How to make iced coffee out of hot coffee

You’ve taken the trouble to brew a pot of coffee. You’d think you’d be happy. Instead, you find yourself wistful for a glass of something cooler. Maybe it’s a hot summer day and you want something cold and icy instead of your normal pot of black, hot coffee. What can you do?

You can make iced coffee from hot coffee, that’s what. We’re here to show you how.

Iced coffee vs. cold brew

First, let’s be clear: Iced coffee is not the same as cold brew. They are both popular kinds of cold coffee, but there are important differences.

Making cold brew is a time-intensive process. Cold brew is more about the method of preparing the coffee than the serving temperature of the coffee itself. (Some people even drink it hot.) For cold brew, you grind beans and steep them at room temperature for an extended period, typically between 12 and 16 hours. This produces a cool pot of coffee with an even, smooth taste.

Cold brew coffee doesn’t come into contact with ice until you drink. It’s brewed cold the whole way through.
Cold brew coffee doesn’t come into contact with ice until you drink. It’s brewed cold the whole way through. (© Katherine Lim | Creative Commons)

Iced coffee is what we’re talking about. You take a hot cuppa and you turn it cold. You can brew the coffee as you normally would, using your favorite brewing method, and then you introduce it to ice via methods described below, to slightly dilute the flavor without eliminating it.

(Another interesting method to try is Japanese-style iced coffee, where you introduce the ice during the brewing process to cool the coffee immediately.)

Making iced coffee from hot coffee

Now that we have that important distinction out of the way, let’s take a closer look at how to turn that hot pot into nice iced coffee.

1. Brew the coffee

Brewing that pot of coffee, or a double shot of espresso, is your first step.
Brewing that pot of coffee, or a double shot of espresso, is your first step. (© Bean Poet)

First, brew a pot of hot coffee.

Follow all the steps necessary for your favorite brew, but make it strong! Use more coffee grounds and/or less water than you typically would. 

2. Prepare your ice

Don’t skimp on the ice because you’ll need to cool your coffee quickly.
Don’t skimp on the ice because you’ll need to cool your coffee quickly. (© Bean Poet)

Pour between one and two cups of ice into a thick glass or a stainless steel mixing container. A one-pint glass measuring cup or steel milk frothing pitcher will work great.

Set aside some cream or milk, and possibly some syrup or sugar for later.

3. Pour the coffee

Make sure you don’t use a thin glass container, because hot coffee could crack it.
Make sure you don’t use a thin glass container, because hot coffee could crack it. (© Bean Poet)

Pour the hot coffee quickly onto the ice in the mixing vessel. The ice will start to melt, but that’s OK. That’s why you made your coffee extra strong. 

4. Stir

Stir only until the coffee has cooled, and then move on quickly.
Stir only until the coffee has cooled, and then move on quickly. (© Bean Poet)

Stir immediately. The coffee will chill as the ice gradually melts. You want it to cool it as quickly as possible. Keep stirring until the outside of your container is cooler than lukewarm, then move quickly to the next step.

5. Transfer to your drinking mug

It’s always good to have a few new, full-size ice cubes in your drinking mug.
It’s always good to have a few new, full-size ice cubes in your drinking mug. (© Bean Poet)

Stack a few ice cubes into a drinking mug and pour the newly-iced mixture into it, including whatever ice remains.

6. Add dairy and/or sugar

Here’s how it looks with your milk and sugar added. Experiment with cream, too.
Here’s how it looks with your milk and sugar added. Experiment with cream, too. (© Bean Poet)

Add milk or cream, and syrup or sugar. These are optional. You can vary the ratios to your taste. 

Stir well and enjoy.

Stronger brewing methods for iced coffee

You can vary your recipe depending on your equipment. Nespresso, moka pots and AeroPress are all capable of making a nice strong coffee that will hold up even after the ice and cream are added. The most important thing, regardless of your brewing method, is that you pour and ice the coffee fast.

By following these quick and easy steps you can turn your hot coffee into iced coffee on a hot summer’s day and enjoy a cafe-style beverage of your own making.