Sweetened & Smooth Iced Coffee, Finally Without the Bitterness

“What’s this black sludge?” Not the words you want to hear from your husband while his head is in the fridge. When I told him it was an experiment, he looked even less convinced.


Last week I went to Starbucks with some co-workers for a little afternoon caffeine. One of my co-workers was sipping a Diet Coke instead of ordering coffee, so the barista decided to give her a little sass, “I think you should know,” he said, “since you’re not ordering a coffee… They did a study that showed soda was more effective at cleaning out car engines than other products.”

Now, the comment was unnecessary and snarky, and I’m not saying I believe him, but it did get me thinking.

I’ve always been a soda drinker more than a coffee drinker. My own breakfast of champions, I used to start out the day in high school with a Coca-Cola, followed by one at lunch and another when I got home from school. One can of Coke is, what, 140 calories? Multiply that by three and you get 420 extra calories per day that were giving me absolutely nothing in return. When I made the switch from regular Coke to Diet Pepsi back in college, I was thrilled to find that I also dropped a few pounds (byebye, extra 420 calories!). After and since college I finally dropped my soda consumption down to just one can a day (of course, not including weekends, free refills at restaurants, giant size fountain soda cups, etc…).


But even though I dropped those extra calories in regular soda and I decreased the volume I’m drinking, what am I really giving my body in return? Besides the sweet jolt of cold caffeine and the refreshing taste, ignoring the slightly troubling burn of soda as it goes down the throat, what is the nutritional value?

The Pepsi Products website lists the ingredients as CARBONATED WATER, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, CARAMEL COLOR, SUGAR, PHOSPHORIC ACID, CAFFEINE, CITRIC ACID, NATURAL FLAVORS. What’s really natural about soda?

I don’t mean to get preachy here. As far as vices go, one Diet Pepsi per day is pretty darn good! But what if I could replace one vice with a slightly less harmful and more natural vice?


And that’s how my husband arrived at “black sludge” in the fridge. The sludge was actually coffee grounds and water, being cold brewed overnight. I’ve read it’s the only way to make good iced coffee.

Before you recoil at the phrase iced coffee, know that I am a reformed skeptic/hater of the stuff. Every time I’d had it in the past it was sharp and bitter, too reminiscent of hot coffee gone cold and left to sit for hours in the pot. Then I tried Starbucks Iced Coffee, Sweetened, with Non-Fat Milk – only $1.95, beckoned the billboard outside the store (and only 80 calories, says the website). It was so much better than any iced coffee I’d had before, and I decided it was time to harness the power of iced coffee in my own home and pocket the $1.95.

strained coffee

I’ve seen a lot of recipes for iced coffee on the internet, and I’m sure you have too. Even the recipes that use the cold brew method, though, don’t seem to go that extra mile and tell you how to make it Starbucks style. If you’ve ever watched the TV show “True Blood,” there’s a scene where the grandmother wonders why on earth anybody would pay three bucks for “a cup of coffee with too much milk.” Well, I do it because I enjoy the extra milk and sweeteners! I also appreciate the ease of just walking in and grabbing a cup. The cold brew method does require a little planning ahead, but the prep is minimal.


For once I’m so glad I gave in to the billboard advertisement and tried a Starbucks iced coffee. Though I will say, I went back for a second one yesterday and it was very bitter and nowhere near as good as the first one. I’m thinking they may have forgotten to sweeten it, or maybe I’m just used to my home-brewed version by now! This recipe isn’t an exact replica of Starbucks of course, but it gives me exactly what I wanted – an ice cold, mostly natural, smooth, sweet and refreshing caffeinated beverage. It’s very much like the frappuccinos that you can buy in grocery stores.

This summer I’m going to try swapping out the additives and unnaturalness of soda without giving up the caffeine (this is officially my third day “off the sauce,” lots more to go!). Why don’t you try it with me?


Sweetened & Smooth Iced Coffee
Makes two cups

Total ingredients (water, sugar, milk and vanilla will be divided):
1/4 cup coffee grounds (not instant)
2 cups cold water
3 to 4 tablespoons sugar (*see note below)
1/2 cup non-fat milk
1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract

Handy tools – 2-cup measuring cup, wok skimmer or large strainer, coffee filter

Step 1: Combine 1/4 cup coffee grounds and 1 cup cold, filtered water in a 2-cup measuring cup. Stir to combine, and refrigerate overnight.

Step 2: The next morning, add the remaining 1 cup of cold, filtered water to the cold brewed coffee. Stir to combine. Pour into a separate large glass and rinse 2-cup measuring cup to use for next step.

Step 3: Set wok skimmer or strainer over the clean 2-cup measuring cup. Place paper filter inside strainer, and pour coffee mixture over paper filter to strain into the 2-cup measuring cup. This should take approximately 5 minutes (prop the long skimmer handle onto something so that you can do other things while this is straining. If you’d like to use your coffee machine instead, just filter grounds throu
gh machine without plugging in)

Step 4: Fill two large glasses with ice and divide cold coffee between glasses. Add 1/4 cup non-fat milk, 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract to each glass. Stir and enjoy!

*Note – For the best and most even distribution of sugar, consider making a simple syrup. You can actually make a good amount at once and then just store it in an empty bottle in the fridge to use as needed. Here is a great how-to for simple syrup.

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