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How to make the perfect iced coffee at home: Everything you need to know

Iced coffee is a drink easy enough to make at home – but some won’t know quite where to start when it comes to preparing their own. 

Barista Ben Lewis, who has been in the coffee industry for 11 years and specialises in latte art, is on hand to help. Sharing his expertise, he delivers his top tips on how to make the cold coffee beverage at home, including what are the best types of beans to use and the ideal method for making it. 

What are the best types of coffee to use for an iced coffee? 

The best types of coffee depend on what your iced coffee is going to be, if you are having ‘espresso based’ like an iced latte or an iced mocha, more developed and well rounded coffees are best as they will cut through the milk or alternative milk better. If you are having an iced filter or cold brew, single origin coffees can open up a world of flavour when extracted well. More acidic and floral coffees from African regions can make for a fruity and vibrant iced drink. 

Are there any types of coffee to avoid? 

Not particularly, it is of course all down to preference, however more acidic fruity coffees in larger milk drinks can get lost as they are often roasted lighter, I avoid commercial dark roast coffees myself but, a well developed medium-dark will cut through milk a lot better! 

What is the best method for making iced coffee? 

This is less of a method and more of a tip, LOTS of ice. As a barista watching our bartender make cocktails in the shop, something struck me; ice wasn’t used to ‘water down’ cocktails to use less alcohol and make them more cost effective, it was used to balance the flavour and achieve equilibrium in the drink much faster. The same applies when I make iced lattes or iced black coffee, I will always add plenty of ice to the glass first, then add espresso directly to the ice, followed quickly by the milk product. Giving this a good stir then allows the hot espresso and the milk product to chill much faster, making for a more pleasant experience. 

What kind of glass/mug should an iced coffee ideally be served in? 

I usually go for something tall that you can fit a lot of ice into. 

Why can coffee change taste when chilled? 

If we’re talking about espresso based drinks, the main reason it can taste different (other than ice!) is that when milk products are heated up, they get sweeter. As baristas we aim for peak sweetness of milk around 55-65 degrees, when making a hot coffee, so if we are adding cold milk or alternative straight from a carton to our iced beverage it can be much less sweet than we anticipate, hence the urge to use syrup or sugar to sweeten it.

If we are using filter coffee, a lot of people don’t consider the ice we are adding to a recipe, so when we create iced filter coffee, I use a much more concentrated recipe with more coffee and less water, because as the ice melts in the beverage it will dilute the drink to a point we can be happy with! 

How long should you wait before cooling the coffee? 

I use espresso immediately, as mentioned lots of ice can help this a lot. 

Can syrups properly dissolve in a cold drink? 

Yes of course, I usually add them with the hot espresso as they will mix easily with this before adding to the drink itself. 

Is there any way to avoid the drink going too watery because of the ice?

A much more concentrated recipe can help and lots of ice will chill the drink faster and slow down the process of dilution. 


Introducing Ben Lewis 

My name is Ben, or ‘Barista Benji’ and I have been in the coffee industry for 11 years. I have been competing in coffee competitions for the last 5 years and have been a finalist in the UK Latte Art Championship 3 times. I’ve been lucky enough to have the coffee industry take me all over the world and allow me to travel to places I’d always dreamed of, including: Colombia, Brazil and Australia. I have always had a passion for coffee but my main focus has always been latte art as it engages with people so easily and it has allowed me to connect with people all over the world.