It doesn’t take more than a cursory glance to see that I am my father’s daughter given my fair skin, dark hair, and chicken legs, yet as I grow older, the traits I inherited from my mom are becoming increasingly manifest. I see in myself her fighting spirit, her penchant for fashion accessories, and – perhaps the most obvious to me – her love for all things coffee.
She taught me my first lessons in coffee brewing, and I still remember the times we’d stop in to Starbucks and indulge in mocha Frappuccinos during my teenage years. It usually happened when we were out shopping for clothes or makeup, just us girls enjoying a fun day together. For me, it wasn’t solely about the pleasure found inside that plastic cup; our relationship was nourished as we sipped, chatted, and shopped.
Fast forward 10 or 15 years, and here I am, suddenly a mother of two and living a drastically different life. While I love catching up over lattes with my mom or a friend, I rarely have the opportunity to do so, and as a result, this classic drink has been cast in a new role. It’s not a daily habit but something I enjoy only on occasion and with focused intent. Every sip is savored, bringing private sanctuary in the midst of toddler chaos.
Until recently, I had always purchased my coffee drinks from Starbucks and other such establishments, but my pocketbook is thanking me for discovering an easy way to enjoy my favorite beverage at a fraction of the cost. The cinnamon-infused iced coffee recipe that I’m sharing today reminds me of a rich caramel macchiato, full of flavor and decadence, yet with an unexpected hint of spice.
My friend, Mo, who recently showed me the ropes of making homemade pho, also introduced me to an Asian brand of sweetened condensed milk that breathes life into ordinary iced coffee. I tried it in this recipe and was immediately sold; unlike standard American sweetened condensed milk products which often taste almost like pure sugar, this has a deeper caramel flavor to it that can’t be beat. If you are able to find the variety pictured, I highly recommend it.
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 1/4 cup coarsely ground dark roast coffee
- 2 3-inch cinnamon sticks
- 2-3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk, to taste
- Using your microwave or stovetop, heat the water until it just boils, then remove it from the heat and allow to cool for one minute.
- Meanwhile, place the ground coffee in the cylinder of a French press along with the cinnamon sticks (make sure the cinnamon lies flat so that you don’t run into problems when you depress the plunger later on). Pour the hot, but not boiling, water over the grounds and stir the mixture briefly (a chopstick works very well here). Place the lid on the French press, leaving the plunger in its upper position. Allow to steep for 4 minutes.
- Once brewing is complete, slowly move the plunger to its lower position and pour the coffee into a heat-safe glass or mug (I use the same glass measuring cup that I used to measure my water in the beginning). Add in 2-3 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk, according to your taste, and stir until it is fully dissolved. Pour the mixture into a 16-ounce glass that has been filled to the rim with ice and enjoy.
Tips and Tidbits
- If you fancy a lighter brew, you can opt to use less coffee or steep for a shorter period of time. For something more stout, it is best to adjust only the amount of coffee used. Coffee that steeps for too long can start to develop a bitter taste.
- For an even coffee grind, a high quality burr grinder is ideal. But if you are like me and don’t own one, I find it works great to grind the beans right at the grocery store. I generally buy just a week’s worth at a time and then transfer it to an airtight container when I get home, storing it in a cool, dark place (not the fridge or freezer).
- I use two cinnamon sticks to ensure that the flavor comes through in the final product, but because the steeping time is so short, the spice still has a lot of life left in it. To get the maximum mileage from the cinnamon, I give it a quick rinse after I’ve brewed my coffee, then set it out on the counter, uncovered, to dry overnight and then reuse it the next day (I usually throw it out after 3 uses).
- If you don’t own a French press or you happen to prefer drip coffee, just mix the sweetened condensed milk into a strong brew and pour over ice. I haven’t tried it myself, but I’m not sure the cinnamon notes would be robust enough using that method, so it might be best to omit it. (But if you are feeling adventurous, give it a shot and tell me how it goes!)