BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details
Expert Shopper Kitchen

How to make iced coffee for beginners

Easy iced coffee at home

Love iced coffee? It’s no secret that iced coffee is often more expensive than hot coffee at cafés. If you still want to indulge — but can’t stomach the steep prices — make iced coffee at home.

Making iced coffee is quite a simple process: Simply brew coffee, pour it over ice and top it off with milk or cream. If you’re wondering what your favorite barista is doing to make the perfect iced coffee, it boils down to using the right method and ingredient proportions.

Ready to enjoy iced coffee at home? Here’s a beginner-friendly guide to getting started. 

How to make iced coffee 

Make ice

The first step in making iced coffee is making ice. For most people, that means filling up the ice tray unless your refrigerator has a built-in ice maker. If you’re using the tray method, be prepared to wait about four hours for the ice to form.

Select whole beans or ground coffee

Determine whether you’ll make iced coffee from whole beans or ground coffee. If you’re not sure which one is better, here’s a rundown of the pros and cons of each:

Whole bean coffee: According to many coffee drinkers, whole bean coffee offers a fresh, robust flavor that ground coffee can’t replicate. While buying coffee by the bean is more expensive, beans stay fresher longer than ground coffee. 

Ground coffee: Usually the more affordable option. It’s praised for its convenience, making it a popular option for busy people. Some premium ground coffee is rich in flavor and aroma, though many coffee drinkers agree it’s very hit or miss.  

Choose a brewing method

There are now many ways to brew coffee. According to some consumers, certain methods yield better flavor, aroma or strength than others. 

  • Pour-over coffee makers are appreciated by coffee connoisseurs that would like to appreciate the finer flavors and aromas in coffee. The slower you pour water over coffee, the more flavorful the brew will be.
  • French presses are known for offering rich, full-bodied flavors. There aren’t any filters involved in this method, which means you won’t lose any flavor as the coffee passes through the machine. 
  • Pod coffee makers, like Keurig machines, use pods that contain freshly-sealed ground coffee. Because pods are pre-measured, you’re less likely to end up with a brew that is diluted or too strong.
  • Traditional coffee makers make it easy to mix and match ground coffee to achieve a custom flavor. Some of these coffee makers are also equipped with brew strength settings.
  • Instant coffee is as user-friendly as it gets when it comes to customizing coffee and flavor strength. It’s also considered the quickest and most affordable way to brew coffee.

Pouring immediately vs. chilling coffee

Once the coffee is brewed, the next step is to pour it over ice in the glass. However, there’s quite a heated debate as to when exactly that should be.

Some people prefer pouring freshly-brewed hot coffee over ice because they feel it’s more flavorful. If aroma plays a significant role in your iced coffee experience, individuals in this school of thought also indicate that aroma dissipates if you let the coffee cool down. 

Other people shy away from this method, stating that flavor is lost and diluted when hot coffee is poured over ice, causing it to melt. Instead, they recommend letting the coffee chill to at least room temperature before pouring. 

If you’re wondering which way is better, we recommend trying both ways to see which one you prefer. 

Top it off

Once you’ve poured coffee over ice in the glass, it’s time to top it off with milk, creamer or something else. Here are a few options worth trying:

  • Drink the iced coffee black and add sweetener or flavor.
  • Use half-and-half if you prefer a thicker creamer.
  • Use whole milk if you prefer a thicker, sweeter flavor.
  • Use reduced-fat milk if you’re partial to medium thickness and creaminess.
  • Stick to liquid coffee creamer if you’re into unique flavors.
  • If you’re looking for plant-based options, soy, almond or cashew milk offers moderate creaminess with modest amounts of sweetness.

Stir and enjoy

The final step in making iced coffee is stirring, which is best done with a coffee spoon or a cocktail spoon. These spoons reach the bottoms of most glasses and have slender necks that help slosh around ice and coffee for an even mixture.

Add sweetener 

Once you’ve begun stirring, you can add sweetener if desired; however, some people are satisfied with the sweetness level they experience with milk, creamer or sweeteners. Popular sweeteners include sugar, saccharin, sucralose, stevia, monk fruit sugar or coconut sugar.

Tips for making better iced coffee

  • Invest in better-quality coffee just for iced coffee. If it’s an occasional treat, it’s worth splurging on café-quality flavor and aroma.
  • Adjust coffee, milk and creamer ratios to find the best combination. Some people say they’ve begun using less milk and creamer so they can taste the coffee’s finer notes.
  • Boil or purify water before making ice cubes and coffee. This is said to improve the water’s overall quality and help the coffee flavor become more prominent.

What should I buy to make iced coffee at home?

OXO Good Grips No-Spill Ice Cube Tray

With a sealed lid and a comfortable handle, this tray makes it easy to retrieve ice cubes. It’s also BPA-free.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Bed Bath & Beyond

KitchenAid Blade Coffee Grinder

The stainless steel construction of this coffee grinder will last for years. It grinds whole beans with ease and makes up to 12 cups of coffee.

Where to buy: Sold by AmazonWayfair; Bed, Bath, & Beyond; Best Buy; Home Depot; and KitchenAid

Tervis 24oz. Insulated Tumbler

This extra-large tumbler with a lid has double-walled insulation to keep drinks colder longer. It’s also microwave, dishwasher and freezer safe. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Wayfair

Sian Babish is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

Share this post: