Summer weather presents a challenge to coffee fans. The steaming cups of java that get you through February just don't go down so well on sweltering days.
But thanks to the new popularity of coffee bars and all kinds of cold and frozen coffee concoctions, it has become much easier for coffee drinkers to borrow a great idea from tea sippers and simply add some ice.
Hot coffee may be hard to swallow in July, but a well-prepared iced coffee can be the highlight of a hot afternoon.
Just like coffee itself, iced coffee offers a range of tastes. Froth it up, add some syrup and lots of sugar and you have something like a coffee milkshake. Starbucks and other coffee shops have increased their bottom lines in part by adding an array of these frozen treats.
But you don't have to spend the bulk of a $5 bill to enjoy iced coffee. All you have to do is make coffee your favorite way (black or with milk or sugar or both), add ice and pour into a glass.
Just make sure you compensate for the ice so you don't dilute the flavor. You can do that by letting the coffee cool to room temperature, but not too far ahead of time, because you'll want to use fresh coffee for the best-tasting drink. Or you can simply make the coffee extra-strong so it won't be overly diluted by melting ice.
You may even want to make some coffee the day before, freeze it (black) in an ice-cube tray, then use those cubes for your iced coffee.
Like iced tea, iced coffee gives you a chance to experiment, and to treat yourself to some new flavor combinations. Add a drop of vanilla extract or maybe a caramel flavoring, or stir your glass with a cinnamon stick.
If you want a rich-tasting treat, top it off with whipped cream or stir in some half-and-half rather than milk.
Most coffee connoisseurs insist the best iced coffee comes from espresso, which has a strong enough flavor to stand up to ice and even a bit of water.
My own iced coffee guru is Jeanhee Pierce of Nina's Espresso Bar on North Calvert Street. Pierce has a simple but effective way for coffee fans to beat the heat:
She fills a glass (or takeout plastic cup) about two-thirds full of ice, adds two shots of espresso, a dollop of water and hands it over. I add some milk, and stroll out fortified for whatever the heat index may bring.