Iced Coffee Prices Going Up? Here's Why Your Favorite Summer Beverage Is So Expensive

Iced Coffee
Iced coffee prices are heating up. Wikimedia Commons

If you’ve noticed your coffee budget is a little tight this summer, you’re not alone.

More than other nations, Americans looking for a caffeine jolt have turned to the sweet, cold version served in a plastic cup with a straw. But the very things that make this summer staple so appealing also make it pricey.

“People think ice is free,” Michael Pollack of Brooklyn Roasting Company, where a 24-ounce iced coffee costs $4.50, told Gothamist’s Gabrielle Sierra.

“Ice is a fortune. If you think we go through coffee fast, double that for ice,” Pollack said, adding that his employees store 10-gallon boxes of ice in the refrigerator to help meet demand.

But the coffee itself is getting expensive too.

Earlier this year environmental problems and a coffee fungus hurt Brazilian crop yields, causing the price for Arabica beans to spike from $1.26 per pound in December to $2.26 in April.

After cafe owners get their hands on the precious beans, there’s still more work to be done.

While its possible to simply pour regular hot coffee over some ice cubes, this can “create a brew that at its worst is sour and, at best, flimsy and unremarkable,” according to Imbibe magazine.

Consequently, most restaurants and cafes opt for a cold-brew method which produces a better taste but can take more than 24 hours to steep and absorb all the flavor -- labor and time add to the final price.

Even after this expensive process, the costs keep going up. Iced coffee is hardly ever served in an ordinary paper cup, but a clear plastic one with a lid.

The straw can cost an extra few pennies per serving, not to mention the paper napkins. Jason Scherr, owner of Think Coffee in New York, told Grubstreet  his paper costs increase 20 percent when the sun comes out.

“Summer stresses me out,” he said.

But it seems iced coffee is here to stay.

Research from Mintel shows that cold-served coffee’s share on cafe menus has increased from 19 percent in 2009 to 24 percent in 2013.

“Cold coffee, especially frozen-blended, has become very trendy in major U.S. cities such as New York, but it is more than just a momentary fad,” Jonny Forsyth, global drinks analyst at Mintel, said in a press release.

“Its usage has been building for the last few years and actually reflects the changing tastes of the younger generation.” 

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