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Why is Iced Coffee twice the price of fresh hot coffee?

This feels like an ipsedixit type post (and jfood uses that as a positive) but here goes.

Restaurants brew coffee to serve hot in the morning and it has a certain shelf life in minutes not hours. No the time has come where the choice is to pour down the sink or shove it in the fridge, let it cool and then recycle over ice. And the Einstein theory on all this is that you can charge twice as much for the stuff you almost threw out. Brilliant.

Why? When you fill the glass with ice it is about the same amount of liquid, so that answer is off limits.

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  1. The coffee shops around me don't recycle their coffee like that. They cold brew which is a lengthy process and the end result is an extract. Ice, extract, fill with water. I can only assume the price is due to the long brewing process.

    17 Replies
    1. re: cookingasshole


      Have you ever cold brewed at home?

      1. re: jfood

        my lady got me the cold brew 'kit' like five or six years ago and I only used it a few times before I lost the tiny all important cork. If I remember correctly the grounds have to be really coarse and you soak them in water overnight (in the fridge) and then in the morning you pull the cork out and let it drain for a really long time. I drank it without diluting it and it was pretty freaking awesome.

          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

            That's it!

            Unfortunately I broke the decanter years later. Now I really want to get a whole new set up after this discussion.

            1. re: cookingasshole

              I didn't know there was a specific gadget for cold brewing ... I just use a pitcher, then in the morning pour into another pitcher through a paper filter-lined sieve. Works like a charm.

                1. re: cookingasshole

                  I put 6 tablespoons ointo a french press, fill the remainder with hot water. Let it steep 10 minutes or longer. Pour into a pitcher swirl it around so it cools, then add cold water. You dont have to wait all night and if u like it strong, to hold up against the melting ice, you can easily adjust how much water you're adding.

                  1. re: 2slices

                    That's iced coffee. Try brewing for 6-12 hours with cold water. It's really a different product, much smoother.

                  2. re: cookingasshole

                    Glad I could help save you $ and cabinet space CA ;-)

                    1. re: odkaty

                      Seriously! I was totally about to go out and buy one! Thanks again!

            2. re: cookingasshole

              I met my husband in '86 and he was using the Toddy system then and we've used it ever since. It's a snap to use and to me offers no excuse for a place to charge more for iced coffee than hot.

              1. re: c oliver

                OMG! C oliver I have always assumed your were 'he". SMH!
                What is toddy system?

                1. re: Quine

                  Hmm, pretty sure I'm a she. Catherine.

                  LOVE the Toddy system:


                  We travel a lot and it's so easy to put it in a camping bottle and check it on the airplane. To me there's nothing better when in a new place than to have that first cup of coffee being right there and tasting just like you want it to.

              2. re: cookingasshole

                "the grounds have to be really coarse and you soak them in water overnight (in the fridge)"

                i prefer a very fine grind for cold brewing - more yield and quicker. the vietnamese method with sweetened condensed milk is probably my favorite.

                1. re: epabella

                  Could you tell me more about that please? The Vietnamese coffee part.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    I saw this feature about Vietnamese coffee a while ago, which has a good amount of info: http://heavytable.com/adventures-in-c...

                    1. re: c oliver

                      where i learned the fine art of cold brewing back in 2002:

                      another great resource:

                      nice wiki on the subject:

                      where i get my beans (possibly the best coffee vendor/specialist in the philippines):

            3. As cookingasshole noted, it is a different process, but also requires *more* coffee grounds, in order to limit how diluted it becomes when added to ice. Also many people drink iced coffee with sweet and cream, simply because it does hold up so well to the additions.

              These are the reasons it costs more, if the shop is doing it correctly. If not, then, yeah, you are being ripped off.

              1. J>>>
                You are showing our age.
                Iced coffee was made with yesterday's leftovers. When it ran out, that was it, or they had to brew a double strength batch and cool over ice.
                None of this modern cold brew process at very high prices. I still make a whole pot at home and refrigerate the 8 cups I don't drink to make ice coffee. I even freeze some as ice cubes.
                I recently asked a friend who owns a small luncheonette (oxymoron, but only 11 stools) and he said that the tall cup for ice coffee is significantly more expensive than his hot to go cups. Also, it takes more cream, sweetener plus the ice for the larger cup.

                11 Replies
                1. re: bagelman01

                  thanks B. Until theother day jfood had never heard of cold brewed coffee. live and learn.

                  1. re: jfood

                    Cold-brewed really does make the best iced coffee, I think. At home, I take the concentrate straight from the fridge, into a glass with no ice, and dilute with milk instead of water. Full-strength coffee, and a bit more nutrition for my morning with 8 oz. milk instead of 1.

                    Number of threads about cold brewing here on CH over the years, and this article may be of interest: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...

                    1. re: jfood

                      Me neither. I wonder if there is a cold-brewed method for tea?

                        1. re: jfood

                          Thanks J. I make Sun Tea which becomes my Iced Tea on the second tea...

                      1. re: buttertart

                        It's found in the Department of Redundancy Department.


                        1. re: buttertart

                          you noticed I labeled it an oxymoron, it's in the same class as Giant Shrimp

                          1. re: bagelman01

                            Not to belabor it but "small" and the diminutive ending "-ette" are tautological not oxymoronic. Now "big luncheonette" is an oxymoron. But who cares, really.

                        2. re: bagelman01

                          I jump on this bandwagon. I am a coffee person who would * love* a decent drink of Iced coffee this time of year. I've never had a cold brewed coffee, any temp. I am so jealous. i stopped ordering Iced coffee at any place when I got, a coffee, hot served over ice cubes. To my "old fashioned mind, it's like Why not chill that last pot of last night, so you can give me iced coffee today?

                        3. Tongue in cheek? Because ice cubes costs a lot. When movie theatres and baseball stadiumes can charge $4 for a 16oz bottle of water (not spring water but plain tap water) then by the same token, ice cubes will be even more expensive because of the trouble they had to go through get them frozen. :)

                          1. When you're talking about the price of something at a retail food or beverage establishment -- whether a coffeeshop or restaurant -- you do understand that the #1 cost in anything they do isn't ingredients, it's labor.

                            Do you?

                            It's just not clear that you understand that at all from the post you wrote here. Until you comprehend that much, this conversation is kind of pointless.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: swag

                              So you're saying that it takes more labor to make an iced coffee than a hot coffee? THAT I don't comprehend.

                              1. re: c oliver

                                Hot Coffee--> Take empty cup, pour in Hot Coffee, serve
                                Iced Coffee--> Take empty cupm add ice, pour in Cold coffee, serve

                                add extra steps for either for cream, sweetener, to go cup and lid.

                                Either way, there is still at least one extra step in the serving of iced coffee.

                                Now in the preparing of iced coffee, old fashioned way, brew pot of coffee, if hot, just pour and serve, if for Iced Coffee, pur into a second container, place in refrigerator over noght, take out of refigerator and pour.

                                More steps, more labor, higher cost.

                            2. Where exactly is jfood buying iced coffee? Even Starbucks and McDonald's are not charging twice the price. I have found no such price difference in good coffee shops either? Are you talking specialty drinks? I'm confused about the question. Maybe it is a regional thing.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: rworange

                                I don't know about JFood in lower Fairfield County, but in the rest of Ct and in Mass, McDonalds is $1 for any size hot coffee, and 1.99-2.79 for iced coffee........

                                Bagelman doing the 350 mile roundtrip commute 3x week from Trumbull, CT to Andover, MA
                                Need that caffiene for the road and really familiar with drive through coffee and prices

                              2. Coffee must be brewed extra strong to withstand dilution after being poured on ice. There's nothing more disappointing than being served a glass of weak iced coffee made from regular strength hot coffee. Using more ground coffee translates to a higher price. My local coffee house makes its iced coffee with shots of espresso and it's very good. Like others here, I use the cold method at home.

                                Iced coffee used to be a New England phenomenon. Growing up in Boston, I was raised on it, but when I traveled to other parts of the US, it was unknown. ("Cold coffee? Who would want that? Yuck!") Now it's popular everywhere.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: cheesemaestro

                                  I have a, (cheap to the point of pissing me off), friend who goes to Starbucks, asks for a double espresso, and gets a cup of ice, then dumps in the half and half and tops it off with the espresso. He says he saves vs. the Starbucks iced coffee. Why do I put up with this guy?

                                  1. re: ospreycove

                                    But a venti (that is to say, the 20 oz cup) iced coffee at Starbucks is still only $2 and change, even if you get it with soy like I do. Isn't the double espresso comparable in price?

                                    1. re: Ali

                                      It is close I think my "friend" saves about 30 cents Geeesh!!!!!!

                                      1. re: ospreycove

                                        Not that I agree with your friend's thriftiness, but a double espresso's quality should be much better than their regular ice coffee, no?

                                        1. re: funniduck

                                          Funniduck........Cheapness aside...It looked good!!!!!!

                                          1. re: ospreycove

                                            If you want that drink without feeling like you're 'tricking' anyone, just order an iced americano (you can specify all ice and no water, instead of the common mix of both, if you like). But the americano usually costs more than an iced coffee (your friend likely knows this, and is aware that he is saving more than what you listed as the difference between the plain espresso and the iced coffee).

                                            Iced espresso *is* really good.

                                          2. re: funniduck

                                            When I saw it (not taking into account the thriftiness) I thought "OOh smart!" because the regular iced coffee is terrible! I find the double charred taste to be almost intolerable. The ice doesn't melt that quickly. I much prefer DD/McD's iced coffees in comparison.

                                            1. re: queencru

                                              Oh NO I've created a screw Starbucks monster.....lol

                                  2. I'll offer a slightly cynical answer. Because they can.


                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Davwud

                                      LOL!!! And I agree the most practical answer!

                                      1. re: Davwud

                                        Like a cat licking its rear end.

                                      2. There is a thread on the Manhattan board about the $4.25 cup of iced coffee. Jfood, what is your take on that?

                                        Coffee prices are getting ridiculous.

                                        1. The bigger rip off is a cà phê sữa đá at the Vietnamese places.
                                          $2.25 and they put about 4 oz. of Vietnamese coffee(French roast w/chicory) in a 10 oz. cup of crushed ice. Half dozen sips and you're finished.
                                          Damn they're good !!!

                                          1. Iced coffee can be properly made one of three ways:

                                            1. Filtron (or Toddy). These are slow drip brews (12-24 hours) using cold water that make a coffee concentrate. A typical recipe would be 1 part concentrate to 3 parts water/ice. The yield (# of cups per pound) is less than a hot batch brew. Thus is woulld/should be a little more expensive and more coffee is used per cup. Result is a milder cup, less acidity, less pop, less character, but generally smooth and refreshing (but almost a different beverage than coffee).

                                            2. Double strength. You can use a batch brewer and brew a half pot but use a full pot's worth of coffee grounds, so it's double strength. This then dilutes with the ice you use when serving. The result can be good (always better than reusing stale coffee anyway), although it's generally uneven, IMO. If consuming this, you might want to wait a minute or two before sipping, otherwise your first sips might be over the top because the double strength brew still needs to dilute a bit. Price here should be the same as hot drip as yield is about the same and no added labor or ingredients (save ice) are needed.

                                            3. Japanese cold brew method (simple). This is for an individual hand brew (could be a Melitta, Clever, press pot, Chemex, etc.) Use your normal dose of coffee grounds. Use only half the normal amount of water to brew with. Put the other half of the water - in the form of ice cubes - into whatever vessel you're brewing into. Apply the water in small increments so it has time to fully saturate all the grounds. Result is a slightly more syrupy coffee which, when it hits the ice, the volatile compounds figuratively 'freeze' instead of being shocked into bitterness. The coffee then dilutes into something that actually resembles a hot cup of same coffee - the inherent terroir flavors are generally captured pretty well in this method. This is more labor intensive, so a premium price is warranted.

                                            There are also Rube Goldberg-esque Japanese ice brewers (3-foot tall units of glass globes and coils costing about $150) that are impressive to look at, make a nice cup and are brewed using 100% ice instead of water.

                                            So to answer your question as to why it costs more, under #1 or #3 it should be a little more. If brewing using #2, should be same price. You'd need to know the brew method.

                                            Other question is size - iced coffee is 16oz and drip coffee 10-12oz in many restaurants, so need to figure that in as well.

                                            If you're getting recycled warm coffee with ice cubes in it, complain loudly - and scream if you're paying a premium for it.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Panini Guy

                                              "Other question is size - iced coffee is 16oz and drip coffee 10-12oz in many restaurants, so need to figure that in as well."

                                              But they're using a 16-oz cup, which is then filled half to three-quarters of the way with ice, so the amount of coffee is actually the same or less than in a hot cup. Yes, there's the cost of ice, and refrigeration, but the coffee amount is not necessarily more.

                                              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                Keep in mind that if the brew ratios are correct for the concentrate, the ice added to the cup for the finished drink is actually part of the recipe. That's different than just adding ice to 12 ounces of brewed coffee.

                                            2. I drink cold-brewed iced coffee all the time here in sunny Seattle and find that it's usually only 20-30 cents more than the hot stuff. This seems reasonable given that cold-brewed coffee tends to require more effort and makes less coffee from the same quantity of beans.

                                              Honestly, I'd be afraid to order iced coffee at a restaurant unless it were specifically advertised as having been made the good way.

                                              1. Yes my reply is late, but I can't believe this hasn't been mentioned (apologies if it has, this thread is huge!)

                                                You will notice that it's not just iced coffee that costs more, but also iced lattes and iced tea as well,
                                                and that is because-

                                                PLASTIC CUPS ARE MORE EXPENSIVE THAN PAPER CUPS.

                                                Now granted, plastic cups don't cost a dollar more a piece. So some of that extra cost is the cup, and some of the extra cost is just there because the market will bear it. Iced drinks are preceived as being a bit more of a "specialty" item, so most customers don't think twice about paying a 2.50 for an iced coffee, where 2.50 for a hot drip coffee seems very expensive. Also, ice is not "free". It takes quite a bit of juice to operate an ice machine, and someone has to pay the electric bill.

                                                That's all there is to it. Cup pricing and perception. It has little to do with Toddy or cold brewing, as the price discrepency predates cold brewing's new found popularity.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: tomcollins

                                                  As a coffeeshop owner, I disagree with this. In our case, it's simply a matter of more coffee being used to brew the concentrate per cup than regular drip. I can attest to that same thinking being the norm at other above-average shops. The cup cost has little/nothing to do with the disparity.

                                                  1. re: Panini Guy

                                                    Cup pricing is the reason I've been given anytime I've asked an employer, and I've worked for 8 cafes over the past 15 years. I'm not talking about high end shops, just your run of the mill neighborhood cafes. The pricing discrepency started with them and starbucks made it popular.
                                                    Iced Lattes are the best example- same amount of espresso and milk, less labor, higher price.
                                                    It's may just be BS, but that's how a shop owner that brews hot coffee and sticks it in the fridge will justify it. And like it or not, those shops are the great majority.

                                                    I do think now it has more to do with tradition than anything else, however.

                                                    On a side note, I worked for a teeny tiny cafe around 1997 that had just purchased a new toddy system. It lasted about a month before the owner decided it was way to much work and we should scrap iced coffee altogether. So I totally get why cold brewing can and should cost more.
                                                    I'm not saying the cup pricing excuse is justified, it's just the answer you'd get from a shop owner 10 years ago, and now it's here to stay.