For the Best Iced Coffee, Take a Tip From the Bar

published Aug 26, 2021
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Credit: Rochelle Bilow

Here at Kitchn, we like iced coffee. A lot. Whether you’re a drink-it-all-year devotee, or a fair- (and warm-) weather fan, you’ve got to admit: Iced coffee is refreshing and delicious. If you want to take your iced coffee game from good to great (and why wouldn’t you?), just head on over to your bar cart.

Of course, we’re talking about shaken iced coffee! Mixing up your cold brew with a cocktail shaker creates a frothy drink with dense, tiny bubbles. “Anytime you shake a drink, whether it’s a cocktail or a coffee, you’re adding aeration and texture,” explains Adam Fournier, the bar director at Fellow in Los Angeles. Aeration and texture translate to a frothy, supremely enjoyable drinking experience (just ask James Bond). “We shake a drink to wake it up,” says Fournier, making coffee an actually perfect ingredient for the job. 

Why Shake Your Iced Coffee?

What makes shaken iced coffee so darn delicious? Four things happen when you shake your cold brew like a cocktail. 

1. It chills it super fast.

Why do bartenders shake cocktails? One of the simplest reasons is that it chills a drink in record time. This is a smart tactic for cold brew that’s not as icy and refreshing as you want it to be. Add room-temperature cold brew concentrate or fridge-cold coffee to an ice-filled cocktail shaker and you’ll have a brain-numbing frothy treat in less than 30 seconds. Fournier adds that in addition to chilling the drink, shaking will also dilute it. So it’s a good idea to start with strong coffee or, better yet, cold brew concentrate.

2. It dissolves sweeteners completely.

Granulated sugar won’t dissolve in cold drinks. Even liquid sweeteners, like simple syrup, honey, or maple can’t incorporate fully into your iced coffee by stirring alone, but shaking ensures that your entire drink will be perfectly homogenous — no more inconsistent sips.

3. It creates a great texture.

As we said above: Aeration is everything in shaken drinks. If you like bubbles, foam, and froth, you’re going to love shaken iced coffee. 

4. It’s fun!

It’s impossible not to crack a smile (and feel super cool) while shaking up your coffee. I may still be working on my technique, but using my shaker first thing in the morning brightens my day. I also love that I’m getting so much more mileage out of it and it’s keeping me in practice for happy hour.

Credit: Rochelle Bilow

How to Make Shaken Iced Coffee at Home

This technique borrows heavily from the classic Italian shakerato — which is just coffee, simple syrup, and ice, shaken vigorously, then strained into a glass. In this version, the mixture just gets poured into an ice-filled glass instead. When you’re building your drink, add your cold brew and sweetener, then fill it up with ice. This order of operations ensures that you won’t overfill the shaker. No cocktail shaker? No problem. Fournier says that protein shake blender bottles and even Mason jars will do the trick.

Close the lid tightly and shake vigorously for 15 to 20 seconds. The longer you shake, the more aerated and frothy your drink will be — it helps to use large ice cubes that won’t break down and melt as quickly. Immediately strain the coffee into a glass filled with ice, and enjoy!

A note on what type of coffee is best: As mentioned above, Fournier suggests using cold brew concentrate, which is meant to be diluted — a process that will happen naturally when you shake it with ice. Regular ol’ iced coffee works, too — just avoid doing this with hot coffee. “At least let it cool to room temperature before shaking it,” says Fournier.

Other Ways to Shake Up Your Iced Coffee

You can also use this technique for an iced latte. Either add the milk in with the coffee and sweetener, or try what bartenders call a dry shake: After you’ve shaken and poured the coffee, shake up the milk without any ice, then pour it on top to create a foamier layered drink. 

And if you really want to get fancy, take a page from the cocktail menu at Fellow. There, Fournier serves a drink called the Pomelo Espresso, which combines shaken cold brew, vanilla, and citrus — it’s topped off with a dash of tonic for extra effervescence, and a sweet-bitter note. And because we know you’re wondering: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with adding a splash of Kalhúa once in a while.

Do you make shaken iced coffee at home? Share your technique with us in the comments below!