Japanese-Style Iced Coffee is the summertime coffee shop drink of your dreams, but made at home. This ice-cold cup of Joe is easy to prepare in a fancy pour-over carafe, wide-mouthed Kilner jar, or any heat-proof jug. Smooth, bright and deeply flavoured, this five-minute coffee drink will be your new summer ritual. Great on its own or with your favourite creamer.
My Mother’s “Iced Coffee”
My mother is no longer here but I always think of her when I drink iced coffee. A bit of a long-standing family joke, really. And, with the thermometer in the mid 20s, we are fairly getting through the iced coffee these days. So she is on my mind a lot.
Pretty much every morning growing up in southern Florida she would put on her General Electric drip coffee machine, drink a mug or two, then leave the pot sitting on its little hot plate throughout the morning – coffee strengthening to a bitter crescendo as the hours passed.
At some point in the morning, and no matter where she was in the house, my mother would invariably hear one of us rattling around in the kitchen. With her “mom ears” she would shout from up the stairs, “Don’t throw that out. I’m going to make iced cawfee.” A reflexive response. Like I might fuss, “you’ll have someone’s eye out with that” even if what is being thrown was a towel, into a laundry basket.
Obediently I would transfer the bitter brew to a mug – a film of coffee oil already slicking the surface – and pop it into the fridge.
The Joke Was On Me
I never saw an iced coffee emerge from the kitchen. Iced tea, yes. Quarts per day. Condensation dripping off the ever-present jug of iced black Pekoe. But never iced coffee. I don’t know if she made any when we weren’t around, but I am pretty sure I never saw her kick back on a hot afternoon (which they always are in Florida) with a frosty glass of iced coffee. And having actually tried to make iced coffee from cooled down, hot-brewed coffee I can understand why. It’s pretty crap. Too acidic and just plain wrong. Maybe my mother knew this all along. Her little joke on me.
So, What Is A Japanese-Style Iced Coffee?
Simply put, it is hot water poured over coffee and onto ice. So no waiting overnight for a “proper” cold brew. Or letting your hot coffee go cold and bitter a lá Bonnie (my mother).
You can of course just wing it and not use any measurements. But I’ve tinkered with a “recipe” – as much as this is a recipe in any case – and think I have a winner. Try it this way first and then do your own tinkering. I’ve used this method for the past five or six summers. It’s one I originally found on counterculturecoffee. Back when I originally saw it the website was just a place for coffee nerds to share essays, but I see that they’ve gone commercial. I’ve not tried their coffee though.
Why Should I Make It?
This Japanese-Style Iced Coffee recipe is for anyone who misses/can’t afford/can’t access a professionally made iced coffee drink. If you use top-notch roasted beans, this might even be better than pro.
- It is very easy and quick to make – about five minutes.
- The pour over method releases all of the subtle aromatics of good coffee. And probably of bad coffee. But we won’t go there. 🙂 If you already make pour over coffee you will know this to be true. Assuming you are getting small batch coffee – whole beans to prep at home, or medium ground – you will access the hitherto undetectable aromas and tastes that quality coffees tend to list on the (handwritten) pack. You know, chocolate, spices, berries, stone fruit, sweet herbs, nuts, or brown sugar. All the good things! I’ve found an excellent American article that may help you decide what kind of coffee suits your tastes.
- As with the taste complexity, your pour over iced coffee will also have just the right amount of acidity, but no bitterness. No bitterness whatsoever. Bitterness is always in the way it is prepared. It is not the beans’ fault. Even if you normally drink milk with your hot coffee you may want to take this drink black just to experience the true complexity of good coffee. And, for me at least, there is always a faint background sweetness. Perhaps this echoes its past life as a sweetly jasmine-scented flower.
- It’s much quicker than slow-drip cold brew, which takes about up to 12 hours. Or even my own Pinterest-favourite, Cold Brew Coffee In a French Press/Cafetiere, which takes 6-12 hands-off hours. My past recipe gives a very similar result to this Japanese one, but is more suited to the patient or organized!.
- It tastes flipping gorgeous.
What Do I Need To Make Japanese-Style Iced Coffee?
You will see that I have a fancy-ish Chemex pour-over brewer/carafe. I feel very fancy using it, too. But honestly you can make this with ice in a Pyrex jug, a paper filter – or even a fine muslin cloth – nestled into a fine-mesh sieve laid over. Or even a large Mason or Kilner jar with a ceramic or stainless steel pour-over coffee cone placed snugly on top. You just need room in your vessel for the ice and the gently dripping coffee.
Good quality roasted coffee beans – whole to grind yourself or pre-ground. For a 6-cup Chemex Coffee Maker like I have, choose medium ground. For a smaller vessel, choose a finer grind or the filter might get a bit clogged as the cone is usually quite narrow.
Digital weighing scale – if you are going to make a truly great iced coffee, weighing is superior to cup measures
Your vessel – pour over brewer (like I have), wide-mouthed jar, or heat-proof jug
Pour over cone (for atop a Mason jar or similar) or fine-mesh sieve (for a heatproof jug)
Appropriate filter paper, if needed. The ones I bought are too big for my carafe, but it doesn’t affect the brewing. You could also get away with a fine muslin cloth if using a sieve over a jug.
Kettle to boil the water
Ice cubes – large ones if possible. Like you get in a bag at the convenience store.
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Chemex 6-cup Coffee Maker (what I use)
Gooseneck Kettle – Coffee Gator Pour Over Kettle -1.2 Litre This hob-top kettle great for if you plan on making lots of Japanese-style iced coffee as it is much easier to control the water flow. But I use an ordinary electric kettle.
Salter Digital Kitchen Weighing Scales – Stainless Steel – this is the one that I use
Time To Brew
While the sun is shining I will go and get my own brew going. Do join me by trying this simple recipe, adjusting to your liking. I like mine – a robust decaf – fairly strong. But you do you. If you like yours a bit tamer, either use a little less coffee – so down to 25g – or more water. Play around with the ratio.
The recipe makes two small glasses or one big glass. Do up the quantity if your carafe is big like mine. I usually make double and keep the rest in a flip lid Kilner bottle to finish off the next day – if I’m not sharing with Andrew. But honestly, I could legit drink it all in one go!
I hope you all are keeping well and enjoying some nice weather. Next time I’m coming back with a flavour-packed easy dinner recipe. Look out for it. Until then, thanks for reading and cooking Food To Glow!
How To Make Japanese-Style Iced Coffee
The short-cut to a deeply-flavored, bright and complex yet easy-drinking iced coffee. No need for fancy equipment - just a kitchen scale.
- 170 g ice cubes
- 30 g medium grind coffee preferably freshly ground or recently ground
- 335 ml boiling water
- 40 ml almond milk, optional or coconut milk, cream, or whatever you like
- extra ice to serve
Place your Chemex, heat-proof jug or wide-mouthed jar on a weighing scale and set to "0". Add ice cubes to 170g.
Wet the paper filter if using (some inserts don't need a paper filter) and wring gently. Set over your vessel or into sieve or pour-over filter insert.
Zero the weighing scale and add the measured coffee to the damp filter paper or fine-mesh filter cone
Boil 335ml of water or larger amount if that's easier.
Zero the weighing scales and slowly add just enough boiling water to dampen the coffee grounds. Leave 20 seconds. This allows the coffee's aromatics to "bloom" and develop.
Very gradually add the remaining water, trying not to add much more than the level of where the coffee sits. This is why a gooseneck style kettle is good as it is easier to do this step. But it isn't crucial to be this careful - more of an aficionado/coffee house step. It normally takes me about six minutes to carefully pour over the water. But honestly, even if you pour the boiling water in two stages (it would spill over if done in a single pour), your coffee will be incredible.
You will see that the ice melts as the coffee slowly drips in. Once the coffee has finished dripping, remove the filter paper or pour over cone and give the jug, carafe or jar a gentle swirl to fully melt any remaining ice.
Now it is just a matter of adding ice to two glasses and pouring in the freshly brewed yet remarkably cold coffee. Pour over cream or milk, adding any sweetener if you like. You will probably find that even if you normally take a bit of sugar that this method will give a natural gentle sweetness.
This may sound a bit of a faff the way I have perhaps over-described the method. But once you have done it once, and experienced the taste and really how easy it is, you will want to do this all summer long. It's a keeper.
Make as much of this coffee as your coffee vessel will allow, pouring the remainder in a stoppered bottle and popping in the fridge. The coffee will still taste great the next day.
Good quality coffee really shines with this method. You will no doubt taste the flavour notes that are often stated on the packaging, such as chocolate, caramel, berries, nuts, etc.