Making iced coffee at home is easier than you think, and many people just do it without any recipe, or instructions. If you really want your iced coffee to taste great, better than the iced coffee at Starbucks, or Dunkin Donuts, you need some tips. There are some tricks to ensure your coffee doesn’t oxidize and taste stale, and it has enough kick to pick you up when you need it.
Bonus tip: you know when you are almost done your Starbucks iced coffee and it’s watery and you want to throw it, but you just won’t? With this recipe, your coffee will taste better at the end of your cup.
Bonus tip 2: Many iced coffee recipes call for cold brew, for legitimate reasons. Cold brewing means a lot of time waiting until you can enjoy your cup of goodness. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe too that it is worth waiting the two days for a cold brew. For a person that drinks regularly iced coffee cold brew is the best solution. Nevertheless, you can still make iced coffee overnight with my recipe, without needing to wait 24 to 48 hours for your batch to complete infusion.
Hot Brewed Coffee – Japanese Iced Coffee
Why is cold brew coffee better for iced coffee? This is still a hot topic in coffee circles and both options have their advantages.
One problem with hot brewed coffee is that it oxidizes very fast because of the high temperatures. That’s why you shouldn’t keep your carafe on the burner more than a few minutes. Hot coffee and air do not go well together. Coffee that has cooled down completely should be discarded, and this is what happens in any restaurant or café that respects itself. This is the reason we can’t just brew a filter coffee and wait for it too cool down and then prepare your frozen drink.
Important: This is why you cannot use leftover coffee for iced coffee, and not even to make coffee ice cubes.
There is, however, a little trick you can resort to, so you can use hot brew in your ice coffee. The trick is to cool down the coffee very fast, so it doesn’t have the time to oxidize. The longer the coffee stays hot, the more it will oxidize. This is the reason some people like their coffee very hot, not because of the temperature, but because it’s fresh, and the aroma profile starts to change when coffee cools off.
The modern trend of using hot brew for ice coffee comes from Japan. Japanese coffee shops developed the technique of brewing on ice cubes so that the coffee cools off instantly. The brew method is called Japanese iced coffee, and you guessed it, it was invented in Japan. You can use any hot brewing method for Japanese iced coffee. You can see in my pictures I used espresso, but you can employ manual drip, a regular drip coffee machine, or even an ice coffee maker. The only important thing is that coffee has to be brewed on ice cubes so that we minimize the time it stays hot.
Is Japanese method better than cold brew for iced coffee? I personally like it more, because it has all the great attributes of a hot cup of coffee, minus the temperature. This brewing method preserves the aromatics of the hot coffee even when it is cooled down. There was a great article about hot coffee chemistry on Peter Giuliano’s coffee blog, which he deleted since. There is a copy of that post on archive.org, and I think it’s a great article. If anything, I think it’s a bit too passionate. Nevertheless, the cold brew has its own advantages, and for regular iced coffee drinkers is better.
Japanese Iced Coffee vs Cold Brew Iced Coffee
So what’s the fuss about Japanese iced coffee? Is it really better than cold brew? Hot brewed coffee is the best-tasting, at least that’s what my tasting buds have decided. Many coffee lovers, however, like better the delicate flavors of cold brew coffee. You need a refined palate to appreciate those flavors. On the other hand, cold brew can be stored in the fridge for weeks without any changes. Japanese iced coffee needs to be consumed on the spot. Even when it’s chilled, it will eventually go stale because the aromatics in the brew are not chemically stable. Cold brew is smooth tasting, and because it only contains cold extracted soluble solids, it can be stored for a long time without any chemical changes.
In the end, there is no definite winner here, use whatever you like better. Just remember that cold brew is easier on the stomach, and it can be stored in the fridge for days. Cold brewing also results in a more complex flavor and less bitterness than hot brewed coffee. On the other hand, hot brews have that special kick and some strong flavors. The major problem with hot brews, as Kevin Haugen explains it on clivecoffee.com, is that the sugars extracted at high temperatures turn rancid and sour when coffee is cooled slowly. An interesting experiment performed by Daniel Gritzer, and described in this seriouseats.com article, shows that depending on how you drink your coffee, black or with milk, might require a different brew. Remember, when brewing on the ice, the coffee gets quite watered down, as it melts the ice cubes. Make sure you make a stronger pour-over.
The Iced Coffee Recipe – Coffee Ice Cubes in Milk
I don’t add milk to my coffee unless is iced coffee. Even with iced coffee, there is a high chance I’ll drink it black. For those who need milk in their frozen joe, the perfect marriage between milk and frozen coffee cubes is almost a form of art. The drink looks stunning, and it tastes even better. The beverage will stay strong until the last sip, it will actually get stronger by the end.
Here is the recipe:
- Freeze coffee in cube trays, I used baby food trays, but you can use fancier trays. Sweeten your coffee before freezing it, if you like to.
- Freeze water in cube trays, water ice cubes can help you tone down your beverage if it’s too strong.
- Freeze milk in cube trays; if you like your coffee sweet, make sure you sweeten the milk before freezing it. You can use regular cow’s milk or almond milk. Coconut milk has a strong flavor, it overpowers the coffee, so I don’t recommend it. My personal favorite is cow’s milk, but I am not a vegetarian.
Coffee Ice Cubes in Milk Recipe
Once all the cubes are frozen, you can fix your cold caffeinated refreshment. I would suggest you try a smaller batch at first so that you know how much sugar and milk you need in your glass.
- Fill a tall glass with 1/3 coffee ice cubes, 1/3 milk ice cubes, and 1/3 water ice cubes.
- If the ice cubes are from Japanese brewing method on ice use 2/3 coffee ice cubes and 1/3 milk cubes.
- Top off the glass with milk, (optionally sweetened, and flavored with French vanilla, or chocolate.)
- Optionally add a little booze to your concoction to make you coffee time special. Just a little Kahlua liquor or Baileys are great. Enjoy it!
Iced Coffee Maker
For an easy way of brewing a cold one, you might consider an iced coffee maker. There are a few brands available, but this Hamilton Beach brewer is decently priced, and it is pretty good. The brewing principle is the same as the Japanese method of hot brewing on ice. The coffee made this way can then be served as is on ice, or frozen into cubes as described in the article. Buy it on Amazon.