Iced coffee is tricky to get right. I’ve made this recipe for my last few barbecues, and it always gets compliments, so I think it’s ready to share.
The problem with iced coffee starts with the American expectation that iced drinks should be very large.
If you want to make a 32-ounce coffee of any sort that doesn’t suck, and doesn’t make you explode from overcaffeination when you drink it, I can’t help you. It’s simply too much liquid, especially as the correspondingly huge amount of ice melts and dilutes it over the half hour it should take you to drink that much.
Throw that expectation out. How can we make great iced coffee if it can be smaller and more densely flavored?
The same way we make great hot coffee: the AeroPress.
The idea behind my AeroPress iced coffee is to first make a very strong coffee concentrate. (Why not cold-brew? I don’t like the taste.)
To do this, I boil a lot of water and brew 40 grams of coffee per full AeroPress. (If you haven’t yet, get a scale.)
AeroPressing for multiple cups is a fine art itself, and the most useful tool I’ve found for this is Crate and Barrel’s Quadro Small Jug, a 16-ounce glass jug with an opening that fits the AeroPress’s base perfectly and is strong enough to withstand the pressure. (Disclaimer: If you find a way to shatter one of these or otherwise hurt yourself, I am not responsible. Do this at your own risk.)
Multi-shot brewing into a jar is too unwieldy to use the inverted-AeroPress method, so I just use the standard upright method.
40 grams should look ridiculous in the AeroPress. (And if it doesn’t foam up a lot and almost overflow like beer foam as you pour the water in, your coffee was roasted too long ago.)
I can get three 40-gram AeroPress brews into these 16-ounce jars. If you come up slightly short, top it off with more hot water.
With 120 grams of coffee per 16-ounce jar, this is very dense. (For reference, I normally use 9-15 grams to make one cup of hot coffee with the AeroPress.) Each jar should give you 5–10 cups, depending on how crazy you get with it.
When you’ve made enough for your intended use, refrigerate this concentrate until it’s cold. Don’t add ice — that will just dilute it. Good iced coffee takes time to chill.
The Sugar Question
While everything’s hot, you should prepare for the sugar question: are you going to serve this sweetened?
I always drink hot coffee black. It’s the only way. But I actually don’t like black iced coffee. (Please email Dan.)
You can stir in sugar when serving, but then it stays grainy and doesn’t dissolve. I suggest you take advantage of sugar’s ability to dissolve into hot water by either of two options:
- Add sugar to the concentrate while it’s hot, and stir it until it dissolves. Or:
- Make a simple syrup in a separate container by adding a lot of sugar to a few ounces of hot water, then stirring until it’s all dissolved.
I prefer the simple-syrup option with a twist: use dark brown sugar. The resulting solution should be dense enough that it’s as dark as coffee.
Anyway, let everything chill for a few hours, or overnight if you want. The concentrate lasts at least a few days in the refrigerator without any noticeable changes.
Rear jar: the dark-brown-sugar syrup. Fun glass half-and-half pitcher from MoMA.
When you’re ready to brew, treat the concentrate like liquor. It’s strong and dense, and you may regret overdoing it, so start small.
(And tell your guests the same, if it’s self-serve.)
Use a small juice or cocktail glass and pour about 2 ounces of concentrate over ice.
Add sugar and dairy as desired. I suggest a good amount of half-and-half. If it still tastes too strong, you can dilute with cold water, but I’ve never needed to — I’ve found that the ice dilutes it just the right amount over the course of drinking it.