How to Make Iced Coffee Less Bitter (8 Amazing Tips)

Iced coffee is a wonderful summer treat that cools you down while delivering the caffeine kick that we crave from coffee. Your iced coffee does not have to be bitter or boring.

Iced coffee is brewed hot and then added to a cup of ice to chill it quickly. To make iced coffee less bitter, we must focus on either getting a brew that is less bitter or sweetening iced coffee after brewing it.

Most people assume that sweetening coffee is the only key to softening the bitter taste of coffee. The truth is a few tweaks to the brewing process can yield a less bitter brew.

A bitter iced coffee not only gets in your way of enjoying coffee but also affects your mood when your craving has not been satisfied.

How to make iced coffee less bitter
Adding coffee into a glass of ice

8 Amazing Tips to Make Iced Coffee Less Bitter

1. Use a Light to Medium Roast to Make Iced Coffee Less Bitter

Dark roasts such as the Vienna, French and Italian roasts are characterized by bitterness. Brewing your iced coffee with dark roasts is a sure way to get iced coffee that is bitter.

Medium and light roasts such as blonde roast, on the other hand, have no bitterness. They yield a sweeter, clearer, and brighter brew that is perfect for iced coffee.

2. Grind Coarser to Make Iced Coffee Less Bitter

A coarser grind reduces the contact time between hot water and coffee grounds thereby reducing extraction. When brewing with darker roasts, a coarser grind will reduce the amounts of bitterness that is extracted from your grounds. Find a grind size that balances the sourness and bitterness of your brew.

3. Reduce the Brew Time

Whether you are brewing with a pour-over cone or an espresso maker, the time taken to brew your coffee determines the flavors that you obtain. Reducing the brewing time without changing the grind size and coffee ratio will extract less of the bitter flavors. When pulling espresso, reduce the timing to resemble a ristretto to cut down on the bitterness.

4. Make a Weaker Brew

Use more water to weaken the coffee and dilute the bitterness. Experiment with different coffee ratios for the type of beans that you are using to brew your iced coffee, for example, if the recommended ratio is 1:17, try bigger ratios such as 1:25 or 1:30 to come up with a suitable ratio.

When using an espresso coffee maker, you can increase the brew time to add more water to your espresso hence diluting the bitter flavors.

You are better off reducing the amount of ice after weakening your brew to avoid a watery iced coffee. You can also freeze brewed coffee to make iced coffee cubes for a stronger iced coffee.

To make coffee ice cubes, brew some filtered coffee and let it cool down. Pour the cold coffee on an ice palette and keep it in the freezer.

5. Use Filtered Water

The quality of the water that you use for your brew impacts the final flavors and quality of your coffee. Tap water can have varying mineral elements and flavors depending on the seasons.

Also, the chemicals used during purification will have an impact on the taste of your coffee.

Filtered water has a ph of about 7 which can help to remove some of the acidity in your coffee. Filtered water enhances the consistency of your brew: your coffee will taste the same regardless of the season.

6. Use Freshly Roasted Beans

Stale beans have extinguished most of their vibrant qualities. They are likely to make coffee that is dull and flat with unpleasant woody overtones.

Fresh coffee beans, on the other hand, have enticing aromas and flavors. The best way to guarantee that you are using fresh coffee beans is by roasting green coffee beans at home.

7. Adding Cold Milk to Make Iced Coffee Less Bitter

The proteins in milk and cream are a great choice to lessen the bitterness of iced coffee that is already brewed. The milk should be chilled before adding it to your coffee.

Adding milk to a glass of ice and then gently pouring the hot coffee from the top creates a nice smoky appearance as the coffee cuts through the cold milk and melts the ice.

Nuts milk such as almond milk gives a nutty flavor and makes the coffee sweet and smooth. Adding 30-50 ml of condensed milk to your iced coffee makes it sweeter and creamier.

8. Use Syrup to Sweeten Your Iced Coffee Instead of Solid Sugar

Have you noticed that when you add granules or cubes of sugar to iced coffee, the sugar rarely dissolves but settles at the bottom? Solid sugar is less soluble in iced drinks. Sugar syrup is a better choice to sweeten the coffee and reduce its bitterness.

Make sugar syrup at home by adding one part water and one part of sugar to a saucepan. Heat the mixture while stirring until all the sugar has dissolved. See this simple classic syrup recipe.

You can flavor the syrup by throwing in a cinnamon stick, cardamom, or other desirable spices. Sieve the mixture to remove the big particles and keep the syrup aside to cool. Store it in a closed container in the pantry.

Alternatively, when using solid sugar for your iced tea, add the solid sugar to the hot brew and stir to dissolve before adding ice.

Ready-made flavored syrups such as white mocha sauce can add sweetness and creaminess to the iced coffee.

Read about what to look for in a Keurig coffee maker for iced coffee.


When looking at ways of making iced coffee less bitter, some tips such as adding sugar and milk can momentarily cure the problem. However, a deeper look into the type and quality of coffee beans and the brewing technique is necessary to fully eliminate the bitter flavors.

There are countless ways of brewing iced coffee and you may want to see our guide on how to make iced coffee quickly when you have no time.

Commonly Asked Questions

Why is my Iced Coffee so Bitter?

The main causes of bitter iced coffee are over-extraction and brewing with very dark roasts. Over-extraction can be due to several reasons: a finer grind size, over-dosing, high water temperature, or extended brew time. Dark roasts are synonymous with bitter flavors.

Is Iced Coffee more Bitter?

No, iced coffee has the same bitterness as regular coffee that is brewed from the same bag of coffee beans using the same brewing method. However, since iced coffee is almost always sweetened before it’s served, the sweetener cuts some of the bitterness before the iced coffee reaches you.

On the other hand, a cold brew is smoother and less bitter than iced coffee because it uses cold water that extracts very little of the bitter flavors.

How Do You Sweeten Iced Coffee at Home?

Some of the ways to sweeten iced coffee at home include adding sugar syrup, flavored creamer or almond milk, and flavored syrup such as chocolate syrup. You can also add homemade sweet cream.

Do You Use Hot or Cold Water for Iced Coffee?

When making iced coffee, you use hot water to brew hot coffee as you would do when making regular hot coffee. You then add ice and your choice of milk and sweeteners to the hot coffee.

How Do You Make Coffee Less Bitter Without Sugar?

You can make coffee less bitter without adding sugar by

  • brewing with lighter roasts that are not bitter
  • reducing the level of extraction of your brew by using a coarser grind, reducing the extraction time, or using lesser amounts of grounds
  • dilute your coffee with water or milk to reduce the bitterness
  • add flavored creamer
  • add a natural sweetener such as honey

How to Avoid Getting Bitter Iced Coffee at Starbucks and other Coffee Shops

If the coffee you are getting at your favorite coffee shop is too bitter, request that they make your coffee with lighter roasts or espresso ristretto. If the iced coffee is still too bitter then you are better off changing to cold-brew coffee which is smoother, less acidic, and less bitter.

See how ristretto flavor is different from espresso here.

It would be pointless to ask that they change the extraction time, grind size, and all the nitty-gritty that lead to a perfect cuppa.


Patrick is first a coffee lover and then a trained barista. His bucket list includes sky diving and sipping on Java in the Himalayas.

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