Different Ways To Cold Brew: Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai and Korean Ice Coffee
If you're a coffee aficionado – or just a coffee drinker of any sort – you've probably heard of cold brew coffee, which has become the latest caffeinated craze for good reason. Everyone knows how to make iced coffee the basic way, pouring yesterday's leftover coffee into a cup of ice. Cold-brew is an upwards evolution from that procedure, but "cold brew" is made differently in different places. Your iced coffee recipe game is about to level up!
Let's check out some of the best cold brew and iced coffee recipes in the world. People are drinking cold brew coffee differently all over the world. Though all of the cold brew recipes and coffee cultures that will follow come from the region of Southeast Asia, all four are worlds apart, from the ingredients to the brewing process. Japanese flash-chilled iced coffee will perk you up in a pinch, while slow-brewed Vietnamese coffee is a whole experience to make and drink. Thai coffee uses special ingredients for its unique flavour, and Korean coffee is simple and quick and fun to experiment with.
Japanese Cold Brew Iced Coffee
Japan is already famous for all kinds of uniquely delicious food and beverages, but Japanese cold brew coffee remains one of the country's best-kept culinary secrets. Japanese iced coffee is known as "aisu kohi" in Japan.
Other cold brew methods involve coffee immersion in cold water, where it is steeped for hours at a time—usually a minimum of 12 hours, and often up to a full day. Japanese cold brew coffee is a much faster process that can more accurately be described as "flash chilled" because it's actually hot pour-over coffee brewed directly over ice.
Use a specialized Japanese cold brew coffee maker to get the perfect Japanese ice drip coffee. The Hario Glass v60 Brewing Kit is the best Japanese iced coffee maker on the market. Watch as it drips a single or a double pour down into a clear cup of ice below. To bring the joy of Japanese iced coffee to more people, try the Chemex Classic 6-Cup, a supremely elegant pour-over coffee maker that can brew up a 900mL batch of Japanese flash chilled coffee for six people in less than five minutes.
Of course, you'll need the right coffee grind size to make the best possible iced coffee. Too fine or too coarse will change the flavour and the brew time. The Rok Coffee Grinder gives you the perfect size ground for your Japanese coffee, and it also requires less than half the revolutions and time that other manual grinders need – this means that it's the fastest way to get your Japanese iced cuppa on in the morning! The Rok Coffee Grinder can also be adjusted to accommodate different grind size settings, so if you ever want to switch it up to try iced coffee from other countries and cultures (more on these in a moment!), you certainly can. If you're interested in grinding your own coffee, check our guide to grinding coffee at home.
What's the big deal with Japanese ice drip coffee anyway? Can't you just brew up a big batch of cold brew coffee and call it a day? Actually, the difference in taste between cold drip vs cold brew coffee is astonishing. When you brew coffee with hot water – as you do for Japanese iced coffee – all of the flavours and aromatics get fully extracted. Then, all of those flavours and aromatics are locked in when the coffee hits the ice, keeping the bright and complex flavour intact. It's fresher and brighter than hot coffee because the flavours don't have a chance to oxidize (think of how hot coffee tastes after sitting in a pot for a while). Traditional cold brew coffee has the same advantages, but flash-chilled coffee does it in a fraction of the time and it's far easier to do at home – no giant vats of liquid. No storing of giant containers. Just cold brew coffee and satisfaction.
How To Make Japanese Cold Brew Iced Coffee
The process of making Japanese cold brew iced coffee is similar to making regular pour-over coffee. The critical difference is that the cold brew coffee ratio of grams of coffee to water is different for flash-chilled coffee than for a regular cold drip coffee ratio. Half of the brewing water in Japanese flash-chilled coffee will be replaced with ice in the cup. If you usually use 500g of hot water and 28g of coffee, you'll use 250g of water instead and the same amount of ice to drip on top of.
Set up your cold drip machine over a carafe full of ice. Add ground coffee to your filter and wet the grounds evenly with about an equal amount of water – 20 grams of coffee to 20 grams of water, and let the coffee bloom for about 30 seconds.
Once the coffee has bloomed, pour a little more than half of the hot brewing water into the filter in a circular motion, slowly and evenly over all the grounds. Let the water drip through for another 20 or 30 seconds. Finish off the water in the same circular motion and let all the coffee brew through.
The hot coffee should cool instantly over the ice, and you should now have an immediately drinkable, excellent flash-chilled Japanese iced coffee. Sweeten to taste and enjoy!
Thai Cold Brew Iced Coffee
You've probably already heard of Thai iced tea—that creamy, heavenly, milky concoction – but do you know about Thai iced coffee? That's right, Thai iced coffee is a thing – it's prepared similarly, and just as good (or better!) than its counterpart. It gets its unique flavour by blending strong coffee with spices like cardamom and sweet milk. Like other Thai food, Thai cold brew coffee is a delicate balance of many different and distinct flavours, each standing out on its own while blending together in a harmonious equilibrium.
Traditional Thai iced coffee, or "kafe yen" is called "oliang" and is brewed in a large cloth bag, much like a tea bag or a sock, attached to a metal ring with a handle. Coffee grounds go in the bag, which sits in a metal carafe. Hot water is poured over the coffee, into the bag, and steeped in the carafe.
To make Thai iced coffee at home, start with a Hario Drip Pot, which includes a reusable traditional Thai style cloth filter. This brewing method makes rich and aromatic coffee, preserving the delicate flavours of all the coffee oils as they drip into the glass carafe. If espresso is more your speed, that's okay too. Strong coffee is the most important ingredient in Thai iced coffee. Use a professional espresso machine like the ISOMAC Zaffiro Due to whip up a strong shot of espresso as the perfect base for an incredible Thai iced coffee.
Thai Iced Coffee Recipe
Start with very strong coffee, either espresso or extra-strength drip coffee brewed and steeped in a cloth filter. Whichever way you decide to brew it, make sure it's extra strong! Before you add water, mix in about half a teaspoon of ground cardamom, the secret to Thai iced coffee's incredible flavour.
Once you've got your spiced coffee base for the flavour, add sweetened milk to get the hallmark creamy consistency. You can use condensed milk, which is traditional, or you can use evaporated milk or half-and-half with added sugar.
The exact cold brew coffee ratio of milk, sugar, and coffee is up to you. Use coffee brewed the Thai traditional way, use cold brew espresso, or use extra strong coffee brewed and mixed the way you prefer. If it's strong, creamy, and sweet, you've got the cold brew ratio right!
Vietnamese Iced Coffee (Ca phe sua da)
Vietnam is famous for its coffee, and with good reason. Vietnamese coffee is strong, creamy, and flavorful...truly, a whole experience wrapped up in a glass.
On a hot morning, there's nothing better than a Vietnamese cold brew with sweet milk, known as "ca phe sua da".
Cold-brew Vietnamese coffee is a kind of art form in Vietnam. The setup and the brewing time are themselves part of the drinking process. It's traditionally brewed in individual portions in a small aluminium drip filter, called a "phin". The coffee grounds are put inside of a small cup, which nestles into a flat filter perched on top of the glass. After the hot water is poured over the grounds, the aluminium cup is topped with a little hat. Watching the strong coffee drip slowly into a clear glass is a kind of meditation.
After a few sips, most people can't help but wonder, "why is Vietnamese coffee so strong?" The answer lies in the Vietnamese cold brew coffee bean, which is almost always Robusta. While most of the coffee in the Western world is made with Arabica beans, which tend to be sweeter and softer in flavour, Robusta coffee beans have a richer, stronger, more bitter taste – and almost twice as much caffeine! The taste and smell are distinctive, and once you've had one cup you'll always be able to tell the difference.
You don't even need a Vietnamese coffee maker to enjoy this luxury at home. Use an Aerobie AeroPress Coffee Maker to make the perfect Vietnamese cold brew coffee. This kind of Aeropress is perfect for Vietnamese coffee because it preserves all the rich flavour and body of Robusta coffee beans.
If you are using a Vietnamese coffee maker, make sure you're using the right grind of coffee—it should be a medium-coarse grind, or else it will fall through the little filter holes in the coffee press. A Lume Portale Burr Grinder is a small, simple, powerful tool to give you the perfectly consistent grind for Vietnamese coffee and everything else.
Vietnamese Iced Coffee Recipe
The most popular way to drink Vietnamese drip iced coffee is with sweetened condensed milk, which is the perfect balance to the bitter, acidic, and rich Robusta coffee. If you can't get Vietnamese cold brew coffee beans, try chicory coffee, like the Café du Monde brand. Some people use regular French Roast. Try out a few kinds and find one with a strong, bold flavour. You'll also need condensed milk, and evaporated milk won't work as a substitute. Grab a few cans of this sweet, sticky, goopy necessity at any grocery store to keep on hand (you'll want to make this again!)
Add 2 tablespoons of coffee to your Vietnamese coffee press or Aeropress. Wet the grounds and let them bloom for at least a minute. Pack the coffee tight and pour water evenly over the grounds.
Have patience! The entire process should take 5 minutes or so, and longer means stronger. There should be only a single drip or two per second. While you're waiting, add two tablespoons of condensed milk to your drinking glass.
When the coffee is finished, stir it well into the condensed milk. Add ice and enjoy heaven in a glass! Of course, there's more than one way to skin this cat, so if you enjoy experimenting, then check out this Vietnamese Ice Coffee Recipe.
Korean Iced Coffee (Naeng-keopi)
Korean iced coffee is completely different from Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, and Western-style iced coffee. This style is often made from instant coffee, which is convenient because you can keep it on hand at all times to whip up a quick batch whenever the fancy strikes. Korean cold brew, or "Naeng-Keopi", can be made in a few different ways, which is part of the fun.
You don't even have to use instant coffee – try it with drip coffee and see the difference. Find the cold brew ratio of water, coffee, and additions like milk and honey that work for you. Experiment with different things. We'll give you a Korean iced coffee recipe, but you should experiment with different things and see what you like!
Korean Iced Coffee Recipe
You can start with instant coffee, as is common in Korea, but you can also brew a batch of drip coffee and add elements like creamer and honey to make it Korean-style. Change up the cold brew coffee grounds to water ratio to make the coffee stronger to your taste, or a little weaker to make the honey stand out. Unflavored coffee is the safest bet here, so it doesn't clash with the honey flavour, but who knows. Maybe a flavour like almond will set this iced coffee off!
Use a tablespoon of instant coffee per cup of cold water, and modify up that water-to-cold brew coffee ratio to taste. Add a few tablespoons of powdered creamer, and a tablespoon of honey for sweetness. Stir it up well and pour over ice for a quick and tasty iced coffee, perfect for a quick morning or lunch break.
The best part of this recipe is its convenience and flexibility.
All ingredients can be kept on hand and won't go bad, so you can keep everything ready in your cupboard for whenever a Korean coffee craving strikes.
Coffee Makers For Coffee Lovers
Which was the best cold brew coffee recipe on the list? Was it the Korean-style iced coffee with honey, and did you find a ratio that works for you? Maybe it was the gently spiced and creamy Thai iced coffee, with its unique blend of different flavours. Or maybe the flash-chilled Japanese coffee was what you needed to start your day, quickly freeze-locking all of the aromas and flavours of a hot coffee into a cool and refreshing iced coffee. Was it the meditation of a Vietnamese coffee, thick and sweet with condensed milk and worth the wait with every sip?
If any of this inspired you, know this is just the beginning. Check out Barista Warehouse to find the best cold drip coffee maker for your chosen morning cuppa, as well as other machines and grinders to experiment with. A whole world awaits lovers of cold brew and iced coffee, with styles and techniques from all over the globe, just waiting for you to fall in love.