10 Ways To Upgrade Your Iced Coffee's Cold Foam Like A Barista

Dalgona coffee with whipped foam
Dalgona coffee with whipped foam - Alvarez/Getty Images

Let's be honest: Who isn't a fan of cold foam? It's the most fun way to add new flavor and texture to any iced drink -- and it looks good, too. If you're a home barista who's been hard at work making your own cold foams, there are a few things you might want to consider to upgrade the flavor, texture, and overall profile of your drink. As a former barista, I a dedicated cold foam fan, and I've also whipped up cold foam for many a customer. I was also privy to insider tips that cover everything you'd need to know about making cold foam. Although a magician may never reveal their secrets, a barista certainly can.

Making cold foam is a simple process. It involves aerating your cold milk, along with any potential add-ins, by using a frothing wand, blender, or intensely shaking a jar. Alternatively, you can pour milk into a French press and continually pump the plunger. Some coffee makers, like Nespresso, sell frothing machines that do the work for you.

Once you've practiced making basic cold foam at home, there are many ways to improve it. Learn them, and it will be easy for you to use these tips to order cold foam based on personal preferences. Many add-ons are easy to do yourself with pre-ordered drinks (such as mixing in a little cinnamon, for example). Just don't be surprised if your local coffee shop doesn't carry some of these upgraded items on their menus.

Read more: 31 Popular Coffee Brands, Ranked

Sweeten Your Cold Foam With Syrups Or Sugar

Dalgona coffee with cold foam
Dalgona coffee with cold foam - Marina Moskalyuk/Getty Images

The simplest way by far to upgrade your cold foam is to just add sugar or sweet, unflavored syrup to it. This is the perfect method for anyone who doesn't want to change the flavor of their drink but still wants their cold foam to add a little something extra to their iced coffee. Sweetened cold foam can replace the syrup or sugar you'd normally add to your coffee (and when it comes to iced drinks, sweet cold foam will mix with cold coffee even better than sugar). Sweetened cold foam can be especially useful when you have a strong coffee blend you don't want to flavor or when you're looking to add cold foam to your coffee, mostly for textural variety.

When sweetening cold foam, baristas will typically use classic syrup to sweeten the foam without flavoring it. Classic syrup is just an unflavored, sweet syrup -- sugar in liquid form. Using syrup instead of sugar packets can make it easier to blend your cold foam and properly distribute the sweetness throughout the foam. If you're looking to stick with sugar, one or two packets of sugar added prior to blending will also sweeten the foam without making it grainy -- just make sure you blend the foam well.

Use Flavored Milks

Iced mocha with cold foam
Iced mocha with cold foam - Dontree_m/Getty Images

If you're hoping to flavor your cold foam without any extra steps, you can opt to use pre-flavored milk when making your foam. Purchasing flavored milk at the store will give you the base flavor you're looking for without the need to add any additional flavoring yourself. Flavored milk can range from the basics -- like chocolate or strawberry -- to much more specific blends, ensuring you can achieve the exact mix of flavors you're looking for. Another benefit is that you won't need to worry about how much outside flavor to add to the mix -- just use the same amount of milk you normally would when making your cold foam.

If you're planning on using this method, be cautious when choosing which flavored milk to buy. For the best cold foam, you'll typically want to stick with low-fat milk; skim milk or nonfat milk is what's most commonly used by baristas, so make sure to check the fat percentage before you buy. Besides the fattiness of the milk, however, there aren't many other factors in flavored milk that can change the texture of your foam -- feel free to opt for whichever flavor you like best. The only downside to this method is that you'll need to use the milk by its expiration date, so you'll likely be drinking a lot of the same flavor. If you're uncertain about the flavor you're buyi5/ng, purchase the smallest size first!

Add Barista Syrups To Your Cold Foam

Iced chai with cold foam
Iced chai with cold foam - Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

Using barista syrups is one of the easiest ways to flavor your cold foam any way you choose. The most common syrups baristas will use as 'base' flavors are typically vanilla and caramel -- this is because they work well with all different kinds of coffee and are also some of the most popular syrups favored by customers. These two flavors are also great syrups to have on hand for layering with other syrups and flavors, as they complement a wide variety of other flavors and can help you create a more complex-tasting drink.

When you're adding syrups to your cold foam, make sure to use barista syrups designed to flavor coffee, or else you'll wind up with an oddly colored (or flavored) cold foam. Barista syrups will ensure your cold foam will blend smoothly and taste just like the drinks you'd purchase at your local coffee shop. They'll also come in flavors that are more commonly seen in coffee shops, ideal for mixing and matching (unless you're aiming for a blue raspberry slush cold foam, of course).

Use Sweet Cream Cold Foam

Sweet cream pouring into coffee
Sweet cream pouring into coffee - AliceCam/Shutterstock

I think that sweet cream cold foam deserves its own section because it's practically its own separate genre (and is definitely something you should know about when it comes to upgrading a basic cold foam). If you already know your stuff when it comes to cold foam, you probably recognize the name; it's a popular staple at many name-brand coffee shops. There's a reason for that: sweet cream is richer and sweeter (okay, you probably already guessed that) than your average cold foam. This makes it a great option to pair with strong coffees or for anyone who has a little bit of a sweet tooth. It also adds a lot of rich texture to the cold foam itself, making it a slightly different experience to drink than regular cold foam.

Cold foam is typically made with nonfat or skim milk, but this isn't the case when it comes to most sweet cream cold foams. These foams are made with heavy cream -- the same stuff you'd make whipped cream with -- and milk, which makes all the difference when it comes to the cold foam's texture. This is also what keeps sweet cream cold foam an essential menu item at many chain coffee shops -- it isn't just home baristas who want to upgrade their cold foam! If you want your foam to truly steal the show, I always recommend trying sweet cream cold foam.

Blend Spices Into Your Cold Foam

Iced coffee with cold foam
Iced coffee with cold foam - Yalcinsonat1/Getty Images

If you're a fan of cold foam, you might have already noticed that some coffee shops will add spices to the top of the cold foam or blend them in with the foam itself. This is a great way to add flavor to your cold foam without adding sugar. Alternatively, many coffee shops will opt to add spice flavoring to their foams by using syrup; one example of this is replacing cinnamon powder with cinnamon syrup for extra sweetness. At home, however, you can achieve the flavor you're looking for just by using the spices themselves. Another benefit of this method is that you can save money on syrups by using spices; if you want to make a cinnamon dolce cold foam, for example, you can mix cinnamon powder with vanilla syrup instead of buying cinnamon syrup separately. This makes things easier for the home barista who doesn't have coffee shop counter space (I know the feeling).

Add your spice before blending, or sprinkle some lightly over the top of your cold foam after you've added it to your drink. The quantity of spice you should be adding will vary; you're probably going to want to add more cinnamon to your cold foam than you would nutmeg, for example. Don't overdo it -- when in doubt, remember that you can always add more spice to the blend later.

Use Milks That Foam Easily

Iced coffee with foam
Iced coffee with foam - Benedicte Thierry/Getty Images

When you're trying to create the best cold foam topping possible, you'll want to make sure your milk is up to the task. Using nonfat or skim milks are common in most coffee shops, as these kinds of milks have the right structure to make sturdy air bubbles. If you've ever had cold foam that just isn't up to par -- droopy, flat, doesn't hold up well, and has large bubbles -- it's probably the milk that's to blame. If you're worried that you're still missing out on the ideal cup of cold foam, you can try purchasing barista milk instead of regular milk to see if it helps your drink foam a little more easily -- this milk is often more stable than their non-barista counterparts.

If you're trying to work with non-dairy milk, chances are you won't have much luck. Oat milk is the best option for you to choose (I would recommend soy milk as second best when necessary) but it just doesn't mimic dairy milk's makeup closely enough to foam up properly when cold. You may be able to achieve a flatter, looser foam with non-dairy milk, which can give you a similar effect as regular cold foam. Surprisingly, some home recipes will also use the water that comes in a can of chickpeas to create non-dairy cold foam, as its structure holds up better when blended into foam.

Add Flavored Powders To Your Cold Foam

Whipped dalgona coffees
Whipped dalgona coffees - sweet marshmallow/Shutterstock

Powders are one of my personal favorite ways to add extra flavor to your cold foam -- not only are they easy to acquire, but it also takes just a little bit of powder to achieve a lot of flavor in your cold foam. This means that many baristas will agree with me on preferring cold foam powders (especially at home) because you don't need to add very much to your foam. A few powder examples include cocoa powder, vanilla powder, or matcha powder -- just a few of many easy ways to flavor your cold foam.

You'll also find that there are many flavors that taste stronger and more authentic in powder form versus syrup. For example, I always prefer a small scoop of authentic matcha powder in cold foam when compared to matcha syrup. It's just one example of a flavor that can be hard to replicate outside of the real deal -- this is why even coffee chains that use matcha powder blends will typically include at least a little bit of actual matcha powder in the mix.

Powders are also great for those who don't want to sweeten their cold foam but still want it to have flavor. Cocoa powder, for example, will add a rich, chocolatey taste, while matcha will add a strong green tea flavor. Compared to a matcha blend (with added sugar) or mocha syrup, the former two examples will taste richer and less sugary.

Add Oils Or Fruit Purees To Your Cold Foam

Close-up of two iced foam coffees
Close-up of two iced foam coffees - Bhofack2/Getty Images

If you're really looking to get creative with your cold foam, there's nothing wrong with adding a small amount of fruit, oil, or zest to your cold foam before blending it. Start small when working with oils or purees -- especially when you're only making a little bit of cold foam for the top of your drink; it can be easy to overpower the mix with these kinds of flavors. When you're choosing the oils or fruit, you want to pair with your coffee, take note of the coffee's base flavors and make sure the fruit you choose matches well with it.

Using fresh fruit purees in coffee can be a bit dangerous because they taste fruitier than syrups and can sometimes make for a strange pairing as you drink. Sweetening your cold foam can help make purees and oils taste a little more syrup-like. Additionally, too much puree will change the texture of your cold foam — opt for seedless purees to keep your cold foam experience smooth and creamy.

One other benefit of using purees for your foam is that they can give your foam a slightly fresher flavor. The same goes for oils — if you want a less sweet yet fresh-tasting flavor, one drop can make a big difference to your drink. Think peppermint or citrus when it comes to oil and fruits like strawberries for a cold foam puree.

Pair Your Flavorings: Coffee And Cold Foam

Cold foam with matcha powder
Cold foam with matcha powder - Tatiana Terekhina/Getty Images

When it comes to picking out the perfect cold foam flavor, you'll need to consider the base notes of your coffee, too. This is true for any syrup, but cold foam has the added factor of having a texture that physically separates it from the coffee base. If you choose a cold foam topping that doesn't go well with the flavor profile of your coffee, it will taste strangely like you're drinking two separate drinks at the same time.

Keep in mind that these preferences can be personal, too. If you like the strength of dark roast but want to balance out its flavor, you may enjoy a super-sweet cold foam with vanilla and caramel to mask the coffee's bitter flavor. If you want to bring out the delicate citrus notes in your iced coffee, you might want to choose a cold foam with the same citrus flavor or something that pairs well with it (like chocolate).

Sometimes, you might actually want the focus to be on the cold foam, not on the coffee. With flavors like matcha, not everyone enjoys adding coffee -- one reason why a dirty matcha (matcha latte with a shot of espresso) is less popular than a dirty chai (chai latte with a shot of espresso). For drinks like this, you may want to use espresso that isn't strong, enabling you to get your caffeine fix while still enjoying the flavor of your drink.

Separate Your Coffee And Cold Foam Syrups

Iced coffee with cold foam
Iced coffee with cold foam - Valentinayupov/Getty Images

When you're working with cold foam, it's important to decide which flavors you want in your foam and which you want in your coffee. This is true even if you're only adding one flavor, but it's especially true if you want to start combining flavors to create a layered drink. When coffee shops offer drinks with multiple flavors (such as vanilla hazelnut or chocolate caramel), you'll sometimes notice that they'll put one flavor in the cold foam and another flavor in the coffee base of the drink. Doing this can completely change the experience you have drinking your cold foam coffee. The flavors are just separated enough to make them more pronounced, but as you drink, you're still getting both flavors at the same time -- they're just combining as you drink them rather than coming pre-mixed in a drink. This can make a drink much more complex and intriguing than if you were to mix multiple different flavors in just the foam or just the coffee base, for example.

Another benefit of separating out your flavors is that it allows you to add more than just two flavors. Typically, most coffee shops will stop at around three flavors because adding more than that means you'll probably struggle to differentiate between the flavors (and, if you're using syrups, the drink will be way too sweet). But if you're looking for a toffee hazelnut caramel coffee, separating your syrups can help you with that.

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