We opened the month of July by talking about Coffee Ice Cream.
August is just around the corner, and it’s time to tackle another sweet, cold topic: How to make iced coffee at home.
Last year we saw our friends divide themselves into two equally rowdy and enthusiastic camps: the cold-brewers versus the Japanese iced brewers. Each brewing method has its advantages, and each brings out a different distinctive flavor profile.
We enjoy both, so rather than take a decisive (and potentially divisive) stand, we thought we would get ready to welcome August by telling you a little bit about each approach and sharing a roundup of our favorite tutorials.
Making Iced Coffee At Home: Our First Attempts
The typical first attempt at making iced coffee at home takes one of two paths: you make hot coffee extra strong/concentrated and pour it over ice, or you make hot coffee regular strength, let it cool and then pour it over ice.
Both are unsatisfying. Compensating for the dilution of the melting ice is a tricky proposition, and coffee that has sat around long enough to cool is bitter and unpalatable.
Like a good Choose Your Own Adventure novel, these two paths are not your only options. Choose to take the road less traveled, with one of the techniques below.
Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee
Cold-brew methods sidestep the question of how to cool the coffee by taking heat out of the equation. The basic approach is to steep coffee at room temperature over a long period of time (think 12+ hours) and then filter. By substituting time for heat, you get very little acidity and a smooth profile that tends to favor the sweeter notes.
Our three favorite web guides to making cold brewed ice coffee at home:
- The Classic Tutorial: Deb Perelman, Smitten Kitchen
- The Indie Alternative: Olga Massov, Sassy Radish (using a finer grind than the classic version)
- The Indie Remix: Dan Souza, Feed (for the finer grind and for salting as the final step)
Japanese Iced Coffee
Also known as the hot-to-iced brew method, this technique involves brewing hot coffee directly onto ice. The coffee slowly drips into the vessel, cooling on contact with the ice. Think of this method as a refined approach to our first home attempt of dumping hot coffee on ice, revamping the steps and taking the guess work out of the dilution factor.
Hot-to-iced brewing preserves the crisp acidic characteristics and tends to favor the brighter notes. There are some very, very passionate proponents of this technique. For an in-depth analysis, we recommend reading Peter Giuliano’s arguments for the superiority of Japanese iced coffee based on solubility, volatility and oxidation.
Our three favorite web guides to making Japanese iced coffee at home:
- The Classic Tutorial: Counter Culture Coffee, with video version also available
- The Scientific Approach: George Howell Coffee (lots of photos and techie details)
- The Indie Alternative: James Hoffman, JimSeven (for the filtering steps)
The Great Debate
At CoffeeKrave, we embrace the strong opinions and perspectives on both sides of the technique debate.
Oliver Strand recently reviewed cold-brewing and hot-to-iced brewing in a New York Times Magazine review titled “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” Strand lists a roll call of heavy hitters in each camp, including Blue Bottle Coffee, Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea, Stumptown Coffee Roasters and Toby’s Estate Coffee in “Camp Cold Brew” and Counter Culture Coffee, George Howell Coffee, Ritual Coffee Roasters and Wrecking Ball Coffee in “Camp Ice Brew.”
Amy Eddings, NPR personality and host of All Things Considered, participated in a side by side tasting session comparing cold-brewed and hot-to-iced brewed samples. Eddings preferred the hot-to-iced brewed coffee, but saw merits in both methods. Reading through her tasting notes inspired us to create this “Dog Days of Summer, Iced Coffee Showdown Challenge.”
How to Make Iced Coffee At Home: The Challenge
Try at least one of the tutorials for each method, and report back in our comments section on which technique you prefer. Bonus points will be awarded for trying all six versions, or for coming up with your own unique spin!
Main Photo: Kanko
Content Photo: Jon Cockley