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.

  • Minirider
  • Elissa Farrow Savos
    Elissa Farrow Savos
  • Mary
  • Diana Shapiro
    Diana Shapiro
  • Gatodelsol
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.


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.
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.

Christopher D. August 23, 2017
"Brewing coffee with hot water brings out flavor subtleties and nuances that soaking beans in room temperature water over night just cannot replicate." That isn't cold brew, at least it isn't the way I make it. I use a burr grinder, set on the coarsest grind setting, and put the grounds in a glass jar. I add cold filtered water and stir the mixture, then put it in the refrigerator. After about 8 hours, I filter the coffee. It tastes great and isn't bitter. When I make fresh hot coffee, I boil water then let it cool off a while before pouring over the coffee grounds. The brew doesn't have the bite that it would if I used hotter water, water closer to boiling temp.
Grace August 23, 2017
Hooray! There are others out there in agreement that cold brew loses flavor and is suboptimal coffee. I e never been a fan and I adore coffee.
Knightcraft August 23, 2017
Ummm... I'm a little taken aback by this article. Being in the upper end of the age spectrum of Food 52 fans I have to say that drip brewing stronger hot coffee into a carafe of ice has been the way we've made iced coffee for as long as I can remember. How is this considered new? My Italian grandmother made espresso, and poured it over iced milk for me in the summer. Holy cow! I guess I should have kept that to myself and called it a new invention!! Too late now... Enjoy!
William H. May 20, 2019
Yes! Me too...I was thinking how is this someone’s “method”. It’s what we’ve always done...
Fred C. August 23, 2017
I cold brew the conventional way in a 1/2 gallon. Munus 1 pint. Then i add 1 pint hot pour-over to the mixture. I gives the just the right bitterness without dilution.