How to Make the Ultimate Iced Coffee
Iced coffee is a daily ritual for so many people around the world. For many, iced coffee is a yearlong staple. Among our personal favorite kinds of iced coffee is Vietnamese iced coffee, known as cà phê sữa đá. In this guide, we’re making the ultimate Vietnamese iced coffee that’s sure to caffeinate while being delicious.
Before we dive into what comprises the ultimate iced coffee, let’s explore the foundations of what makes iced coffee what it is and the necessary components to ensuring that the ultimate iced coffee truly is ultimate.
What is Iced Coffee?
The essential parts of an iced coffee are more or less the same wherever you go. It’s in the name: ice and brewed coffee. Some places might use different types of ice like crushed ice or ice cubes, and some recipes might call for brewed coffee, instant coffee, or cold brew.
In essence, iced coffee is simply coffee with ice. Many popular methods of brewing coffee nowadays tend to involve brewing the coffee over ice, as can be seen with the phin filter, Hario V60, and drip. Even brewing methods that were not traditionally designed for it, like the Chemex, can be used to brew coffee over ice. Brewing over ice helps cool coffee quickly while minimizing potential dilution of water.
In addition to various brew styles for preparing iced coffee, there’s also many different types of iced coffee beverages. Some of the most famous variants of iced coffee are:
- Vietnamese iced coffee—cà phê sữa đá (phin brewed coffee + ice cubes + condensed milk)
- Frappuccino (coffee + milk + blended ice + whipped cream)
- Mazagran (coffee + ice cubes + lemon + sugar + rum)
- Iced espresso (espresso + ice cubes + cream and/or sugar)
No bias, but we love Vietnamese iced coffee; it’s a very special type of iced coffee that can’t easily be replicated (more on that later)! The combination of phin filter brewed coffee, Vietnamese robusta coffee beans, and condensed milk with ice creates a bold and complex drinking experience.
Why Vietnamese Coffee Beans?
This might not seem obvious at first (or perhaps too obvious), but one of the things that makes Vietnamese iced coffee so good is the coffee that is used to make it. Robusta coffee beans have 60% less sugars and fats compared to their arabica cousin, and also pack twice the amount of caffeine in the same volume.
The flavor of robusta coffee is ideal for Vietnamese iced coffee. Robusta beans yield a strong coffee that is aromatic as well as intense in flavor. It is a bold coffee that is chocolate-y, nutty, and smooth: the perfect complement for condensed milk.
The Ultimate Iced Coffee
To us, there’s no such thing as a mediocre iced coffee or an absolute right or wrong way to enjoy coffee. We believe that it is possible to make an amazing iced coffee every single time—so we’ve put together this short guide so that you, too, can make the ultimate iced coffee for the days when you want to take your brew game to the next level.
There are three elements that make up the perfect, ultimate iced coffee. If we take a closer look at each one and prepare them separately with the utmost care, we can combine them into the ultimate sum of their parts and thus make the ultimate iced coffee.
The first thing to take into account is what kind of coffee you want to drink. For a Vietnamese iced coffee, as we mentioned earlier, you’re going to need robusta beans. In addition to being bolder and pairing well with sweetness, Vietnamese coffee traditionally employs robusta coffee as most of the coffee produced in Vietnam is robusta. But if what you want is a brighter, more floral cup, then you can brew with arabica beans. A blend of the two is also a great idea for iced coffee that has both brightness and boldness.
Then, we must take into account what brewing methods there are on hand. If you have a brewing method that’s compatible with brewing over ice, that’s a great method and is perfect for making iced coffee right away. But if you have a little more time, there are two ways of preparing your coffee so that the flavor isn’t as diluted:
- Brew & chill. For this method, you can brew the coffee using whatever method you prefer. The trick is that after you brew it, you chill the coffee in the fridge or freezer, so that your ice cubes don’t melt instantly. This helps preserve the flavor and aroma, and your ice lasts longer in the cup.
- Cold brew. One of the advantages of cold brew is that you can make a big batch and keep it in the fridge for a long time. If you do this, you’ll have an option ready to go for making iced coffee. And since cold brew is already cold, you don’t need to worry about ice melting quickly, and therefore you’ll enjoy a fuller flavor in your iced coffee. Additionally, cold brew yields a very smooth and full bodied cup of coffee.
When it comes to ice, there is much that can be done to elevate frozen water! From the shape and size of your ice to what it’s actually made of, experimenting with the types of ice can yield very different final cups of coffee.
One of our favorite ways to make iced coffee is with large cubes or spheres of ice. These larger ice chunks have more surface area and melt slower than smaller cubes or crushed ice. For those looking for long lasting ice, there are even specialized ice makers that create dense ice cubes that can last hours!
For the ultimate iced coffee experience, there’s actually one way we can ice our coffee without watering it down: by using coffee ice. That’s right, we’re going to brew coffee, and then freeze it into ice cubes!
To create coffee ice, you first brew the coffee using your preferred brew method. If you’re going to make Vietnamese iced coffee, we recommend brewing coffee using a phin filter.
After you’ve brewed the coffee, wait three to four minutes for it to cool a little. You can also stir for one or two minutes to help it cool down. Then, pour it into an ice tray and freeze for a few hours. Once out of the freezer, the coffee ice cubes can be used and won’t water down your iced coffee! When these cubes melt, they’ll release additional coffee into your beverage, prolonging the bold flavor of your drink.
Another fun ice hack: you can also try applying the same principle of coffee ice to milk. Simply sweeten your milk of choice lightly if desired, pour it into an ice tray, and turn it into ice! It will make your coffee creamier as it melts, and you’ll end up with a very chilled and velvety beverage.
Milk in coffee is a universally beloved concept. These days, there are many options available to us as coffee loves from dairy to nut milk and beyond. Our trick to creating the ultimate iced coffee? Using coffee milk.
Coffee milk is, essentially, coffee-infused milk. This can be done in many ways such as coffee syrup or coffee extract, but we prefer using steeped coffee to align with the main brewed coffee component of the drink.
The easiest way you can go about making coffee milk is steeping coffee grounds in warm milk. Depending on how strong you want it, steep the desired amount of coffee grounds in 1-2 cups of warm milk of choice (also depending on how much you’d like to make at once) for 15 minutes and allow to cool.
We recommend a coarse grind for creating coffee milk. Note: the longer you steep, the stronger the final product will be! Similarly, you can create coffee milk via cold brewing overnight in the fridge.
The result will be a delicious flavored milk (even on its own) that makes for a stronger, bolder flavor in all types of iced coffee beverages.
For the ultimate Vietnamese iced coffee, we recommend infusing condensed milk with ground coffee via a hot water bath or by adding chilled brewed coffee concentrate (phin filter brewed coffee works best here)!
Making the Ultimate Iced Coffee
At last, it is time to put together all of our ingredients. You’ve got your coffee ice, your perfect coffee, and your coffee milk.
Why is this the ultimate iced coffee? By infusing each component of standard iced coffee with coffee, we’re ensuring that the final product is undiluted and extremely bold in flavor and strength.
When made using coffee-infused components, the ultimate iced coffee can get better over time!
As if coffee infused milk in coffee weren’t enough, because you’re using coffee ice, the flavor of your iced coffee will get bolder as the ice melts, and you won’t experience the same kind of dilution you may normally get when using ice made with water For lovers of strong coffee, this is an absolute blessing—a coffee that gets stronger over time!
An important thing to note is that the ultimate Vietnamese iced coffee is a huge caffeine hit as it contains coffee in not only the main liquid component, but also in the ice and condensed milk.
The ultimate iced coffee is an experience rather than a particular recipe that can be tailored to your tastes. You can take each of the elements in iced coffee—coffee, ice, and milk—and turn them into the perfect version of themselves for you.
If you like stronger iced coffee, you can make it by using robusta coffee instead of arabica. You can use coffee ice, too. You can even go as far as using coffee milk instead of regular milk for a triply caffeinated coffee. And, because it’s robusta, you’ll get twice the caffeine! Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong way to make the ultimate iced coffee and we encourage experimentation wherever you see fit. Coffee ice can be used in a plethora of other recipes, as can coffee milk and brewed coffee!