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Let's Talk Iced Coffee

OK, I love iced coffee. I drink it practically year round and even though I like hot coffee too, I seem to gravitate to iced when I'm working at my computer since it never gets cold. I typically drink 2 20 oz cups per day. Yes, it's a bad habit, but it's mine.

Anyway, I recently started a new job in the Financial District so every morning, I walk to work and stop in at Flour on my way to get my fix. I like their coffee -- good flavor, reasonable portion for $2.75 and most times, they don't take just take hot coffee and pour it over some cubes (a huge pet peeve). Once in a while they do in a pinch, but for the most part they take a big frozen block of coffee and let it melt with a splash of hot to speed up the process. The other place that makes excellent iced coffee (better than Flour) is South End Buttery. Unfortunately, it's nowhere near my office or my house, so I can only go there on weekends. Fair Trade Cafe on Causeway St. does a nice iced coffee, but again, too out of the way.

My problem is during the work day. I have not been able to find any good mid-day coffee place near my office. All I've found are:

Dunkin' Donuts: watery, awful, fake coffee syrup taste

Starbucks: horrible, metallic-tasting yet watery (how this is possible, i dont know). Even the Pike's Roast isn't good. If i have to go here, I get a triple espresso over ice,but that's pretty diesel and not always ideal for a desk job.

Peet's: Non-descript and not that close to my office to make it worth the trip.

Bruegger's: Again, not strong enough.

Cosi: Not awful, but not good.

Flat Black Coffee: I've tried everything from "mild" to "strong" and they all taste too molasses-y and harsh. Undrinkable, in fact. Big disappointment. I had high hopes.

Any suggestions? I'm not going to be able to make it through a summer work day with one iced coffee in the morning!

South End Buttery
314 Shawmut Avenue, Boston, MA 02118

200 Terminal St, Charlestown, MA 02129

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  1. I also love ice coffee and work down the street from Flour in Fort Point. Flour does a nice ice coffee, but check out Sportello on Congress. They use crushed ice (which I love) and charge the same for ice and hot coffee, which seems fair. And there's almost never a wait.

    And if you're hungry when you get there, Sportello has a cheese/fruit/toast dish on their menu for $3. Four nice slides of white cheddar, grapes, and two slices of toast (I always go for the raisin rosemary bread). All that with an ice coffee for under $5.

    348 Congress Street, Boston, MA 02110

    2 Replies
    1. re: foodish

      Have you tried Sip Cafe in Post Office Square. The owner has a long and successful history with coffee. I would guess that they would serve great iced coffee and that if you were not happy with it, they would figure out a way to make it to your liking.


      Sip Cafe
      0 Post Office Sq, Boston, MA 02109

      1. re: BostonZest

        Yes, I have tried Sportello (also on the way to work). Very, very good hot coffee, but the iced not quite as great. The last time I had it (last week) it was 90 percent crushed iced, 10 percent coffee. I had to ask for some ice to be taken out so i would not be drinking a 10lb cup of watered down iced coffee that would be gone in 3 sips. Their large is also smaller per ounce than Flour's large for comparable money. But anyway, my problem is getting coffee in the Financial District -- not in Fort Point. I am all set with Flour there.

        Re Sip -- I forgot I've gotten iced here a couple times. Not bad, but the coffee taste has a similar molasses-y taste as Flat Black. It's OK in a pinch but I was hoping for something sublime and consistent. Maybe I just don't care for their bean choice -- I'll inquire about that next time, thanks for the heads up.

        Will check out Olga's -- never heard of it. Thanks.

        348 Congress Street, Boston, MA 02110

    2. Au Bon Pain (Elbow Pain) has decent iced coffee. I don't know how many of those are left but there used to be one at the NEMC.

      1. I would recommend Olga's Kafe in the 99 Summer St. building. It is located at the back of the building near the Bedford St. entrance. The coffee is delicious and the staff are very friendly and know their regulars. They have amazing flavors (not from syrup) like Birthday Cake, Brownie Toffee Crunch, and Pistaccio Ice Cream. Also, if you bring back your reciept from earlier in the day you get a $1 off your second coffee.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mats77

          Second Olga's- esp the chocolate capp flavored. The original, columbian, is good as well. Only downside is that it's cash only.

          She also has awesome breakfast sandwiches and plenty of other eats like homemade yogurt parfaits and muffins.

        2. Peet's near South Station.

          But I like Flat Black. It has a stronger taste that I prefer. Peet's is not so strong and is much more well rounded than regular Starbucks.

          Otherwise, find a Starbucks with a Clover and get iced Kenya or even Kona. Don't get the 3 Region thing they sometimes have because it has a muddy taste. Clover coffee is truly superior. It costs a little more. They now have the Venti size too.

          2 Replies
          1. re: lergnom

            Do you know of any branches downtown that still have Clover? there used to be one at 101 Federal Street but didn't notice it last time there.

            1. re: lergnom

              I'll second that. The only way to get a good iced coffee at Starbucks is to get it via the Clover or as an Iced Americano.

            2. One thing you might try to boost the flavor from otherwise sub-par places......have them make you an iced Americano. Espresso Royale Cafe on Newbury does this for me, b/c I only drink decaf and they don't brew any there. So they recommended the iced Americano thing and it was heads above anything I've had elsewhere. Since they add cold water to the espresso before pouring over ice, it circumvents the "hot coffee over ice" fiasco, which I agree is a disaster!

              4 Replies
              1. re: Science Chick

                Absolutely! This is also what makes Starbucks iced coffee better:; order it as an iced americano, NOT from that pre-made iced coffee in the metal container on the counter.

                1. re: Science Chick

                  THANK YOU for the iced americano recommendation - I got it today at Peet's, and it was delicious - so much better than that iced coffee from the tank...

                    1. re: sallyt

                      I *love* Peet's iced espresso. Three shots in a large cup filled with crushed ice, extra ice on the top to fill. It's stronger than the Americano b/c no ice water added, but as all that ice melts, it mellows out. I drink it even on the coldest days of winter.

                  1. Oh god, the best thing you can do is go into any of the Vietnamese restaurants and get an Iced Vietnamese coffee. Strong, drip coffee, with simple syrup, and/or condensed milk over crushed ice.....Mmmmmmm

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: galleygirl

                      I too love iced vietnamese coffee (cafe sua da). Super strong, super sweet. I especially like getting it at Dong Khanh in Chinatown w/boba (tapioca pearls). Yum!

                      Dong Khanh
                      81 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA 02111

                      1. re: stargaret

                        third the vietnamese iced coffee. it's really easy to make yourself too

                    2. I like the iced coffee from the Grassroots Cafe in the 101 Arch building (directly across Summer Street from Macys with the red awnings). Although I am not really a coffee drinker so I don't know how it truly holds up other than I think it tastes good!

                      1. My favorite iced coffee in town is the stuff they serve at Diesel (or their sister shop, Bloc 11) in Davis Square. It's rich and delicious, not over-roasted. They can also do it as "Vietnamese" by adding sweetened condensed milk to it.

                        Capone Foods on Mass Ave also does a decent iced coffee; they're the only place in town that I know of that uses coffee ice cubes in the iced coffee. A big plus.

                        1. I *love* coffee and usually drink it iced -- and made myself, using Peet's (I disagree with you that their coffee is nondescript), Terroir, or Trader Joe's coffees. I'm not at all convinced that coffee drinking is a bad habit, unless you seriously overdo it.

                          Many of the Vietnamese places in Chinatown, close to where you work, serve iced coffee, and -- while I never sweeten my own coffee -- their iced coffees, sweetened with condensed milk, are, at the very least worth trying. You won't find them watery!

                          Trader Joe's
                          1427 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02476

                          1. If you lean towards the triple espresso over ice at Starbuck's, you might enjoy the Iced Americano. Basically the same idea but with some water added. It's my standby hot weather coffee.

                            1. ok, this is no help at all but the best iced coffee is from Seven Stars Bakery... in Providence. A little out of your way. But they make _coffee ice cubes_, so that when they pour their coffee over ice and the ice melts, what you get is... more coffee. What a simple and wonderful idea and that is why I love them.

                              So it's not a help for your workday, but if you ever venture south, head towards Seven Stars. An iced coffee and a twice-baked almond croissant and you will be a happy, happy person.

                              Seven Stars Bakery
                              820 Hope St, Providence, RI 02906

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Scruffy The Cat

                                I've tried this at home, but my ice cubes melt all funky. Do you get this? Like the coffee leaches out and leaves weird looking prehistoric rocks forms in it's place... and meanwhile my iced coffee doesn't taste better and my ice cube trays are stained and a mess to clean. I _want_ this to work, but my method obviously needs tinkering.

                              2. Maybe not the advice you were hoping for, but it could work for you...

                                Great iced coffee can be available every morning in your fridge, with almost zero work on your part. Cold-brew some Trader Joe's New Orleans-style coffee (with chicory) in a big glass jug. Overnight works well enough, but I have left the coffee in contact with the water for several days, no problems and not too strong. Cold brewing results in wonderful deep, mellow flavor. The proportions are up to you; I can make some suggestions if you like. (I will have to measure the next time I make a batch.) So before you leave your home you can just open the fridge, pour off some coffee through a strainer into a travel mug, add some ice and dairy as you wish, and off you go. Very good, faster than stopping somewhere to make a purchase, and definitely less expensive!

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: PinchOfSalt

                                  Second the cold brewing at home. I love to think about what I can do with all that money I save. My next choice would be iced Americano at Starbucks, grande in a venti cup, extra ice and room for (whole) milk.

                                  1. re: PinchOfSalt

                                    I've always just brewed it in my coffee maker and put it in the fridge in a glass pitcher. No fuss, no muss, no strainer needed and it tastes fine, especially if you grab it as soon as it's brewed and take it off the heat.

                                    1. re: PinchOfSalt

                                      To cold-brew, do you literally just mix the grounds and water? And do the proportions matter much?

                                      I used to have one of those "Toddy Coffee" systems for cold-brew, but it was a hassle.

                                      1. re: Boston_Otter

                                        Yes, you just mix the grounds and the water. Here is a link to the recipe that got me started.


                                        Basically the proportion is a pound of coffee to ten cups of water. I have a nice heavy glass one-liter refrigerator jug that I use for brewing. I put in about half a pound, fill it with cold water, and put it in the fridge. I don't mind if it comes out a bit stronger than the original recipe, as I tend to use a lot of milk or half-and-half when I drink it.

                                      2. re: PinchOfSalt

                                        I had been cold brewing for the first time this summer up until last week, and doing so in my French Press on the kitchen counter top. Maybe that's technically "room temperature brewing" but the same concept nonetheless.

                                        What changed my behavior was a morning or two that I had forgotten to setup the cold brew the night before. There is no cold brew short cut, so I ended up at Starbucks ordering my usual iced Americano, and boy do I just like the flavor so much better.

                                        So, I ordered myself an inexpensive espresso machine, bought some espresso beans, and have been making myself an iced Americano every morning since. And I must say they are damn good!

                                      3. I would sell my child (if I had one) for a cup of 1369 iced coffee every day. Throw in one more screamer for a shot of hazelnut on top.

                                        By my office, I've liked L'Aroma on Newbury St. and just had a VERY strong cup from Pavement on Boylston.

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: marcreichman

                                          Well, I tried the Americano at Starbucks today. Sadly, it was terrible. Bitter, cloudly, awful. Never again.

                                          As for the "make it at home" recommendation, I will trust that wasn't some snarky remark and that you just didn't read that I had said I was looking for something for during the work day, not the morning commute. My office does not have ice cubes or the capacity to make iced cubes, so even if I brought mine from home and tried to jam it into the mini-fridge, I'd have no way to ice it and would be left with melted cubes watering it down while in the less-than-cool fridge.

                                          Tried Sip again yesterday, but no success. I may just have to walk back to Flour at lunch on sunny days.

                                          1. re: misscucina

                                            Sorry to disappoint you. You said that when you have to go to Starbuck's, you get a triple espresso over ice, and since an Americano is that very same drink but watered down a bit, I thought you might enjoy it. I do.

                                            1. re: misscucina

                                              Sorry, my well-intentioned suggestion appears to have rubbed you the wrong way. Duly noted.

                                              1. re: misscucina

                                                Just as a note, your post actually said you drink "one iced coffee in the morning". For many people, PinchOfSalt's recommendation for excellent home-brewed iced coffee would have been an excellent suggestion as an alternative for their commute or for a just-got-into-the-office coffee.

                                                1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                  Yes, but I also said I am perfectly happy with my morning iced coffee from Flour and that I was looking for something in the Financial District that I could get for later in the day.

                                                2. re: misscucina

                                                  Try the iced americano at Peet's, too - I had a starbucks one today and it was vastly inferior to the one from Peet's yesterday...

                                              2. The Cushing Square (Belmont) Starbucks was serving Iced Kona Coffee yesterday which was pretty good. Kona is usually too nuanced (read: weak) a bean for me, but given Starbucks tendency to overroast, it was delicious in iced form. Iced Kona is something a bit different that you don't see every day.

                                                Otherwise, I agree that Iced Americanos are the way to go.

                                                1. Pavement near Berklee has fantastic iced coffee. It's nice and strong, and doesn't taste watered down until the very end, and it has an amazing caramely after-taste that I've never experienced with coffee before. It's also $1.61 if you bring your own cup, regardless of the size.

                                                  Also, they have great customer service. The first time I was there (the week after they opened), I suggested they make simple syrup for the iced coffee, and they had it for me the next day. And, they're smiley - always important.

                                                  1. Red Barn Coffee has great ice coffee. They have a location in the Faneuil Hall building (not Quincy Market) and in the Longwood galleria. Some posted about cold brewing and that's how they make it there.

                                                    I cold brew at home too. We started with the home version of the Toddy but have moved on to the commercial model because we were going through the coffee so fast. The commercial version makes 2.5 gallons of concentrate.