeropress). Then, dilute your brew a bit with ice cold water to cool it down, using as much as a 1:1 ratio. That should get the brew closer to room temperature, so you can pour it over ice and enjoy.
Alternatively, you could make a regular-strength brew and allow it to cool to room temperature or chill it before adding ice. However, this isn’t the best option if you are in a bit of a hurry.
Japanese Iced Coffee
In Japan, iced coffee (アイスコーヒー aisu kōhī) has been served in coffee houses since the Taishō period (that’s roughly the 1920s in American temporal measurement, or “freedom time”). Strong, hot brewed coffee was poured over ice and diluted, paving the way for what would become generations of Japanese figuring out how to do things other nations do, better.
To make at home, you’ll just need to adjust the ratios. For instance, a single cup of coffee using the pour over method usually calls for 30 grams of beans to 500ml( g) of water. However, with iced coffee, you would brew with only 335 ml(g) of hot water and make up the rest (165ml) in ice. Here’s a great video from Counter Culture detailing the process.
Also, Peter Giuliano has a great video in which he explains scientifically the benefits of the Japanese method. The interaction of the coffee with hot and then cold water promotes certain chemical processes by which…well, you take it from here, Pete:
“So the science tells us: to fully extract flavor? Brew hot. To protect flavor and prevent development of off-flavors? Cool instantly.”
Check out the full argument for Japanese-style iced coffee here.
Cold brew is coffee brewed with cold or room temperature water over 12 to 24 hours.This takes time, but the method produces a really awesome iced coffee that’s low in acidity.
While the Japanese method is best for a more immediate cup, cold brew is great when you’ve got some time to kill and/or want to make a large batch. With the OXO Cold Brew Coffee Maker, you can make enough for about 10 20 oz glasses of iced coffee in a few days.
The Perfect Creamers and Sweeteners
Full disclosure: I used to drink iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts. A lot. I’m not proud of my past, but 12 hour days in the summer humidity made DD a more tempting prospect than it really is. Even then, though, I noticed that DD used table sugar that didn’t dissolve, floating to the bottom like so much sugary silt. If I didn’t remember that this bed of crystal meth was lying at the bottom of my cup, the last sip was teeth-searingly sweet.
Nowadays, I’ll either use simple syrup or maple syrup, the latter most preferable for the plethora of antioxidants it contains, and for the fact that I don’t have to make it (Note: if you prefer simple syrup, just boil a cup of sugar in a cup of water until it dissolves).
As for creamer, I always use grass-fed half and half. It’s the healthiest, and it’s the best consistency and flavor. I’ve never understood half-and-half; if you don’t want too much cream, just use less.