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How to Make Iced Coffee and Cold-Brew Coffee

Cold-brew coffee is the newest coffee trend…and iced coffee is pretty awesome, too. There’s a difference between the two, and they’re both easy to make.

Remember when cold coffee was a bad thing? A beverage that’s supposed to be served hot succumbs to room temperature, and something—notably flavor—gets lost in the translation. Of course, the same is true for warm beer or soda. Maybe the problem is that middle ground of room temperature: not too hot, not too cold, and certainly not just right. Because while we would not recommend hot beer or orange juice, some normally hot beverages are delicious served cold. Iced tea has been a favorite for decades, and in recent years iced coffee has all but overtaken it in popularity.

Two glasses of iced coffee with straws on a wooden table.

Iced Coffee Recipe

Just brew coffee and let it get cold, right? Um, no. That kind of cold coffee is still a bad thing. Fresh-brewed is the key to flavor. So how about brewing coffee and pouring it over ice? You’re getting closer…but remember, that ice is made of water, and water dilutes things. What you need to do is brew a stronger coffee to begin with.

If you’re using a standard drip coffeemaker or French press, it’s simple: just use twice as much coffee when you brew, then pour it over a glass full of ice. But what if you have one of those super-convenient single-serve coffee brewers? Fear not—the same principle applies, and it couldn’t be easier.

Every machine has settings that allow you to choose the size of your cup, and a single-serve pod contains enough ground coffee to brew a pretty sizable mug. (Some frugal folks have been known to hit a lower setting twice in order to brew more coffee than they would get on a higher setting, or even reuse a pod…but unlike chili, coffee is not better the second time around.) So simply brew a stronger (smaller) cup of coffee, then pour it over ice. Voilà—normal-strength iced coffee!

Here are the details:

  1. Fill an 8- to 12-ounce glass with ice and place under brewer.
  2. Insert your single-serve coffee pod, and select the smallest cup setting. (Some brewers make it super-easy by providing an “iced beverage” setting.)
  3. Once your coffee is brewed, you can add a couple of tablespoons of half-and-half or evaporated milk and sugar to taste, or just enjoy it straight up.

See how easy that was? Now, of course, there will always be those who find fault with any technique. Some coffee fanatics will say that once something has been heated (or brewed hot) it must be served that way—and that heating and then cooling damages the flavor. This is why a relatively new method of brewing has come into popularity in recent years…

Cold Brew Coffee

In this method, heat never touches the ground coffee to wreak havoc on the flavor molecules. (At least that’s what many purists are now saying.) But heat is what helps extract all those yummy flavor compounds, right? Well, sort of. Turns out water—as science has known all along—is a pretty effective solvent (the “universal” one, in fact). Heat merely speeds up the extraction process. So to make up for the absence of heat, just crank up the time.

No, you won’t be able to use your single-serve coffeemaker or the pods it uses. This is a more old-school method involving quality ground coffee and a pitcher.

  1. Combine 1 part ground coffee to 5 parts water in a pitcher or French press. Stir to combine. Cover with plunger lid, but don’t press plunger down yet.
  2. Let steep at room temperature at least 12 hours and up to 1 day.
  3. Strain through fine mesh into a clean container, cover and refrigerate until completely chilled.
  4. To serve, pour one part concentrate and one part milk or water over ice. Sweeten to taste.

If you want to take your iced coffee Vietnamese-style, stir in a little sweetened condensed milk. Or “Thai it up” by doing the same and adding some cardamom. Cardamom is also the flavoring of choice for coffee in the Middle East.

Now that you know how to brew a great iced coffee, what do you want to eat with it?

Coffee Cake with two slices cut next to a cup of coffee in a glass cup and coffee beans.

What to Serve with Iced Coffee

Actually, this is no big deal. Anything you would normally enjoy with your hot coffee will be fabulous. The only difference is that—since you’re probably making iced coffee because it’s hot in the first place—you’re probably not making the typical hot breakfast of bacon, eggs, hash browns and all that comfort food.

A nice coffeecake will be an excellent accompaniment, especially if you don’t have to turn on the oven and bake it yourself. Baklava is the perfect choice, especially if you’ve flavored your iced coffee with cardamom. Now you’re cool and caffeinated and ready to face the day!

Comments (3)

Linda Rickert

Great ideas for cold brewed and iced coffee!


Great ideas for cold brewed and iced coffee!

Donna Merrill


Thanks a lot for the Coffee Recipe. Looking to enjoy my holidays with great coffee. You too Enjoy the Holidays !

A Very Happy New Year ! Cheers

~ Donna

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