Iced coffee is an incredibly popular beverage, and with good reason. It’s delicious and gives you a quick kick of energy, making it an ideal way to start the day or get a boost in the afternoon. But heading to the café every day isn’t always practical. That’s why finding out how to make the best iced coffee at home is so critical.
Luckily, it isn’t difficult to create the best homemade iced coffee. All you need to do is use the right approach. Here’s a look at how you can make the most delectably good iced coffee from the comfort of home.
Differences Between Various Kinds of Iced Coffee Drinks
Before digging into how to make the best iced coffee from home, it’s important to understand the differences between certain coffee drinks. Here are a few quick comparisons that will help you see how various iced coffee drinks stand apart.
The Difference Between Iced Latte and Iced Coffee
Many people wonder about iced latte vs. iced coffee beverages. Usually, the main difference between is the kind of coffee and the amount of milk you use.
With an iced latte, you’re using espresso shots, imbuing a very strong coffee flavor in surprisingly little volume. That way, you can add far more milk to the drink. With iced coffee, a more traditional brewed coffee is the base, and there’s only a splash of milk (if you use any at all).
If you’re wondering what’s the best milk for an iced latte, it’s important to note that dairy milk isn’t a requirement. If you prefer to avoid dairy products, you might appreciate an oat milk iced coffee instead. There isn’t necessarily a best oat milk for iced coffee, so go with a brand that offers you a flavor profile and texture you enjoy most.
The Difference Between Iced Americano and Iced Coffee
As with iced coffee vs. iced latte, the kind of coffee you use is the main differentiator between iced Americanos and iced coffees. Americanos use espresso shots, while iced coffee uses traditionally brewed coffee.
Additionally, you add water to the espresso shots to give the drink more volume when you make a homemade iced americano. With iced coffee, the coffee itself makes up the bulk of the beverage.
In either case, you can add a splash of milk or cream if you like, but that isn’t necessarily a requirement for either drink. Additionally, you don’t have to use dairy milk.
There is usually some debate about the best non-dairy milk for iced coffee. For example, some people favor oat milk while others enjoy coconut milk. Soy, hemp, rice, cashew, and almond milk are all great options too. In the end, it’s your iced coffee, so pick the option you enjoy most.
The Difference Between Iced Mocha and Iced Coffee
There are a few differences between an iced mocha and an iced coffee. With a traditional homemade iced mocha, you use espresso shots instead of brewed coffee. Additionally, you’ll add both chocolate sauce and milk and might even choose to top your drink with some whipped cream.
However, some people do create homemade iced mocha coffee using brewed coffee instead. In this case, you add a bit of milk and chocolate sauce according to your taste.
10 Tips to Make the Best Iced Coffee at Home
1. Use Filtered Water
When you’re making any coffee drink, the quality of the water matters. By filtering your water, you can remove any impurities or contaminants that may change the taste of your beverage.
Usually, the easiest option is to use a filtered pitcher or a filter that you attach to your tap. However, you can also buy filtered water at your local grocery store if you prefer.
2. Have a High-Quality Coffee or Espresso Machine
If you want to make good iced coffee at home, you need a high-quality coffee or espresso machine. By choosing a model that lets you fine-tune your brew, you can create the best homemade ice coffee based on your taste.
3. Choose the Right Coffee
Generally speaking, the best iced coffee beans are medium or dark roast. With those, you’ll get enough coffee flavor to make a tasty drink.
Otherwise, there isn’t one best coffee for iced coffee at home. Mainly, this is because different people use different brewing approaches when making iced coffee. Some may prefer a traditional drip, while others go with a cold brew method or espresso shots.
In the end, how you brew makes a difference, altering which kinds of beans you should get to make your coffee drinks. For example, the best cold brew ground coffee isn’t ideal for making espresso shots. Similarly, espresso beans aren’t the greatest option if you’re making traditional drip coffee.
Usually, all you need if you’re looking for the best coffee for cold coffee has a rich, smooth taste at a colder temperature. If you find a particular brand delectable, then make that your go-to.
4. Go with Whole Bean Coffee
Pre-ground coffee usually gets stale over time, altering the flavor of your favorite beverages. With whole bean coffee, you get the freshest flavor when you make your drink every time. Plus, you can customize your grind in accordance with your taste, allowing you to create your ideal café-like experience at home.
5. Grind Only What You’ll Use Immediately
If you want to make good homemade iced coffee every time, grind the exact amount of coffee you’ll need to create that drink. Then, store what’s left in its whole bean form. That way, you preserve the aroma and fresh flavor for as long as possible.
6. Try a Cocktail Shaker to Cool Your Hot Coffee
While this isn’t necessary if you’re using a cold-brewed coffee, finding an efficient way to cool hot coffee is a must for everyone else. That way, your drink is at an ideal temperature faster, and your ice cubes last longer.
One simple way to cool hot coffee or espresso shots is with a cocktail shaker. Shake the coffee or espresso over ice to chill it quickly. Then, strain it into your drink.
If you go this route, you may want to brew your coffee or espresso a tad stronger. That way, any water from the melting ice will bring your coffee to its perfect flavor point.
7. Start with Simple Recipes
The best iced coffee for beginners is a simple one. If you try to make a complexly flavored version the first time you make homemade iced coffee, you may find the experience stressful. Plus, harder recipes create more room for mistakes.
Before you dive into complicated flavor additions, start with an easy homemade iced coffee recipe. In most cases, that means only using:
- Strong coffee
- Optional: Milk or Half & Half (Dairy or Non-Dairy)
- Optional: Simple Syrup or Other Sweetener
Once you get the hang of easy at-home iced coffee recipes, you can certainly branch out. But by starting simple, you ensure you have a strong foundation first, making it easier to navigate more complex recipes moving forward.
8. Avoid Granulated Sugar with Cold Coffee
Generally speaking, you don’t want to use granulated sugar as a sweetener unless you can add it to the coffee while it’s hot. If you are brewing your coffee or espresso using a traditional approach, you can add your sugar to it before cooling the coffee down, ensuring the sugar melts properly.
If the coffee is cold brew or already cooled, the sugar may not melt, causing it to sink to the bottom. In those cases, simple syrup or another kind of liquid sweetener is usually best.
9. Use Thermal Shock Resistant Glass
If you’re pouring hot coffee over ice into a glass cup or mug, make sure the glass is thermal shock resistant. Otherwise, the rapid temperature changes could cause the glass to crack or shatter.
10. Use Frozen Coffee for Ice Cubes
One of the biggest drawbacks to iced coffee is that it can get watered down as the ice cubes melt. Luckily, you can avoid that entirely by freezing coffee instead of water when you make your ice cubes.
It’s also possible to freeze milk in ice cube trays. You could even mix some coffee and milk (and sugar, if you prefer your drink sweeter) before making custom iced coffee or iced latte ice cubes. That way, you can keep a similar flavor strength even as your cubes melt.