Serious Eats: Drinks
Please Stop Ordering Iced Cappuccinos
Don't worry: The title of this post is much more confrontational than I actually feel, though I am going to gently beg that everyone everywhere stop ordering iced cappuccinos this very instant.
For maximum cold-coffee-summer-drink enjoyment, let me instead offer some practical advice—not to mention delicious alternatives to the offending iced capp.
Far be it from me to rain on your coffee parade—especially this time of year, when all you want is a tall, frosty, sweet glass of caffeinated delicious—but I have to be on the level with you, friends: Iced cappuccinos are a mistake, and they should never have existed in the first place.
I know what you're thinking. You're all, "I want espresso mixed with cold milk and ice, poured into a plastic cup and topped off with some of that decadent, silky foam I love so much. What's wrong with that?"
There's nothing wrong with wanting that. The heart wants what it wants. But the iced cappuccino a beverage oxymoron, and I don't believe that it really is what you want.
First, let's break down the art of the iced espresso-based drink for a second, before we get back to discussing the drink in question. Take these two common favorites: The iced Americano and iced caffe latte. Best practices dictate that for the enjoyment of everyone involved (that's both you and the barista), the construction of the beverage should happen in a particular chronology, in order to keep everything tasty and cold.
The base of these two coffee treats is hot, fresh espresso—typically two ounces, but possibly more depending on the cafe. For an iced Americano, the hot espresso should to be mixed with at-least-room-temperature water in order to slightly cool it, and then topped with ice to complete the drink.
For an iced latte, the key is to go from warmest to coldest: Espresso gets topped—and chilled—with cold milk straight from the fridge, and then ice is added to fill the cup. This way the milk and coffee marry their flavors immediately, and the liquid is cold enough from the cool milk to keep the ice intact for longer. Pouring espresso over a cup of milk with ice already in it keeps the coffee from truly blending with the dairy, creating a melty, watery layer of diluted espresso on the top.
So what's wrong with the iced cappuccino, then? The foam. If an iced latte is espresso, milk, and ice, then an iced cappuccino is just espresso, milk, ice, and foam, right? But in order to make foam, you have to steam milk, and steamed milk is hot: Therefore, dumping a bunch of hot foam on top of your nicely cooled ice drink does nothing but raise the overall temperature of the drink, melt your ice in the blink of an eye, and cheat you out of what could have been a beautiful, arctic iced latte on a hot summer day.
Besides all that, how about the fact that scooping hot foam onto an iced drink is also a bit silly because you're probably drinking the thing through a straw anyway—which means you'll probably end up slurping all of the liquid out from under the foam before you even get to the stuff. What do you have left, then? A cup full of mostly melted ice coated in stiff, unappealing, lukewarm foam that doesn't even have any coffee flavor in it.
Friends, think of this as an intervention: Please stop ordering these things, these "iced cappuccinos." Please stop making baristas everywhere waste the milk it takes to make the foam they have to plop out onto your ice, and then please stop asking them for more ice five minutes later because what was in the cup deteriorated under the heat of that ridiculous foam. Please stick to iced Americanos and iced lattes, which are actually refreshing, actually cold, and actually great-tasting.
If you simply can't live without a little froth, cover up the straw hole and give 'er a vigorous shake. Or, heck, just get a ton of whipped cream spurted on top of the thing: It's summer, after all. Live a little!
About the author: Erin Meister trains baristas and inspires coffee-driven people for Counter Culture Coffee. She's a confident barista, an audacious eater, and a smiling runner, but she remains a Nervous Cook.