Iced Coffee

My daughter looked at last night’s post, and asked why I didn’t talk about iced coffee. This post is for her.

Obviously, due to how I learned to love coffee I associate it with warmth. But yes, iced coffee can be good. There are a couple of important things that have a major influence when making some, however. Those two things are ice and cold.
Ice will melt. When it melts the water will dilute your coffee.

Cold food is blander. No, that’s not really fair. Cold numbs the taste buds and also tends to slow the evaporation of vapors carrying scents to the nose. As a result cold food seems blander.

These two things together have an overlapping fix. Specifically, the coffee going into an iced coffee needs to be stronger. Or you have to accept the coffee not being as strong. (If you’re a tea drinker you may have noticed a similar issue. Same deal, same problems, same solutions.)

A lot of iced coffees boost the taste by adding flavors – sugar, usually, though other spices slip in as well. Milk is another common addition. Milk creates a … what do you call an optical illusion for the mouth? A taste illusion? Whatever you call it, the coating and weight milk bring tease the tastebuds and make them think there’s more taste present.

There are three ways to brew the coffee for the iced coffee. One is the worst. The others have their respective fans and opponents, each insisting the other is barely better than the worst and only they have the True Cold Brew. For most of us, however, both the better ways produce a drinkable product.

The worst way is to brew a strong pot of coffee and put it in the refrigerator. The reason’s the oil in coffee. As I noted before, it breaks down fairly quickly and turns rancid. Putting it in the refrigerator delays this (it’s an old restaurant trick) but only by a couple of hours.

The two better ways are to brew host coffee and pour it immediately over the ice – in a perfect world brew it directly over the ice without delay – and to cold brew the coffee. The advantage of the former is that you bring the acids and bitters to the taste. Again, cold tends to hide taste so it’s one more cue to the tastebuds. The advantage of the cold brew is that you do NOT bring the acids and bitters, resulting in a very smooth drink.

Sweeteners can include sugar (of various types), gum syrup, honey, condensed milk, and fruit syrups ( fruit juices that have been reduced instead of those made by adding sugar to the juices, though the latter are also used.) Cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and coriander show up the most, but I’ve had mint and ginger and even cayenne. Salt can work just as it does for hot coffee; don’t overdo it. You can add this to the glass before or after the ice and before or after the coffee goes in – there are proponents for every variation. Once more Rule Four wins: It’s your drink for your taste buds. If it’s what you like, it’s right.

One last iced coffee before I quit for the evening, because it is entirely different. I’m speaking of the frappé. To begin with, it uses instant coffee. No, silly, you don’t brew a pot (or cup) of instant.

Take a couple of spoonfuls of instant coffee and put them in a small mixing bowl or a drink shaker. Add one, two, or four spoonfuls of sugar. Now add a quarter cup or so of water. Now comes the fun part: you want to mix this into a foam. If it’s a shaker you can just shake. In the bowl you can use electric beaters or a whisk or, well, you get the idea. Whip it to a foam and set it aside.

Put some ice in the glass you’re going to drink from, and add a quarter cup or so of milk (or half and half, or cream, as your taste requests). Pour in the foam. Now add water (use a bit of care, but it’s nowhere near as fragile as making mayonnaise) till the foam’s reached the top of the glass. Add a straw, give it a quick stir, and drink.

Enjoy.

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