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Published Sep 12, 2023 1:00 PM
Add a reliable iced coffee maker to your arsenal of kitchen appliances and it will change not only your daily routine but also your entire mindset. You’ll stop lusting after pricey takeout brews and start crafting custom ice cubes made of coffee or creamer that won’t dilute your drink. At-home iced coffee can achieve true greatness. But which maker suits your palate? Take some time to consider whether you’re a pod-loving, grab-and-go drinker or someone who wants to tinker with bloom times adjusted to your favorite beans. Here are the best iced coffee makers for those who take life cup by cup or vat by vat.
How we choose the best iced coffee makers
PopSci’s obsession with coffee leads to firmly entrenched opinions about the superiority of brewing methods and trickles down to milk frothers, travel mugs, and other accouterments. Our recommendations for iced coffee makers come from research, expert opinions, and our experience drinking ever larger volumes of chilled caffeine as the temperatures increase.
Technically, any coffee maker that brews hot coffee makes iced coffee: Just brew a pot and toss it in the fridge for later. For this roundup, we stuck to machines with dedicated settings that brew a stronger concentration directly over ice to be sipped immediately. We also considered performance, brewing capacity, overall size, and whether each machine can make other beverages while occupying precious counter space. (And we’ve got you covered if cold brew coffee makers are more your vibe. Not sure of the difference? Read our “What to consider …” section after our top picks.)
The best iced coffee makers: Reviews & Recommendations
The best iced coffee makers make a solid cup of hot coffee and a more robust version to go over ice. But you should also consider whether you’re making a cup at a time or enough for a household, whether the machine uses pods or beans, how much control you want over brew settings, and whether it will be one of many coffee makers or your primary device.
Best overall: Breville Precision Brewer
- Dimensions: 9 inches deep by 14 inches wide and 16 inches height
- Weight: 3.15 pounds
- Brewing capacity: Up to 32 ounces for iced coffee, up to 60 for hot
- Thermal carafe
- Six preset brewing modes, including iced coffee and cold brew
- My Brew setting allows custom brewing setting
- Adjustable temperatures
- Three flow rates
- Includes flat bottom and cone filter baskets
- Water tank isn’t removable
The Breville Precision Brewer hits a sweet spot for people who want a programmable, automatic machine that still allows them to customize the flavor of their beans. The tall stainless steel brewer comes with six preset brewing modes—including iced coffee, cold brew, and one tuned to Specialty Coffee Association’s Gold Cup standard—for those who want barista quality but don’t necessarily have barista know-how (or patience).
For hot coffee, the machine can brew a single cup or crank out 60 ounces in less than seven minutes on its fast setting. The volumes for cold sippers are significantly smaller. The Over Ice mode brews up to four cups of a more potent brew. The Cold Brew setting makes up to 20 ounces—a single serving for many of us—in an adjustable steeping time (zero to 16 hours), but you can skip the carafe and put it right into your favorite mug.
The Precision Brewer, our pick for best overall drip coffee maker, is jam-packed with features to get the most out of your favorite beans. Tinkerers can also play with customizable brewing settings, including adjustable temperatures and flow rates, and save them as a “My Brew” setting for repeated use. It also comes with cone and flat-bottom filter baskets, and a pour-over adapter can be added separately. At more than $300, the Precision Brewer may have a higher price tag than the average joe may be expecting. Still, it consolidates what could be multiple different gadgets—drip, iced coffee, cold brew, and the optional pour-over—into one device.
Some reviewers, however, have quibbles about the water tank. It isn’t removable like many other models, so refilling requires using something else to fill it, and it doesn’t completely empty every time.
Best budget: Mr. Coffee Iced and Hot Coffee Maker
- Dimensions: 7 inches deep by 10 inches wide and 16 inches tall
- Weight: 5.6 pounds
- Brewing capacity: Up to 16 ounces
- Single servings in your own cups or included 22-ounce tumbler
- Use your own beans
- Includes a 22-ounce tumbler with straw
- Easy to clean
- No pods necessary
- Complaints about leaky tumbler lid
The Mr. Coffee Iced and Hot Coffee Maker is for households that take the day one cup at a time but want to avoid pods. This single-serve machine comes with a reusable filter to use your chosen grinds and cranks out a cup of hot or iced coffee in under four minutes.
This budget find keeps things simple with only two buttons for “hot brew” or “over ice” and clear markings to meet the grind-water-ice ratios needed. For iced coffee, the included 22-ounce tumbler features a water line to fill the reservoir and then an ice line (though this really means filling it all the way to the top to account for coming melt). For hot options, the water reservoir has internal markings for 6, 8, 12, and 16 ounces and a double-sided scoop that tucks into its side.
The recommended retail price for the Mr. Coffee Iced and Hot Coffee Maker is $59.99, but it can often be found in the $30 to $40 range. Executive Editor Stan Horaczek has a very similar machine that comes with the same tumbler, and that aspect of the set is terrible. The top leaks, it’s hard to clean, and the straw feels very cheap. Get a better tumbler with all that money you saved on the machine itself.
Best Keurig: Keurig K-Elite Single-Serve K-Cup Pod Coffee Maker
- Dimensions: 10 inches deep by 12.7 inches wide and 13.1 inches tall
- Weight: 8 pounds
- Brewing capacity: Single Cup
- Pick your own cup up to 7.2 inches tall
- Brews in less than a minute
- Makes five different serving sizes
- Large water reservoir
- Compatible with My K Cup reusable coffee filter
- Makes other beverages and hot water for instant noodles, etc.
- All plastic body
- Large footprint
Some of us value simplicity and speed, the hallmarks of the Keurig K-Elite Single-Serve K-Cup Pod Coffee Maker. Slide your iced-filled mug under the spout, drop in your favorite K-Cup coffee, and press the “iced coffee” button. About a minute later, you can grab and go or at least sip a fresh cup with little fuss.
Keurig offers a machine specifically for iced coffee, but we recommend the K-Elite for maximum flexibility. The K-Elite provides more customization than most automatic single-serve machines, including increasing the brew temperature, an elevation setting for mountain folk, and programmable auto-on and auto-off. The massive 75-ounce water tank can also be used for five different beverage sizes—4, 6, 8, 10, or 12 ounces—or hot water on demand for a cup of noodles.
Clean-up is just the cup, tossing the pod (or washing your My K Cup reusable coffee filter), and occasionally descaling.
But the single-serve lifestyle means taking life one cup at a time—there’s no option for a carafe or batch brewing here. And though the K-Elite comes in colors like brushed silver, slate, and gold, the body is plastic with metal details.
Best for a batch brewing: Zojirushi EC-YTC100XB Coffee Maker
- Dimensions: 8 inches deep by 10.6 inches wide and 15.8 inches tall
- Weight: 9 pounds
- Brewing capacity: Up to 40 ounces for iced, up to 80 for hot
- Thermal carafe
- Optional pre-infusion cycle to allow beans bloom time
- Front-loading swing basket
- Detachable water tank
- Water marking for iced coffee
- Reports the vacuum carafe doesn’t keep coffee piping hot
- Looks more like an office machine than one for a kitchen
Zojirushi may be more readily associated with its well-loved rice cookers, but the Japanese company has long made hot water dispensers, electric kettles, and thermal mugs for hot beverages. The Zojirushi Fresh Brew Plus EC-YTC100XB Coffee Maker nabbed a spot as one of our best coffee makers for its ability to make delicious cups of hot and iced coffee. The secret? The machine lets the coffee bloom—geek speak for pouring a small amount of water on the grounds so they can release carbon dioxide before brewing—during an optional pre-infusion cycle. (So opt for it.) The result is either 10 cups of hot coffee or 4 to 5 cups of a concentrated brew to serve over ice immediately, a win for households with multiple or high-volume drinkers.
Iced coffee brewing isn’t a secondary bell or whistle. The Fresh Brew Plus’ water tank features clear markings for iced coffee. The setup is reasonably easy to clean with a removable water tank, a front-loading basket with a mesh filter—and a drip prevention mechanism to stop errant coffee from making a mess when the carafe has been removed.
One drawback is some hot coffee drinkers report that the carafe doesn’t keep the brew extra scalding. It also puts off a decidedly retro appliance vibe, which may not fit everyone’s aesthetic.
Best splurge: De’Longhi Eletta Explore Fully Automatic Coffee Machine
- Dimensions: 17.5 inches deep by 10.5 inches wide and 15.1 inches tall
- Weight: 24.7 pounds
- Brewing capacity: 60 ounces
- Single servings in your own cups
- Built-in grinder with 13 settings
- Make a wide variety of espresso drinks
- Four user profiles for one-touch personalized coffee
- Brews 8-, 12-, and 16-ounce drinks
- Can fit travel mugs
- Large footprint
- Mostly plastic body
We’ve stuck to regular iced coffee for this roundup, but it’s time to level up to espresso drinks like iced lattes, iced cappuccinos, iced Americanos, and the other strong brews we shell out for at the local coffee shop. Making those barista-worthy concoctions at home is what the De’Longhi Eletta Explore Fully Automatic Coffee Machine was designed to do—but for those of us who need the process automated. This $1,800 machine is an investment, but it makes 40 different recipes at the touch of a button.
The colorful, backlit screen features groups of drinks—cold, hot, or to-go—and menus of the drinks available and four programmable custom profiles. Brewing takes less than a minute, but the screen walks you through every step of the way, right down to the number of ice cubes that should be in the cup.
A large part of the De’Longhi Eletta Explore is the two milk canisters: one to make cold foam and one for hot foam. Each canister features a dial to adjust the fluffiness of the foam as prompted by the machine or to your preferences. Though it only takes a minute to brew a drink, the device will walk you through rinsing the milk system after each use, which takes another minute or so. However, you don’t want funk to build up.
The machine consumes significant counter space—partly due to the large 60-ounce water reservoir, but a conical burr grinder sits on top with options for 13 different coarseness. That consolidates at least two machines into one, but the two milk canisters will need space to live in the fridge.
One of the few complaints about the Eletta Explore is that it’s more plastic than expected for the price tag. Another is that the 40 options for drinks can be overwhelming. And you do really want both hot and cold foam? If that’s overly fussy, the De’Longhi Magnifica Evo with one foam option (and about half the price) may be your speed.
Like all coffee makers, you must balance the taste you want with the time, effort, and cost of meeting that. It’s also good to consider your household’s lifestyle: Are you each making a bespoke cup or a pot at a time? Do you mind cleaning each piece by hand, or do you want to be able to toss pieces into a dishwasher?
Iced coffee vs. cold brew
The brewing process is the critical difference between iced coffee and cold brew coffee. Iced coffee is brewed with hot water and then cooled down. Fans of this brewing method say the heat releases the nuances of the beans, though, generally, it has a milder flavor and thinner mouthfeel than cold-brew beverages. Cold brewing is a slower process—usually steeping grounds at room temperature or cool water for 12 to 24 hours—that results in a sweeter, less acidic taste (and, by the way, more caffeine).
Iced coffee-specific features
Many machines have an “iced coffee” or “over ice” setting that brews a more robust cup to go over ice. This more concentrated brew compensates for the ice that melts as it brings the hot java down to a chillier temp. Too little ice or too weak a mixture (or both) ends up with a meh, watered-down, neither hot nor cold drink.
Do you want to brew one cup at a time or make a batch? Many single-serving machines will fit the needs of individuals who wish for a specific flavor or only need one cup at a time. The better versions allow different sizes, including brewing directly into your favorite travel mug. While many coffee makers are best by the pot, manufacturers increasingly create options that handle single cups or at least half pots with a solid flavor.
Coffee shops have essentially trained us to want a custom blend: small, tall, half-caff, skinny, skim/soy/almond milk, upside down. If your tastes are more complex than adding a cream and two sugars, it’s time to look at the machines that allow tinkering with the strength of brews and other personalized settings.
Pods or beans
Most coffee makers—including those for iced coffee—are compatible with only pods, capsules, or grounds. If you’re looking for more flexibility with pods or K-Cups, many models offer a reusable cup option, which is Earth-friendlier than the disposable versions.
Q: How much counter space do you have?
The kitchen counter is the Manhattan of household real estate: There’s nowhere where square footage is more in demand. Coffee enthusiasts can quickly clutter it with a machine devoted to every conceivable beverage. Any iced coffee should also be able to brew hot coffee, but some versions offer additional options, like hot water spouts for brewing tea or making ramen noodles. Decide whether you want extra flexibility or are OK with a more single-purpose machine. Consider how much space you will dedicate to getting caffeinated and whether it can replace other gadgets.
Q: Can I use regular coffee grounds for iced coffee?
Whatever you brew for hot coffee can be used for iced coffee, though generally, you will want a more potent version. Some drinkers recommend using medium to dark roast beans for iced coffee, which hold up better against being diluted with ice and milk.
Q: Can I make iced coffee with a regular coffee maker?
You can make iced coffee with a regular coffee maker by brewing a batch and then putting it in the fridge overnight. For those who aren’t planners, pouring freshly brewed coffee over a generous amount of ice can hit the spot.
Final thoughts on the best iced coffee makers
An iced coffee maker should do at least two things well: brew hot coffee and a tasty cup over ice. Whether that’s a cup at a time or a larger batch depends on your household size and preferences. Our overall pick, the Breville Precision Brewer, offers flexibility with several brewing presets, additional personalized settings, and multiple brewing styles, including iced and cold brew, in a single machine. Mr. Coffee Iced and Hot Coffee Maker and Keurig K-Elite Single-Serve K-Cup Pod Coffee Maker hit the spot for people looking for simple brewing for single servings, while the Zojirushi Fresh Brew Plus EC-YTC100XB Coffee Maker can handle brewing a large batch of iced coffee at one time. The De’Longhi Eletta Explore Fully Automatic Coffee Machine is quite an investment but will satisfy those craving iced espresso drinks.
Why trust us
Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.
Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.