Brewing delicious iced coffee at home is trickier than you might expect. When you pour hot drip coffee over ice, more often than not it ends up weak and bitter.
The good news is there are lots of ways to solve this problem, and modern brewers with iced coffee settings can make cold coffee as delicious as what you’d get in a café.
For true cold brewing, the Ovalware coffee maker system is one of the simplest and most affordable ways to go about it. It works just as well for hot or iced tea brewing as it does for cold brew coffee, with thick borosilicate glass that’s sturdy enough for any temperature (or even washing in the dishwasher). It’s fully-manual, too, so you can use it to make cold brew coffee anywhere.
If you’re looking for the most versatile cold brew system, the Ninja Auto-iQ Tea and Coffee Maker is your answer. For drip coffee, it brews either hot or over ice—but it does more than that. It also brews concentrated coffee or tea for use in lattes and other café drinks, with a fold-away frother that can make hot or cold foam. Separate brew baskets for coffee and tea ensure you’re getting the best flavor out of whatever drink you’re making.
The simplicity of the Takeya Deluxe Cold Brew Coffee Maker is its main strength. This brewing system comes with a fine mesh filter that keeps grinds out of your cup and, like similar brewers, can be used for tea as well as coffee. The Tritan pitcher body is stain- and odor-proof and stands up to any temperature, with a slip-free silicon handle for easy serving.
The Café du Chateau Cold Brew Coffee Maker has a more sophisticated design than similar cold brewers. Its stainless steel filter assembly is laser-etched for precision and produces richer coffee with a fuller body than paper filters. The included guide is great for beginners, walking you through the process and taking the guesswork out of brewing delicious coffee. Clean-up is easy, too, with a dishwasher-safe carafe and a quick assembly process.
The Coffee Gator cold brew system is a convenient way to make cold brew. It comes with a measuring scoop and collapsible funnel so you can fill the filter quickly without making a mess. That filter uses a fine mesh design that traps coffee grounds without filtering out the oils that give cold brew its smooth, bold flavor.
The all-in-one De’Longhi Dinamica is a bean-to-cup system that can make everything from iced drip coffee to frothy cappuccinos. It’s easy to adjust the drink style, strength, and size using the touchscreen interface, while the advanced pump and heating systems give you a flavorful brew optimized to your tastes. The built-in adjustable burr grinder is another helpful feature, maintaining the freshness of the beans without taking up any extra counterspace.
The Vinci Express might look like a typical manual cold brewer but there’s more to this impressive device than meets the eye. It uses a patented circle flow brewing system that speeds up the flavor extraction without adding heat. The result is true cold brew in 25 minutes or less. While it does require electricity to operate, it’s as compact and portable as fully-manual cold brewers and is just as easy to clean thanks to the brewer’s self-cleaning feature.
The compact Dorothy Rapid Cold Brewer is a fast, easy way to cold brew anywhere you have access to an outlet. It uses an innovative whirlpool system to agitate the grounds for a fast extraction with no heat. Turning the front dial changes the speed of the spin, adjusting the strength of the brew without adding extra time. Since the mechanical components are kept separate from the water and grinds, it doesn’t need any complicated cleaning or maintenance.
The Braun MultiServe Coffee Machine can brew hot or iced coffee quickly and in any brew size. All the brews will taste great, too, thanks to the 3 temperature sensors and advanced heating system. It’s certified by the SCA to meet Gold Cup brewing standards across brew sizes and strengths, and it’ll give you a flavorful brew in minutes thanks to its fast-brew technology.
Cold brew can mean either the beverage or the brewing method used to make it. In both cases, the term is descriptive. When you cold brew, the flavor compounds are extracted from the coffee without adding heat.
Traditionally, this is done by leaving the grounds in the water for between 12 and 18 hours. The same result can be achieved in less time through agitation and pressure, methods employed by modern electric fast cold brewers.
Some of the acids and compounds in coffee beans won’t extract unless heat is applied. Thanks to this, cold brew is less bitter and has a lower acidity than other brewing methods, one reason it’s a popular low-acid alternative for those with sensitive stomachs.
Iced coffee is a broader term that’s often used as a catch-all for any coffee beverage that’s served over ice. This can lead to confusion when you see it on a café menu since the term could be referring to a wide range of brewing methods, from chilled drip coffee to cold brew or even iced Americanos.
Sometimes, yes—but it doesn’t have to be. Here are the best brewing methods for iced coffee aside from the cold brew method mentioned above.
Espresso (iced Americano)
If you have access to an espresso machine, that’s by far the fastest way to brew full-flavored iced coffee. Brew a double-shot of espresso into your mug then add a splash of room temperature water and stir. This makes the temperature change more gradual, preventing the coffee from turning bitter when the ice hits it.
Once you’ve stirred in some water, add a few ice cubes and keep stirring until they melt, cooling the coffee and diluting the concentrated espresso shots. It won’t take long until it’s cool enough the ice stays intact. If it’s still too strong, you can dilute it further with cold water.
AeroPress brews concentrated coffee similar in texture and flavor to espresso. Since it’s a manual brewing method, you can control the heat of the water you use in it. You’ll still want to use water that’s at least 180°F for a full flavor extraction, but it will cool faster than coffee brewed with an espresso maker or drip machine.
The process of making iced AeroPress is similar to the iced Americano approach above. Start by brewing your concentrated shots using the traditional plunger approach. Once it’s brewed, stir in a splash of warm water, then add ice until you’ve reached your desired strength and drink size.
You can buy a Japanese-style iced brewer if you want, but you can also build your own rig easily with any pour-over dripper. Start by putting 8 ounces of ice into a pitcher or carafe. If it’s glass, make sure it’s heat-treated to stand up to temperature fluctuations.
Put your pour-over dripper on top of the carafe and add 1 ounce of medium-ground coffee. Boil 8 ounces of water and pour just enough over the grounds to wet them and let it sit for 30 seconds. This is called “blooming” the grounds and encourages an even, full extraction.
After the bloom, pour the rest of the water over the coffee and allow it to drip through. As it brews, the ice will melt into the coffee, resulting in a naturally cooler brew with good strength and no bitterness.
The steel mesh filter in a French press allows for the extraction of more oils and flavor compounds, giving it a fuller body and bolder flavor that stand up better to being iced than other brewing methods.
Brew a carafe of French press as you normally would then transfer the coffee to an airtight container and put it in the fridge (or freezer, for a faster chill). This method takes a bit longer than the two above since you have to wait for it to cool, but will give you a similarly full flavor without added bitter notes.
Starbucks iced coffee starts with a specific blend of beans. They used a medium roast with caramel notes and a balanced acidity, a flavor profile optimized to taste good over ice. Those beans are brewed to double strength then chilled before serving. This maintains the rich flavor of the brew even after the ice starts to melt.
It depends on the brewing method you use. Coffee brewed using a heat-based method like drip or French press will taste best if used the same day it’s made, but can potentially last for up to 7 days in the fridge.
Cold brew coffee contains fewer of the oils that go bad in other coffee. Because of this, it can last for up to 2 weeks in the fridge and doesn’t lose as much of its flavor when stored.
Whichever brewing method you use, make sure to store the coffee in an airtight container. This will prevent it from picking up other tastes and smells. You should also store it un-mixed, without added water, milk, or flavorings.
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