When I’m on the go and I want to pick up a coffee, I always grab an iced one (yes, even in the winter); I’m too impatient to carry around a scalding hot cup until its contents cool off enough for my first sip. But I always rush through my iced coffee, because there’s a timer running—when that ice begins to melt, the whole cup gets watered down, and my enjoyment slips away. It doesn’t have to be like this.
Nation’s Restaurant News editors recently shared their predictions for the biggest 2023 food trends, and senior food and beverage editor Bret Thorn suggests that more coffee shops should consider using “black ice,” or ice cubes made from coffee itself.
“For years, clever independent chefs and beverage directors have been freezing coffee in ice-cube trays to offer iced coffee with consistent flavor,” Thorn writes. “Coffee houses could start doing that too, on a larger scale, and offer it as a premium, similar to an extra shot of espresso.”
Obviously, implementing coffee ice cubes on a mass scale, such as at Starbucks, would incur additional operational costs and cause some logistical complications, all of which would have to be worked into the price. Still, I’d certainly pay a few extra bucks to be able to enjoy an iced coffee at a leisurely pace.
Coffee cubes can also be added to other drink bases, such as something creamy, to gradually add coffee flavor to the beverage as it melts, without adding nearly as much caffeine as a whole cup of coffee. There’s a world of possibilities here. Hell, depending on the chain, these cubes could be blended into high-protein smoothies, added to milkshakes, and incorporated into cocktails. (That’d be an interesting spin on the espresso martini, don’t you think?)
Yet frozen coffee cubes are still relegated to videos on TikTok, where users can try staking their sole claim on the concoction for internet clout. This is a menu offering we should be able to find at every major cafe. Besides, there’s something striking about a beverage with amber-colored objects floating around in it; with the right lighting, it’s a morning beverage guaranteed to slay on Instagram. And isn’t that what so many of Starbucks’ special releases are designed to do?
Starbucks did test coffee cubes at certain locations back in 2017, but the innovation doesn’t seem to have gone any farther. Hopefully the chain takes another stab at it soon. Trends can be hard to predict, but coffee ice cubes have practical applications that will likely never go out of style. Considering coffee chains aren’t exactly known for fast-paced innovation most of the time, someone’s got to take the lead, because the first one that does already has my money.