An Espresso-Based Frozen Drink Recipe

This recipe will yield a drink that bears a striking resemblance to a frozen coffee drink that is currently available at Starbucks, for which you will pay approximately $4.

In some ways, these home-made drinks were better, since I used home-roasted espresso instead of stale over-roasted coffee (brewed as double-strength). On the other hand, the store-bought drinks are blended with industrial-strength blenders — something that most people don’t have in their kitchens. Suffice it to say that it makes a difference in the size of the ice chunks and how well a straw works. Most people also don’t usually have fresh whipped cream at home. Caveats aside, this is a great idea for a nice non-alchoholic drink idea to offer during your next summer party. And that’s exactly where I debuted and taste-tested this recipe I tried variations, but this base recipe won out and was considered the closest match to the popular frozen drinks offered by coffee shops.

Iced Coffee Drink
Iced Coffee Drink

Recipe (makes 2 medium-sized frozen drinks)

  • 4 shots of espresso – If you don’t have an espresso machine, brew 4 oz. of double-strength coffee with your coffee brewer.
  • 1/4 cup of white sugar – it is best to mix the sugar in with hot espresso to ensure that the sugar dissolves (see notes on sugar substitues below)
  • 2.5 cups of either whole or 2% milk – 1% milk works, but it doesn’t result in as rich of a drink
  • 1 tablespoon of pectin
  • At least 2 cups of ice – that’s about 1 cup of ice per drink serving, depending on your blender

Preparation Tips

  • If you don’t have pectin, it can be skipped, but this element does help the drink to “feel” right when compared to the store-bought drinks. The pectin should be added to the mixture a minimum of thirty minutes prior to serving the drinks. This works out well because you can make the drink mixture prior to the serving time. This drink mixture stores well for up to 24 hours (but I didn’t try to store it longer).
  • The pectin will combine with any undissolved sugar and thicken the mixture, so be sure to stir mixture prior to pouring it in the blender and adding the ice.

What the heck is Pectin?

Pectin is a thickening agent. Although it is a naturally-occurring gum found in fruit, it is sold in either a (white) powder or liquid form. It is usually used when canning fruit, thus it can be found with canning supplies. Powdered pectin is available more readily than liquid pectin. I was unable to locate the liquid pectin, so I used powdered and it worked fine. I didn’t find any difference between powdered brands once they were added to the drink mixture, and a box of a powdered pectin agent will cost you less than a dollar. Arrowroot costs a little more but can be substituted; arrowroot will be found in the spice isle at the grocery store. Just don’t try to use corn starch, gelatin, or flour. And if you’re not interested in having the drink approximate the store-bought drink, you can skip it altogether.

Sugar Substitutes

For the purposes of testing the recipe, I tried several variations on the theme. One thing you can’t order at these coffee conglomerates is a sugar-free version of a blended frozen drink. I have some friends who are sugarfree conoisseurs, so we tested some sugar substitutes during our tasting session. The winners: Erythritol and Splenda. Both of these sugar subsitutes can be measured out just like regular sugar. Both seemed to dissolve effortlessly into the coffee despite the fact that the espresso had cooled. They tasted very, very good, but it should be noted that the resulting drinks didn’t have quite the same feeling in your mouth as the sugar-based drink. I suppose that this could be counteracted by using whole milk (which has the naturally-occuring milk sugars), but the same testers who were using sugar substitutes were also avoiding fat, so I made these drinks with 1% milk.


Coffee shops offer a myriad of variations on these frozen drinks. Experiment by adding some of your favorite chocolate-based junk food into the blender. Try a chunk of brownie, or an Oreo cookie, or some coconut shavings, or chocolate chips, or cocoa powder. Try adding a dash of whatever kind of flavored syrups you have. The basic drink is delicious, but additions are yummy too.

Lura Lee

Lura Lee enjoys coffee, but no longer pursues coffee as a hobby. You can find her entrepreneurial efforts elsewhere on the web and in B-2-B circles.

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