Skip the trip to Starbucks and make simple, better frappé coffee from the comfort of your own home

Not to be confused with frappuccinos, frappés are refreshing and satisfying, making it the perfect summer drink

By Joy Saha

Staff Writer

Published July 1, 2023 11:00AM (EDT)

Coffee with whipped cream, spoon and milk pitcher (Getty Images/Foxys_forest_manufacture)
Coffee with whipped cream, spoon and milk pitcher (Getty Images/Foxys_forest_manufacture)

When asked what the drink — or, rather, drinks — of the summer are, most people would probably name some kind of fruity cocktail. That could be anything from a Dirty Shirley (after all, it does contain vodka, lemon-lime soda or ginger ale, grenadine and a maraschino cherry on top) to an Aperol Spritz or classic Mojito. Some might say it's actually a Daiquiri (which more than just an "adult slushie") or a Pimm's Cup, a New Orleans classic. 

But I'd like to humbly agree to disagree. Fruity cocktails are not the drink of this season. In fact, my drink of choice doesn't even contain any alcohol (shocker, innit?). All it calls for is strong brewed espresso, milk, sugar and plenty of ice cubes.

That's right, the summer it-drink is actually a frappé coffee. It's refreshing. It's satisfying. And the best part is that you only need a few simple ingredients and simple tools to make it from the comfort of your own home.

It's worth mentioning and clarifying that a frappé and a frappuccino are not the same drinks. Sure, they're both iced coffee beverages and have "frappe" in their name. But aside from that, they are two vastly different drinks — and Starbucks is to blame for blurring that distinction.

A frappuccino is a portmanteau of "frappe" and "cappuccino" that was first served in a New England coffee shop chain owned by coffee entrepreneur George Howell, per HomeGrounds, a blog that covers all things coffee. Frappuccinos are blended drinks, making them almost akin to a coffee smoothie. They call for two parts cold coffee (whether that's brewed coffee or espresso), one part ice and one part milk. There's also sugar, additional flavors — like chocolate syrup, caramel syrup, vanilla extract or a scoop of ice cream — and plenty of whipped cream on top.

On the other hand, a frappé (which comes from the French verb "frapper," meaning to beat) is a shaken iced coffee drink that typically calls for four simple ingredients: coffee (preferably espresso), milk, sugar and ice. The drink itself was invented by Dimitris Vakondios, an employee of the Nestlé company, at the 1957 Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) in Greece. As a result, frappés are regarded to be a Greek specialty and are served as frothy coffee poured over ice cubes. But they are also served in other ways across the world.

In France, a frappé is typically a concoction of coffee, ice cream and ice, while in the states, it's coffee mixed with milk, sugar, ice and whipped cream. There's even a mocha frappé, which adds a touch of chocolate to the coffee.

To make your frappé coffee, you'll need dark roast coffee beans (instant coffee, like this one from Mount Hagen, also works great), milk, sugar — or your go-to syrup — and ice. If you want to get fancy with your ingredients, Riza Sripetchvandee, host of the Chao Coffee and Tea YouTube channel and author of "All Things Milk Tea" and "The Basic Barista," recommended using a milk syrup made from two cans of condensed milk and one can of evaporated milk in lieu of regular milk. You can also reduce the sweetness of the syrups by adding less condensed milk and more evaporated milk.

Sripetchvandee also suggested using a frappé base, which she said "helps in making the drink blend well together and [adding] extra flavors." A frappé base is not typically called for in traditional Greek recipes for frappé coffee. But it's a fun ingredient to incorporate and elevate your homemade drink to barista-quality.

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As for equipment, Sripetchvandee said all you'll need is a Pyrex-style measuring cup, in which you'll cool and prepare your hot coffee and a blender, which you'll use to "shake" your drink. Pour your espresso shot into the measuring cup and add two ounces of sugar syrup or regular granulated sugar, before adding them to the blender with ice, milk and the frappé base. Blend on low and slowly increase the speed to help crush the ice and incorporate air into the beverage. Once done, your frappé should be light in hue and incredibly creamy and fluffy.

If you don't have a blender at home, you can use a milk frother instead. Use the frother to "shake" the coffee, milk and sugar together and then add crushed ice to the finished drink. 

So there you have it: Next time you're craving a frappé on a warm summer day, take a trip to your own kitchen — and save yourself that trip to Starbucks.

By Joy Saha

Joy Saha is a staff writer at Salon. She writes about food news and trends and their intersection with culture. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.


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