Most coffee drinkers know that making iced coffee entails more than simply adding an ice cube to this morning’s leftovers.
It’s much more complex (and tasty!) than that. Because the coffee grounds have not come into contact with the heated water, the concentrate that has been prepared using a cold method has a different chemical profile, making it smooth-tasting and less acidic.
Cold brewing is becoming more popular around the United States as well as in Japan and South Korea, where it is sometimes referred to as “Dutch coffee.”
Learning to create incredible iced coffee is not extremely difficult, as long as you understand some of the nuances of how coffee works, and the uses for this method.
First of all, cold brewing is slower, which means the acidity is lower than it might be for hot coffee. Also, you can make cold coffee creations in a very large container to keep on hand.
While a hot brew needs to be consumed very quickly after making it, cold brew coffee can be stored in the refrigerator and kept fresh for at least two weeks.
There are several effective ways to create a cold-brewed cup, and they vary on the amount of time they take and the cost involved.
Cold Brew vs. Iced
Yes, there is a difference.
Iced coffee is made from a hot extraction that is simply poured over ice – at most of the chain joints, this is normally the old stale stuff that has been sitting in a pot for multiple hours.
Or, it may even be the remains from the night before, poured into a jug and left in a refrigerator overnight. Yuck!
The normal iced variant has none of the benefits of the typical cold brew, which is extracted over multiple hours. The low acidity and extremely smooth taste that one would find from a long extraction process is NOT the hallmark of the typical big brand shop.
I’d suggest either finding a real café that knows (or cares) what they are doing, or better yet, making your own at home.
Basic Cold Brew
One of the simplest methods of cold brewing is simply to mix coarse ground coffee with filtered water in a French press, and then leave it in the refrigerator overnight.
The longer you leave it there, the stronger it will be.
Espro 32-Ounce Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Press, available on Amazon
We suggest the Espro Press for this purpose, as it leaves minimal residue in your cup compared to other coffee presses. Plus, with the Espro, you get a two-for-one deal – you can use it for its traditional hot press duties or for cold brewing. Check out our full review of this amazing product.
If you want to serve it over ice, you may prefer to make it a bit stronger so that the water from the ice does not dilute your iced coffee. Many people also like to drink their iced coffees with milk, – like this recipe for our version of a Vietnamese iced coffee, made with homemade sweetened condensed milk – so a stronger concentrate helps to balance this out.
Iced Coffee Brewing Devices
The purchase of an iced coffee maker depends very much on how much money you want to spend, how quickly you want to drink your coffee, and how you want it to taste.
Hamilton Beach makes a cold brew coffee appliance that will provide a glass of your favorite summer coffee drink within just a few minutes, without the use of a paper filter. It also works for making hot coffee in regular or bold extractions.
Hamilton Beach Convenient Craft Rapid Cold Brew and Hot Coffee Maker, available from Amazon
You should be aware that this device sends hot water through the grinds followed by cooler water to prevent an overly acidic resulting brew with undesired flavors. Use very cold water to operate it with the cold brew setting, and serve your drink over ice if you want it to be truly chilled.
Hario Mizudashi offers a carafe that will make iced coffee with only two simple parts.
Fill the pitcher with water, put grounds in the filter basket, and leave the carafe to sit overnight in the refrigerator. The filter is permanent, so there is no need for a paper one.
Toddy T2N functions well for its price. This maker uses the cold process to extract the flavor of the coffee without the bitter oils and acids. Can be used for hot or cold coffee.
The Toddy features a plastic container, reusable filter, glass decanter, and a lid. The process is finished in around 10-14 hours if using the cold method, but it is well worth the wait due to the tasty, low acid beverage that it produces.
Similar to the style of Toddy, Filtron is a brand name that has been around for quite some time. A paper filter allows for easier cleanup (but also means you need to purchase them!) and results in a product that is so acid free, it brings out all of the fruity flavor of the beans.
The decanter is plastic instead of glass, which some folks do not prefer, and there are quite a few parts to it.
For those with deep pockets and the desire to impress your friends, Yama makes several cold brew towers in various configurations.
These contraptions looks more like they belong in a chemistry lab than in a kitchen. Filtered water is poured into the tower and runs through the grounds drop by drop, creating a very slow but thorough process for your beverage needs.
Though on the higher end in terms of price, this one may also double as a lovely piece of sculpted artwork.
Although not a true cold brewed process, the Chemex Coffeemaker is ideal for iced beverages. Since its very thick filter papers remove almost all of the oils, there is little left to spoil or produce any off flavors.
This makes it ideal for cooling and storing (for much longer than any other method allows) in the refrigerator, and serving the extract cold or over ice. You can see our complete review or check out comments left by other customers on Amazon.
Creating your own versions of a cup o’ joe is simple and easy, and significantly less expensive than what you will pay if you buy it at a coffee shop.
All it takes is a little space in your refrigerator, and you can have a week’s worth of summertime iced coffee for the price of one stop at your local restaurant or drive through.
Ready to master cold brews, hot cuppas and everything in between? Then definitely don’t skip this glossary of important coffee terms to truly know the world of coffee.
About Mike Quinn
Mike Quinn spent 20 years in the US Army and traveled extensively all over the world. As part of his military service, Mike sampled coffee and tea from all virtually every geographic region, from the beans from the plantation of an El Salvadorian Army Colonel to "Chi" in Iraq to Turkish Coffee in the Turkish Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. He spent nearly a decade in the Republic of Korea where he was exposed to all forms of traditional teas. Mike formerly owned and operated Cup And Brew, an online espresso and coffee equipment retail operation.