While there is something special about an cold glass of lemonade on a hot summer day, sometimes an iced coffee just hits the spot. Regular, decaf, sweetened or straight, iced coffee can be that perfect summer drink when done right.
For years I longed for the amazing iced coffee I found in a little cafe just off the beaten path in Athens, Greece. With little way to return quickly and no one to ask the secret I experimented with some ideas - all which vastly improved my made-at-home iced brew. Finally though, I found out the secret - simple and easy...it wasn't a Greek coffee I was looking for at all – it was Vietnamese (or ca phe sua da) - and you can find the secret below, but first, a few other ideas for making that perfect iced coffee treat:
Change The Brew
If your version of iced coffee is pouring a pot or cup of coffee over ice, a slight variation in brewing style can make a vast improvement. You can use a traditional American drip-brew, but add more grounds for a stronger brew. Or, if you have the ability to brew espresso consider forgoing a drip-brew when making iced coffee and pouring a shot or two of espresso over ice for your iced coffee.
If you are brewing espresso and like your coffee sweetened consider trying Cuban style and add your sugar (preferably a Demerara style 'raw' or natural brown sugar) to the cup the espresso will drip into before brewing - the sweetness melted into the coffee as it brews makes a more smooth, well-rounded cup.
Hubs enjoying his after-work treat while assisting in important sidewalk chalk art
Change the Ice
If you prefer not to change your brewing style some changes made to the ice component can make a great change to your iced coffee as well. Personally, I find watery iced coffee disheartening, so, whenever we have leftover coffee in the morning I'll pour the extra into an ice cube tray to make coffee ice cubes - thus when hot coffee is poured over there is nothing to water down the flavor.
I recently tried a fancy flavored beverage from a well-known coffee vendor - it was painfully sweet and far too much for me to handle. Frozen into cubes though, that coconut mocha coffee gave a perfect hint of flavor to an iced coffee. So give freezing leftover coffee, fancy flavored coffee, or even hot chocolate a try as the ice in your frozen coffee treat.
Vietnamese iced coffee prior to mixingChange the Condiments
Back to my Vietnamese coffee...so all this time I had been thinking Greek. Then my friend Kim mentioned Vietnamese coffee. I tried it and, a ha! There it was, after all this time! Could it be more simple? I think not. Vietnamese coffee is 1/3 sweetened condensed milk to 2/3 coffee - or adjust to your preferences. While a can of sweetened condensed milk might run you a few dollars it will also make you a good 8-16 cups of better then bought iced coffee (you can mix up a big ol' pitcher all at once!). If you don't like the sweet then get straight condensed milk and give it a try. Mix the (sweetened or not) condensed milk and the coffee, pour over ice, and savor.
Or try a new sweetener - I mentioned Demerara sugar above but even agave nectar and honey make for an interesting taste variation. Try something new - but make sure to add the sweeteners when the coffee is hot as it melts and blends in so much better.
Considering how much an iced coffee will run you at a drive through or shop it's worth giving an at-home cuppa a try. What about you, do you have an iced coffee secret to share?