This Japanese Way of Making Iced Coffee Is a Game Changer

Here's why it might be better than cold brew.

August  1, 2019

We originally published this article back in 2017, but we're bringing it back because: summer! Here, Valerio Farris dives into how to make Japanese iced coffee, with a helpful video to walk us through the process.

This summer officially cemented cold brew into the zeitgeist. The drink, prepared by steeping coffee beans in water for hours as opposed to brewing beans with hot liquid, is said to be less acidic, have a rounder flavor, and take to ice cubes better.

We buy cold brew in coffee shops, we make it in portable mugs, we add to it alcohol. So it may come as an unwelcome surprise to hear, amidst the haze of a cold brew infatuation, that coffee connoisseurs actually hate the stuff.

Peter Giuliano, director of the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s Symposium, is leading a movement to dethrone cold brew from its caffeine pulpit. In its place, he posits, should be a method of preparing cold coffee he learned in Japan. He dubs it, simply and literally, Japanese Iced Coffee.

Contrary to everything we’ve been taught, the method advocates for brewing the coffee directly onto ice. Watch this video to understand how and why this technique works.

To begin, Giuliano heats his water and prepares a drip brewer. A reduced amount of water poured over the top of the grounds results in a heartier coffee. This increased flavor is counteracted by the dilution that occurs when the hot liquid hits the ice, rendering a coffee that is “exactly the right strength.”

Why choose this method over the esteemed cold brew? Brewing coffee with hot water brings out flavor subtleties and nuances that soaking beans in room temperature water over night just cannot replicate. And while crowd favorite cold brew doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, maybe it’s time to fiddle with a new technique.

Would you attempt Giuliano’s method at home? Let us know in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Leslie
  • Sara S.
    Sara S.
  • Liza Pams
    Liza Pams
  • Celia Weaver
    Celia Weaver
  • Minirider
Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.


Leslie July 21, 2023
Tried it for the first time this morning with my Keurig. It's great. I can't believe I didn't figure this out myself. So simple, so cheap, so much better tasting than store bought cold brew. I'm going to have to try it in an espresso martini :)
Sara S. July 19, 2023
I just tried this and was blown away. Usually I doctor my iced coffee with almond milk and vanilla simple syrup, but even black this tasted great. I still need to tweak my technique a bit but will definitely continue using this in the future.
Liza P. July 14, 2023
My favorite way of making cold brew is using French Market Coffee with Chicory / medium to dark roast. Add a cup of coffee grinds (theirs is coarse, not fine) and 2.5 quarts of filtered water; leave on the counter 24hrs. Strain it and chill.
I tested several coffees, Market Coffee is the strongest flavored one, most others were flat, or too mild for my taste.
Celia W. July 13, 2023
Lol. I’ve been doing it this way for over 30 years. I tried traditional cold brew once and found it so flat, I went straight back to my old way. 👍
Minirider September 3, 2020
I used to make my iced coffee the “Japanese” way (didn’t know it was called that). I tried the cold brew method a few months ago and definitely prefer it. I like a very smooth, no bitter brew for both hot and cold coffee. Ultimately, whatever method gives you the taste you want should be how you brew!
Elissa F. August 4, 2019
This is nothing new - it is exactly how a keurig works - brew your coffee on a smaller cup setting over a glass of ice rather than a mug. Instant iced coffee! Works of course for iced tea as well.
Mary August 1, 2019
Looks like a new marketing ploy for Food 52 to sell new gadgets.
Diana S. August 1, 2019
Please, can someone suggest a good decaffeinated coffee? I have just about given up the quest. I do love coffee - just cannot take the caffeine. It's not the same without but certainly better than nothing!
Anneelise August 1, 2019
Hi! My sister in law was recently pregnant and drank the Allegro brand decaf from Whole Foods. I used it by accident a lot when I visited and thought it was really tasty. Hope that helps :)
Adrianne August 4, 2019
I enjoy Caribou Decaf
Kimberly S. August 24, 2019
You can brew coffee once before drinking to make the round you drink decaf, or at least significantly less caffeinated!
Gatodelsol August 1, 2019
I’ve been making iced coffee this way for years (I use an aeropress (inverted method) for both hot and iced coffee. Easy and great results. At coffee shops if I want iced I simply order a double espresso over ice.
pvtanzar May 20, 2019
12 oz glass, fill with ice from fridge dispenser, place under Keurig, strong (i.e French Roast) capsule, select 6 oz STRONG, easy-peasy!
kimikoftokyo March 13, 2019
This is. Great method that I have been using and very sweet taste. I wouldn’t do it any other way. I even store it in larger batches and use it for a few days You can taste the difference in a regular ice coffee/ brew method and just brewing the cofee and putting ice in it.
Joseph W. January 22, 2019
I'm concerned that the hot brewed coffee dripping on the ice cubes in my glass carafe will cause the carafe to explode. Yes? No? Maybe?
Dawn B. January 30, 2019
That was my concern, also! I would use a more substantial glass, and make sure there are no scratches or other damage to it before using. A canning jar would be a good choice as they’re meant to survive extreme temps. Good luck!
Leila November 8, 2018
I have been making Japanese method iced coffee for several years now. I make it in my Chemix. 6oz of ice in the bottom, and 6oz of hot H2O as the pour over 24 grams of coffee. Perfect every time. Yum! I use Giant Steps from Blue Bottle coffee out of San Francisco.
Celia W. July 13, 2023
Exactly! I’ve been doing it this way since forever! Last time I was in Italy the bartender put a double shot in a martini shaker with ice and shook away. Our came a smooth, wonderful foamy cold brew that he then added crème to. Omg delish!
Lynnie December 28, 2017
SHED, one of my favorite haunts in Healdsburg CA, has brewed their iced coffee this “Japanese” method since opening. It is iced coffee perfection, and sooooo easy to do at home. Variation of pouring hot, fresh espresso over ice (the “Italian” method) is a great alternate as well... love these both.
Victoria C. November 6, 2017
I make iced tea by the glass this way. I take a jelly jar glass, put a PG Tips teabag in it, fill it a little more than a quarter full of boiling water, brew it for 4 minutes, then add as many ice cubes as the glass will hold. The ice cubes will melt into the brewed tea, making a perfect, clear, single glass of ice tea. I don't drink my tea sweet, but if I did, I would add sugar before adding the boiling water, and proceed from there. The sugar would melt perfectly, and you would have a single glass of sweet tea. This seems pretty obvious, not like a great hack I figured out.
creamtea August 25, 2017
I have been doing this for years. I fill the glass with ice and make 1-1/2 to 2x strength with freshly-ground beans. Makes an excellent cup, lots of flavor. But I like cold-brew too.
Virginia H. August 24, 2017
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that probably not ALL coffee connoisseurs hate cold brew. And really, if you like it, what does it matter what the coffee snobs think? I'm a cold coffee addict and have tried it just about every way you can brew it. Cold brew is possibly my favorite. My husband and I make it weekly as a very strong concentrate which we dilute with ice and water (him) or cream (me). Contrary to the claims in this article, we find cold brewing brings out the best in most beans we've tried and we also prefer our coffee cold vs hot for this reason - we feel we actually get more flavor from cold coffee. I love it with cream because of the way it highlights the "toasty" quality of well roasted beans. The point is, there is no "right" way to brew your coffee - only the one you love most!
Sandi August 24, 2017
I would totally do this! I'm half Japanese and have probably had iced coffee brewed this way before, but just didn't know it. I'm going to try this, and also make a glass of the standard, "Leftover coffee poured over ice" method and see if I can tell the difference. ❄️☕️😁
zoro August 24, 2017
I always add chocolate milk anyway.
Dondi P. August 24, 2017
Cold brew isn't iced coffee - It's simply brewing without heat.

Another way to make good cold coffee via hot brewing is simply pop the coffee in the fridge overnight.