After a week of seasonably warm weather in New York, I finally made my annual switch from hot coffee to iced coffee this morning.
At the register, I was faced with an unpleasant reminder: Iced coffee is significantly more expensive than hot brew. My local deli charges $1.65 for a small, hot coffee and $2.45 for a small iced.
Over the course of a summer, that 80 cents adds up — four months of iced coffee on my walk to work will set me back around $54, almost $18 more than the equivalent amount of hot coffee would cost me.
And someone recently sued Starbucks over the amount of ice in its cold coffee drinks, claiming they drive up profits by loading beverage cups with ice cubes.
The materials used to make and serve iced coffee cost more money
The materials used to make and serve iced coffee add up fast. Those plastic cups with lids can cost twice as much as paper coffee cups, according to New York magazine. Vendors also have to account for the cost of straws and all the napkins customers use to wipe down their cups.
And ice may sound cheap, but it’s actually expensive to make. Commercial ice machines can run into the thousands of dollars, and many coffee shops only really use them a couple of months a year. Otherwise, they take up space and waste energy.
Iced coffee is brewed differently than hot coffee — and that means it costs more to make
Most coffee shops make their iced coffee using a different method than the one they use for hot coffee, and the process is costlier and more time-consuming. They do this so that the coffee is stronger and won’t get diluted when it’s iced.
Coffee that is brewed cold uses about twice as many beans as hot brew. And it takes longer to make: Most cold brew needs to steep for between 12 and 24 hours. Cold-brew concentrate is cut with water, but “even after all this dilution, a cup of cold-brewed joe can include 62 cents worth of ground coffee. A hot cup might include 35 cents’ worth of beans,” New York writes.
(Why not just stick a pot of hot coffee in the fridge and let it cool off? Once you put ice cubes in, it will further dilute the brew, creating a sad, watery drink.)
This summer, you can deal with the upcharge or suffer through hot brew in hot weather. Or you can just brew your own.
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