What Is Frozen Coffee?

Few coffee cravings are quite as particular as a frozen coffee: the way the crushed ice grazes the tongue while creamy additions massage the taste buds, all in anticipation of a bite of espresso that kicks in just as you gulp the liquid down. It’s both a standard summertime delight and a year-round indulgence. It’s also a gloriously simple concept: coffee, milk, and sugar—but blended with ice.

It’s slushie coffee.

Let’s learn more about the red hot trend of ultra cool frozen coffee and its continued rise through the ranks of beloved beverages.

Origins of Frozen Coffee

For most, the story of frozen coffee begins with the famous Starbucks Frappuccino. As of 2015, the Frappuccino is sold in 66 countries and it accounts for a sizable chunk of drink sales during the summertime.

But while chain coffee shops popularized the drink, it actually originates from Torrefazione Italia café in Seattle, where it was discovered by coffee entrepreneur George Howell, who brought it to Boston, where Harvard University students turned the drink into a craze.

The key was to make the drink like a cappuccino, but frozen: a strong, bold espresso flavor using a French roast, rounded out with sugar and milk.

When Starbucks purchased Howell’s coffee business, then, it acquired the drink and its “Frappuccino” name. The company put its own spin on the beverage after conducting additional research; it launched en mass in coffee and mocha flavors.

In 1999, the Caramel Frappuccino became the next evolution of the drink, and only more flavors have been added each season since then—right up to the Unicorn Frappuccino of 2018.

Today, craft coffee shops around the country have adopted the blended frozen drink and put their own spin on it. And, of course, so have home brewers eager to experiment with the blenders waiting on their countertops.

How to Make Homemade Frozen Coffee

Don’t feel like heading up the block to your favorite coffee shop to get your frozen coffee fix? Not to worry. You can easily make it at home. Here’s how to make frozen coffee:

First, start with a blender and a cup of coffee. Then, let your imagination go wild.

To make a frozen coffee, prepare a cold brew concentrate, pick your milk of choice, scoop out the desired amount of ice, and then blend for 10 seconds. Add any flavoring, like a syrup, before blending. Top with whipped cream for a dessert or perfect afternoon pick-me-up on a hot day.

Different Types of Frozen Coffee

Look, there’s no shortage of possibilities with frozen coffee drinks. Coffee shops proudly create new iterations of frozen coffee every day.

But here are a few standards to get the juices flowing:

  • Frozen Caramel Coffee. A classic among frozen coffees, this blended coffee drink asks for a caramel syrup and drizzle on top.
  • Thai Frozen Coffee. This version of frozen coffee replaces 2 percent milk with coconut milk and condensed milk for an even lighter and more refreshing frozen coffee.
  • Mocha Frozen Coffee. The secret to this other frozen coffee classic is cocoa powder mixed with a teaspoon or less of vanilla extract.
  • Cinnamon Frozen Coffee. Those looking for more spice than sweetness from their frozen coffee can mix a teaspoon of cinnamon, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and maple syrup to taste for a fall-fitting frozen treat.

Examples of Frozen Coffee Cocktails

Perhaps one of the buzziest takes on frozen coffee lately is the frozen coffee cocktail. And yes, that means booze.

  • German Eiskaffee. This coffee concoction takes a sinful coffee drink and makes it café-classy, consisting of a quarter-cup of evaporated milk, a dainty two teaspoons of sugar, and a half-cup of vanilla ice cream—with a cup of coffee and a shot of Baileys, to boot. Scoop the ice cream into a chilled short glass, mix the coffee, milk, and sugar, and pour the liquid over the ice cream. Add whipped cream if desired. Think of it like a coffee float.
  • Brown Bomber Slushie. Blended ice comprised of a beverage called Brown Bomber, a ready-to-drink coffee with malt liquor called Brown Bomber.  Brown Bomber Premium Hard Coffee Beverage is made with 100% Arabica Coffee and premium malt for a 5% alcohol beverage you can enjoy in a variety of  occasions.
  • Rum Coffee Slushie. An easy, booze-tastic frozen coffee recipe is to make a frozen coffee as you would without alcohol, and just add a shot of dark rum—or bourbon, if that’s your jam—in the process. Use about a quarter-cup of milk, ice, a cup of cold brew, enough maple syrup for taste (it will blend better here than sugar), and blend with a shot of alcohol. Add whipped cream if desired.
  • Irish Whiskey Frozen Coffee Cocktail. Espresso, Kahlua, and any Irish whiskey combine well for a frozen coffee cocktail that both cools on the tongue and warms in the belly. A scoop or two of vanilla ice cream is optional but totally delicious.

Frozen Coffee vs. Iced Coffee

The difference between frozen coffee and iced coffee is that frozen coffee is blended and almost always contains sugar or some sort of flavoring. Iced coffee, meanwhile, merely refers to coffee that is brewed over ice or has ice added to it. Because frozen coffees are usually sweet, they’re also more caloric—higher in sugar and fat than the calorie-free iced coffee.

Of course, it’s also possible to shave off calories from a frozen coffee and still enjoy it. Try using skim or unsweetened nut milks, lay off the whipped cream, and keep portions small.

Regardless of how you prefer your coffee — frozen, iced, or piping hot — it’s undisputed that coffee remains at the heart of these beverages, and it’s here to stay. Here’s hoping your next cup is as good as your last.