Japanese-style iced coffee is the freshest cold coffee you can make

Japanese iced coffee involves brewing coffee using hot water, directly onto ice. The freshness of the brew is what sets it apart. In minutes, you can have the perfect cup of iced coffee.

It has a strong bold flavor, but unlike cold brew coffee it can be produced in minutes. The grounds are brewed in hot water to extract a full range of flavors, just like brewing regular coffee. What is different is that it’s brewed directly onto ice. This cools the coffee down quickly and locks in the flavors.

Regular iced coffee is also brewed using hot water, but it’s usually cooled down in the refrigerator for hours, or cooled with ice cubes. This can make the coffee taste less fresh and also more diluted. Japanese-style iced coffee accounts for the extra water that results when the ice melts, ensuring that the coffee keeps its strong aromatic flavors. It’s usually brewed twice as strong as regular hot coffee, which makes it easily enjoyable even if you want to add ice. The drink itself does not have to include ice when you drink it, but ice must be used while brewing. 

Chemex coffee brewer on a table with ice in it
Brewing directly onto ice is the key to making Japanese iced coffee.

Japanese-style iced coffee is super easy to make at home with the right measurements. ‍You’ll have to tweak it to your liking, but it can result in great-tasting coffee.

One thing to note about this method is that the coffee is made to be enjoyed immediately.

What you need to make Japanese iced coffee

This method does not require many tools, because it’s all about letting the coffee shine. The most important piece of equipment is a proper coffee maker or pour-over funnel. The quality of the coffee is important, since the recipe is so simple. You’re going to drink it very fresh, so you’ll be able to taste the subtleties that quality coffee beans have to offer.

Some things you’ll need to make Japanese iced coffee at home:

  • ice cubes (correctly measured)
  • Chemex or pour-over drip cone
  • freshly ground coffee
  • hot water in a gooseneck kettle
  • paper filter

We highly recommend the gooseneck kettle, because the best Japanese iced coffee demands a very slow pour.

Woman pouring water from a gooseneck kettle into a pour over cone
A slow, controlled pour will produce the best Japanese-style iced coffee.

The tools needed for this Japanese method of coffee brewing are quite straightforward and it requires only a short brew time. What can be challenging is getting the ratio and measurements right. Subtle changes in the water temperature or ratio of ingredients can greatly affect the taste of coffee.

Step-by-step instructions

1. Measure ice

Measure your ice carefully. You want to get just the right amount into your Chemex, or into whatever vessel is collecting from your pour-over cone. This will ensure that your coffee is diluted the perfect amount. It can be hard to measure the perfect amount of ice and water, so we recommend using a scale. For a normal mug of iced coffee (16 ounces) we recommend 140 grams of ice. This should be about 40 per cent of your final Japanese iced coffee. Adjust accordingly after you’ve tried it the first time.

2. Measure and grind beans

Grind your coffee beans to a medium-coarse grind. A fine grind will create a bitter taste, and a coarse grind will lead to fewer extracted flavors and a thin taste. We recommend a scale for this step as well. For this recipe, use 22 grams for your mug of iced coffee. You want to end up with a coffee-to-water ratio of about 1:16, and you’ve already measured 140 grams of ice, so you’ll be brewing with about 210 grams of water.

3. Boil water

Boil your water to a temperature between 195 F and 205 F. This is just below boiling and is perfect for extracting the most flavor from your coffee without getting too much bitterness. Depending on the type of coffee, you can adjust whether you want to brew at a higher or lower temperature within the range.

4. Pour over

Working very slowly, pour hot water over the grounds in your Chemex or pour-over device. Use a gooseneck kettle for this. The reason you must pour extremely slowly is because you are brewing with half as much water as you would for regular coffee, so your coffee grounds won’t be spending as much time in contact with hot water. The more you can prolong this, the more complete your extraction will be.

Gooseneck kettle pouring water into a pour over cone
A slow pour keeps water in contact with the grounds for longer.

5. Serve

Pour the coffee your serving glass of choice. A lot of your ice will have melted, but that’s OK because you’ve factored it in to the final volume of your coffee and you should have a perfect cup. If you want to add more ice to the final result, remember that it will contribute to the dilution. You may want to brew with a little more coffee to make it stronger.

Keys to making great Japanese-style iced coffee

While all the factors of coffee brewing affect the taste of your final product, there are a few things in particular that contribute to great taste. When it comes to the Japanese-style iced coffee brewing process, the main key is the ratio.

Ratio

Depending on how you want to enjoy your coffee, you can make subtle tweaks to your recipe. Since you’re brewing directly onto ice, the concentration of the coffee needs to be just about double. If you like to add ice cubes after the fact, that needs to be accounted for as well. The best way to do this is by using a scale. While you can use cups and measuring spoons, a kitchen scale or coffee scale is much more precise and reliable. It helps you make the perfect cup every single time. Even an ice cube that is slightly bigger can over-dilute the coffee. It can be a hassle to take your scale out every time, but trust us, it makes a big difference.

Grind size

Another big factor is the grind of the coffee. Since you are extracting flavor from the coffee with only about half as much water as usual, the grind of the coffee is incredibly important. We recommend a medium-coarse grind, but this may need to be adjusted depending on the type or notes of the coffee. A finer grind can give you a bitter taste, and a coarse grind may not extract as completely.

Can you heat up Japanese iced coffee?

You can heat up Japanese iced coffee, but it may alter the taste. This coffee is intended to be brewed directly onto ice, so heating the coffee up again can change the taste. If you want a hot cup, we recommend going with a cold brew coffee or simply brewing hot coffee.

Japanese iced coffee is one of Japan’s many gifts to coffee culture. Althought it is not as popular in North America as it is in Japan, it’s simple enough for anyone to try. It results in a cold cup with strong bold flavors. Adjust the recipe to your own tastes and we promise that you will enjoy the final result!