The Best Way to Make Iced Coffee

Forget cold brew and forget pouring your coffee over ice. The best iced coffee is brewed hot and concentrated with an Aeropress, slowly cooled down, then served like a cocktail.

First, let me answer a few questions:

Why do you hate cold brew?
I don’t hate it, in fact I even drink it from time to time. It is just this method is better. Cold brew takes more beans, takes much longer to brew (12 hours!), and is messier to clean up. I always have to strain mine because I don’t like sludge. The taste is a bit off, too. Brewing coffee with hot water releases oils and compounds that you won’t get by brewing it at lower temperatures. This means that cold-brewed coffee is missing part of its essential flavor profile. Why would you settle for that when you can have better?

Why can’t I just pour my hot coffee over ice or brew my V60 over ice?
Well, you can. I won’t stop you. I probably won’t drink the result, either. Pouring hot liquids over ice melts the ice and dilutes the liquid. Unless you have exceptionally great ice, it will also change the favor even if you start out with a concentrate. Let ice melt in a glass and then drink it. It probably doesn’t taste nearly as good as the water you made the ice with. It picks up flavors in your freezer, and not the kind of flavors you want in your coffee.

So what can we do?
The answer is to make legitimately good, hot coffee and then cool it down without diluting it.

I was first introduced to this method on Marco Arment’s blog. He gets the credit for coming up with the idea.

If you don’t have an AeroPress yet, get one. It is only $30 and makes one of the best cups of coffee you can possibly make at home. Here is what the contraption looks like:

 

Instructions

  1. Measure out 40g of coffee beans on your kitchen scale. (For reference, this is quite a bit. It will look comical. I use between 15 and 25g of coffee for a normal cup. The goal is to make it concentrated here.)
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  2.  

  3. Grind the beans like you normally would for an AeroPress (about as fine as table salt). Consult Google for the correct grind setting on whichever grinder you use.
  4.  

  5. Put the grounds into the AeroPress and brew it as your normally would. Here are regular instructions and here are instructions for the inverted method that I use.
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  7. Pop out the puck/clear out the grounds from the Aeropress, then repeat steps 1-3 until the your container is full. I use this 16oz glass jug that fits the AeroPress perfectly and will hold 3 full brews. That is 16oz of liquid from 120oz of beans. Quite the caffeine jolt!
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  8.  

  9. Cover and refrigerate this container until it is chilled. I like to make it before I go to bed and let it chill overnight.

Serving

While I prefer my hot coffee unadulterated by dairy and sugar, I almost always put dairy and sugar into my cold coffee. No matter how you brew it, coffee will always have some compounds that don’t taste very good when they are cold.

This coffee concentrate is very strong. It was made from 120g of ground coffee beans. For reference, for a pour over I use the same amount of liquid (~16oz) but only 30-35g of coffee beans. Go easy on this stuff. If you overdo it, you’ll be jittery (and you’ll be sorry.) I treat it like liquor.

I make this the same way I would a cocktail. In fact, I usually make it in a rocks glass. Bonus points if you use a gorgeous Mazama glass. Here is what I mix up:

 
With two coffee drinkers in the house (one a full-blown caffeine addict and one who enjoys coffee but doesn’t always need it), we go through a full batch approximately every three days.

I typically make a batch of this after dinner and put it in the fridge. It is fully chilled and ready to go in the morning.

Tips

  1. If you don’t plan ahead and need to cool it down quickly, you can get it down to ~40-45F in about 30 minutes with an ice bath:
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  2. This is a great way to use up leftover beans. Taste still matters here, but it matters less than in a pour over because you are mixing sugar and dairy with it. So those beans you’ve had for two months but never used can make up a third of a batch.
  3. This stuff is great poured into Soylent 2.0.

Melon Granita

Granitas are a perfect way to use up ripe, in-season fruit and make a refreshing dessert.

I bought a golden honeydew at the grocery store, but didn’t get around to cutting it up and eating it until it was so ripe that it wouldn’t last long after being cut up. I settled on making a granita, an Italian ice-based flavored dessert that has varying consistencies across Italy.

golden honeydew melon

I searched through David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop (one of the best frozen dessert recipe books out there) and came across this recipe for a melon granita. Perfect.

In general, granitas are made with fruit pureed with sugar and water. You can make one with nearly any fruit. Some people even make them from strong coffee and sugar. Use this recipe as a base and generalize.

Melon Granita

  • 1 melon (honeydew, cantaloupe, or golden honeydew will work)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Pinch of salt

Cut the melon in half, remove the seeds, cut into slices, and remove the outer peel and rind. Put the melon and the rest of the ingredients in the blender until completely smooth.

Pour this mixture into a large, flat baking dish, or any large dish to maximize the surface area of the liquid, and put it in the freezer. (Make sure you have a flat space to set it!) After an hour, break up the large chunks of ice with a fork and mix it in, then put it back in the freezer. Start checking and breaking up the ice again every 30 minutes until you reach a consistency you like. If it freezes too hard, leave it out on the counter for a bit and mix it back up again.

Serve it in a glass or small bowl with whipped cream, or simply eat plain, as pictured above.

 

granita ingredients in the blender

Pouring the granita liquid into a baking dishPrecariously in the freezer
breaking up the granita with a forkbreaking up the granita with a fork

Golden Honeydew Granita

 

This was delicious and lasted us for a while. I’m going to experiment with more granitas in the future. Here are some ideas:

  • Adding alcohol
  • Watermelon and mint
  • Campari and orange
  • Champagne and some fruit (blackberries, raspberries, or, as David Lebovitz recommends, black currants?)

Tipple Tuesday: Mayan Mule

Put down your tacos and skip the transformation photos. Have a drink instead.

The Mayan Mule is a variation on the Moscow Mule. Instead of the flavorless vodka, we use Reposado tequila, which has a nice balanced of agave and wood. This cuts the lime and ginger beer, making a balanced drink.

For making crushed ice, I highly recommend the Neat Ice Kit by Studio Neat. (Thanks for ours, Sean!) It is the best way to make perfectly clear ice at home. It contains an ice mold, wooden muddler, steel chisel, and canvas Lewis bag.

Mayan Mule

  • 2 oz Reposado tequila
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • 2 dashes bitters
  • 3 oz ginger beer
  • Crushed ice

Fill a mule mug with crushed ice. Pour in the lime juice, reposado, and bitters, then top off with the ginger beer. Garnish with a lime wheel and mint sprig.

If you use the Highball app from Studio Neat (and I suggest that you do, iPhone users), you can import this card directly into the app for the fully editable recipe:

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