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Cold Brew Vs Iced Coffee | The Complete Guide

cold brew vs iced coffee

By now, everyone knows about iced coffee its amazing variations, whether they are homemade or ordered at a coffee shop. However, cold brew coffee is exploding in popularity, but people are unaware of the difference between the two. It is common to confuse the two, but when it comes to cold brew vs iced coffee, there are many key differences.

The reason why both of these drinks are becoming so popular is that people want a caffeine kick but don’t want to drink hot coffee on a hot summer’s day. There are also hundreds of variations of the drinks which include creams, matcha, syrups, oat milk, and much more. 

You can purchase both cold brew and iced coffee in grocery stores, in coffee shops, and you can also make it at home. Many of the top coffee chains and brands are creating cold brew and iced coffee recipes with different flavors.

Whether you are here to find out which one to drink, where you can buy them, or the differences between the two, we will cover everything you need to know about cold brew vs iced coffee. You can also check out the 28 types of coffee that you can get.

Iced Coffee Overview

The simplest way to describe what iced coffee is, a regular brewed coffee, served over ice and cooled down. This method is very quick and easy to do. Although most coffee beans used for iced coffee are strong, when you add ice, it reduces the coffee flavor and makes the drink profile weaker.

To avoid compromising the taste of your coffee, instead of using regular water to make ice, use a pre-brewed coffee to make coffee ice cubes. Just simply pour coffee into your ice tray and freeze it overnight for a perfect coffee ice cube. The next solution you can do is to double the amount of coffee you put in the coffee maker so that even if you put regular ice over your coffee, you still get a strong cup.

Although the drink may seem weak, it’s still known to be very acidic. So if you’re feeling like downing on your 2nd cup of iced coffee, but you have a sensitive stomach, it’s best that you try to shy away from that decision.

However, most people prefer to drink iced coffee for the sweet concoctions that are made. You will typically find that iced lattes are a more popular choice and will often be made with syrups and different milk variations. Iced coffee black can be very bitter and not enjoyable for some, test some different recipes and see what taste you prefer. 

3 Best Iced Coffees to Buy In-Store

  1. Dunkin’ Donuts Mocha Iced Coffee
  2. Starbucks Iced Latte Chilled Espresso Beverage, Vanilla
  3. Starbucks Blonde Roast Iced Coffee

Cold Brew Coffee Overview

Cold brew coffee is a slow infusion that extracts all the coffee flavors from the coffee beans into water, this is what makes cold brew coffee very flavorful. Unlike the iced coffee that uses hot water to extract coffee, cold brew uses time and cold water instead. 

Cold brew can actually take anywhere from 10 to 24 hours to fully brew. To be able to make a cold brew, all you need to do is steep the coarsely-grounded coffee bean in water for at least twelve hours. The longer the cold brew steeps, the stronger the taste of the coffee is.  The good thing is, you can make it in batches as it generally lasts around 10-14 days. 

You can either choose to add milk for flavor or water to weaken the coffee taste, and it is generally served over ice. The most common way to enjoy cold brew coffee is black, as the flavors of coffee are stronger and any additions to the drink would weaken that flavor. The beauty about cold brew is that it is less acidic since you’re not using hot water for the extraction.

Check out this article on cold brew coffee to find out more.

3 Best Cold Brew Coffees to Buy In-Store

  1. Starbucks Cold Brew Coffee, Black Unsweetened
  2. JAVA HOUSE Cold Brew Single Origin Colombian Coffee
  3. Starbucks Nitro Cold Brew Premium Coffee

Is Cold Brew Coffee the Same as Iced Coffee?

While they are similar, cold brew is not the same as iced coffee. Iced coffee is made with hot coffee over ice, and cold brew is made by steeping coffee grounds in water for a long period of time. Both methods produce different strengths and flavors.

Let’s take a look at the 6 key differences between cold brew and iced coffee:

1. The Brew Time 

The brew time between cold brew vs iced coffee is on completely opposite ends of the timescale. When it comes to brewing iced coffee, it only takes a few minutes and you either do it with a coffee machine or a manual brewing method.

When it comes to cold brew, the brewing process takes at least 10 hours before the coffee is ready to drink, since the extraction process uses time instead of a hot temperature. Of course, you could eliminate this time by purchasing bottled cold brews, but they are fairly expensive, and you can save money by making batches at home.

2. The Brew Process It Uses

When it comes to brewing cold brew vs iced coffee, the brewing process is entirely different. This doesn’t mean that you have to put a lot of effort into brewing either of them, it just means that the coffee extraction process and way you brew the coffee will be different. You can also still use the same beans and same grinder, nothing needs to change there.

When brewing iced coffee, you need the help of hot water, as this is what speeds up the chemical reaction with the coffee and gives you the instant result. You can do this through any method, but it is more commonly done through an espresso machine. Some people also brew coffee, let it cool, and then add ice.

You can also directly brew the coffee over ice. What happens is that when you use the pour-over method in extracting coffee, you force the extracted coffee to cool down immediately. This is the best way to create iced coffee since you’re able to keep all the natural flavors and aromas. This technique is often called “Flash Chilling” or “Japanese Ice Coffee”.

3. The Time It Can Be Stored

Cold coffee can be stored for up to two weeks without worrying about the flavor. That’s another reason why people choose cold brew over iced coffee. If you store iced coffee for quite some time, the drink becomes diluted and watery because of the ice, and the flavor is already compromised. This means that you have to immediately consume it.

Doesn’t cold brew also get diluted with the ice? Well, fortunately, because the drink is strong as it is, even if it gets diluted you still get that strong coffee extract and caffeine content that you need.

Remember as well, if you add any sort of milk or flavorings to your cold brew, add it to the individual drink and not the batch you make, as this could reduce the shelf time drastically. Also, you don’t really need to ruin the great coffee taste!

4. The Acidity Level

Iced coffee is much more acidic compared to cold brew. This is because the heat used in the brewing process extracts more of the oils and chemicals from the coffee, creating a more acidic drink. It can also depend on the type of coffee beans used and the brewing method too.

There are estimates of cold brew coffee being 65% less acidic in contrast to iced coffee. So if you are someone that has to avoid coffee due to the acidity, try a cold brew option instead and see if it is any better.

5: Caffeine Content

This is where things can get confusing. Generally speaking, the caffeine in a cold brew coffee is more than an iced coffee. But there are many things that can alter this, and it can be impossible to narrow down as different beans have different caffeine levels, brewing methods, and so on.

If you take a 16oz cup of coffee, you would get around 165 mg of caffeine for Iced Coffee and 200 mg caffeine for cold brew coffee.

If you used Death Wish coffee, the caffeine would be higher, if you leave cold brew for 17 hours instead of 12, the caffeine would be higher, and there really are so many factors that can influence the caffeine content of both of these drinks.

When trying to choose the option with less caffeine, we would always go for an iced coffee rather than a cold brew.

6. The Flavor Profile

One surprising factor when it comes to cold brew vs iced coffee is the taste. Many people are actually unaware that the taste is different. That’s without all the syrups and milks added, this is just for a straight-up black coffee version of each.

Iced coffee will have a lighter body with a slight bitterness in taste due to the heat process. Whereas cold brew will produce a smooth and sweet taste due to the steeping process.

The taste would change depending on the brewing method, type of beans used, and any additional flavors you add to the coffees. So if you don’t like the taste of the standard methods, try adding your own syrups and milk variations to adjust the profile to your liking.

Why Cold Brew is Better Than Iced Coffee?

Cold brew creates a smooth and sweet taste with a high amount of caffeine. It can be made in batches and is generally enjoyable to drink without adding any extra creamers or syrups to alter the flavor, unlike iced coffee.

Brewing coffee with room temperature water creates a very different feat compared to brewing with hot water. By now you already know that cold brew is less acidic than iced coffee, this is one of the main reasons why cold brew is better. 

Another advantage of cold brew is that because the drink is already strong, the number of possibilities you can add to the mix is endless. You can mix cold brew with milk, water, soda water, and it will not impact the strength of the coffee.

You can also make cold brew in batches to enjoy throughout the week, can steep the coffee for as long as you like to get the desired strength, and ultimately the outcome is smooth and sweet rather than getting the bitterness of iced coffee.

However, if you don’t like drinking black coffee and prefer milky or sweet drinks, then we highly recommend that you stick to iced coffee and discover the perfect sweetness for you.

Nitro Cold Brew Coffee

This is a slightly different drink it’s still a variation of cold brew coffee, and it involves making a cold brew and then infusing it with Nitrogen. This creates a creamy and sweet cold brew without the need of adding sugar or other sweeteners. It looks cool too!

Key Takeaway

With cold brew vs iced coffee, the drinks are very different and follow different processes while producing different coffee results at the end. We recommend cold brew to coffee fanatics who enjoy the raw taste of coffee, and we recommend iced coffee to those who prefer sweet and milky drinks with a hint of coffee.

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