Summer might be almost over, but there’s never a wrong time to enjoy homemade iced coffee. You can find me with one in hand year round — including in the middle of a blizzard. I’ve heard a lot of people say that they prefer to order this frozen delicacy from a coffee shop, because they struggle to make a really good iced coffee. I’m all for supporting your favourite local coffee purveyors but sometimes you just really don’t want to leave the house. If you’re one of those people, I put together this guide for you! My personal favourite brewing method is with the french press, because it retains the most amount of flavour from the bean, but you can use any method you’d like. Even instant will work if you’re in a pinch!
You need to have good quality coffee beans in order to make a great tasting coffee. Look for a blend that’s made from 100% arabica beans, as opposed to robusta. Arabica beans have a more developed flavour and acidity than their counterpart. Other than that, there is so much fun to be had in trying out new blends! Just like wine, each one will have their own flavour profile based on their growing regions and conditions. Try to find the flavour combinations that speak to you — I personally look for blends that have notes of floral, fruit and citrus, and avoid the ones that are listed as earthy or herbal.
Coarsely ground whole bean coffee is king for the french press, which will be a 7 or 8 setting on most grinders. Your coffee grounds should be roughly the same size as coarse sea salt. You can use pre-ground coffee if you don’t have a coffee grinder, or always find yourself in a rush, but once the coffee bean is ground it ages quickly and will lose a lot of its flavour. Freshly ground coffee is always the best way to go, as long as time and convenience permit.
Most french press guides will recommend that you use a 1:15 ratio for coffee grounds to water, which translates to about three tablespoons per cup of boiling water. The most important thing to know about the process of making iced coffee is that it needs to be brewed almost double strength. If you use the same proportions as hot coffee, your coffee will just taste like water when all the ice melts. Not very tasty! Brew your coffee using just about double the amount of coffee grounds to even out the dilution. To get the perfect ratio for myself, I use four heaping tablespoons per cup of boiling water in my iced coffee brews. You might need to tweak this amount if you like a stronger or weaker coffee.
Making Your Iced Coffee
Here’s a step by step guide if you’ve never brewed coffee using a french press before:
- Fill your kettle with fresh (ideally filtered) water, and set it to boil.
- While your water is boiling, grind the amount of coffee beans you need for your brew, and put the grounds into your french press.
- Once the water is boiled, pour your measured amount into the french press, making sure every bean is coated with water. Give it a stir.
- Put the lid back onto your french press (without pressing the plunger down), and set a timer for four minutes.
- Grab your favourite glass and fill it to the top with ice.
- Once your timer goes off, plunge the top of the french press all the way down to stop the brewing process.
- Pour your brewed coffee over the ice to the top of the glass, leaving room for milk if you desire.
- Add your favourite mix-ins and toppings. Pop in your metal/reusable straw, and give it a good stir.
- Take your first sip, and enjoy!
Personalizing Your Flavour
There are so many flavour combinations you can create using iced coffee as a base — listen to your heart and add whatever you’re craving. You can’t really go wrong if you choose flavours you love. Here are some ideas for inspiration to get you started: honey with a good amount of soy milk, brown sugar topped with cinnamon and nutmeg, just black with a sprinkling of cardamom, and vanilla syrup with a splash of cream. As long as you mix your coffee with some form of sweetener, dairy, and/or spice topping that you enjoy, you’ll be good to go.
If you’re using a sweetener that’s hard to blend into cold drinks, like granulated sugar or honey, I recommend mixing these ingredients into the coffee while it’s hot to help the process along, before you add the ice. The heat will help the sugar crystals blend more smoothly into your drink.
You can also make this ahead if you’ve made too much coffee; pour any that’s leftover into a mason jar, and keep it in the fridge for later. I try to drink it within a day or two.
If you feel like you don’t have the time to grind your coffee and prepare a whole french press every time you want to have iced coffee, I’ve had more success using instant coffee than using pre-ground beans; just mix double the amount of instant coffee you normally would into hot water, and then pour that over your ice. It won’t be as delicious as a french press but hey, it’s still iced coffee.
Now with this guide in hand, go forth and create the iced coffee of your dreams. I’d love to hear what flavour combinations you come up with, please comment your fave flavours below!