A Step by Step Guide on Coffee Lemonade
In the summer of 2016, people started raving about a new summer coffee drink popping up in cafes around the world: coffee lemonade. Fans of the blend of coffee and lemonade promote it as a refreshing alternative to other chilled coffee drinks. While the concept may seem a little bizarre, it has started to really take off and is popping up, under various names, in cafes around the world. Even Starbucks is offering coffee lemonade recipes these days.
Although it seems new and different, coffee lemonade is just a coffee-infused variation of a drink you probably already know: the Arnold Palmer. If you’re a fan of Netflix shows like Bojack Horseman and Flaked, you know an Arnold Palmer is a non-alcoholic drink made by combining lemonade and iced tea. Both coffee lemonade and an Arnold Palmer are made from an iced, bitter-tasting drink that has been sweetened and infused with lemon. So, while the concept may seem a little bizarre, the result is not entirely unexpected. Incidentally, one of the more popular names for this drink is the “Laura Palmer”, both a riff on the Arnold Palmer name and an homage to Twin Peaks’s coffee-loving characters.
Spring and summer are perfect times for iced drinks, so I thought I’d share this one with you. Crisp, refreshing, lemony, and carbonated, coffee lemonade is a great drink for taking on a walk through a park or to a beach. While it is available at a growing number of cafes, it is really very simple to make at home. I’ve included a recipe for coffee lemonade below.
This recipe is delightfully simple. I based it off of a combination of Gina’s Homemade Lemonade and added cold brew coffee. It’s mostly a blend of chilled coffee and good, old-fashioned lemonade. I have set up this recipe to make two 20 ounce servings, but it can easily be scaled up or down depending on how much coffee lemonade you would like to make. If you’re making lemonade for more than one or two people, I’d recommend at least doubling the recipe.
2 cups of cold brew coffee (or other cold coffee)
1/2 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
1 recipe simple lemonade syrup (ingredients below)
1 cup lemon sparkling water (plain cold water will also work well)
Lemonade simple syrup
This syrup is very easy to make; it is just a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water with lemon zest added for flavoring.
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
Zest from one medium lemon
Step 1 – Make your coffee
Personally, I like to use cold brew to make coffee lemonade. To make cold brew, steep very coarsely ground coffee in cold water overnight, and then strain out the grounds. More instructions can be found in my cold brew coffee article.
Cold brew coffee is perfect for this kind of drink because of its flavor profile. Compared to coffee made with hot water, it is naturally less acidic and bitter-tasting. Because it takes such a long time to steep compared to more conventional coffee-making methods, it draws out some delightfully complex flavors from the beans. Plus, because it is already cold, it doesn’t get so watery when poured over ice.
If you don’t have cold brew coffee available, you can use whatever coffee you have on hand, as long as it’s chilled. If you choose not to use cold brew, be sure to use a medium-bodied coffee that is not too bitter. Otherwise, it may overpower the lemon flavors you want to bring out.
Step 2 – Make a simple syrup
When I make sweet beverages, I prefer to use a simple syrup over just mixing in sugar. It just mixes in so much easier. Imagine making old-fashioned Kool-Aid, the kind that was just flavor crystals and dye in a packet. The recipe for that called for several cups of white sugar to be mixed into cold water. It took forever to stir all of that sugar in. Simple syrup dissolves the sugar in hot water. There are two benefits to this method: the sugar dissolves much faster in hot water and, once the syrup has cooled, it mixes much more easily into cold water than granulated sugar does.
Because this is a lemon-flavored beverage, it is a pretty great idea to add some lemon zest to the simple syrup. Lemon zest is the best way to add a lot of lemon flavor to food. In this case, the heat used in making the syrup extracts the lemon oils from the zest, resulting in a deep lemon flavor that is not at all sour.
How to make the syrup
Before making the syrup, zest a lemon using either a zester (like in my photo in the ingredients section), a grater, or, if you are confident, a knife. If you instead decide to zest the lemon with a grater or a knife, take care to scrape the colorful zest layer off of the bitter, white pith layer underneath. Zesters, though very sharp, do an excellent job of taking just the flavorful zest off of the fruit.
To make the simple syrup, combine the sugar, water, and lemon zest in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring it to a boil over medium heat and boil until the sugar has all dissolved. Keep an eye on it and be careful not to let it burn. Remove the pan from the heat and set the syrup aside to cool. Store in a covered container. The syrup should keep well in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Step 3 – Combine it!
The final step in this recipe is combining all of the ingredients. Add the cold brew coffee, the lemon-flavored syrup, lemon juice, sparkling water, and ice into a pitcher and stir to combine. Or, if you’d rather be a little like James Bond, you can add the ingredients to a shaker and strain out the ice when you pour it into a highball glass. Garnish with some lemon slices and mint and enjoy the refreshing products of all your hard work.
And there you have it! This trendy coffee beverage is sure to refresh and delight all summer long.