I made iced coffee at home - we beat the heat and got our caffeine-fix

how to make iced coffee by pouring espresso over ice
(Image credit: Future)

Learning how to make iced coffee is the key to beating the heat whilst getting a caffeine-fix.

If you’ve invested in one of the best coffee makers, you may have dedicated hours to perfecting your method for brewing the perfect cup of coffee at home. But when it comes to iced coffee, it’s easy to assume you have to hit the local coffee shop or grab a pre-made bottle of cold coffee from the grocery store to satisfy that coffee craving on a hot day.

We review lots of coffee makers from the best bean-to-cup coffee machines to regular drip coffee makers, and this usually involves brewing lots of hot coffee. But as big iced coffee fans, we’ve discovered that those expensive and fancy coffee machines can also be used for making cold coffee. In fact, barista-style espresso machines are ideal, because the short, strong espresso they produce means you only have to cool a small volume of coffee, so it’s quick and easy to whip up delicious iced coffee on demand. But the good news is you can make tasty, iced coffee with virtually any coffee maker and it’s easy once you know how.

Enjoying your daily caffeine hit is, for many of us, a not-to-be-missed ritual. And on hot days, we think caffeine is best enjoyed in the form of icy cold coffees, here’s how to make your own.

Steps for how to make an iced coffee

how to make iced latte with espresso machine in background

(Image credit: Future)
  • Make an espresso
  • Add sugar
  • Pour over ice
  • Add milk

How to make iced coffee with an espresso machine 

OK, so you’ve bought one of the best espresso machines and mastered the art of intense barista-style espresso drinks like cappuccino and latte. Now it’s time to add iced coffee to your repertoire. You’ll need a glass, ice, cold milk or water, and sugar if you like it sweet.

Start by brewing espresso in the same way as you usually would, but don’t pour it into the glass you intend to drink it from. Not only will this heat up the glass, but it could crack it. It's best to make the espresso in your usual cup or mug.

If you like your iced coffee sweet, add sugar to the hot espresso and stir until fully dissolved. Don’t wait until the end to add sugar, it won’t dissolve properly in cold coffee. If you’re planning to add flavored syrups though, you can add these at any point in the process.

Next, you’ll need to fill your glass with ice. We prefer to use bigger ice cubes, they’re slower to melt so don’t dilute your drink as fast. If you like to sip your iced coffee slowly, consider making coffee ice cubes, these don’t dilute the coffee as they melt. More on this later.

All you need to do now is pour your espresso over the ice - no need to wait for it to cool down - and add either cold milk or cold water, depending on whether you want it milky or not. 

how to make iced coffee by pouring milk over ice and coffee

(Image credit: Future)

For the purposes of research, we measured the temperature of our iced coffee, and despite making it with a hot shot of espresso, the finished drink was still a cool 46oF/ 8oC, chilling further as it sat in the ice. But if you want your coffee super cold, pop the espresso in the freezer for a few minutes to cool it down before you make the drink.

How to make iced coffee with a drip coffee maker 

As you’d expect, the simplest way to use a drip coffee machine to make iced coffee is to brew the coffee in advance and chill it in the fridge until you’re ready to drink it. But if you’re in a hurry, increase the coffee to water ratio, so that you brew a stronger coffee, allow it to cool for as long as you can, then pour it over ice to chill.

As you’re trying to cool down a larger volume of coffee than if using an espresso machine, you’ll need lots of ice. The ice will melt fast, which is why it’s best to brew a stronger drink or keep a tray of coffee ice cubes in the freezer so the melted ice doesn’t dilute the coffee.

How to make coffee ice cubes 

how to make an iced americano coffee for drinking or making into coffee ice cubes

(Image credit: Future)

This one’s not rocket science, but as we said earlier, using coffee ice cubes means you can take your time over your iced coffee without melting ice ruining the strength of the drink, so it’s worth doing.  

If you have a drip coffee maker, fill an ice cube tray with cooled coffee – it’s a great way to use up leftover coffee at the end of the day. For espresso machines, dilute the coffee to the strength of an Americano by adding 8-12oz water to a double espresso. Pour the cooled Americano into ice cube trays and freeze.

You can also make coffee ice cubes using leftover coffee from a French Press.

What’s the difference between iced coffee and cold brew coffee?

Iced coffee is made by brewing hot coffee and chilling it to create a cold drink. Cold brew on the other hand is a longer process of adding ground coffee to cold water and brewing for up to 24 hours before straining. Brewing coffee in this way creates a less acidic drink with a punchier caffeine hit.

The advantage of iced coffee is that it’s quicker to make and you don’t really need to do any preparation in advance. But the choice between the two comes down to personal preference.

What about blended coffee drinks? 

how to make an iced coffee in a blender

(Image credit: Future)

If you prefer a blended frappe-style cold coffee, you’ll need one of the best blenders. Simply add your coffee, sugar, milk and a good handful or two of ice cubes to a blender and blitz it until the ice is crushed and the drink is thick. 

To recreate your favorite coffee shop-style blended coffee you may need to play around with the ratios of ice to coffee and milk, but it won’t take long to master the perfect recipe. And take it from us, grab yourself a straw, it tastes way more authentic if you drink it through a straw!

There are plenty of variations on blended coffee. For a decadent dessert-style drink try adding a scoop or two of ice cream, chocolate powder, or garnishing with whipped cream and flavored syrup.

Final thoughts

To make the best barista style iced coffee you’ll need an espresso machine. Cooling a short intense espresso is far easier and quicker than trying to chill any other type of coffee. And while you can make iced coffee with a drip coffee machine, it doesn’t quite taste the same.

Making iced coffee at home will save you money on expensive cold coffees from the coffee shop, plus you can customize your drink to your exact preferences, which makes it even more enjoyable.

Helen McCue
Freelance Contributor

Helen is a freelance writer who specializes in kitchen appliances and has written for some of the biggest home-related titles around. She has been reviewing small appliances, including blenders, juicers, and multi-cookers, for more than 8 years,  and also upholsters furniture when she's not testing the latest food tech gadgets.