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How to Sweeten Cold Brew Coffee: 10 Tasty Ideas

how to sweeten cold brew coffee

Cold brew coffee has been popping up all over the place. It has become the trendy drink to order at the local cafes, and you have probably seen it on chain store menus like Starbucks. Gaining in popularity, many people are curious about the new form of coffee.

One of the top questions, however, is how to make it sweet? Those that like the extra boost in their brews are often stumped and even wary of ordering it as no one wants to wind up with a mouthful of gritty sugar.

Luckily, there are some simple ways to add sweet notes to this coffee, and we know just what they are. Below, we have outlined the simplest tricks plus some more involved recipes to give your beverage the taste you enjoy!

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What Is Cold Brew?

Although cold brew coffee has only become popular in the last several years, it has actually been around for centuries. Experts have found mentions of it as far back as 16th century China, though others argue that it’s a Dutch invention.

More recently during the early 19th century, it was considered a delicacy in New Orleans. Regardless of the background, however, many people are unsure what separates cold brew from ice coffee. In basic terms, cold brew is determined by how it is prepared versus the temperature of the final product.

How Cold Brew Is Made

Standard iced coffee is brewed hot then allowed to cool, and it’s poured over ice. Cold brew, on the other hand, is brewed cold. This is done by grinding coffee beans and soaking them in cold to room temperature water for twelve hours or more.

It is done this way to extract the sugars, oils, and caffeine making the coffee more flavorful. Beyond that, there are many other benefits of this brewing procedure.

cold brew coffee
Image Credit: Abi Porter, Flickr

Cold Brew Coffee Benefits

  • Smoother taste
  • Only contains half the acidity
  • Easier on the stomach
  • Stronger chocolate notes
  • Can boost metabolism
  • Improves mood
  • Can be served hot or cold
  • Naturally sweeter than hot brewed

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Top 10 Delicious Ways to Sweeten Cold Brew:

As we mentioned above, cold brew is naturally sweeter than when it is brewed hot. This allows you to use less sugar or other artificial products. That being said, though you can serve cold brew either hot or cold, it’s typically consumed cold.

One of the most popular and easy ways to add sugar to this coffee is by making syrup, otherwise known as liquid sugar.

1. Liquid Sugar

This process is not only easy, but you can also make a large batch to be stored away. Liquid sugar will stay good in the fridge for up to 30 days if it’s kept in a sealed container. This will keep you from having to make small amounts every time you want to enjoy a cold coffee.

  • Saucepan
  • Spoon
  • Container with lid

To make the syrup, add equal parts water and sugar to a medium saucepan. Heat on medium while stirring consistently until all the sugar is dissolved into the water. Transfer the liquid sugar to a container and add one tablespoon of lemon juice. This will keep the syrup from solidifying. Let the syrup cool before putting it in the fridge.

melting sugar
Image Credit: Harsha K R, Flickr

That’s it! That is all it takes to make liquid sugar that you can add to your cold brew without any gritty residue. While that is an easy enough recipe, not everyone wants to sweeten their coffee with granulated sugar. If that is the case, we have found a bunch of other recipes that will not only replace sugar but will also give your coffee a whole new flavor.

2. Coconut Water

Ingredients: Coconut water

If you like tropical coffee, you might want to consider brewing with coconut water. Instead of brewing your grinds in filtered water, you can use sweetened or unsweetened coconut water.

Both options will give your coffee a naturally sweeter taste while also giving it hints of fruit and citrus.

As you can guess, the unsweetened version will not give you as much of a taste difference, though you will be surprised what a difference it makes in a cold brew.

cold brew coconut milk
Image Credit: Tyler Nix, Unsplash

3. Summer Cold Brew

Ingredients: Lemongrass, Molasses

There is nothing better in the hot summer months than a cold brew coffee over ice. To add some sweetness, plus a hint of summer, try adding ¼ teaspoon of lemongrass along with 2 teaspoons of molasses to kick up the flavor.

4. Creamy Cold Brew

Ingredients: Sweetened Condensed Milk, Heavy Whipping Cream

Cold brew is a smoother coffee than its counterparts, so it naturally goes well with milk to create a creamy coffee. Dairy milk, though it can be sweet on its own, is usually not enough to sweeten your brew if you are used to sugar. Instead, try combining equal parts sweetened condensed milk and heavy whipping cream.

These two dairies have more sugary flavors that will make a creamy and smooth cold cup. The trick is not to whisk or beat the two as you don’t want it to turn into foam. Instead, gently stir it with a spoon before adding it to your coffee.

5. Holiday Cold Brew

Ingredients: Nutmeg, Vanilla Extract

nutmeg powder
Image Credit: scym, Pixabay

This is a great option if you like an iced coffee during the colder months of the year. Adding a ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg with two to three sprinkles of vanilla extract will give the coffee a festive, holiday vibe while the vanilla extract will add some sugar-like flavor.

6. Almond Milk

Ingredients: Almond Milk

Alternative dairy products have become very popular for their health benefits, vegan status, and eco-friendly stature. They are also sweeter than cow’s milk. In this case, almond milk is a great option as it combines with a cold brew in a similar way to milk.

You have the option of sweetened, unsweetened, and vanilla almond milk. All of which pairs great with a couple of dashes of either almond or vanilla extract for an extra kick of flavor. You can add the nutty substitute as you would milk, though, you will need to heat it if you plan on drinking a hot-cold brew.

cinnamon coffee cinnamon sticks
Image credit: Unsplash

7. Fall Cold Brew

Ingredients: Cinnamon, Maple Syrup

A cozy and tasty way to heighten the sweetness of your cold brew is by adding ½ teaspoon of cinnamon with two teaspoons of maple syrup. The natural sugars in the maple syrup will add the flavor you are looking for. Plus, adding in the cinnamon will not only heighten the subtle flavors in the syrup but will also give it a taste of fall.

8. Mood Elevator Cold Brew

Ingredients: Cayenne pepper, Cocoa Powder

This may seem like an odd pairing, but spicy elements have been added to chocolate recipes for centuries to boost the mood and elevate the spirit. As cold brew already has this ability, the two concepts are great when mixed. Plus, we all know what cocoa powder will do to your cold brew.

For this recipe, you want to add ⅛ teaspoon of cayenne pepper and one teaspoon of cocoa powder to a small amount of cold brew. Mix well and heat in the microwave for about 30 seconds. You want to warm it just enough to allow the cocoa powder and cayenne pepper to fully dissolve. Combine with the rest of your cold brew and pour over ice. You can more cocoa powder as desired.

Image Credit: vickysandoval22, Flickr

9. Traditional Cold Brew

Ingredients: Milk, Honey

Sometimes it’s nice to have a traditional, rustic cup of iced coffee. To add some new flavor to the old-school recipe, we like it with cold-brewed coffee. For this recipe, you want to start by adding two to three tablespoons of honey to a glass. Next, add a small amount of warm water; just enough to cover the honey. Stir until honey is diluted and smooth adding a ½ teaspoon of warm water as needed.

This is an important step to make sure the honey dissolves into the coffee, and you also don’t want it to separate when it comes into contact with the milk. Once you have a watered-down honey-liquid, add your cold brew and milk of your choice.

Cold Brew
Image Credit: Wade Austin Ellis, Unsplash

10. Nitro Cold Brew

This is an interesting recipe that has become popular not only because it sweetens your coffee, but because of the unique and interesting effect. It is important that you are careful with this recipe and seek help if you are unsure about how to create it, though. That being said, it is pretty easy and fun!

  • Cold brew coffee
  • Tall transparent glass
  • Whipped cream dispenser (minus the actual whipped cream)
  • Nitrogen cartridge

Pour the cold brew into the whipped cream container. Close the top and make sure the lid is secured tightly. Then attach the nitrogen cartridge according to whipped cream container directions.

Shake the container vigorously for several minutes. Hold upside down and “spray” press cold brew into the see-through glass. Once you have emptied the container, watch the glass to see the effects of the liquid. Not only is it fun, but it tastes great afterward!

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We hope you have found a couple of tasty and easy ways to sweeten your cold brew. The popularity of this new cold coffee has many benefits that you should get to know. That doesn’t mean you have to forgo the sweetness of your favorite coffee!


Featured Image: Dennis Tang, Flickr


Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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