April 19, 2021
With the summer almost upon us, the rise of iced coffee is absolutely inevitable. Granted, some people get to enjoy delicious iced drinks all year round (yes, we’re looking at you, Florida, Louisiana and Texas!), but most of us take our coffee hot until summer is fully on.
Browse our iced coffee guide to learn about some popular iced coffee drink styles and secrets to a perfect cup, glass, jar—whatever floats your boat!
Iced Coffee Tips
Before we dive into the differences between iced coffee and cold brew, let us share some universal tips that’ll make your coffee-drinking experience excellent. (Please bear in mind that a lot depends on your personal preferences, and these tips are just suggestions.)
- For both cold brew and iced coffee, experts generally recommend low-acid, medium roasts. South American beans are a great fit because they often have notes of caramel, chocolate and nuts. Coffee from Africa tends to be more citrusy, and coffee from Asia and the Pacific has earthy and floral notes. Look at our comprehensive coffee guide to learn more!
- If you’re grinding your coffee at home, the grind will depend on the brewing method you choose. For cold brew, go with a coarse grind. For pour-over and Chemex, a medium grind is ideal.
- To avoid watering down your iced coffee, make coffee ice cubes. The easiest way to make these is to brew some coffee in a coffee maker, pour it into an ice cube tray and freeze it. Some suggest transferring coffee cubes to a Ziploc bag or a silicone bag to avoid them absorbing freezer smells. If you’re worried about making your coffee too strong and overly coffee-ey, consider making latte cubes or even flavored latte ice cubes. All kinds of coffee ice cubes make a perfect addition to a milkshake or a coffee cocktail.
- Mason jars are great for storing cold brew in the fridge. Cold brew can be stored for up to 2 weeks.
Iced Coffee vs. Cold Brew
Iced coffee is regular hot coffee or espresso served over ice (usually a generous amount), so it quickly becomes diluted. Actually, some coffee shops brew coffee at double strength when it’s meant to go into an iced coffee drink to avoid it becoming watery.
“Cold brew” technically refers to the process of preparing the coffee (soaking in cold or room-temp water) rather than the temperature of the final product. Because of its high caffeine content, cold brew coffee is rarely enjoyed on its own. Instead, it’s commonly mixed with water, milk or milk alternatives. And yes, it’s important to note that cold brew has more caffeine than iced coffee. It can be enjoyed hot or cold.
Cold Brew Coffee Types
Classic Cold Brew
Coarse ground coffee is steeped in room-temperature water for up to 24 hours (no less than 12) and then strained and chilled. Cold brew has a mild slightly sweet taste and low acidity. Some people drink it straight, while some choose to add creamer.
New Orleans Cold Brew
New Orleans–style cold brew is cold brew coffee infused with chicory. Chicory is a flowering plant in the dandelion family that has a slight woody or nutty flavor—it’s added to coffee in powder form.
Nitro Cold Brew
Nitro cold brew, or simply nitro brew, is basically a bubblier version of cold brew. So the difference lies in the texture. Nitro cold brew is as smooth and creamy as a glass of Guinness. It starts off as a classic cold brew, but then it gets poured into a keg. While in the keg, the coffee is infused with tiny nitrogen bubbles that make it nice and frothy.
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Japanese-Style Cold Brew
Japanese-style iced coffee is less popular than classic cold brew, and we don’t understand why! It’s a pretty clever concept. The coffee is brewed hot directly over ice. There are multiple ways to do this, and most coffee gear can be adjusted to make this work. Pour-over devices, such as Melitta cone, Hario V60 and Chemex, work perfectly. You can even use a classic coffee maker and add ice to the pot. Just make sure the glass is thick enough—otherwise, you risk cracking it.
Australian Iced Coffee
Australian iced coffee is very close in form to a milkshake. It’s basically a mixture of cold brew coffee and ice cream. Most people use vanilla, but we hear chocolate or even maple work just as well!
Canned and Bottled Cold Brew
Sometimes we all feel lazy—or are in a hurry. For this very reason, having a couple of cans or bottles of your favorite cold brew brand in the fridge is lovely.
Shop Bottled Cold Brew:
- La Colombe Cold Brew Brazilan Medium Roast Coffee
- Starbucks Cold Brew Vanilla Sweet Cream
- Starbucks Unsweetened Black Cold Brew Coffee
Iced Espresso Drinks
Most varieties of iced coffee are espresso-based and are extremely similar to their hot counterparts.
A latte is an espresso shot (double, if you feel like it), a ton of steamed milk and a thin layer of foam. The recipes for iced lattes are somewhat inconsistent. Some cafes use cold milk, while some just pour a regular latte over ice. Either way, iced lattes are highly customizable. You can add sweetener, flavor or whipped cream, or go with almond milk, oat milk or even macadamia milk!
Shop Canned Iced Lattes:
- La Colombe Vanilla Latte
- Chameleon Organic Original Cold Brew Latte
- La Colombe Original Oatmilk Draft Latte
An iced mocha includes an espresso shot, chocolate (powder, syrup, sauce or freshly melted chocolate), milk and a little bit of foam. If whipped cream is added, baristas commonly sprinkle it with some cocoa powder so that it looks even fancier.
A shakerato is one you might not have heard of. This Italian iced drink is made by shaking espresso, sugar and ice in a cocktail shaker. Occasionally a blender will be used, but a shaker is the traditional method—hence the super fun name. The shakerato is then served in a shot glass. Sweet drink enthusiasts will add syrups, caramel or liqueurs, such as Kahlua or Baileys, to their shakeratos.
A Frappuccino is a blended iced coffee trademarked by Starbucks. It comes in many delicious flavors that you can get at your favorite Starbucks, or at your local supermarket (in bottled form).
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Other Iced Coffee Drinks
Vietnamese iced coffee, also known as cà phê đá or cafe da, is made using a metal filter called phin. It is creamy, sweet and quite strong. Dark roast is traditionally used to brew the coffee, and once it’s done, a generous amount of condensed milk is added.
One of the most popular TikTok drinks, dalgona coffee, or whipped coffee, is made with instant coffee. To recreate this iconic drink at home, you’ll need instant coffee, sugar, your preferred milk and—if you want—cinnamon.
A Greek frappe uses the same ingredients as dalgona coffee, plus some cold water. What sets this drink apart is its preparation method. A frappe is shaken rather than whipped. All the ingredients are combined in a cocktail shaker or another sealable container and shaken vigorously for about a minute.
Mazagran is a delicious coffee drink that is often spiked. It originated in Algeria, where a traditional recipe calls for strong hot coffee to be poured over ice and mixed with water. In Portugal, it’s prepared with strong coffee or espresso served over ice with lemon. One of the most popular twists on the recipe is the lemony Portuguese version, enhanced with mint and rum. So, if life gives you lemons, make Mazagran.
The Best Iced Coffee Recipe (It’s Easy, Too!)
If you’ve ever wondered how to prepare a delicious iced coffee at home, look no further.
First, make your coffee however you usually make it (drip methods work great). Leave it to chill at room temperature or put it in the fridge.
Then, you’ll need a tall glass and a long spoon for mixing. Fill the glass with ice. Pour room-temperature or chilled coffee into the glass. Add some milk, cream or half-and-half. Want it even more decadent? Try adding some brown sugar, chocolate syrup, simple syrup or vanilla extract. Voila!
Shop this recipe:
- Folgers Classic Roast Coffee
- Horizon Organic 2% Reduced Fat Milk or Organic Valley Half & Half
- Domino Light Brown Sugar or Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup or Badia Vanilla Extract or Butternut Mountain Farm Dark Grade A Maple Syrup
If you’re not ready for the world of iced coffees just yet, enjoy our guide to hot coffee drinks instead!