Imagine you’d love a beautiful cold cup of coffee on a hot summer’s day, but you have a dilemma – it’s too hot get in your car, drive to a coffee shop and buy one, while making a cold brew from scratch will take 24 hours. So, what’s the solution? How about a Japanese iced coffee?
This brewing guide will detail a recipe we use and instructions for Japanese-style iced coffee (also known as iced filter coffee). We’ll also compare it with cold brew and outline the best and worst aspects of this popular iced coffee brewing method.
What Is Japanese Iced Coffee?
Japanese-style iced coffee is a type of beverage that involves brewing the coffee directly on the ice. Unsurprisingly considering its name, the method first gained popularity in Japan. The most common Japanese iced coffee method uses pour-over drippers like the Kalita Wave, Hario V60, and Chemex.
You can also brew Japanese iced coffee with a drip coffee maker, allowing it to brew hot coffee straight into a cup filled with ice cubes.
This method begs the question, is it identical to brewing a cup of coffee and cooling it down with ice cubes? The finished beverage is similar, but there are variables to consider and tricks to improve the flavor. Let’s go through our recipe and explain the brewing process.
How To Make Japanese Iced Coffee
Japanese-Style Iced Coffee Recipe
Ingredients And Equipment
- Coffee grounds: 30 grams of medium-fine ground coffee
- Ice: 180 grams ice cubes
- Hot water: 270ml at 205 F (96 C)
- Brew time: 3-4 minutes
- Equipment: Pour-over drip brewer (such as the Hario v60, Kalita Wave, or Chemex), kettle, coffee scale. In this guide, we used Chemex.
Japanese Iced Coffee Method
1. Weigh and grind the beans
Weigh 30 grams of freshly roasted coffee beans and grind them to a medium-fine size (a little finer than you would typically use for pour-over).
2. Weigh ice and water
Weigh 180 grams of ice and pour them into a cup. Next, pour 270ml water into a kettle.
3. Rinse the paper filter and prepare the dripper
Rinse the filter as you would for standard pour-over, then position the dripper on the cup (which contains the ice cubes). Add coffee grounds to the filter.
4. Bloom the coffee
The water you use for blooming is approximately two to three times heavier than the coffee. Therefore, we recommend using 60 grams of water and bloom the grounds for around 45 seconds. Stir the coffee with a spoon for sufficient agitation.
5. Pour water
Pour in the remaining water slowly and in a circular motion. Try to achieve a brewing time of three minutes.
6. Stir the coffee
At the end of the brew, stir the coffee with a spoon and allow it to draw down.
7. Swirl the coffee
Swirl the decanter to ensure all the ice cubes melt.
8. Serve Iced Coffee
Add more ice cubes to a fresh cup, pour your freshly brewed coffee in and enjoy.
Tips For Improving Japanese Iced Coffee
As the steps above highlight, brewing Japanese iced coffee is very similar to brewing pour-over. However, there are plenty of variables that you need to take into account. It’s not simply coffee brewed over ice.
When coffee cools down, some of its aromatic intensity diminishes. In other words, it tastes less intense. This isn’t unique to coffee – it is true of any cold drink. Also, because the brewing process takes place directly on ice, melted ice dilutes the coffee, weakening the taste further. To counter this, we need to increase the extraction before the hot coffee meets the ice.
Japanese Iced Coffee Ratios
Two critical elements of brewing great Japanese iced coffee are the coffee to water ratio and ice to water ratio. Getting these ratios correct is the difference between a flavorful beverage and one that is too weak.
We use a 1:15 to 1:18 ratio of coffee to water for Japanese iced coffee, which is similar to the ratio for brewing hot coffee.
However, this coffee uses ice and hot water, meaning we also need to work out the best ice to water ratio. Our recipe uses 30 grams of coffee to brew 450ml. We use 40% of the coffee’s weight as ice and 60% hot water. So, we need 180ml of ice and 270ml of hot water. The 180ml of ice is for quickly cooling the coffee to room temperature. Anywhere between 35% and 45% of the weight in ice will work.
If you add too much ice, the extraction will be poor, and the coffee will become too cold. Once you’ve brewed and swirled as per the recipe, if you still have some ice that hasn’t melted in the brew, you’ve used too much.
For pour-over, we’d normally use medium grounds. However, because the Japanese iced coffee is diluted by ice, a finer size will extract a more robust flavor to avoid a weak cup of coffee.
Bloom Time And Brewing Time
We use a longer bloom and brewing time for Japanese iced coffee than we would for standard pour-over because that increased contact time leads to more extraction.
Proper agitation also helps increase extraction. We stir the coffee twice during the brewing process. Firstly, we stir it during blooming to ensure the coffee grounds are completely saturated ready for extraction. Then, we stir it again once the brewing is complete to ensure even extraction.
Proper extraction is key to making a perfect cup of coffee. As we have explained, Japanese iced coffee uses less hot water than regular pour-over and is diluted by ice. Therefore, it is imperative to increase the extraction wherever we can get to get a richer, more balanced cup of coffee. Measures including proper agitation, increased blooming and brewing times, and finer grounds help us achieve this.
What Makes Japanese Iced Coffee Special?
When you’re craving a cup of fresh iced coffee, Japanese iced coffee can be a fantastic option. But what sets it apart from cold brew? There are good reasons why it’s popular around the world. Let’s look at them.
It Preserves The Coffee Flavor
Brewing hot coffee preserves the characteristics of the beans and the original flavor, and even when you cool it down with ice, the unique taste and complexity of the coffee stay intact.
In contrast, cold water doesn’t extract the flavor compounds. This is why cold brew is low in bitterness and acidity, which is not a bad thing. However, brewing coffee in this way also removes many of the beans’ original characteristics and nuances of flavors.
Specialty coffee roasters source beans from around the world and are at pains to roast the beans in a way that retains their original characteristics and flavor. That’s why they cost more than other beans. If you’re using these premium beans to make cold brew, you’ll lose most of these complex flavors.
However, Japanese iced coffee is brewed in a way that ensures those flavors and aromas are retained as they are in hot brewed coffee. Therefore, you get to enjoy cold coffee without compromising on taste.
Shorter Brewing Time
It only takes around five minutes to brew a Japanese ice coffee, which is only a tad longer than a standard pour-over. So, you don’t need to leave it three to five hours for slow cold drip coffee or the 12 to 24 hours for cold brew using immersion. This is the best iced coffee brewing method for those in a rush.
Japanese Iced Coffee: What’s The Catch?
We now know that Japanese iced coffee offers a flavorful cold coffee in a fraction of the time needed for other cold brewing methods. However, there is one significant drawback: you can only brew one cup at a time. In contrast, you can brew a sizeable batch of cold brew coffee concentrate that you can then dilute for enough cups to keep you in coffee for a week.
Another smaller disadvantage is that you need to experiment to find the correct brew ratio, level of agitation, blooming, and brewing times. If you get these elements wrong, the dilution of the ice will lead to a weak coffee.
Japanese Style Iced Coffee Recipe
- V60 Pour Over Dripper, Kalita Wave or Chemex
- Coffee scale
- Coffee Grinder
- 30 grams ground coffee medium-fine grind size
- 180 grams Ice cubes
- 270 grams hot water Temperature 205°F (92ºC)
- Weigh 30 grams of coffee beans. Grind them to medium-fine size.
- Weigh 180 grams of ice and place the ice cubes into the cup. Fill water to a kettle and heat the water to 205 °F.
- Rinse the coffee filter, then place the dripper on the cup with ice. Add ground coffee to the filter.
- Use 60 grams of water to bloom the coffee for at least 45 seconds. Stir and mix the coffee with a spoon for proper agitation.
- Pour 270 grams of hot water over the coffee grounds, slower than usual pour-over. Try to increase the brewing time to three minutes.
- Use a spoon to stir the coffee in a circular motion at the end of the brew, and let it draw down.
- After brewing, swirl the coffee decanter to make sure all the ice cubes are melted.
- Prepare a cup with fresh ice cubes, pour the freshly brewed coffee to the cup and enjoy.
Japanese iced coffee is a quick, convenient way to enjoy cold coffee that retains the subtle flavors and characteristics of the beans. In this respect, it’s particularly good if you enjoy premium single-origin coffee beans.
It is also a fantastic brewing method with a manageable learning curve if you’re used to making regular pour-over because the methods are strikingly similar.
Yes, there are drawbacks, such as the fact that you can only make one cup at a time and will need to perfect ways to maximize the extraction. However, while the former can be frustrating, it is offset by the fact it only takes around five minutes to brew. Meanwhile, the latter problem is solvable with a little practice and attention to detail.
Considering the finished beverage is both refreshing and flavorful, there’s little wonder Japanese iced coffee is growing so popular. So next time you’re craving a cold coffee and don’t have either cold brew to hand or the inclination to get to your local coffee shops, we strongly recommend giving Japanese iced coffee a try!