Iced Coffee

How to Make Perfect Iced Coffee

As a coffee lover, there’s one thing I just didn’t get until quite recently: iced coffee. What?! The idea left me well, cold. Coffee is supposed to be hot. Very, very hot.

And then I made a fatal mistake. I accepted a sample of iced coffee in a popular coffee shop. It was strong, sweet, creamy and icy, icy cold. Wow.

 

Making iced coffee

The Pioneer Woman’s Perfect Iced Coffee

 

I needed to figure out how to make this myself—it was that good—because as much as I might want iced coffee again, I was not going to pay the outrageous price to have someone else make it for me.

One might think, as I did, that pouring hot coffee over ice, adding milk and sugar would do the trick. Not exactly. The problem is that the ice seriously dilutes the coffee, a problem that sent me in search of the secret for why the sample was not at all diluted. That’s when I discovered that Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, is quite an iced coffee aficionado, and willing to share her secrets.

Make cold brew

First, you must make a big batch of very strong “cold brew” coffee:

  1. Into a very large container, dump one pound of ground, dark, rich coffee. Any brand will do.
  2. Now pour in 8 quarts (2 gallons) of cold water.
  3. Stir with a wooden spoon until all of the dry coffee is wet. Cover. Allow to steep at room temperature for at least 8 hours, longer is just fine.
  4. Line a large sieve or colander with several layers of cheesecloth and pour the steeped coffee grounds through. You’ll need to prod it a bit to get all of that coffee perfectly sieved, but stick with it. You’ll end up with just shy of 8 quarts of rich, dark coffee concentrate that will be void of bitterness and very low in acidity.
  5. Discard the coffee dregs, cover and place the concentrate in the refrigerator. Covered tightly, this will be good for at least six weeks in the refrigerator.

Now you’re ready

Here is the right way to make a tall, cold, wonderful glass of perfect iced coffee.

  1. Fill your glass―or, Ree’s choice of a one-quart canning jar―with ice.
  2. Pour very cold coffee concentrate over the ice until the glass is about 3/4  full.
  3. Add your choice of milk (skim, 2 percent or whole) or try my choice half and half and no I will not apologize 😉. By the way, Ree adds both cream and sweetened condensed milk.
  4. Add the amount of sugar you need to make it as sweet as you desire. Stir to mix.

There you have it: icy cold, undiluted, perfect iced coffee.


MORE: Make it Better Yourself: Homemade Coffee Creamer


Start small

Not ready to commit to nearly two gallons of coffee concentrate? No problem. Scale down the proportions: 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for each cup of cold water.

In any proportion, iced coffee made this way is even better than the sample that got me into all of this in the first place.

First published: 8-24-12; Seriously updated 4-29-19.


PREVIOUSLY: Einstein in the Kitchen or Let Them Eat (Carrot) Cake

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37 replies
  1. Theresa
    Theresa says:

    When we lived in the north, we only drank iced coffee in the summer, but now that we live down south, we drink iced coffee year round. We live in SC and have family in FL, so when we are driving to FL it is our tradition to stop at the gas station to fill the tank. There is a Dunkin’ Donuts attached to the gas station, so as my husband pumps the gas, I run in and grab 2 large iced coffee’s, one reg. (for my husband) and one decaf. (for me). It’s the little things in life that make life enjoyable. 🙂

    Reply
  2. Connie Stewart
    Connie Stewart says:

    Thank you for sharing your new love of iced coffee and the recipe! So many nay-sayers in the comments but I am standing up and applauding you! I have been making iced coffee for 20+ years. Great stuff! I think someone else mentioned a Toddy Maker in the comments and I highly recommend it if the mess bothers you. They run about $15 on Amazon (20+ years and mine is still going strong). Your timing on this post is perfect for Spring/Summer. Thanks again Mary! You ROCK!

    Reply
  3. Patty Moran
    Patty Moran says:

    For all those whose solution is to make hot coffee then refrigerate or freeze it… Until you’ve tried cold brew, you don’t know what you are missing! The taste is fantastic. I took a nut butter bag, sewed it into a skinny bag and put that into a carafe. I then add the freshly ground coffee to the nut bag, very slowly pour the water into the coffee until the carafe is almost full, cover and let sit overnight or as long as you want for the strength concentrate you want. I go 24 hours. Then I just remove the nut bag, squeezing as I lift it out. The coffee is perfect and the grounds get carried out to the garden and the bag emptied.

    Reply
  4. Sheila Senger
    Sheila Senger says:

    I would suggest using simple syrup to sweeten your iced coffee. Sugar granules at the bottom of my glass are annoying and down right disgusting if I get a mouthful at the end of my lovely iced coffee! I heat 2c. sugar in 1 c. water until the sugar dissolves and pour it into an empty glass pop bottle with a bar pour spout. Keeps for weeks in a cupboard. Do not refrigerate!

    Reply
  5. ThistleCoveFarm
    ThistleCoveFarm says:

    Iced coffee is wonderful! Using decaf, I brew a pot then add a pint of flavored creamer. Easy, not messy, delicious.

    Reply
  6. Newtexan
    Newtexan says:

    I love the idea of making my own coffee “syrup”…went to the local thrift store and found a “sun tea” container to use for the coffee. Also, suggest that the used coffee grounds are terrific to dump in your garden. Good for the soil!

    Reply
  7. mrsgochay
    mrsgochay says:

    That’s way too much trouble and mess. Either chill your drip coffee promptly after brewing or use the French press. Then use your milk of choice. If you want sweet coffee, take a page from the Vietnamese restaurants and use sweetened condensed milk instead of or along with the milk or cream. Oh and I do freeze the leftover coffee for coffee cubes. Try blending in the blender or magic bullet for the frappe style. protein powder can be added too. I don’t like the artificial sweetener in the flavored powders so I buy unflavored whey protein. Try different methods and combinations until you find what you like best.

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      Mrsgochay … Have you tried iced coffee, made right? It is quite different than cold brewed coffee poured over ice. Just sayin …

      Reply
      • Estelle Stone
        Estelle Stone says:

        You are SO right, Mary. It is worth the tiny bit of work to get that smooth flavor. It is totally without any bitterness when you steep overnight or 24 hours. It is unbelievable! Once you try it, you can never go back to just brewed coffee over ice. Yuck!

      • mrsgochay
        mrsgochay says:

        Hi Mary! Yes, I was saying back 7 years ago that iced coffee, made as I do, was less mess and just as wonderful as any cold brew. I don’t see it as a problem to chill MY brewed coffee. I use good quality beans, I brew it quickly and chill it quickly too. I don’t ice it until its cold. There is no bitterness. It isn’t watery.

        Cold brew is nice too, but I’ll be sipping mine on the patio a long time before the cold brew is ready!

  8. LauraF
    LauraF says:

    Good heavens! Don’t waste all those good coffee grounds! Put them in the compost heap or sprinkle them around the garden – especially at the base of acid-loving plants!

    Reply
  9. BethSh
    BethSh says:

    I love iced coffee, but that whole straining cold brewed was way to messy and way too much work for me. I just make a pot of strong drip coffee when I go to bed, set the pot in fridge so it is cold by morning, then pour over ice, add sweetner and whole milk, (I decided it was a good compromise for the half and half since I drink a lot) and I am set to go. It doesn’t dilute and doesn’t require all that straining. works better for me.

    Reply
  10. txcharley
    txcharley says:

    I use my trusty coffee press. 1 cup of ground coffee to 4 cups of water. Let it sit for 24 hours and then just press it. I do filter it again through a coffee filter fitted into a colander, but before the coffee press I had to filter it twice – and that just takes too much time!!! The resulting 3+ cups of coffee lasts me about a week.

    Reply
    • Nancy Smock Patriarco Smith
      Nancy Smock Patriarco Smith says:

      Do you grind your own beans? The recipe use says to coarse grind beans but using ground coffee would be easier

      Reply
      • Patty Moran
        Patty Moran says:

        I use a Cuisinart Automatic Burr Mill to grind my own coffee (about $40). It will grind small amounts or big, so it makes quick work of grinding whole beans for cold brew. I’ve had mine for about 6 years now and it works as well as the day I bought it.

  11. Linda L
    Linda L says:

    I am not a breakfast eater but I need protein in the AM to sort of stabilize for the day. I blend skim milk with vanilla protein powder and store this in the fridge (1-3 days and sometimes I make several cups of milk w/ appropriate amount of pro powder or sometimes just 1 cup milk. ) I add this to my pre-made, chilled strong coffee and pour over ice. The pro powder is sweet and gives me a vanilla flavor iced coffee and the pro powder also thicken the milk to a creamy consistency. Sometimes I blend the chilled coffee, ice and the pro powder for a sort of homemmade “frappachino” with my morning protein, too. I sometimes add flavored syrups to switch it up.

    Reply
  12. Sandy
    Sandy says:

    I keep a pitcher of iced tea in the frige all summer. It’s very simple to put tea leaves or bags (these are often given me by friends or relatives who buy stuff they don’t subsequently like) in a half gallon jar and put it out in the sun. I usually sweeten it with abandoned candy like the canes from the Christmas tree which are usually acquired the same way. Let it sit out all day, bring in next morning, pour through a strainer into a pitcher and chill. No need for commercial beverages.

    Reply
  13. Grace Johnston
    Grace Johnston says:

    I like to make simple syrup to add to my home made iced coffee – it’s a bit smoother than granules. Also, left over coffee can be made into ice cubes to add to my tall sweet java goodness. If you’re in a pinch for time, put a tablespoon of instant coffee granules in the bottom of your travel mug, Add just two or three Tablespoons of boiling water to dissolve the coffe. This is also a good point to add suger. Once dissolved, add ice and cold water. Voila’

    Reply
  14. Laura
    Laura says:

    I found the way to make perfect (for me at least!) iced tea. Place 2 bags Red Rose tea and 1 bag Perfect Peach into an at least 2 cup heat-resistant container. Pour 1+1/2 C boiling water into the container and let steep for 3-5 minutes. Sweeten to taste. Fill serving glasses with ice and pour hot tea over ice. After it melts and cools some, add more ice, if desired. Perfect iced tea!

    Reply
    • txcharley
      txcharley says:

      I have made what I call 3-4-5 iced tea for YEARS!! 3 teabags in 4 cups of water (in a 4-cup measuring cup) for 5 minutes in the microwave. Let it sit a couple of minutes and pour over ice…………HEAVEN!!

      Reply
  15. Priscilla
    Priscilla says:

    I just love my coffee hot. I pre-mix very well 3 parts powdered milk to 1 part Coffeemate, 1 T sugar and 1 tsp. cocoa and spoon that into the hot coffee…love it!. I never throw the coffee grounds away but mix them with potting soil for my plants or take them out and put them in the flower garden. Awesome for mixing in the dirt.

    Reply
  16. Monica in Austin
    Monica in Austin says:

    I reccomend buying (if possible) a toddy drip coffee maker. I have used mine now for 3 years and love it. The filters cost about $1.50 and last for 10 filterings. You still filter water through the coffee ( 12 hours) and then let it drip into glass carafe that goes in the refrigerator. The coffee is less acidic and the coffee grounds are good for the rose bushes!

    Reply
  17. Trixie Belden
    Trixie Belden says:

    I have made Ree’s recipe before and yes, it is a lot of work …and makes a HUGE mess. As others have stated, there are simpler methods.

    I find it easier to make by the glass using cold coffee.

    Reply
  18. Sue
    Sue says:

    I am a half-and-half fiend. However, fat content is, well, fat. I discovered a great substitute – Silk’s Soy Creamer. 3 varieties – Original, French Vanilla, Hazlenut.
    French Vanilla is a keeper for me – I don’t even have to add sugar to my coffee. It adds richness and creamy flavor to my morning cup. Only 1 gram of fat, 3 grams of sugar, 10 mg sodium and 3 grams of carbs.

    Reply
  19. Jan Marie
    Jan Marie says:

    I discovered that I can make my iced coffee in my coffee press and then I don’t have to sieve it. And I love mine black with no cream/sugar and lots of ice!

    Reply
  20. Briana
    Briana says:

    I add a small squirt of Nestle’s chocolate syrup and a splash of vanilla extract. Mmmm. And I usually make a 6 cup pot in the morning. Have 2 cups to wake me up and then chill the rest for an iced coffee later in the day. And I drink it too fast for the ice to melt 🙂

    Reply
  21. Jackie
    Jackie says:

    Instead of adding sugar, I use a simple syrup of equal parts water and sugar. The syrup dissolves in better than plain sugar. And yes: 1/2 & 1/2 is the ONLY way to have it!!
    Have you ever had Thai coffee? If I remember correctly, sweetened condensed milk is poured over a glass of ice; a strainer containing coffee is set over the top of the glass, and boiling water is poured over the strainer. It is Heavenly!

    Reply
  22. Barb
    Barb says:

    The iced coffee receipt sounds like a lot of work to me. I just make up my coffee and freeze some in ice cube trays. I use them when making my iced coffee and it will not dilute the coffee. Yum!!

    Reply
  23. Inge Reuter
    Inge Reuter says:

    If you ask for ice coffee in a cafe in Germany, you get a base of superstrong coffee filled up with cream (or half and half), a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a topping of whipped cream. That’s what they call ice coffee! Served in a tall skinny glass, you need a long spoon for that.

    Reply
  24. Deb
    Deb says:

    2 teaspoons instant coffee – (Folgers is my preference)
    3/4 to 1 teaspoon sugar. (you could experiment with sweetners – I prefer sugar)
    Mix well with 3 Tablespoons HOT water
    Fill glass at least half full with ice
    Pour 6 oz. skim milk into glass – mix well
    ENJOY……mmmmmmmmm

    Reply

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