Espresso is my favorite hot drink. But does it make a good cold drink? One of my friends recommended that I add frozen espresso cubes to my next batch of iced coffee. I tried it, but I wasn't too happy with the results.
Can you freeze a shot of espresso? Yes, but the character of espresso comes from the careful balance of hot coffee and foamy crema. These flavors break down as soon as the espresso starts to chill. Although it's possible to make espresso ice cubes, they won't taste nearly as good as frozen cold brew coffee.
So although frozen espresso is a possibility, it won't taste nearly as nice as you think. Once you understand how espresso freezes, you'll see why most coffee lovers prefer to use cold brew for their coffee cubes instead.
The Pros and Cons of Espresso Cubes
Although most coffee drinkers agree that you need to drink your espresso right away, plenty of people still freeze their leftover shots for later. Like most recipes, this is purely a matter of taste, and there are good reasons for either trying or abstaining from frozen espresso cubes.
|– Doesn't waste extra shots of espresso|
– Chills iced coffee without watering it down
– Adds strong flavor and high caffeine content to cold drinks
|– Crema may solidify in the cube|
– Coffee oils will be present after thawing
– Flavor will be bitter and syrupy
The main issue with freezing espresso is that it wreaks havoc on the crema. If you aren't careful, you can end up with clumps of half-frozen coffee oil floating in your iced drink.
Coffee that's extracted at low temperatures – like drip coffee or cold brew – typically doesn't have a lot of coffee oils in it. But espresso is extracted at extremely high temperatures, which extracts a surprising amount of coffee oil from the bean. This oil bubbles up into the delicious layer of crema on top of your shot.
What happens to the crema next depends on how you treat the shot. If you let it cool, the crema will oxidize and recombine with the espresso to create an extremely bitter flavor. If you place it in the freezer immediately, the crema will solidify into a frozen layer.
This layer of frozen crema will thaw at a different rate than the rest of the espresso cube. If you drop the cube in a cup of iced coffee, you'll end up with a floating clump of coffee oil, which won't taste very good.
So while it's possible to freeze espresso cubes, I wouldn't recommend it. You'll get much better results by making and freezing a strong batch of cold brew.
If you do decide to freeze your espresso, pay attention to the way it tastes. Some people like the taste of frozen crema; the only way to know if you're one of them is to try.
How to Make Frozen Coffee Ice Cubes
Frozen coffee cubes are a great thing to keep around, especially if you love iced coffee as much as I do. The recipe is simple, and you can use any type of coffee that you like.
- Brew the coffee. No matter your preferred method, go for a strong, dark brew with plenty of flavor.
- Chill the coffee. Never pour hot liquid into your ice cube tray; it will melt faster than you think.
- Freeze for 4-5 hours. Your cubes should be completely solid after about 4 hours in the freezer, but you can keep them in there as long as you like. I prefer to take them out of the tray and store them in a freezer bag or a plastic container.
Drop the cubes into a glass of cold brew coffee to add extra chill without watering down your drink. Alternatively, try pouring milk over a glass full of frozen coffee cubes for one of the best cups of iced coffee you've ever had.
I don't recommend adding milk or sugar to your coffee before you freeze it. Although these add-ins go great with normal coffee, they'll change the consistency of your frozen cubes. Stick to freezing straight coffee, and add the cream and sugar to your actual drink.
Freezing Cold Brew Coffee
Making cold brew coffee is as simple as soaking freshly-ground coffee beans in water for 12-24 hours. Once the coffee is as dark as you want it, simply strain the coffee grounds, and you'll have a smooth and delicious drink.
Since you're planning to freeze the coffee, I highly recommend using more coffee beans than normal. Cold flavors are less intense, so you'll need stronger coffee to amp up the taste. You should also play around with the type of beans to get a brew that you're proud to freeze.
Freezing Leftover Drip Coffee
If you have a regular drip coffee machine like this, there's nothing stopping you from turning your extra brew into delicious coffee cubes. You can also make a fresh batch intended specifically for freezing.
As with cold brew coffee, I recommend using more coffee beans to get a stronger flavor. If you freeze the leftovers from a normal batch of drip coffee, remember to turn your coffee machine off before you walk away. Otherwise, the coffee in the pot will start to condense, and you'll be left with a bitter, caramelized flavor.
Freezing an Espresso Shot
Let's say that your espresso machine is prepped and ready, you don't have another brewing method, and you really want frozen coffee shots for later in the day. Is there anything you can do?
Actually, there's one way to freeze espresso that just might work. Right after you pull the shot, wait a few seconds for the crema to rise to the surface. Then, use a spoon to scoop the crema off the top of the shot.
You should be left with a shot of strong coffee with little to no oil. It won't be perfect, but it should freeze more evenly, and the flavor won't be as bitter.
Storing Coffee Beans in the Freezer
Freezing a shot of espresso might not be a great idea, but freezing your espresso beans? That's a different story entirely.
The best coffee comes from fresh coffee beans. The more recently they were roasted, the stronger the flavor will be. Most batches of coffee will maintain their peak flavor for a full month. After that, you'll start to notice a dry and bitter taste.
But what if you can't drink an entire bag of coffee in one month? You definitely don't want to throw those delicious beans away, but you don't want to let the flavors die, either.
That's why many coffee drinkers have started freezing their leftover beans. Several unofficial tests have shown little to no recognizable difference between beans that were frozen and beans that were truly “fresh.”
One major advantage of freezing your beans is that you can save your favorite roasts – just like saving a particular vintage of wine. Always remember to label your beans, and consider moving them from their original bag into an airtight container.
If you decide to freeze your beans, pay attention to how long you keep them. Most frozen coffee is still good after 2-4 months. You might be able to keep it for longer, but don't expect your coffee to taste the same after more than a year. Freezer burn is your biggest enemy, so don't store your coffee directly in front of the freezer vents.
When you're finally ready to brew, take your beans out of the freezer, and let them thaw completely before grinding. Check the bag for moisture, and consider opening it to let in some air.
How long can a shot of espresso sit?
For best results, drink your espresso within 10-20 seconds after brewing. The crema starts to oxidize immediately after a shot of espresso is pulled, so the longer you wait, the more bitter the flavor will be.
Does freezing coffee change the way it tastes?
When you freeze coffee, the oils and the liquid cool at different temperatures, which can cause them to separate. This is why espresso doesn't freeze well, but low-oil brews like drip coffee or cold brew tend to freeze just fine.