Avoid these iced coffee pitfalls

“Iced coffee might be cold, but it was made in heaven.” — A. Hincks

Iced coffee. Cold Brew. Chilled coffee. Japanese Iced Coffee — there are many ways to make a great cold coffee but, no matter how you brew it, to ensure a satisfying cup, you want to avoid these common iced coffee pitfalls.

Pitfall: dilution

How it happens? When you add ice to your regularly brewed coffee, your coffee grounds-to-water ratio is thrown off and your coffee becomes diluted.

How to avoid it? Chill brewed coffee and don’t add ice, or brew your coffee stronger to maintain the proper grounds-to-water ratio. You have many options:

  • Brew using the Japanese Brew Method
  • Brew with a higher grounds-to-water ratio (we recommend adding an extra 1/4 tablespoon of grounds per cup being brewed)
  • Use iced coffee ice cubes instead of water ice cubes
  • Use whisky stones instead of ice cubes

Pitfall: using the wrong brew or grind

How it happens? Using a brew method that leaves sentiment, such as a stovetop espresso brewer or French Press, could leave your coffee tasting gritty or even dirty if the sediment floats up after the ice is added. Similarly, using too fine a grind can leave cold coffee tasting muddy and bitter due to over-extraction. Risk of over-extraction is particularly high when cold brewing.

How to avoid it? For iced coffee, select a brew method that doesn’t involve saturation, such as a drip brew or Japanese Brew Method. Drip brewers are very forgiving when it comes to grind size as extraction is limited to brew time. For cold brew, go big. Unless provided specific instructions from your roaster, we recommend brewing with grounds ground for a French Press (large and coarse).


Pitfall: stale coffee

How it happens? Coffee is a food product and stales quickly (about 30 minutes post-brew) once exposed to oxygen. Think of oxygen and freshness as two parts of a whole. The more oxygen gets into the brew, the less fresh the coffee.

How to avoid it? Store your soon-to-be iced coffee in an airtight, light-blocked container until you are ready to use it. You can store the coffee on the counter for up to 24 hours and in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. For best results, store your coffee in a glass or stainless steel container to prevent the coffee from absorbing any unwanted trace flavor notes / scents.


Pitfall: small batch brewing

How it happens? You brew for the moment instead of the future.

How to avoid it? If you are an avid iced coffee drinker with limited time, brew a pot of coffee or large batch of cold brew, store it properly upon brewing, and it will keep for up to 4 days.


Pitfall: assuming coffee tastes the same hot and cold

How it happens? It just does. This is a mistake even the most experienced coffee drinkers make from time to time. The dominant notes in coffee change as coffee cools, with bright upper notes shining through when hot and heavier, richer base notes dominating when cool. As coffee cools, the bright upper notes become more difficult to detect. In the case of cold brew, upper notes often fail to appear at all as they are activated by the heat during brewing.

How to avoid it? Brew your iced coffee with beans that have strong, complex base notes or go dark. Dark roasts are roasted to a specific roast profile often dominated by base notes, meaning the predominant flavors should remain intact as the coffee cools. Dark roasts also tend to exhibit rich chocolate base notes which give iced coffee or cold brew a creamier, more luxurious taste.


To learn more about iced coffee and cold brew, check out these blogs:

Iced coffee vs. cold brew

Iced coffee, Japanese style

Eat it, freeze it, incorporate it, add ice… chilled coffee summer

Coffee & Cocktails — anyone for ice cream?

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