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Keep it Chill: Cold Brew, Iced Coffee, and 'Snap Chilled.'

When the warmer months come around, many of us reach for an iced tea or lemonade. But there's another chilled beverage that is equally refreshing, energizing, and wonderfully varied — iced coffee. With origins dating back to 16th century Japan, iced coffee has evolved throughout history, both in its brewing methods and presentation. Today, coffee drinkers can enjoy creations like cold brew, nitro cold brew, and newer innovations like snap chilled coffee.
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Keep it Chill: Cold Brew, Iced Coffee, and 'Snap Chilled.'

With summer in full swing, many of us are reaching for a cold beverage to beat the heat. But besides the usual iced tea and lemonade this warm season, there's another chilled beverage that is equally refreshing, energizing, and wonderfully varied — iced coffee. 

Iced coffee today has many looks, whether it be cold brew, nitro brew, or an iced americano. It can come in a wide range of textures, like crunchy granitas or creamy iced lattes. It can be made in single servings or in large batches that store well in your fridge. In other words, the world of iced coffee is an exciting one that provides consumers with plenty of creative liberty and diversity to choose from. 

Apart from its increasing popularity today, iced coffee has a long history that details how this chilled phenomenon made its way into coffee shops across the globe. But today's recipes are not the end of this drink's story. Iced coffee's brewing methods and technology are constantly evolving, making it one of the most dynamic areas within the coffee space to explore. Here is everything you need to know about iced coffee, ranging from cold brew to the latest "snap chilled" trend. 

Origins of Iced Coffee

Iced coffee's origins aren't explicitly clear, but various accounts provide helpful context clues to its creation. With that being said, it's best to assume that it evolved independently in various parts of the world at different times, all of which eventually made their way into our modern-day coffee shop. 

One of the earliest accounts of cold brew coffee dates back to 17th century Kyoto, Japan, where something called ""Kyoto-style"" coffee was born. Coffee brewers in Kyoto would use individual water droplets from melted ice on coffee grounds to slowly extract the brewed coffee. This process, of course, took much longer than current methods but jumpstarted a long-held tradition that is still alive in the region today. It's believed that the Japanese were introduced to coffee by Dutch traders who were active in East Asia and planted the first Arabica trees in present-day Indonesia.

From a Eurocentric lens, the first iced coffee drink that entered cafés on the continent was the beloved ""Mazagran."" Named after the French legion soldiers who fought the Arabs and Berbers in Algeria, the drink was invented in 1840 and is still commonly enjoyed across Europe with the occasional modification. For example, this popular drink is commonly paired with fresh lemon in Portugal and a hint of rum in Austria.  

As legend has it, French soldiers eventually ran out of milk on the frontlines and began adding water instead to dilute their strong coffee. The beverage also proved effective in helping combat the heat and was eventually popularized by creating coffee syrups that can be mixed with water and ice. 

It wasn't until 1957 that the world was introduced to another European spin on iced coffee that still has wide popularity today – the Greek frappé. Invented by Dimitris Vakondios, a Nescafé representative, the drink is made by vigorously whipping instant coffee and cold water together to form a rich foamy consistency. It's believed that the frappé's creation was an accident after Vakondios visited the Thessaloniki International Fair and learned that he didn't have access to hot water. A little experimentation eventually led to the invention of a Greek classic. 
Fast-forward to 1995, and coffee chain giant Starbucks trademarked the word "us-Keep it Chill: Cold Brew, Iced Coffee, and 'Snap Chilled.-hero-01frappuccino” — aka frappé + cappuccino. Iced coffees were eventually marketed to the masses as blended drinks that can be topped with various syrups or whip cream, changing the image of cold coffee forever.

Iced Coffee's Rise In Popularity

According to a recent report published by Technavio, the iced coffee market in North America experienced a 26.24% growth in 2021 and is expected to reach a value of $1.37 billion by 2025. These numbers reflect the growing number of brands selling canned iced coffee drinks, but the trend goes beyond retail sales. In today's coffee shops, iced coffee beverages are a staple on menus, with 20% of coffee consumers in the United States drinking iced coffee at least once a week, according to Vending Market Watch.

The Many Faces of Iced Coffee

When exploring ice coffee variations, one will inevitably come across several interpretations, including sweeteners, varying levels of creamers, and other add-ons. But for the sake of conciseness, iced coffees can be broken up into three categories: espresso-based, cold brew, and blended.

Espresso-Based

Espresso-based iced coffees are prepared similarly to hot coffee beverages, except water and milk are poured rather than heated or steamed. Here are some common examples:

Iced Americano

A double shot of espresso poured over water and ice.

Iced Latte

A double shot of espresso poured over milk and ice. 

Iced Espresso

A double shot of espresso poured over ice. A small pour of milk is optional.

Mazagran

A double shot of espresso is mixed with sugar and lemon juice, and poured over ice.

Cold Brew

Cold Brew

Coarse coffee grounds and cold water are stirred together and left to steep for a minimum of 12 hours. The brewed coffee is strained before consumption. Cold brew's potency can be adjusted to create concentrates for other iced coffee drinks. Coffee bags are a popular option for this brewing method as well.

Nitro Cold Brew

Nitro cold brew has a higher ratio of coffee and is infused with nitrogen bubbles to create a creamier texture. The final result is similar to a draught beer in appearance and has a more subtle flavor profile.

Blended

Greek Frappé

Also known as "whipped coffee," these creamy iced coffee drinks are made with instant coffee or espresso. The brewed coffee is rapidly whisked with sugar to produce a cream spooned into iced milk.

Blended Frappé
Strong espresso can be blended with ice, milk, and various flavorings like caramel, chocolate syrup, and simple syrup to create a crunchy yet refreshing drink.

Chilled Innovations: Snapchilled

Pioneered by MIT alumnus David Dussault, snap chilling is the latest innovation in iced coffee that's making a big splash on the market. The process begins by brewing coffee hot to extract all of the grounds' flavors and aromas into the product. The coffee is then instantly chilled to very low temperatures in a few minutes and canned for distribution. As a result, snap chilling helps guarantee full flavor and body in every can. 

So if you're looking to enjoy the delicious flavors of coffee poolside this summer, don't feel limited to the standard drip. Experiment in your home coffee station and taste a refreshingly tart mazagran, a creamy iced latte with your favorite oat milk, or perhaps a can of snap chilled coffee for a portable fix with a caffeinated kick.