Have you ever been to a coffee chain, ordered a chilled mocha frappé latte cino (or some other similar 10-word-named item) and been mildly indignant when they charge you $6 for it?

It seems slightly unreasonable, considering the only real difference between that and a regular coffee is a handful of ice (and perhaps a dollop of cream or ice cream if you're feeling saucy).

The economics of cold coffee are in the spotlight this week after a woman sued Starbucks for putting too much ice in her iced coffee cups, thereby giving customers less product. She's suing for $US5 million ($7.3 million).

It's hard to get a straight answer on why cold coffee costs more than hot. At your hipster cafes where they make "craft coffee" the answer is obvious - they tend to cold-brew the coffee for iced coffees, and this process uses more coffee beans. Cold-brew is made by grinding beans coarsely, having them sit in room-temperature water overnight, and then filtering the grinds out to produce cold-brew concentrate. This extract is then cut with water to make what we know as iced coffee.


There's also a good chance they're putting some other bank-breaking ingredient in there, like organic almond milk ice cream. Hence the price hike.

But cold-brewing is less likely at your bigger chain coffee shops. So why do they charge more for the chilled versions?

One explanation is that sweeteners and flavour enhancers tend to be added to iced coffee more often than regular coffee. Iced coffee usually needs a flavour boost, as it's watered down by the ice.

Another explanation outlined in this article by Fast Company is that the supplies for iced coffee cost more. For example, they require plastic cups as opposed to paper, along with straws; both of these cost more than stand-alone paper cups.

It has also been pointed out that shops may charge more for this 'pecial beverage because, well, people will just pay more if you market it as a bit of a novelty.

Shame on us all.