Coffee fanatics, unite! There are times that call for a homemade iced latte and times that call for an overnight-brewed cold brew coffee, but other times, you just need a cold, refreshing iced coffee, with its nuanced flavors, richness, and smooth coffee flavor that’s ready in minutes. One that’s not watered down or stale, either.
This is one of those times. You just need a few basic kitchen tools to make iced coffee at home; no fancy equipment is required for this simple homemade pour-over iced coffee method. Now, if you already have a pour-over or a Chemex, go ahead and use it, but this is the perfect guide for beginners without equipment.
This recipe is also not simply pouring cold coffee over ice my friends. The perfect cup of iced coffee requires more detail than that, but is still just as easy to make.
When it comes to iced coffee, there sure are a lot of questions, so before jumping into the how-to, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page before we get that caffeine fix!
Iced Coffee or Cold Brew?
To dive in deep, read all about the differences between iced coffee and cold brew.
Oftentimes, iced coffee and cold brew are used interchangeably, and while cold brew is a type of iced coffee, iced coffee is not cold brew.
The main differences between these types of coffee are in the brew method (preparation) and time.
Cold Brew is a type of iced coffee, made when coarse coffee grounds are steeped in cold water for an extended period of time (usually overnight 12-24 hours), then strained. There is no heat involved.
Iced Coffee, on the other hand, is when coffee is traditionally brewed hot, sometimes cooled, then poured over ice. Allowing the coffee to heat first brings out the nuanced flavor from the coffee beans, much like you experience when drinking a hot cup of coffee.
What’s the Difference Between Cold Coffee and Iced Coffee?
So maybe you’re wondering something along these lines…“is iced coffee just coffee with ice“, “is iced coffee just normal coffee?”, “can you pour drip coffee over ice?”. All very valid questions, because iced coffee seems like just that…coffee poured over ice.
And technically speaking, it is. Iced coffee is any coffee over ice. But there are a few more subtleties that are worth noting because it makes all the difference in flavor when you’re making iced coffee.
Why Shouldn’t I Just Use Cold Coffee?
Ok, so no one is really going to stop you from letting a regular cup of coffee can cool on the counter and then pouring it over ice, but I really don’t recommend it. You’ll end up with a very watered-down glass and run the risk of a bitter and stale cup as the coffee oxidizes.
There are countless methods of making iced coffee, many of which will just tell you to do just that: brew a cup of coffee, cool it, or place it in the fridge, then pour it over ice.
But before you head down this route, give this easy pour-over method of making iced coffee at home a try, and fall in love with the bright, rich coffee tones that shine through, without becoming watered down.
But What If I Already Have Leftover Coffee?
If you’ve brewed a big batch of hot coffee that you don’t want to go to waste, go ahead and put it in the fridge for a simple iced version the next day. That’s a great solution to reduce waste! I just don’t recommend this method if you have the actual intent of making iced coffee.
Another excellent option is to pour the leftover coffee into ice cube trays, freeze it, and use those coffee ice cubes in your iced coffee, lattes, and cold brew drinks!
What You’ll Need
This method of making iced coffee by brewing strong coffee directly over ice is sometimes known as the pour-over method, or the flash brewed method, or Japenese-style iced coffee.
For this method, coffee is brewed with less water, and the rest (what would normally be water) is replaced with ice cubes. As the coffee is brewed directly over the ice cubes, the ice melts while simultaneously cooling off the coffee and diluting it to the perfect ratio.
It results in a bright, robust chilled coffee because the hot water from brewing the coffee extracts the flavor from the grounds and because it is chilled immediately, so there isn’t time for it to become stale, or extra ice to dilute it.
Before we get into the steps, let’s go over exactly what you’ll need to make this process as smooth and delicious as can be.
You don’t need any fancy equipment, but you will need a few kitchen items to make iced coffee. You can also use a regular drip coffee maker, see the notes below.
Here are the pieces of equipment I recommend for making the perfect iced coffee. These are affiliate links.
- 32-ounce glass measuring cup, carafe, or another large mason jar: essentially, you want something to use that is large enough to hold the brewed coffee and ice after it melts together, that can also hold your strainer and filter, and that is heat-proof.
- Fine Mesh Strainer and Coffee Filter or a specific Pour-Over Maker: either method works for brewing the coffee through. I use the fine mesh strainer lined with a coffee filter for my DIY pour-over coffee maker. If you have a ceramic pour-over drip, use it.
- Kitchen Scale: you can get by without a kitchen scale, but I highly recommend using one so you can keep the ratios right, especially when measuring out the ice.
- Coffee Grinder: another nice-to-have but not required item; you will want to use ground coffee, and freshly ground will always produce the best flavor, but storebought ground coffee will work, too.
- Electric Kettle: again, not a requirement, but a very helpful-to-have tool. If you don’t have an electric kettle, use a tea kettle or saucepan on the stove.
If you have a Chemex or similar pour-over coffee maker, it’s perfect for this process!
Ingredients for Iced Coffee
A very simple ingredient list indeed: ground coffee beans, water, and ice.
- Coffee Grounds: a medium-to-fine grind, as you would use for regular drip coffee, is needed. As mentioned, freshly ground whole beans are best, but because we are using the same grind as a drip brew, storebought pre-ground coffee will work for this recipe.
- Water: when making coffee, filtered water is always best for the best flavor. Really! It’s why coffee shop coffee always tastes so much better, the water is filtered just right.
- Ice: no special requirements here…just make sure it’s chilled. 😉
What kind of coffee is best? Really, the kind you love! You can use light, medium, or dark roast coffee to make iced coffee. Do note that light roasts can be more acidic or tart-tasting. I prefer using a medium roast for iced coffee – one that has nutty, chocolatey undertones. Dark roast will give you a rich, robust cup.
Do you love flavored iced coffee? Keep reading for ways to flavor iced coffee!
How to Make Iced Coffee at Home
Equipment and ingredients are set, so let’s finally see the step-by-step process of how iced coffee is made. As always, see the full recipe card below for specific measurements and details.
Step 1: Prepare the Set-Up
Place your measuring cup or large vessel on your kitchen scale and zero it out and measure out the ice cubes. Weighing the cubes will give you the most precise ratio since many ice cubes are shaped differently.
Add a strainer with a coffee filter on top, or your ceramic pour-over lined with its filter. Place the ground coffee beans in the filter.
Step 2: Heat the Water to 205° F
An electric gooseneck kettle will allow you to precisely heat the water to 205°F, just under boiling, for the best cup of coffee. It also provides a nice, even pour with its unique spout.
If you don’t have an electric kettle or one that will allow you to select exact temperatures, bring the water in a kettle or saucepan to almost a boil, then remove it from the heat. If it does boil, no worries, just let it cool slightly for a minute before you pour it into the grounds.
Step 3: Pour Over
Keep the set-up on the kitchen scale, zero it out before pouring the water, so that as you do brew the coffee, you can easily see track how much water has been added. If you don’t have a scale, you will need to make sure you heated the exact amount of water.
First, pour the hot water in a circular motion over the grinds from the center outward, just until the coffee is wet, then stop. Allow it to sit for about 30 seconds, this is called blooming the coffee. The grounds will likely bubble up; this happens as the CO2 is released from the coffee as the water enters, and it begins the brewing process.
After 30 seconds or so, continue pouring water in a circular motion over the grounds until they are coated. Once the water reaches the top of the filter, or close to it, stop pouring and give it time to drip through. Continue this process until you have poured through all of the water.
Step 4: Serve and Enjoy!
Once all the water has been added, you can remove and discard the filter. If some remnants of ice cubes remain, you can leave them to continue melting or remove them.
Place fresh ice in serving glasses, and top off with your freshly brewed iced coffee, flavoring or adding creamers, milk, or dairy-free alternatives as desired.
Don’t forget your reusable straw, too, because for whatever reason it just somehow tastes better when sipped through a straw, doesn’t it?!
The Process for Using a Drip Brew Coffee Maker
I did say you could make this using the same method but in a drip brew coffee maker, and it’s true! While it’s not my preferred method, because the water actually doesn’t get hot enough to really extract the most flavor from the coffee, it will work if needed.
Follow the process as written above, yet for the vessel simply use the pot from the coffee maker, and use the regular basket and a coffee filter on the top.
If you can turn off the heating burner element on the coffee maker, do so, otherwise, it’s not that big of a deal, just remove the coffee immediately after brewing.
With the ice in the pot, and the coffee in the basket with a filter, add the same 16 ounces of water to the water reservoir and turn the maker on. Once the coffee is brewed, remove and serve in glasses filled with ice.
Ways to Flavor Iced Coffee
If you need a little flavor or sweetener, I’ve got your back! You can easily buy a variety of coffee syrups at the store, but here are some of my favorite homemade options:
- Vanilla Bean Syrup – seriously, vanilla iced coffee…what’s better?!
- Maple Syrup (yes, just add a splash of pure maple syrup for a deliciously sweet addition)
- Lavender Syrup or Lavender Honey Syrup
- Chocolate Syrup
- Autumn Spice Syrup
- Rosemary Syrup
- Simple Syrup for a basic sweetener (using syrup means you don’t have to worry about sugar dissolving into the cold coffee)
Common Iced Coffee Questions
Yes, you can make this method of iced coffee ahead of time. I recommend not making more than 1-2 days’ worth of coffee in advance, though, because it will lose some of its flavors the longer it sits and is exposed to air.
I recommend storing the coffee no longer than 4 days or so; the longer it is stored, the more stale tasting it will become.
Step one is to follow this method of making iced coffee with only half the amount of water. Additionally, you can use coffee ice cubes to further prevent it from becoming watered down.
After reading the post, I hope I’ve convinced you that you can use tools already in your kitchen to make iced coffee at home. There’s no need for a fancy iced coffee maker.
Yes, it’s naturally more strong because it will be served over ice, and therefore further diluted. If it’s still too strong, dilute it with additional water, or add more ice during the brewing process. You can also add creamer or milk.
Did you make this recipe? Please leave a star rating and review in the form below. I appreciate your feedback, and it helps others, too!
Get the Recipe How to Make The Best Iced Coffee
- ½ cup (39 g) coffee beans, medium ground
- 8 ounces (234 g) ice cubes, approximately 2 cups
- 16 ounces (473 mL) 205°F Hot Water, 2 cups
- Large Container / Cup (at least 32 ounces)
- If grinding your own coffee, grind the beans on a fine-to-medium grind, as you would for drip-brew. Begin heating the water to just under a boil, or 205°F.
- Place a large carafe (or vessel that will hold the coffee) on a kitchen scale, zero it out, and weigh out the ice cubes. Place a strainer lined with a coffee filter on top (or the method you will be using to hold the coffee grounds). Add the ground coffee to the filter.
- Pour the hot water in a circular motion over the grounds from the center outward, just until the coffee is wet, then stop. Allow it to sit for about 30 seconds; it will likely bubble up and rise. Then, continue pouring water in a circular motion over the grounds until they are coated. Once the water reaches close to the top of the filter, stop pouring and give it time to drip through. Continue this process until 16 ounces of water have been poured through.
- Prepare 2 glasses with fresh ice cubes. Pour the brewed coffee over the ice and serve as desired with creamer or flavorings. Enjoy!
- Serving Size: makes approximately 2 1/2 cups of coffee; over ice, this is the perfect amount for 2 servings.
- Less Strong: add more ice when brewing to make it less strong from the start; keep in mind that the ice in your serving glass will further dilute it, too. You can also add more water before serving if it is too strong for your liking.
Sounds wonderful and refreshing to make it.