Summer is right around the corner, which means it's time to switch from perfect hot coffee to perfect cold coffee. A nice icy glass of cold coffee is wildly refreshing and just plain delicious. In my opinion, it's the key to enjoying any sunny day (warning: if you don't already drink cold coffee, you may find yourself drinking four or five glasses a day very quickly).
But simply pouring coffee over ice doesn't produce a very good beverage, and spending a few dollars at Starbucks for an acidic and bitter glass of murky water isn't ideal. But have no fear: perfect cold coffee is surprisingly easy to achieve at home with these tips.
Simply put, once-hot coffee that has been chilled and cold brew coffee are two completely different animals. Because cold brew coffee is never cooked, it has much lower acid levels, which not only aids the flavor, but makes it healthier than hot coffee (and less caffeinated).
When coffee is brewed with hot water, acidic-tasting oils are released, which in turn give your tongue "acid shock." This keeps you from fully experiencing all of coffee's best flavors. That's why cold brew coffee is often said to taste like what hot coffee smells like.
So if you're not already making cold brew, now's the time to switch over (and we've got the primer on how to make it here).
I used to face a mathematic dilemma with my cold brew: how many ice cubes will keep the beverage cold for more than 10 minutes, but won't dilute it too much? There's no right answer, but there is a solution: coffee ice cubes. Simply pour some cold brew into your ice cube molds, and you can fill up your glass with ice, only to have the beverage stay strong as it melts. Alternately, you can make milk ice cubes for a different way of avoiding dilution, or flavor the coffee ice cubes.
Infusing your cold coffee will give you a result that will open your friends' eyes immediately (trust me, they'll be blown away). A reader at The Kitchn clued me into my new favorite way of flavoring cold brew: add some brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg to the mix when you brew it.
Ginger is another great addition for the brewing process, while vanilla extract and condensed milk will add serious flavor to the finished product. Or, if you really want to have some fun, add some gelato instead of cream, for a cold brew affogato.
You can also make the ultimate Kahlua by infusing coffee grounds in cold vodka (or you can use a bourbon or whiskey base if you prefer other spirits).
Even though cold brew is a markedly different beverage than hot coffee, our primer for hot coffee is still relevant. Bloom the grounds, use filtered water, and choose the right grind size (grind size is subjective/up for debate: many people suggest a fine grind for a strong flavor, but I prefer a coarse grind, as it decreases bitterness, and gives you a wider window of time to let it brew).
Perhaps you don't want to deal with making cold brew, or you just have a leftover pot of coffee that got cold and you don't want to waste it. Don't worry: I've found a few ways to elevate your leftover coffee. My biggest secret? Chocolate milk. Even if you don't want a full-on cold mocha, a touch of chocolate milk with your iced coffee can reduce the acid and bitterness. Opting for half-and-half or cream instead of milk also helps.
Here's wishing you many cups of perfect cold coffee this hot summer!