Here in New York City, it is technically spring. The vernal equinox has passed, and at least in theory, we should be packing up our big winter coats and getting ready for milder weather. Instead, there are slowly melting mounds of dirt-trash-snow making every sidewalk into a slushy mess, and at least two people in our office have head colds. Technically, the weather should be edging warmer soon, into the 60s and 70s, which is about when I start drinking exclusively iced coffee, abandoning the hot stuff until the temperature dips back into the 40s again. On an unusually beautiful day in February, I even decided that the sunny weather meant that I could make the switch early. (This was clearly hubris).
But there's no official point when hot coffee season merges into iced coffee season, if you even partake of both beverages. It's not like wearing white between Memorial Day and Labor Day (which is also made up, but I guess is some kind of handy guideline if you're looking for one). The website Is It Iced Coffee Weather?, like a similar site I regularly consult Is Mercury in Retrograde?, will give you a hard and fast conclusion based on your location (and, I suspect, the forecast). But the truth is the switch has always been a highly personal decision. So like any lazy curious person, I consulted the internet, and asked a swath of friends about their own hot-to-iced mechanisms.
Some people, it should be notes, take their coffee hot no matter the season. Extra Crispy contributor John Sherman, for example, is very vocal about hating iced coffee, though when it's hot, he'll happily drink black coffee from a deli. Other people I polled agreed. Something about the warmth of a cup of hot coffee made the experience different from an iced coffee, so it becomes part of a morning ritual. "When I make my coffee at home, it's hot all year," noted Colin Devries, a PR Manager at NYU Lutheran. "In peak hot summer, I might start buying iced coffee if it's just too uncomfortable to consume piping hot liquid."
On the other hand, plenty of people I talked to are diehard iced coffee fans. I did find those who prefer strictly iced coffee all year long tended to live in warmer climates. (As C. Brian Smith of Mel Magazine noted, "Southern California = always iced.") And I get that, even if I live in a place that is not that warm. The nice thing about iced coffee is that if you're a slow coffee drinker, like I often am, it's more forgiving. I don't mind a little melted ice in my coffee, and it takes a lot for iced coffee to get lukewarm in a heavily air-conditioned office, whereas hot coffee has a more limited window before it becomes undrinkable.
For a surprising contingent of the people I spoke with, iced coffee is more of an afternoon drink, and hot coffee more of a morning treat. My friend Allison, who works with horses, usually begins the day with hot coffee. "But if I've worked in the barn all day and the temperature is over 80 I feel like I 'deserve' a Frappucino or Iced Americano," she wrote. "So it's both temperature and activity level for me, I guess." Similarly, Extra Crispy contributor Jen Doll always drinks hot in the morning, and iced in the afternoon.
What it really comes down to is what calls to you, no matter the weather. "In general, when it smells like spring I go for cold and when it smells like Christmas I go hot," wrote musician Ben Lieberman. "But you just gotta listen to the coffee muse, it knows best."