My Death Wish Coffee review was fairly popular, and I thought it would be nifty to follow it up with some tips on making
coffee espresso lattes iced lattes. At its heart, all forms of coffee are chemistry-in-action, and while I won’t pretend to understand that chemistry, trial and error has helped me optimize my favorite beverage.
Flavor Is Everything
First things first: I like my lattes iced and flavored with syrups. I don’t like the flavor of espresso, I like the flavor of espresso when it has been combined with a sugar-based, flavored sweetener and drowned in ice and milk. You can take your sugar-in-the-raw, simple syrup, and anything made from high fructose corn syrup, and do whatever you’d like except dump them into my iced lattes.
I noted in my Death Wish review that my daily driver sweetener is Torani’s Irish Cream. I also like Amoretti’s Premium Irish Cream, Amoretti’s Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean, and Torani’s French Vanilla. That’s pretty darned particular, but whatever your preferred syrupy poison, these tips will make your drink better.
There’s nothing more important than the beans. There are more roasts than you can shake a stick at, and you can buy beans grown in South America, Africa, Hawaii, Central America, the Arabian Peninsula, Asia, and a half dozen Caribbean islands. You can even buy coffee beans that have been shit out of a civet’s butt. It’s supposedly amazing, and I don’t know what a civet is*.
Everyone’s tastes differ, but I like dark roasts with nutty and/or chocolate notes. Many people like a lighter roast, though, and a lot of espresso purists prefer it with fruity notes. I can’t tell you what you’re going to like, but I will encourage you to try different beans and roasts and not settle for whatever’s on sale at the grocery store.
Here are some of my favorite roasts:
- Peet’s Coffee – Espresso Forte
- Peet’s Coffee – Arabian Mocha Java
- Death Wish Coffee – Death Wish Coffee (I’m going to try their Valhalla roast, too)
- There’s a little roaster in San Francisco whose name I can’t remember, but they have a roast called “Crop Duster” I found in a local farmer’s market. While I had two bad batches—the joys of a small roaster—the rest made the best espresso I’ve pulled.
Here’s my biggest tip. Chill your espresso and syrup mixture before adding ice or milk. Nothing else has had as profound an effect on the flavor of my iced lattes, and as near as I can tell, it’s all about the ice melt. Water from melting ice mixing with the espresso brings out the bitter. It also dilutes the drink.
Those two factors in combination make for a less-than-perfect iced latte, and I can’t abide such abominations.
What I do is mix the syrup and espresso and put it in the freezer. Thirty minutes works, and forty five minutes to an hour will turn my espresso/syrup into a very nice slush, if I can wait that long.
Some coffee shops try and solve the ice melt problem with a cold toddy, but I personally haven’t met a cold toddy I liked. I didn’t fancy cold-brew espressos, either. Your mileage will vary.
Cheat: If I’m in a hurry, I’ll chill my syrup (in my destination glass) while my espresso machine heats up. I’ve even frozen it overnight, which has the benefit of chilling the glass, too.
Cheat 2: Chill your milk, though be careful not to actually freeze it.
I can’t even describe the difference in flavor from an iced-when-hot latte and a iced-when-chilled latte, but I’ll try: the flavors hit my tongue differently, sit in my mouth differently, and taste better. Even more importantly, that flavor stays consistent until I finish it. I call this good.
Lastly—if you’ve made it this far—you probably think I’m bat-shit insane. I’m cool with that.
*The Asian palm civet is found in Asia and Southeast Asia, dwells in trees, and is distantly related to cats.