How To Make Incredible Iced Coffee At Home

Skip the long lines at the shop and make this icy drink yourself.

Southern Living How to Make Iced Coffee at Home

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Active Time:
5 mins
Total Time:
5 mins

If you’re already a coffee drinker (or a parent), you’re likely familiar with forgetting your cup of coffee and finding it cold hours later. Unlike the flavorful and rich drink you originally made, the stale brew in your mug requires a nuke at best, or worse, to be dumped in the sink.

Iced coffee is not that stale, sad, or cold coffee. Refreshing, sweet (without added sugars) and less acidic than hot coffee, when summer comes, I drink iced coffee and its fun younger sister, cold brew (more on the difference below). Whether you drink iced coffee all year or are a newbie, we'll break down three ways to make cold brew.

First, Is Iced Coffee Just Cold Brew?

While you may have heard these terms used interchangeably, iced coffee is not cold brew coffee. The difference lies in the extraction process.

Iced coffee is brewed hot and then cooled down (there are a few methods listed below), while cold brew is brewed using cold water. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, but it comes down to personal preference and time.

Unless you buy cold brew at your local cafe or in the refrigerated section at the supermarket, cold brew is the most time-intensive of the beverages, requiring a 12-hour steep. If you need your coffee fix ASAP (like many coffee devotee—myself included), cold brew may not be the right choice. 

How To Make the Best Iced Coffee

1. Turn hot coffee cold

Brew coffee as per the package instructions with a percolator, French press, or another coffee-making device. Remove the hot coffee from the carafe, and place it in an airtight container in the refrigerator until cold, one to two hours.

Keep the coffee in an airtight container in the fridge to prevent the coffee from oxidizing, getting stale, and musty. Add ice as desired, and enjoy with your favorite sweeteners or milk.

One drawback to this method is that the more ice added, the more diluted the coffee becomes. A simple remedy is to brew coffee with double the amount of grounds. Or make coffee ice cubes for an additional burst of coffee flavor by pouring any extra coffee into ice cube trays and freeze. Add the cubes to your iced coffee or drinks that need a caffeinated boost.

Southern Living How to Make Iced Coffee at home

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

2. Make Japanese-style iced coffee

The best of both worlds, this style of coffee is brewed with hot water directly onto ice cubes. Aromatic and straightforward to make, Japanese-style coffee brings out the flavors of the beans, while the ice flash freezes to preserve them. 

To explain this seeming contradiction: Set up your machine to make coffee following the machine's instructions, except place ice cubes in the carafe. The hot coffee will stream over the ice cubes and cool.

This process works well with other methods, especially pour-over coffee devices like the Chemex. An espresso maker or K-cup is another easy way to try this style of iced coffee.

Southern Living Iced Coffee at Home pouring coffee over ice

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

3. Use cold brew coffee

With a mellower flavor and a concentrated caffeinated kick, cold brew is many folks’ fave for good reason. Making this bevy at home will take a little planning and preparation (at least 12 hours before you want to enjoy it), but it’s well worth the wait.

Cold brew is slightly more caffeinated than iced coffee. For comparison, a 16-ounce cold brew at Starbucks has 205 milligrams of caffeine compared to 165 milligrams of caffeine in an iced coffee of the same size. 

Cold brew is favored for its almost creamy texture and naturally sweet flavor, which comes from the extraction method.

Start with coarsely ground coffee beans; grind them yourself, or many retailers will grind them for you (Costco, for example). Finely ground coffee won’t work for this method, as the final brew will be bitter and cloudy.

In a large container or the canister of a large French press, mix ¾ cup of ground coffee with 4 cups of room-temperature water. Leave on your counter, agitating every so often, for 12to 24 hours. Cover the container with cheesecloth, strain the mixture, or press down on the French press plunger.

Pour cold brew over ice, and add any milk or sweeteners you like. Cold brew can be kept in the fridge for two weeks covered.

Southern Living Iced Coffee at Home cold brew method

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Delicious Drinks That Start With Iced Coffee

Iced coffee is just the beginning. Here's what to add to your iced coffee to make the drink even more delicious!

  • Add a shot of Bailey's for an iced Irish coffee 
  • Add a simple flavored syrup for a coffee shop-inspired bevy at home
  • Add sweetened condensed milk for a Vietnamese-style coffee
  • Add freshly ground spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves to add depth to the drink
  • Blend your iced coffee with milk, ice, and a little sugar to make a frappé 


  • Ice

  • 1 cup brewed coffee, chilled or at room temperature

  • Half and half or nondairy creamer (optional)

  • Granulated sugar or other sweetener (optional)


  1. Add coffee to ice:

    Fill a glass with ice cubes. Pour brewed coffee over ice.

    Southern Living Iced Coffee at Home pouring coffee over ice

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

    Add half and half and sugar, if using. Stir until the coffee is cold.

    Southern Living Iced Coffee at home coffee in glasses to serve

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

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