Sunday, May 30, 2010

Iced Coffee

For me summer cuisine is not just about grilled meats and slices of watermelon—beverages are often at the forefront of my summer experience. Hot days beg for crisp white wines, cool cucumber lemonade, refreshing iced tea, and, of course, on sweltering mornings there’s nothing quite like a glass of iced coffee. Now that summer is upon us, I’ve made my first batch of iced coffee for the season, and it’s perfect. What could be better than a chilled glass of dark, robust coffee?

Being a coffee connoisseur for many years I’d like to believe that I’ve learned a thing or two about making iced coffee. For me it all starts with the coffee. I opt for darker roasts in general, but I think they hold up particularly well for iced coffee—the flavors of dark coffee simply burst through the coolness. I like to make a large pot and immediately place it in the fridge to cool down. If you’ve ever experienced the burned taste of coffee that sits on the hot plate for too long then you know that you don’t want that bitterness transferring to your batch of iced coffee. I let it cool down in the fridge and then pour it into another container for storage. I also tend to make my iced coffee a little bit stronger than normal for more intense flavor.

I recently was turned on to the idea of coffee ice cubes from a friend’s Facebook status, and I finally put this genius concept into practice. From the pot of cooled coffee I filled up an ice tray and let it freeze. Coffee cubes eliminate the wateriness that often plagues most glasses of iced coffees as regular ice cubes melt in the drink. It’s the perfect way to keep your iced coffee tasting like coffee, not like water.

You can see a little coffee iceberg sticking out of the glass here:

Now, I’m a black coffee drinker, but sometimes I like a little milk in my iced coffee and I understand the need for sugar. When I first started drinking coffee I was about 12 years old and my “coffee” was actually half milk, half coffee, and several scoops of sugar. It took me nine years to go completely black, but like they say, once you go black you never go back. However, if you do like a little sugar in your coffee then I recommend making a simple syrup. Simple syrup is, well, pretty simple—just one part sugar and one part water. For example, take a cup of water and a cup of sugar and combine it in a sauce pan. Bring it to a boil and stir until the sugar dissolves. After the syrup cools, pour it into a storage container and use as needed. It’s also nice to have around for summer cocktails like mojitos and margaritas.

Here's to summer, sunshine, and iced coffee. Enjoy!

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