Friday, April 26, 2013

I've discovered the joy of iced coffee

My relationship with coffee has always been a complicated one. I used to drink a lot of it--really strong, really black, usually on an empty stomach first thing in the morning.

Then, of course, that blew out the inside of my stomach. I started having intense gastrointestinal problems. Someone suggested that I quit drinking coffee and see if that helped. Regretfully, I stopped. And the problems disappeared. So I resigned myself to a lifetime of tea drinking.

After several years, I started making limited forays back into the world of coffee. (This time, with a little cream, and never on an empty stomach.) Usually it was before a long shift at work--as an additional last-minute caffeine boost. And usually it was a doctored-up shot of espresso, since I didn't want to drink an entire cup of regular coffee. Also because both places I work only have an espresso machine, not a regular drip coffee system.

Slowly, I've gotten to the point where I usually have an espresso (with cream) every day that I work. Every once in a while I'll have half a cup of regular coffee at home. I can't drink bad coffee, but I've also never liked coffee drinks--frappacinos and the like. They taste like bitter coffee-flavored whipped cream to me. Or they taste like a glass full of liquid pumpkin pie, or apple fritters, or whatever chemical nonsense has been added into them. They never taste like a fine-restaurant-quality shot of espresso, which is what I've gotten used to drinking.

Yesterday I got to work early, to make my customary espresso with cream. I needed it desperately, as I worked a double yesterday and was exhausted. I'd already had two espressos at my other job, so I knew a third wasn't going to help much.

Then I saw a coworker making an iced coffee.

Glass full of ice, third of a glass of milk, two healthy hits of simple syrup, with a piping hot shot of espresso poured on top. Stir and drink.

It was warm and sunny yesterday, and all of a sudden my brain said, "Yes. Want."

So I made one. And drank it. And it was exactly what I needed to get through the night.

I don't think I'll be buying many iced coffees, as I won't be able to control the sweetness or the quality of the coffee that goes into them. But I do think I'll be making myself many more of them.

Most people won't have a professional-grade espresso machine at home, and that's fine. The secret to a good iced coffee is the quality of the ingredients. Use the very best coffee you can afford, with whole milk or half-and-half, and simple syrup (which absorbs into the drink better than regular sugar). Avoid the temptation to add additional fripperies like whipped cream or chocolate or flavorings--that's not an iced coffee, that's dessert in a glass, and for the same calories I'd rather have a big piece of cake.

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