Beginner’s Guide To Iced Coffee – What It Is, And How To Make It

Iced coffee seems to be the perfect summer treat. We’re not in the hot season just yet but it’s coming our way, alright.

But how do we make iced coffee, in the first place ?

And is it really any different from other cold coffee drinks ? It does have a very broad name, so it’d fit several drinks as a category.

So, let’s take a closer look at iced coffee. See exactly what it is, what kind of coffee we need, and (most importantly) how to make one at home !

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What is iced coffee ?

Iced coffee is pretty much what the name says. Literally coffee that’s been cooled with a whole lot of ice. This is actually one of the few non-confusing coffee type names out there.

Depending on who you ask, iced coffee may use several types of coffee – as in, brew styles.

You’ll find iced coffee made with espresso, drip filter, Chemex, Aeropress, anything.

Most commonly, it’s espresso based.

Not because it’s better, but it’s the strongest tasting version and the ice’s really going to water the whole thing down.

You can bypass this by using coffee ice cubes. Literal ice cubes made of coffee, but few of us remember to do that beforehand.

Is iced coffee cold brew coffee ?

No, iced coffee isn’t cold brew coffee, but I see where you’re coming from.

The whole reason it’s not, is because cold brew starts out cold, while iced coffee starts out hot.

Also, there’s a big difference in flavor between hot coffee that’s been cooled, and cold brew coffee. 

Cold brew is a bit more delicate and doesn’t usually go well with a lot of ice, even if it’s cold.

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Recommended post: What Are K-cups ?

Is iced coffee black ?

Most of the time, yes. Iced coffee is usually black. But it’s not true black coffee – no sugar or milk.

Most of the time it just has no milk added.

Any sweetening is done with simple syrup, or maybe a flavoring syrup as well.

Can you add milk to iced coffee ?

All that being said, yes you can add milk to iced coffee. It’s still be iced coffee, though it’s kind of leaning towards an iced latte

Personally I love the way milk looks when it’s poured in last, over the coffee and ice cubes, in a big glass cup.

Very much like dripping ink into water.

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How to make iced coffee at home

You can make your very own iced coffee, right in your own home. Isn’t that nice ?

No, really. Isn’t that just great ?

I mean, imagine a nice summer morning, maybe a Saturday. Just being lazy, pajamas and everything, and you make your own iced coffee and sip it on the balcony/porch/what have you, in the sun.

At least, that’s what I’m looking forward to.

Right, before we start with the recipe let’s get a couple of things straight.

What kind of coffee do you need ?

You don’t need a specific type of coffee. As in, not necessarily Arabica or Robusta, or a blend from a specific brand.

No, use whatever coffee brand/type you like.

But ! Remember to brew this coffee stronger. Yes, it needs to be hot brewed, and it needs to be stronger than usual. This is because the ice cubes will water it down, and we don’t really want that.

If you remembered to use coffee ice cubes and made them beforehand, great. Brew your coffee as usual, no need to make it stronger.

But if you did forget, just add a little more ground coffee and you’re good. 

If you’re using K-cups or any other coffee pods, just use less water.

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Can you use instant coffee ?

No, using instant coffee for  iced coffee will change the flavor a lot.

This is because instant coffee itself is very different from regular brewed coffee. So if you were to make instant coffee with hot water, then cool it with ice it wouldn’t really turn out great.

If you’re thinking of making iced coffee by mixing instant coffee with cold water that’s a frappe you’re thinking of. Milk or no milk, it’s still a frappe, and you’re better off following this frappe guide.

Alright, now let’s talk a little about what you’ll need before you start making your iced coffee. You’ll need:

  • hot, fresh coffee (whatever kind you like)
  • ice cubes, as many as you like but enough to chill the drink
  • large glass to serve/mix in
  • (optional) shaker to shake the coffee with ice
  • (optional) milk or any flavorings you’d like
  • (optional) simple syrup, if you want to sweeten the drink

Remember that this is a cold drink, and plain sugar will dissolve much harder. Use a liquid sweetener, but not honey. Honey will dissolve very slowly as well, and if your drink is cold enough it might just freeze on the bottom of your drink. 

Try to not to get very dense syrups or toppings.

Right, now let’s make this iced coffee real !

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1. Brew your coffee as usual

Brew your coffee as you normally would. Allow a bit more ground coffee if using regular ice cubes to make the drink stronger.

As for volume, that depends on the serving size.

Generally iced coffee comes in a large cup, but the cup is filled with ice more than halfway.

So if you were to serve in a 12 oz/354 ml cup, and half of it would be ice, you’d only need about 6 oz/177 ml of actual brewed coffee.

Keep in mind that some ice will melt and raise the drink level, so the final product will be a bit more than your expect.

2. Mix or shake with ice

In whatever glass you’d like to serve your drink from, add your ice. Put in as much as you want, though I recommend at least 1/4 of the glass be ice so it gets properly chilled and you still have ice floating.

Add your coffee over the ice, and stir very well. Stir it for nearly a minute if you have to, until your glass starts to sweat on the outside. That’s a sign the drink is literally ice cold.

If you’re using a shaker, add in just a few ice cubes and all the coffee. Or, as much as you can fit into the shaker without spilling the drink.

Put the cap on, and shake until you feel the drink is very, very cold. 

Now, you can pour the whole thing into the serving glass, ice and all. Or, you can strain it and add no ice at all.

It’s up to you, but I think the ice helps a whole lot.

If you have any milk or toppings or flavorings, now is the time to add them.

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Is iced coffee any different from the rest ?

Yes, iced coffee is a little different from other cold coffee types.

It’s different from cold brew because the hot brewed coffee tastes noticeably different from the cold brewed one.

It’s different from a frappe because brewed coffee is always different from instant coffee. There’s more depth and complexity in brewed than instant.

And iced coffee is different from any other cold coffee with milk because those have a very specific milk to coffee ratio. For example an iced latte is really 3/4 milk and the rest espresso and ice.

Whereas iced coffee is 3/4 coffee and the rest milk and ice.

Of course, this also depends on how much milk you want to add.

All in all, iced coffee deserves its own name and place, simply because it’s made differently from all the rest.


Iced coffee is great, and it’s actually simple to make. You can make it very easily at home, as long as you’ve got a way of brewing coffee.

Most folks own either an espresso machine or a drip filter, so that’s an easy starting point.

If you want to know more about coffee or tea, feel free to check the related articles below. Who knows what else you might find ?