How to Make Iced Coffee

Learning how to make iced coffee is a little trickier than you may realize. The challenge comes from the extra water that ice adds to the mix, which dilutes the flavor of the coffee unless you alter the strength of your brew.

Coffee Brewing Basics
To brew the best cup of coffee, you'll want to start with a clean coffee maker. It's imperative that you clean your coffee maker by running vinegar through it (followed by two rounds of clean water) once a month. This will keep your coffee maker clean and efficient.

You can use any kind of coffee maker you desire. Percolators and drip pots need the beans to be ground coarsely. Espresso machines need beans ground until they are very fine. Perhaps the favorite coffee maker of coffee aficionados is the French press, popular for both its presentation and the fine brew it produces. Using a French press forces you to make small batches of coffee at a time, which can be a fun part of entertaining.

Store Your Coffee Beans Properly
Make sure you use fresh, properly stored coffee beans. Coffee beans must be stored in airtight containers in cool, dark places. Exposure to air, light or heat will zap the flavor right from the coffee beans, so freshly ground coffee beans will produce the highest quality and most flavorful coffee. Invest in a coffee grinder and buy whole beans. Coffee only retains its flavor for two to three weeks, so store any excess coffee beans in the freezer in an airtight bag. Always return the bag to the freezer immediately after opening so as to preserve the flavor as best as possible.

An average cup of coffee is made with the ratio of 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of ground coffee for every 5 ounces of water. For iced coffee, you'll want to brew the coffee doubly strong to account for the ice. Another technique commonly used when making iced coffee is to make coffee ice cubes,  which makes it unnecessary to make the coffee so strong. Just make your pot of coffee as you usually like it and fill ice cube trays with the coffee and freeze them. Then you can throw those coffee ice cubes into your glass of iced coffee or even use them in the blender to make a blended iced coffee.

What Kind of Coffee Should You Use?
Most Americans drink medium roast coffee. For after-dinner coffee drinks, you will want to use anything from a medium roast to a dark or high roast coffee bean. Italian coffee is typically made with Italian roast, which is the darkest of the coffees, the beans being roasted until they are almost black. 

Should You Use Decaf Coffee?
There's no harm in making decaf iced coffee for the caffeine averse. A good decaffeinated coffee should not taste any less robust, rich or satisfying than caffeinated coffee, and your friends will thank you at bedtime. If you're worried that your decaf coffee won't taste as good as regular coffee, make sure you buy a premium, dark roast and brew small batches of coffee. If you're really not convinced decaf can taste as good as regular, mix the beans half and half. Your friends will get half the amount of caffeine in their after-dinner drink.

Keep in mind that even decaffeinated coffee is not 100% caffeine free. Most decaf coffees are 96% caffeine free.

How to Make Iced Coffee
For all of the iced coffee recipes described below, you will need to brew a pot of coffee (pay attention to whether the recipe calls for double strength or normal strength coffee) and then chill it in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Classic Iced Coffee

Ingredients:
5 ounces chilled, fresh-brewed, double-strength coffee (2 to 3 tablespoons of coffee per 5 ounces of water)
5 ice cubes, crushed
1 tablespoon cream
2 teaspoons sugar
Or 2 ounces sweetened evaporated milk in place of the cream and sugar

Mix coffee, cream and sugar together. Pour over ice into tall, clear glass. Serve immediately.

For a fun twist, pour coffee over crushed ice, then top with two ounces of sweetened, evaporated milk. This results in a very pretty, multi-toned glass of iced coffee. Serve with a long-handled spoon so your guests can mix their drinks before imbibing.

Blended Iced Coffee

Ingredients:
5 ounces chilled, fresh-brewed coffee, normal strength
5 coffee ice cubes
1 scoop vanilla ice cream
Whipped cream

Combine all ingredients in the blender and blend. Serve with a big dollop of whipped cream and a maraschino cherry. For added flair, dust the whipped cream with powdered cocoa or gourmet instant coffee.

Flavored Iced Coffee

Ingredients:
5 ounces chilled, fresh-brewed coffee, normal strength
5 coffee ice cubes
1 tablespoon cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon hazelnut coffee flavoring

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Pour into a tall, clear glass. Feel free to substitute any coffee flavoring for the hazelnut listed in this recipe. Garnish iced coffee with an appropriate garnish that corresponds with the flavor you have chosen. For example, shaved dark chocolate is the perfect garnish on top of a dollop of whipped cream if you've made a mocha iced coffee.

Dress Up Your Iced Coffee
You can dress up your iced coffee drinks by adding coffee ice cubes with a coffee bean frozen inside of each one for a fun touch. Just make sure you remember to tell your guests so no one chokes on a coffee bean. Another fun way to dress up iced coffee is to add a dollop of fresh whipped cream on the top. Serve the drink with a long handled spoon so your guests can mix the whipped cream into the iced coffee or eat it with the spoon. 

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A good cup of coffee is only as good as the coffee maker that brews it. Understanding the types, differences and additional features of each machine will help you find the right coffee maker for you.

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