Perfect iced coffee: Are you ready to embrace summer's biggest caffeine trend? 

As more and more people become at-home baristas, Martha Brennan heads out to ask some Cork cafés about their favourite way of making the perfect iced coffee
Perfect iced coffee: Are you ready to embrace summer's biggest caffeine trend? 

Mahers has noticed a huge increase in iced coffee orders. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Iced coffees have slowly been making their way to Ireland over the past few years and thanks to Instagram and Tiktok, 2021 seems to have to have especially brought about a chilled espresso boom.

Searches on Google for ‘how to make iced coffee’ have skyrocketed this month, with ‘oat milk’ and ‘cold brew' also becoming breakout topics in Ireland. 

Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages worldwide, according to Statista, with the average person drinking roughly 42.6 litres of it per year. In the US alone, the revenue made from coffee in 2021 has added up to over $81m.

So, it’s no surprise that Irish cafés are expanding their menus, with many taking cues from chain stores and adding iced options to their repertoires. Having grown up in the US, I've been delighted with the recent trend.

Some of my fondest childhood memories include stopping into Dunkin Donuts with my father on his way to work: a large iced for him and a small decaf with extra sugar for me. You would think feeding a child coffee would bother my poor mother, but having spent 20 years stateside, she had long been an iced brew addict herself by that stage. Even after 17 years back on Irish soil, I often hear ice crunching in our kitchen the second the sun starts to peak out in Cork. Intrigued by the idea that iced coffees might finally be becoming the norm here, I took to the road.

A family of brewers 

Martha Brennan with Frank Mackey of Mahers coffee in the company's Cork roastery. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Martha Brennan with Frank Mackey of Mahers coffee in the company's Cork roastery. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Frank Mackey's family knows a thing or two about coffee, having acquired Mahers back in 1991. Since then, they’ve grown the company into a booming nationwide business. Frank’s had a lot of customers asking about iced coffees over the past year, with iced lattes performing particularly well at their coffee box outside Cork Boat Club.

He thinks the trend is here to say, with social media and travel playing a huge part. “Americans would often ask for iced options and Australians also have completely different ways of making coffee to us. The days of instant coffee are gone,” he tells me during a tour of the company’s roastery in Frankfield.

To make their iced lattes, Mahers use their medium roast coffee, which is ground in house. “I add a little bit of brown sugar to the espresso as well, which not everybody likes, but I think it gives it the perfect mildly sweet taste and it binds well with the cold milk.” 

Frank Mackey of Mahers coffee making an iced latte. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Frank Mackey of Mahers coffee making an iced latte. Picture: Denis Minihane.

The first step is, of course, the ice. Many baristas also pour the milk into the cup before the espresso. “The ice gets the milk really cold and I find you have a better chance of the coffee binding if you put it in after and let the weight of it drop down,” Frank says.

Most will also use a double shot of espresso. Once it’s brewed, they simply pour it over the ice cold milk and leave the customer to stir. For an iced americano, no milk is added unless the customer wishes.

“I wouldn’t use syrups myself because I think they’re too sweet but people do like having a shot of hazelnut or vanilla as well and sometimes they get really fancy by layering whipped cream on top,” Frank says. These would probably be more in line with the snaps pouring in on social media. 

Not one for ruining a good thing, I stick with a plain Mahers' iced latte, a velvety smooth drink with a slightly sweet aftertaste. It's perfectly refreshing, even as the rain pours down outside. 

West is best 

Stone Valley Coffee Shop in Clonakilty. 
Stone Valley Coffee Shop in Clonakilty. 

A few days later on a rare sunny Wednesday in Clonakilty, I find myself outside of the colourful Stone Valley café, watching as groups of staycationers walk by, palms clammy from the condensation building on the plastic cups of iced coffee in their hands.

“Iced lattes have become really popular with younger people especially. It's all I've been making today,” barista Marcus Bateson tells me once I step inside. The shelves across from the counter are filled with a rainbow of bagged coffee, all roasted in Stone Valley’s West Cork roastery. The company was founded in 2017 by friends John Boyle and Tom Edwards, who, as you might guess by the Abbey Road clad coffee bags, are also musicians.

They opened the cafe two years ago and as they noticed the iced trend starting to grow, introduced iced americanos, lattes, and mochas to the menu. 

Stone Valley's iced mocha.
Stone Valley's iced mocha.

To make the latter, the baristas mix a shot of freshly brewed espresso with shavings of  Ó Conaill chocolate and pour it straight over a cup of Gloun Cross milk, or in a lot of cases, Minor Figures oat milk.

“Oat milk is huge these days. It’s all coming from the States. I think it’s that whole idea of walking around New York, sipping an iced latte from Starbucks in the sun, that we’re buying into,” Marcus says.

While we agree that walking around West Cork in the rain isn’t exactly the same, I think about how many of the Seattle chain stores have popped up around Ireland in recent years. Seven in Cork alone it turns out. 

“Orders for our iced coffees have doubled in the past year," John tells me. "When we first opened we had a little ice maker but now we have a big freezer in the back.” 

Stone Valley doesn't have any syrups available, which isn’t unusual. John and Marcus both think they would take from the taste of the coffee. “All you can taste is the syrup which would be a shame because we have really good coffee,” says Marcus. Upon tasting, I firmly agree.

Annie serving up delicious iced coffees in O' Neill's, Skibbereen.
Annie serving up delicious iced coffees in O' Neill's, Skibbereen.

About 25 minutes down the road from Stone Valley, you’ll find Skibbereen natives queuing outside the red door of O'Neill's, one of West Cork’s most popular cafés. As I'm in the area, I jump back in the car.

Baristas here also say a big no to flavoured syrups, instead making their own sugar syrup, which they offer to customers who order an iced coffee. Using West Cork Coffee, a shot of espresso is made, mixed with the syrup if requested, and poured over Gloun Cross milk or Oatly oat milk.

I go for an iced americano with syrup. The result is a deliciously smooth, mildly sweet coffee that had me returning twice more after my original stop. 

Boujee Guji

Grace Cronin testing out Guji Coffee in Cork's Marina Market. 
Grace Cronin testing out Guji Coffee in Cork's Marina Market. 

My next destination is Guji Coffee in Cork city. This bright pink stop opened last year in the Marina Market and has been plastered all over my newsfeed since. After trying the coffee, I can certainly see why.

Guji first opened in Tipperary and is the brainchild of Alan Andrews, who brought the popular Old Barracks Coffee Roasters’ beans to Cork in the form of a bubblegum shipping container. There are four different single-origin roasts, including a decaf option, on offer. You can also choose between an iced latte, iced mocha, iced americano, cold brew, and nitro cold brew.

I go with a medium roast iced vanilla latte, once I hear that the milk is seeped with vanilla rather than syrup. My expert taste testers, ergo bored friends, go for iced mochas - one with Califia Farms oat milk and another decaf. All three of us are impressed, including the one who never usually drinks coffee. 

Just as we turn the corner around the busy market, the sun even starts to peek out from beyond the docks. With that, we’re all equally excited about the possibility of a summer filled with sips of chilly iced coffees outdoors, and maybe even a wink of sleep once I get all of this caffeine out of my system.

What exactly is cold brew?

Guji Coffee's iced vanilla latte.
Guji Coffee's iced vanilla latte.

Following my trip to Guji, this is the exact question I pose to Rosemary Walsh, marketing manager for Frank and Honest coffee.

“An iced coffee is basically hot filtered coffee or espresso that is cooled down by adding ice or milk, whereas cold brew is made without heat,” she explains.

“The coffee beans are immersed in a bath of cold water for 20 hours and the extraction process creates a lovely, smooth coffee.” Frank and Honest also became aware of the growing iced coffee market in Ireland and have just launched a new canned cold brew range.

“We have three in the new range. One regular cold brew and two nitro. Nitro cold brew is infused with nitrogen, which is a gas, and all that does is give it a richer and creamier texture. It has a widget in it, like a can of Guinness, which gives it a little bit of a head as well.” 

Cold brew has about the same level of caffeine as regular iced coffee, says Rosemary, but the flavour profile is usually a little bit sweeter.

“It’s just a different brewing method. It’s a long, slow process but that slow brew extracts lovely flavours. Cold brew and iced coffee are really changing from something that was associated just with summer to all year round now.”

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