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6 Refreshing Cold Coffee Drinks With Less Sugar Than Your Usual Order

Written by Josie Emerson

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Ditch the sugar-loaded iced lattes and make your own cold brew, iced coffee, and even chilled pumpkin spice latte at home!

Although coffee is typically thought of as a hot beverage, the growing popularity of cold brew and iced lattes have been upending that reputation — and not just during the summer. Starbucks reported that at least three-quarters of its U.S. sales in 2022 came from iced drinks even during the winter months, according to one industry report.

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While chilled coffee drinks are certainly refreshing, pre-made lattes and other coffee drinks are often loaded with dairy fat and sugar, regardless of their temperature. A 16-ounce (oz) Cinnamon Caramel Cream Cold Brew from the coffee chain contains 250 calories, 12 grams (g) of fat, 8 g of saturated fat, and 32 g of sugar. That’s more than half the saturated fat the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends for an entire day, all from a single drink!

Whipped cream, toppings, and flavored sugar syrups can also add calories, unhealthy fat, and sugar to a drink. Each pump of syrup contains approximately 20 calories and 5 g of sugar, according to Starbucks, and a 12-oz drink typically starts with three pumps of flavor. That’s 15 g, or about three-and-a-half teaspoons, of added sugar — again just more than half what the AHA recommends for an entire day.

Making your own cool coffee drinks at home allows you to keep these nutrients in check and costs a fraction of what you’d pay when ordering out. DIY-ing your brew is not difficult, but there are some things to keep in mind.

There are two basic ways to make coffee below room temperature: You can use hot water and then cool the resulting brew for an iced coffee or latte. Or you can use cold water to gradually extract flavor from the beans; the result is known as cold brew. The two processes result in vastly different products, says Maryna Gray, director of coffee at Bean Box. The taste of cold brew coffee can range from rich and creamy to fruity or nutty,” she says, while iced coffee tends to be crisper and lighter tasting. This may be because the cold brew process extracts different compounds from coffee beans, making the resulting coffee less acidic and lower in antioxidants than hot brewed coffee, research shows.

Whichever method you prefer, here is how to make your coffee taste great.

How to Make Cold Brew

To make basic cold brew, Gray recommends using a medium to medium-dark roast or even an espresso blend. Coffees from South America, like Colombian or Brazilian varieties, or blends that list "chocolate," “cocoa," or “nutty” in their tasting notes, are ideal for cold brews, she says. Use a coarse grind and mix however much coffee you’re using with cold water in a 1 to 8 ratio (for example, 2 oz of coffee grounds with 16 oz of water). Mix the ingredients together in a glass jar with a lid and let it sit in the refrigerator for 10 to 14 hours.

“It's important to keep the coffee cold during this process to limit the potential for bacteria growth,” Gray says. And letting it steep much longer can lead to bitter notes. When you’re ready to drink it, strain out the coffee grounds using a filter or cheese cloth and dilute with water or milk. Cold brew is concentrated, and will keep for up to two weeks in the fridge.

How to Flash Brew Iced Coffee

While there are several ways to make iced coffee, one that has been in favor lately, according to Gray, is flash brewing. This method essentially replaces part of the water you’d normally use to brew your coffee with ice. Gray uses a ratio of 1 part coarsely ground coffee to 10 parts hot water to 6 parts ice. She recommends using an Ethiopian or Kenyan roast for a refreshing tea-like iced coffee with fruit notes. “The fruit flavors will shine through when poured over ice,” she says.


To flash brew coffee, you can use a pour-over dripper or an automatic drip coffee machine. Position the coffee grounds over a carafe filled with the ice, and pour hot water over them. The hot coffee will melt the ice and instantly cool off the coffee (it should melt completely in the carafe). Serve over more ice or add your milk or nondairy milk alternative of choice.

If you want to branch out from black coffee or just a splash of milk, the following recipes are easy, satisfying, and contain less sugar than most coffee house drinks.

Iced Dirty Chai Latte

If you’re both a coffee and tea fan, this is the drink for you. A dirty chai consists of brewed chai (a spiced tea), a shot or two of espresso, and milk, all served over ice. This version contains just 4 grams of added sugar from the date syrup, compared to Starbucks' version packing 31 g sugar. Date syrup has a small number of vitamins and minerals and is used in Middle Eastern cooking and baking, per the Food Network.


1 chai tea bag
1 tsp date syrup or honey
1 cup nonfat milk or nondairy milk of your choosing
1 shot espresso, cooled or ⅛ cup strongly brewed coffee


1 Place tea bag in a mug and carefully pour 1/4 cup boiling water over it. Let steep for 5 minutes. Remove tea bag, stir in date syrup, and allow to cool. 
2 Add milk and espresso to cooled tea and stir until well mixed.
3 Pour mixture into serving glass and fill with ice.

Iced Brown Sugar Oat Milk Shaken Espresso

The ever-popular shaken espresso drink can be easily made at home for a fraction of the price and sugar content you'd get when ordering out. This version uses just 1 tsp of brown sugar per glass instead of multiple pumps of syrup and still tastes plenty sweet. Cinnamon adds a touch of subtle sweetness and warm spice, and its anti-inflammatory properties may reduce blood glucose levels, per the Cleveland Clinic.


1½ cups low-fat, unsweetened oat milk
4 shots espresso (regular or decaf), cooled
2 tsp brown sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon, plus additional for garnish


1 Add oat milk, espresso, brown sugar, and cinnamon to a cocktail shaker or lidded container with ice. Shake for 30 seconds until chilled.
2 Divide between two glasses. Garnish with additional cinnamon, if desired.

Iced Pumpkin Spice Latte

This drink is for all the pumpkin spice latte lovers who crave the popular fall drink in iced form. A medium pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks packs about 50 grams (g) sugar, exceeding your daily totals with just one drink, per the U.S. Department of Agrigulture's (USDA) Dietary Guidelines. This lower sugar version has the classic "PSL" flavor brimming with pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg, yet packs a fraction of the sugar: One serving contains only 8 g of added sugar via the syrup, per the USDA. contains  Dairy


1 cup low-fat, plain milk or any nondairy milk option
2 shots espresso (regular or decaf), cooled
2 tbsp pumpkin puree
2 tsp maple syrup
¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice, plus extra for topping
Cinnamon sticks for garnish (optional)


1 Pour all the ingredients (except garnish) into a pitcher or bowl and whisk together until well combined.
2 Pour into an ice-filled serving glass and garnish with cinnamon sticks if desired.

Iced Mexican Coffee

If you're a fan of an occasional spicy margarita (or a mocktail version), you'll love this slightly spicy, chocolatey iced coffee drink. This recipe contains a small pinch of cayenne pepper, which may boost metabolism and protect your heart, according to the Cleveland Clinic. This recipe also uses roasted cinnamon, which has a deep, bold, intense cinnamon flavor similar to Red Hots candy. contains  Soy


1 cup brewed coffee, cold
½ cup unsweetened soy milk or low-fat 1 percent milk
1½ tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp honey
¼ tsp roasted cinnamon or ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
⅛ tsp cayenne powder


1 Pour all ingredients into a pitcher and whisk together until well combined.
2 Pour into an ice-filled serving glass.

Cold Brew Coconut Coffee

Cold brew’s less-acidic taste means you may not feel the need to add much sweetener, and coconut adds tropical flavor. Plus, this latte contains a fraction of the fat, calories, and sugar found in coffee house versions. This recipe uses coconut sugar, which has trace amounts of minerals, but you can sub any sweetener you prefer.


⅓ cup ground coffee beans
¾ cup unsweetened coconut milk from a carton
1 tbsp coconut cream (optional)
2 tsp coconut sugar or dark brown sugar
½ tsp pure vanilla extract


1 In a lidded container or Mason jar, combine ground coffee with 1½ cups cold water, stir, and let steep in the fridge for at least 12 hours.
2 Filter through a fine sieve or coffee filter to remove coffee grounds.
3 Pour coconut milk, coconut cream (if using), coconut sugar, and vanilla extract into the strained coffee mixture and whisk together.
4 Divide the mixture evenly between two ice-filled glasses.

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Whipped Coffee

Dalgona coffee seems to have taken the internet by storm! This simple recipe whips together instant coffee, sugar, and boiling water into a light and fluffy foam you can enjoy on top of your favorite type of milk. This simpler and healthier version of the original eliminates the need for fancy equipment. Maple syrup is used in place of granulated sugar to lend a more complex flavor and decrease the amount of sugar used. contains  Dairy


2 tbsp powdered instant coffee
2 tbsp boiling water
2 tsp pure maple syrup
1 cup nonfat milk or nondairy milk of your choosing


1 Place coffee, water, and maple syrup in a mason jar and cover tightly. Shake vigorously until the mixture is light and frothy, about 3 minutes.
2 Serve over your favorite milk.

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