Why I Ditched Cold Brew Coffee for Cortados

This espresso-based drink keeps me sane all summer long.
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It’s hot. You’re tired from the heat. You’re tired of being subjected to the heat. You feel like a schvitzing Sisyphus, and it’s not even August. Salvation comes in sips: caffeinated, creamy strawfuls of gelid java. It’s refreshment my body has been trained to absorb instantly. Even holding an iced coffee makes me a better person: rolling a condensation-covered cup on my face has prevented many meltdowns on swarming, sweltering subway platforms.

I bonded with the beverage even more once I discovered iced cortados, my dream drink. First, let’s dethrone some of the other iced coffees out there. Cold brew is having a moment—a few years of moments, really. I get it. It’s sometimes less acidic than iced coffee, doesn’t require boiling water when your kitchen’s already boiling, and sounds chic.

Ever stop to think about what “cold brew” really means though? Those coffee grounds have sat in stagnant water for who knows how long if you’re ordering it. Caffeine and concentration aren’t usually consistent. It’s also not brewed like traditional coffee, so you’re missing some of the rich flavors you get from your percolator, French press, pour-over, etc.

Good ol’ regular iced coffee, the hot stuff that’s been cooled, has also been chilling for a while and isn’t getting any fresher. For both iced coffee and cold brew, you have to be a really responsible caffeinator (and have room in your fridge) so it’s ready when you are. Then, when you pour either over ice, it gets more watered down.

Enter my new flame: the iced cortado. A cortado is an espresso with an equal amount of steamed milk. I drink it when I want a caffeine pick-me-up without the bitterness or acidity of pure espresso. Served cold, it’s paradise-on-ice. If I order it at a coffee shop, I watch the barista make it: screaming hot, fresh, super aromatic, and strong. The steamed milk is just enough to mellow it and add some foam. It’s not a big serving of liquid, so it trickles down the cubes, instantly cooling it without getting too watery.

Take a sip right away for a burst of creamy coffee—like espresso ice cream without all the sugar. Let it chill, let the drink chill you, and the beverage dilutes into iced coffee—a frigid Americano, really.

An espresso over ice is also a good move if you’re a control freak about milk, or if you’re at a café with a DIY milk station. It’s also a bit cheaper than most drinks on the menu. I’m a fan of just sprinkling in a little sugar and crunching on the espresso-coated cubes, a treat that’s worth the enamel damage.

Since ice plays such a big role, it’s important to trust it’s going to taste good melted. That’s why I love making iced cortados at home. For coffee, I use a stovetop moka pot. It’s technically not an espresso maker, but the coffee’s nearly as strong and brews almost as fast. They’re affordable (around $10) and built to last (mine’s going on 10 years). On weekends, I’ll also break out my cocktail shaker to dilute and chill everything efficiently—while feeling festive.

There’s a reason we “fix” a cup of coffee. It’s addicting and we tweak it to our tastes. We can control it when the summer heat controls us. If you prefer your poison fresh, robust, a little creamy, and very icy (not watery and stale), try a cortado on the rocks. For this season’s burn, it’s the cure-all—for your internal temp, not the environment. So try to remember your reusable straw.