Behind the Cup |August 5, 2020

A Summer Of Iced Coffee

Are you a fan of Iced Coffee? Have you tried all of the various ways to make it?

Summer is the joyous time of year when coffee drinkers all over the Northern Hemisphere put on shorts, clean up the BBQ grill, lather up in SPF 50, and think to themselves, “how can I make my beloved coffee a little cooler?”.

Let’s explore the chilly world of cold/iced coffee drinks and cover some of the basic principles to make sure you are drinking your frosty coffee beverages at the highest level of flavor. As Greenwell Farms 100% Kona Coffee is Hawaiian grown, we have a unique perspective on cold coffee. In the islands, iced coffee and cold coffee drinks are consumed all year side by side with hot coffee.

The Iced Coffee Fuss

Honestly, I didn’t grow up with iced coffee, and as I entered my young adult years, I always thought it was a little weird and continued to drink hot coffee even in the middle of summer. It wasn’t until I started living in Japan (with very hot and humid summers) that the delicious and uplifting power of a cold coffee drink became appealing. Now, I’m a fan. Good iced coffee has the power to hit the spot in the summer heat like nothing else, simultaneously cooling your core while giving you that much-needed boost of energy.

A Few Basics

There are a few basic categories for cold coffee and some general things to consider when making cold coffee drinks. Let’s explore these today and get you on the way to a summer of pure, refreshing cold coffee bliss.

Brew Strength

Anytime you are adding something to your coffee, you’ll need to make a stronger than usual brew so the coffee will stand up to the other flavors (this applies to the addition of ice cubes as well.)

Making your brew stronger can be as simple as increasing the ratio of coffee grounds to water or changing your extraction method. Whereas 16:1 is the common ratio in hot coffee, 15:1 may serve you better with cold coffee. Keep in mind though that if you like black iced coffee, there are ways of making your coffee without diluting it and negating the need to make it stronger.

Choosing a darker roast, like a French or Italian Roast, also helps the coffee stand up to additional ingredients.

Chilling Without Dilution

The most common ways to chill your coffee without diluting it with ice are:
• Make Coffee ice cubes (a great way to use leftover coffee)
• Try frozen plastic cubes or double-wall freezer cups (but honestly, I never loved this)
• Set coffee in the freezer for 40 minutes before serving (don’t forget it or you will have coffee slushies)
• Keep in the refrigerator overnight


Once you make iced coffee, how long will it last? It is not an exact answer as people have varying preferences but it does have a shelf-life. After 5-6 days, the flavors will start to degrade. Many people are comfortable using it for a couple of weeks but my rule is: brew it this week, drink it this week.

Caffeine Content

Cold Coffees, which are usually stronger brewed or use cold brew extraction methods, create higher caffeine concentrations. If you are sensitive to caffeine, be sure to drink smaller amounts at first (until you gauge your body’s reaction), or practice proper dilution.


Many of the mixed cold coffee drinks (Think Java Chip Frappuccino—about 600 calories) are packed with sugar, syrups, and creams that have the caloric content of an entire meal. If that’s your thing, no problem, but if you watch your calorie intake, beware. Learning to make these drinks at home with some portion control is a great way to enjoy your coffee drink without worrying about spending 6 hours at the gym working it off.


Summer coffee drinks can be pricey, so again learning to make iced coffee drinks at home can save you a tremendous amount of money over the summer. If you spend the money for premium coffees and learn to make them yourselves, in any style, you can save hundreds of dollars a year while drinking excellent specialty coffee.

Let’s Cover the 5 main Categories for Cold Coffee Drinks:

Basic Iced Coffee
Cold Brew
Smoothies with Coffee
Mixed Coffee Drinks (Think iced vanilla mocha with whipped cream)
Cold Coffee Cocktails

I haven’t included the Affogato on this list because it was the subject of our previous blog and it isn’t really a true cold coffee beverage.  I also haven’t included any instant cold coffee beverages…for fear of being kicked off the farm.

Basic Iced Coffee

Brew your coffee as you would normally. (Drip Maker, French Press, Pour-Over) Allow it to cool to room temperature, but don’t let it “cook” on the drip maker.

Put that room temperature brew in a glass jar and set in the refrigerator. Any time you want a drink, pour it over ice (or coffee ice cubes) and enjoy it black or with cream or sugar. Making a simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar, boiled until dissolved) will allow the syrup to mix with the cold coffee more easily than granules.

Maple syrup, brown sugar, honey, and coconut sugar are all acceptable alternative sweeteners.

Another popular way to make basic iced coffee has come to be known as “Japanese Iced Coffee” or “Flash Brewing”. The concept is to brew really strong hot coffee and pour it directly on ice. (keep the 16:1 water to coffee ratio but calculate both the ice and hot water in the water category. For example, 200 grams ice, 225 grams hot water, and 26.5 grams coffee.)

As the ice melts, you get the perfect coffee taste that many swear is more flavorful. You can keep that mix in your refrigerator for several days, but be careful not to dilute it further.

When using ice cubes, always use good water and avoid freezer-burned cubes.

Cold Brew

Cold Brew has really come into fashion in the last few years. It mellows the taste of coffee and is gentler on the stomach. Many people love it and many people say it’s terrible but it certainly will be part of the coffee world for many years to come.

Guests to our farm have told me that they felt cold brew wasn’t gentle on their tummies but cold brew is famous for its lower belly acidity. Owing to the fact that hot water never touches the coffee grounds, less of the oils are extracted and the oils are where you will find the majority of acidity.  Remember though, that when it is hot outside and you ingest a cold beverage quickly, it has the potential to cause mild belly irritation. Take the first few sips nice and slow.

The basic recipe is 1 cup of grounds to 4 cups of water.

Coarse grind the coffee and put it in a mason jar or pitcher, add cold water, and set in the fridge. Let it sit 18-24 hours. Strain through a filter.

This is your cold brew concentrate. It is high in caffeine and strong in flavor. Most people will add cold water to this in a 50/50 ratio. However, that also depends on the coffee, personal taste preference, and what else you are adding to the coffee.  If you’d like to experiment, try adding 10% at a time water dilution (10g of coffee concentrate to 1g of water, then 10g coffee to 2g of water and so on) and see where your taste buds come alive.

When making a cold brew with 100% Kona Coffee, I only dilute about 20% and drink it black.

Smoothies with Coffee

I love a good smoothie and when I learned I could get a caffeine injection while sipping on a creamy, fruity delight, I was sold.

I don’t like ice in my smoothies so I always use frozen fruit. We are lucky in Hawaii to have an all year abundance of fruit and so we are constantly freezing the extra or expiring. If that is not your situation, you can buy big bags of frozen mixed fruits and berries at Costco.

Basic Smoothie:
1 cup of frozen fruit (can be more or mix fresh and frozen)
½ cup of plain yogurt (the thicker the better-vanilla is also nice)
¾ to 1 cup of juice (cran-raspberry, blueberry, etc. try to use 100% real juice and avoid the sugar drink concentrates)

In the liquid category above, you can substitute coffee or do half juice and half coffee. In this recipe above you are not really after the coffee taste so much as a bit caffeine in your refreshing morning smoothie.  There is also a wide range of add-ins you can put in this smoothie for your personal health requirements including kale, cocoa powder, coconut milk, peanut butter, bee pollen, etc.)

If you want to enjoy the actual coffee taste in a smoothie form, then try this ratio:

Coffee Smoothie:
1 whole frozen banana
¼ cup frozen blueberries
1 cup (cold or room temperature) brewed coffee (French Roast stands up well to the other flavors)
1/4-1/2 cup vanilla yogurt

The banana and blueberry match surprisingly well with the coffee.

Click Here for more coffee smoothie inspiration.

Mixed Coffee Drinks

These non-alcoholic mixed coffee drinks are very popular at cafés all over the world. I’m sure you’ve heard of them. Here is a basic version imitating a famous caramel drink at a well-known company.

Cold Caramel Coffee:
2 cups of ice
1.5 cups of French Roast coffee (cooled or at room temperature)
1 cup of milk
¼ cup of caramel sauce + 2 tbs
2-3 tbs brown sugar
Whipped cream for topping

Put ice, coffee, milk, 1/4 cup of caramel sauce, and brown sugar in a blender and mix well. Pour into 2 glasses. Top with whipped cream and drizzle remaining caramel sauce over the cream.

Scour the net for a plethora of variations and recreations of the most popular café drinks.

Cold Coffee Cocktails

Long ago, Irish Coffee was an evening ritual in my life. (1.5 oz each of Irish Cream liqueur and Irish whiskey, in a cup of coffee, topped with whipped cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg.)

I liked these so much that it was hard to drink coffee any other way, so I had to force myself to give them up to get back to enjoying and understanding coffee as it comes off of the tree, and to sleep better.

There are, however, fabulous iced coffee cocktails, and if you are hanging out with friends (does anyone remember that?) on a warm summer evening and want to do something “interesting” serving up a coffee cocktail can help keep those evenings rolling forward with the team-up of caffeine and alcohol.

With names like The Mudslide, The Dirty Girl Scout, Espresso Martini, The Walking Dead (coffee and tequila) and The Dirty White Russian (2 oz Vodka, 1 oz Kahlúa, a shot of cold espresso, a splash of heavy cream) you get the feeling that life is too short to try them all…but do your best.

I hope this introduction to cold coffee drinks opens the door for you to explore the myriad ways of using your coffee for fun and enjoyment. Summer is a great time to experiment with something new and to refresh and relax with a tasty cold coffee beverage.

Aloha! Have a great Summer!

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