When the weather’s getting warmer, an iced coffee is the perfect drink to start your day. To save you a trip to your local barista, we break down everything you need to know about how to make the perfect iced coffee at home.

 

Contents

What is an iced coffee?

In its most basic form, an iced coffee is a cold drink that’s made by brewing a regular coffee, letting it chill, and pouring it over ice.

 

While it’s not 100% certain who mixed up coffee and ice to create this glorious concoction for the first time, it’s pretty likely that it first appeared in Algeria in the 1840s. A shortage of milk and the sweltering climate led to the creation of a drink called ‘Mazagran’, which was made with coffee syrup, cold water, and sugar. The rest is history.

 

There are lots of variations of iced coffee around the world, with counties putting their own unique spin on the tasty drink. Today, its boom in popularity is largely thanks to popular coffee shop chains making iced coffees just a simple swipe, or a tap, of a card away.

 

An iced coffee in a tall glass

Image by StockSnap from pixabay

 

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

The difference between iced coffee and cold brew coffee is that an iced coffee is essentially a regular coffee served over iced, while a cold brew is more complex.

 

Cold brew isn’t exposed to any hot liquid – hence the name. Instead, the coffee grounds need to be steeped in cold water for a long time to impart its flavour. We’re talking a minimum of 12 hours. The longer it infuses, the stronger and more intense brew you’ll get. Patience is the name of the game, baby.

 

So what’s nitro brew coffee?

If you want to get really technical, coffee connoisseurs have taken cold brews one step further by infusing them with nitrogen to create, you guessed it, nitro cold brew coffee. This tasteless and odourless gas lends an even smoother and silkier sensation to your typical cold brew.

 

What’s the best type of coffee to use for iced coffee?

Brewing ground coffee in a cafetière will most definitely give you a better flavour for your iced coffee. But, if you’re in a pinch, instant coffee will certainly do the job too.

 

Choosing the right roast is a little different with an iced coffee than your standard steaming cup of java. Cold coffee gives off different flavour compounds to a hot-brewed coffee and the roast you pick will affect the end taste as well.

 

For an iced coffee, we’d recommend a darker roast like a French, Italian, or espresso roast. These have a richer, bolder profile that nicely complements the coolness of an iced coffee.

 

An empty cafetiere on a table


What do you need to make an iced coffee?

To make an iced coffee, you’ll need everything that you would usually use to brew a standard coffee, plus a few extras.

Ingredients

  • Coffee – Fresh ground or instant: it’s completely up to you. You’ll need enough to make a strong cup of black coffee.
  • Water – This is for brewing your coffee. As with any type of hot coffee, avoid using freshly boiled water for this as it can burn the grounds and cause your drink to have a bitter taste. Pop your kettle on in advance and let it cool slightly before using.
  • Milk – You can use whatever milk you like, whether it’s dairy or non-dairy. Just make sure it’s chilled.
  • Ice – Unless you’re brewing your coffee well beforehand, you’ll need plenty of ice to cool the drink down and give it its signature iced temperature.
  • Sweetener (optional) – For if you like to add a touch of sweetness to your coffee. You can use one that you’d normally use for a regular hot coffee. If using a granulated sugar or sweetener, be sure to mix this into the coffee when it’s still hot so that it dissolves.
  • Syrup (optional) – If you want to kick your iced coffee up a notch, you can experiment with coffee syrups like caramel, hazelnut, or vanilla. A syrup will also add a hit of sweetness to your coffee, so you might want to ease off on the sugar if you’re using a syrup.

Tools

  • Cafetière or coffee maker – If you’re using grounds, a cafetière is a great way to brew your coffee. Browse our full selection of cafetieres and coffee makers.
  • A tall glass – In our not-so-humble opinion, a nice tall glass is the best way to enjoy a refreshing iced coffee. Plus, all that ice takes up a lot of room: a bigger glass keeps any coffee from overspilling when you pour it in. You’re welcome.
  • A mug – A mug can be used to keep the coffee in as it cools before you pour it over ice. You can skip this if you want to save on the washing up (we feel you), but it definitely helps as you can pop the mug into the fridge to cool before pouring over your glass of ice.
A scoop of ground coffee being poured into a glass cafetiere


How to make an iced coffee at home

How to make an iced coffee with ground beans

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp ground coffee
  • 200ml boiled water, left to cool for 2-3 minutes before using
  • 50ml milk, can adjust to more or less depending on your preference
  • Ice cubes
  • Sweeter (optional)
  • Syrup (optional)

Method

  1. Add your ground coffee to your cafetière, stir with a spoon to submerge all the grounds, and place the lid on top. Do not plunge the filter down yet.
  2. Set a timer for four minutes and let the coffee diffuse its flavour into the water.
  3. After the timer has finished, slowly plunge the coffee to filter out the grounds.
  4. Pour your coffee out into a clean mug and add your sweetener and syrup. Give it a good stir to dissolve any sugar granules.  
  5. Leave the mug to cool slightly. If you don’t, the coffee will melt a lot of the ice as soon as you add it to your glass. If you have time, pop your mug of coffee into the fridge for half an hour to chill.
  6. Fill your tall glass half full with ice.
  7. Once your cup of freshly brewed coffee has cooled down, pour it over your glass of ice.
  8. Add your milk and stir to combine.

How to make an iced coffee with instant coffee

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp instant coffee
  • 200ml boiled water, left to cool for 2-3 minutes before using
  • 50ml milk, can adjust to more or less depending on your preference
  • Ice cubes
  • Sweeter (optional)
  • Syrup (optional)

Method

  1. Pour your instant coffee granules into a clean mug.
  2. Top up with your boiled water and stir to dissolve the coffee.
  3. If using, add in your sweetener and syrup. Give it another stir.
  4. Set your mug to the side so that the coffee can cool. Place it in the fridge to chill for half an hour, if you have time.
  5. While the coffee is chilling, fill your glass half full with ice cubes.
  6. Take your mug of coffee out of the fridge and pour over the ice in your glass.
  7. Add your milk and stir to combine.

How to make iced coffee without ice

As crazy as it sounds, you can actually enjoy an iced coffee without ice.

The ice doesn’t affect the flavour, just the temperature, so whether you’ve run out of ice or forgot to fill up your trays the night before, here’s how to make an iced coffee without ice.

  1. Place your glass and a metal spoon in the freezer. This will help to cool the coffee down further when you pour it into the glass.
  2. Brew your coffee as directed above.
  3. With your coffee in your mug, pour it slowly into a separate mug. Try and pour from a few inches higher than you usually would, without spilling the liquid. This causes the coffee to pass through more air and cool down quicker.
  4. Continue to pour the coffee from mug to mug a few times.
  5. Fill a mixing bowl with a few inches of cold water and place your mug of coffee into it. The water should reach about halfway up the side of the mug.
  6. Place the bowl into the fridge to chill for as long as you can.
  7. Take your glass, spoon, and mug out of your fridge and freezer when you’re ready for your ice coffee.
  8. Pour the coffee into the glass and top it up with milk.
  9. Stir with the metal spoon.
Milk being poured into an iced coffee

Image by K8 from Unsplash

 

What add-ins can you use?

Along with sweetener, syrups, and milk, there are a few other things you can add to your iced coffee to amp it up.

 

Some people like to add a drop of vanilla essence to give it more of a dessert-like taste. Fancy something more indulgent? Try swapping out the milk with some double cream instead for a silky, creamy flavour. Just be sparing with how much you use: cream is a lot richer than milk.

 

You can even top it off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream! Spoon it on top of your black coffee once you’ve poured it over the ice – or, pulse it all together in a blender for a thicker, slushy consistency.

 

What can I do to prevent my iced coffee from going watery?

Half a glass of ice will cool your brewed coffee down, but if you don’t brew your coffee strong enough, you might end up with a watery, diluted mess when the ice melts.

 

To avoid the ice cubes from watering your coffee down and causing it to lose its flavour, you can try making your coffee extra strong to account for the extra water from the ice.

 

Or, the best way to chill your drink without thinning out the taste is by making your own coffee ice cubes. Simply brew a few cups of coffee, let it cool, pour it into an ice cube tray, and leave it to freeze for a few hours.

 

Will iced coffee keep me awake compared to normal coffee?

Iced coffee will have the same amount of caffeine in it as regular hot coffee because it’s been brewed the same and uses the same grounds.

 

A great way to start the day — but maybe not one to enjoy with a summer sunset.

 

If you’re particularly craving an iced coffee in the evening though, you can switch to a decaf option when brewing your coffee.

 

A cafetiere full of coffee being plunged to filter out the grounds


Top tips for making iced coffee

1. Use filtered water for ice

It’s well known that tap water varies in taste depending on which part of the country you live in.

 

If you’re making your own ice, try using purified water instead of tap water. You may be surprised at the difference such a simple change can make!

2. Shake coffee over ice in a cocktail shaker

If you don’t have time – or can’t wait – to let your brewed coffee chill in the fridge and you have a cocktail shaker on hand, try this hack for rapidly cooling it down.

 

Fill your shaker with coffee ice cubes and add your brewed coffee to it. Pop the lid on and give it a shake so that the ice drops the temperature down.

 

When you strain it out into your glass, the ice in the shaker should help to prevent the ice in the glass from melting on contact.

3. Add a pinch of salt

Salt is known to help bring out the best flavours in food, and coffee is no different. Adding a small pinch of salt to your iced coffee can improve the taste.

 

That’s because salt can help to neutralise the bitterness of coffee, making it smoother and more palatable.

 

Add the salt to your coffee granules or grounds before you brew it.

 

We know it’s weird. But you need to try it. You won’t regret it.

The best tools for making iced coffee

Best for brewing coffee: La Cafetière Monaco Cafetière

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A cafetière with a glass carafe is an excellent choice for brewing coffee for an iced drink, as they don’t retain heat as much as metal cafetières.


This sleek but effective option from La Cafetière has a super-fine mesh filter that holds back all of the grit in your grounds for an ultra-smooth result. The large 8-cup capacity is perfect if you’re making iced coffees for guests, and the spill-free pouring spout means you don’t have to worry about wasting a drop of precious coffee.

 

Best for perfecting the brewing process: La Cafetière Seattle Switchit Stirrer Timer

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This clever little gadget is the tool that you didn’t know you needed – until now. A brilliant device for those who brew coffee but aren’t sure when it’s ready, this timer counts down from four minutes to let you know when it’s time to plunge.

 

Simply pop it into your cafetière, hit the button, and wait. Once brewed, it doubles up as a coffee stirrer too!

 

Best for creating coffee ice cubes: Colourworks Blue Pop Out Flexible Ice Cube Tray

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If you struggle to get your ice cubes out of traditional, rigid ice cube trays (and let’s face it: who’s in the mood to wrestle with one of those when there’s ice coffee to be made?), this pop-out flexible tray will solve all your problems.

 

The bottom of the tray is lined with soft silicone bases, which means you can easily pop each ice cube out with minimal effort. And, the silicon is stain and odour resistant, so you can make coffee ice cubes without worrying about discolouring your tray. Genius? We think so.

 

Brew the perfect iced coffee today

An iced coffee is a refreshing drink that’s perfect for when the sun comes out and a steaming cup of java isn’t quite what you want.

 

Brew an expert iced coffee by making sure you have all the tools you need to strike the perfect blend.