Every July, like clockwork, Google searches for iced coffee reach their yearly peak, which means cafes will start pushing their cold brews, iced lattes, and milky frappes. And despite eye-popping prices and inflated tipping culture, it’s nigh impossible to resist a couple shots of espresso tossed over ice on a hot, languid afternoon.
The only way you might convince yourself to save the $6 is if you can make an iced coffee at home. As daunting as that might sound, it’s 100% possible. And you don’t even have to go the cold brew route.
How To Make Instant Iced Coffee
As one self-proclaimed coffee “fiend” suggests in a post to r/Frugal, you only need two ingredients for a cheap iced coffee: instant coffee and ice.
“This is probably old news for many of you, but as someone who never used instant coffee other than for baking, I'm blown away,” they share.
What makes instant coffee perfect for iced drinks is that you can add it directly to cold water, milk, and ice without diluting the mixture. Even specialty drinks like frappes come together in minutes. Let’s say you want to make a mocha frappe, for instance. All you need to do is mix together milk, ice, instant coffee, and chocolate syrup in a blender — and voila, you’ve got a Starbucks drink for a fifth of the price.
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Summery instant coffee drinks are popular in other cultures, too, as other Redditors pointed out. One commenter writes that Greeks often mix instant coffee, water, ice, milk, and sweetener in a shaker bottle to make a frothy Greek frappe.
Skeptics should know that while plain, hot instant coffee does taste like a mixture of ash and gasoline, the combination of ice, milk, and sugar masks its more unpleasant flavors. (I’m speaking from experience.)
Some instant coffees are also better than others. While the original poster on Reddit recommends instant coffee from the dollar store, coffee snobs might be more willing to try something like Little's Columbian Premium Instant Coffee, which YouTube’s resident coffee snob James Hoffmann crowned the best supermarket instant coffee in 2020. Meanwhile, Waka Columbian Medium Roast took the crown in our own in-house instant coffee taste test.
For more iced coffee recipes — from brown sugar Dalgonas to iced caramel lattes — we recommend you peruse the comments section and check out the countless recipes online. We've also found that instant coffee can take dessert to the next level.