In Season: Iced Coffee

Photo credit: Lily Bellow

I never used to be a coffee person. For a long time I just saw it as a bitter and unappealing beverage that my parents gulped down every morning. Occasionally in high school I’d order a fancy sounding caramel macchiato to see if maybe my taste buds had matured yet, but all that did was leave me with a caffeine-induced headache and a bad taste in my mouth. Even when I first started college, the best I could do was a mug of hot chocolate with a splash of coffee to wake me up for 8am class. And in the middle of all-night study sessions, I’d be fighting my heavy eyelids while my perky friends sucked down coffee like it was the nectar of the gods. Somehow I managed to survive many a sorority coffee date by pouring out part of my lattes and loading them with milk and sugar. (I didn’t even know to ask for “room” then…what an amateur.)

But finally during my sophomore year I figured out how to make coffee not only tolerable, but desirable, and all it took was a change of temperature. I’d never even thought of drinking coffee cold before…why would I when the hot stuff didn’t do it for me? But when I decided to give it a try it was a revelation of smooth, mild, coffee goodness, and I was hooked. Even during subsequent Syracuse winters, when the weather was reminiscent of the Arctic tundra, I still preferred my morning boost in iced form.

Lucky for us, though, it is certainly not winter, and the scorching temperatures call for a cool and revitalizing caffeine kick to rid us of any summer sluggishness. Since I’ve been spending my summer days in Seattle where they’re serious about their coffee, I was inspired to explore the best practices of the craft, and as it turns out, there’s quite a lot to learn! First off, brewing a pot of hot coffee and throwing it in the fridge to cool off is a big no no. The coffee experts of the world will tell you that doing so completely ruins the flavor, so let’s do them a favor and just steer clear of that. Now, onto some more delicious details…

Clash of the Coffee Connoisseurs

Who knew there was a hot debate swirling around the best way to whip up an ice-cold cup of joe? I, for one, did not. There are two schools of thought on this: hot-brewing and cold-brewing, and the believers are usually planted firmly on one side or the other.

The Techniques

Hot-brewing begins with a pot of boiling water, which is poured directly into a filter filled with medium-fine ground coffee. Once the water goes through the filter, the coffee passes into a carafe of ice cubes, immediately cooling the coffee. This process is fairly similar to boiling and shocking vegetables, where that maintains their bright color and crisp texture, hot-brewing maintains coffee’s aromas and flavors, resulting in a naturally acidic and floral beverage.

Cold-brewing involves room temperature instead of boiling water. The coffee grounds are steeped in this water for at least 12 hours before the coffee is filtered and poured over ice to serve. This longer process reduces the acidity of the coffee, bringing out its natural sweetness. Cold-brewed coffee is more mellow and smooth than hot-brewed with slightly fruity notes.

Tips and Tricks

    • Remember to use more coffee than usual to ensure that it will stand up to the ice and won’t get watered down
    • When hot-brewing, use a light roast (African or Latin American beans)
    • When cold-brewing, use a slightly darker, fuller roast (Central American beans)


Hannah Doolin recently graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in magazine journalism. She’s spending her summer exploring the Seattle area and eagerly awaiting the new season of Top Chef Masters.

Originally posted on Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

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