Just took a sip of your iced coffee and it’s just too sickeningly sweet? What went wrong and how can you fix it so you can still enjoy your cold coffee.
In the vast majority of cases, there is simply too much sugar or another sweetener is added to the coffee. Some drinks are supposed to be sweet and other times a mistake has been made. Adding more black coffee or more ice is often a simple solution to reduce sweetness.
Let’s dive in a little deeper, see what went wrong and how to fix it.
Why Is Your Iced Coffee Is Too Sweet?
Of course to fix a problem you first have to know how it got that way. If you made iced coffee at home and it’s too sweet, you probably know what happened.
1. Too Much Sweetener
The obvious answer is that too much sugar or another sweetener got added. Maybe the coffeeshop misunderstood, maybe you ordered wrong, maybe they just made a mistake. Or, it’s just how the drink is supposed to be. Many iced coffees have things added to them and some kind of sweeteners is often one of those things.
If you made iced coffee at home, you probably know how much sugar you added and if someone else made it for you, gently request less sugar next time. Some other additives like condensed milk or syrups can of course also add a lot of sweetness. Condensed milk is often used in Vietnamese coffee and will make it very sweet.
At Starbucks and similar coffee shops, the Frappuccino style drinks often have caramel or some type of syrup added.
Want to know how to make good iced coffee by hand? Click here to find a step-by-step guide.
2. Type Of Drink
Some types of iced coffee are meant to be quite sweet. Vietnamese Iced Coffee is made with condensed milk and that’s obviously going to make it very sweet. Other iced coffees often have sweeteners added and especially blended ice coffees (Frappuccino) often have a lot of sweeteners in them.
Often you don’t have to ask for sugar to be added to these drinks so if you don’t know that they are, you might be surprised by the sweetness. Of course you can always ask the barista. There are so many drinks in many coffee shops and in different shops they go by different names, there is no shame in asking if there is any added sweeteners in your preferred drink.
And if there are sweeteners, just ask if they can reduce or leave them out. Sometimes this is easy, for other drinks the sweetener is an integral part of the drink and you end up with something else. But, in the end it’s about what you enjoy.
3. Type of Coffee Cup
I’m talking about the tiny cups you put in a coffee machine like a Nespresso or Keurig. In case you use one of these things to make your iced coffee, check the cups you used.
Some of these cups aren’t made to brew a cup of black coffee but things like mocha or another drink that is sweet.
Dig up the cup you put in your machine and see if there is any indication that its supposed to be sweet.
4. Used Coffee
It’s unlikely but some types of coffee beans have a sweeter taste than others. No two beans are the same and there is an unbelievable amount of variety in coffees. Most large coffee companies do their best to process and roast their beans in a way to get the same results every time.
Specialty coffee has more variety and often you can find more sweetness in specialty coffee. That said, it’s unlikely you will get a really sweet taste from just the coffee beans alone. While black specialty coffee can have some sweetness, it shouldn’t come anywhere near the sweetness levels of a soft drink.
Also, iced coffee is cold. Cold temperatures mean the taste buds perceive tastes weaker than they otherwise would. That means if your iced coffee tastes very sweet, it’s very likely too much sweetener got added one way or another.
What Can You Do If Iced Coffee Is Too Sweet?
Once the coffee is brewed and all the sweetener is mixed in, there isn’t all that much you can do to fix it. Most of the fixes just involve covering up the taste or diluting the sweetness. Here are four things you can do.
However, none of them actually reduce the amount of sugar or sweetener in the drink.
1. Add Black Coffee
The easiest and best way to reduce the sweetness of your coffee is to add more black coffee without any sweeteners. If you just add water, the whole drink will become weaker and you will lose sweetness but all the other tastes as well.
Of course if you add more coffee, the downside is that you also add more caffeine which not everybody wants and if you have to ask at a coffeeshop, they might not want to comply too readily.
At home it’s pretty easy to add extra coffee to your cup provided the cup is big enough and you didn’t put the sweetener in the coffee pot.
2. Add Ice
If adding more coffee is not a feasible solution or you want to keep the caffeine intake down, another way you can dilute the sweetness is by literally watering it down. In iced coffee the best way to do this is by adding more ice.
Coffee shops usually don’t make a problem of giving you more ice while giving you more coffee might be an issue.
Ice melts and that water dilutes the coffee. This means all the tastes will be lighter. While this works, it will also dilute all the other tastes so the balance of sweetness vs. other flavors doesn’t actually change much. It’s just that the intensity of the sweetness is reduced.
3. Add Dairy
Dairy or dairy alternatives are a one stop fix for most coffee problems. Dairy ‘insulates’ the taste buds because it adds some fat to the drink. That fat helps make the coffee taste smoother and creamier and reduce a lot of the coffee taste.
The taste of dairy in itself also covers up much of other tastes. Dairy works especially well with bitterness but sour and sweet coffee can also benefit from a splash of milk, cream or creamer.
4. Add a Touch Of Orange
Sour goes very well with sweet. And adding some acidity to your coffee can help balance out the sweetness in a very nice way.
It might seem a bit unorthodox but it’s not completely crazy. With cold brew coffee, it’s quite common to add a little bit of orange juice and/or a slice of orange. In this case, a sour orange would actually be preferable over a sweet one since more sweetness is not necessary.
In iced coffee, it’s not as common although it’s still done sometimes. Just a small dash of orange juice will make a pretty big difference. It will also dramatically change the taste of the drink though. You might like it, you might not. If your iced coffee is so sweet that you won’t drink it anyways, you might as well give it a try, who knows, you might discover your new favorite drink.
Don’t mix any orange juice if you’ve already have dairy in your drink.
Recommended Iced Coffee Tools
Iced coffee is pretty easy to make but here are some things to make it taste better.
- Scale: The key to good iced coffee is to replace 1/3rd of the brew water by ice in the carafe. To do this accurately, a coffee scale is essential. The TimeMore Coffee scale (Amazon) is high quality, looks good and is accurate.
- Grinder: Iced coffee requires slightly finer ground coffee so having an adjustable grinder will improve your iced coffee. Freshly grounded beans brew better coffee anyways. The TimeMore C3 (Amazon) gives you perfect adjustability and high grind quality.
- Beans: Of course with a grinder you need some beans. I like coffee with a bit more fruitiness and sweetness for iced coffee (if you drink it without milk). This Kenyan coffee (Amazon) is perfectly fruity and vibrant for iced coffee.