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The Coffee Nerdist: Go Back in There and Chill Them Coffees Out

Even from deep within my office cubicle, I can hear your squeals of delight “The weather has turned. Summer is here! We haven’t a care in the world and now we’re free to douse ourselves in near-boiling HOT coffee!” What’s this? You say it’s too hot for the coffee? I’m here to inform you that thanks to the crack ice technologists of the 19th century our desires for coffee and chilly beverages CAN co-exist.

Where is this ice-ed coffee?

Regardless of the coffee you use, be sure to first cover the bases of buying good whole bean coffee. Your first instinct for choosing a coffee is probably “When I’m right, I’m right. And me? I’m always right.” And I’ll be the first to agree–who better than you knows what coffee you like to drink? And yet, it’s possible that you’re utterly wrong.

It’s not uncommon for your favorite hot brewed coffee to taste awful when brewed over ice. Some of this can be attributed to the iced coffee brewing process, but more of it is likely due to the flavors in the coffee you’re drinking.

Witness this all too familiar fine dining menu:

Entree: hot oozy shepherd’s pie, sopped up with a dinner roll? Delicious!

Dessert: shepherd’s pie ice cream (even when topped with a cherry and liberally sprinkled with nuts)? Disastrous.

As demonstrated above, there’s a time and a place for every flavor, you just need to find it. Therefore, your charge when you brew with ice is to find a coffee whose flavors you’ll enjoy when they’re chilly. For most folks, this will be a coffee that is sweet and has a medium to high acidity (we’re talking sparkly mouth tingles here, not pH you thirsty Thurston Howell the Thirds – think fresh squeezed orange juice vs. orange Kool-Aid; the OJ has more acidity or exciting mouth “pop”). In addition to this, when you’re flipping over bags to read at the coffee shop or grocery aisle (or scouring summaries at Sweet Marias to roast your own), consider descriptions that talk about fruit flavors you think you’ll enjoy. You’ll likely find yourself deciding between some Latin America and East Africa coffees because these growing regions tend to have the aforementioned acidity and subtle fruit flavors that yield a good iced coffee. Here are a few examples.

PT’s Coffee: Kenya – THIMU – Peaberry

Stumptown: Colombia La Esperanza

Counter Culture: Michicha Natural Sundried

Just remember, you’re the one holding the coffee pot and 10W30 funnel in your mouth, so if, before you pour, you find a coffee from some other growing region that tastes great, go for it. And after you do, please add it to the comments below. When in doubt, ask your friendly barista what coffee they use in the shop for iced and what coffee they recommend for brewing iced at home.

What do I do now?

While there are lots of good methods for brewing iced coffee (Toddy brewers, Chemex, Aeropress, and the like – thanks @sprobro), and some methods that are not (mildly nsfw)  I can’t resist the instant gratification of double-strength press pot coffee poured over ice.

Equipment- kettle, press pot, tablespoon measure, and a burr grinder if you can swing it.

Supplies- good tasting water, coffee, and ice

  • Start boiling your water
  • Grind your coffee coarse (look for a mention of press pot or French press in your grinder directions) and add the coffee to the press pot. When brewing hot, a good starting point is to combine 2 tablespoons of coffee for each 6 ounces of water. For this example, I’m using a press pot that yields just over 30 ounces of coffee, so I’ll need to grind double the normal amount- 20 tablespoons of coffee total.
  • Take your water off the boil and let it rest 30 seconds to cool just below boiling
  • Add water to the press, stir the grounds briefly so they all get soaked. Place the lid lightly on top of the press pot.
  • Set a timer for 4 minutes.
  • At the bell, slowly push down the press pot plunger, thereby separating the grounds from the brewed coffee.
  • Set out your glasses and fill them with enough ice such that when you pour, half of the cup will be ice and the other half your coffee.

Now, sit back, chilly glass of coffee in hand, pop in a Frosty the Snowman dvd and curse that you must go outside and mow in this damnable heat.

If you know of coffees that are delicious iced or if you have burning coffee questions that would make interesting Nerdist Coffee fodder, please @me – or add a comment below.

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  1. Brett Hanson says:

    @everyone- Thank you for the great comments, keep it (and questions) coming. Iā€™m very happy to be here and serve. ONE TECHNICAL NOTE: before you press down the plunger in the brewing sequence above, considering giving the coffee one more stir so the pushing isn’t so difficult.

    @Jordon- Good point. There do exist some Asia/Pacific region coffees that are washed processed and seem to have similar characteristics to washed East Africa and Latin America coffees. As always, keep drinking and keep commenting. You can never have too much knowledge or too much coffee.

    @Jack- Good one. From time to time I hear the entertaining rumor that Bodum trademarked “french press” so we’re supposed to call non-Bodum presses “press pots” which only succeeds in taking me back to my grade school clay/ceramics class. You may break into a chant of
    U-S-A! U-S-A!…. now.

    @al and @Nathania- Those methods sound similar to the Toddy method ( mentioned above. If you can wait 12 hours or overnight, you go. I need my coffees Nay-Owww, thus the 4 minute method above.

  2. Nathania Johnson says:

    Al’s right – the best – and in my opinion the ONLY – good method for making iced coffee is the cold brew. Which is actually a room temperature brew that occurs over 12 hours.

    Simply making hot coffee and pouring it over ice is not ice-brewed coffee.

    By the way, I’ve tried a variety of beans using the cold-brewed method and haven’t had a problem with taste.

  3. al says:

    I just discovered one could cold-brew at home using a press pot. Simply substitute hot water for cold and let it brew overnight! Super smooth!

  4. Jack says:

    Thanks for the article, just one correction; the proper name is “Freedom Press” not “French Press”

  5. Jordan says:

    Oddly enough, Sweet Maria’s Papua New Guinea peaberry was much like a Central American in my cuppings. I don’t think they have it right now, but it might be back sometime this year…

  6. Ezy Action says:

    Thanks for this post. I LOVE coffee, but always fail when it comes to brewing iced. I’ll try your method next time I’m ready for some iced!

  7. Betty says:

    Hey Guys,
    Okay, I give you PT’s as a thumbs up but wake up and smell the coffee. Try some new roasters….Ask anyone in specialty coffee.. It’s all about right now. GoCoffeeGo carries 15 of the country’s hottest award winning roasters. One site with one checkout. Roasted to order. Mix it up a bit will ya?!

  8. deb says:

    I know you asked for coffee recommendations, but I am reduced to what comes from certain regions due to extreme allergies–regardless of taste, unfortunately.
    In my family, coffee is medication: it helps us breathe (we never go “decaffeinated”), focus, and calm down enough to sleep (that was not a mis-type); this subject is near to my heart as a result.
    I just wanted to state how much I enjoyed the contribution for not only the technical side, but also for the quirky tone and humor used!

  9. Brandy says:

    So, you’re ok with pouring hot coffee over ice…it’s not shocking the coffee?? And how could you not recommend “cool beans”? šŸ™‚

  10. anthony says:

    delicious. i like to make espresso shots with my bialetti moka pot, pour it over ice, and add milk.