*We may earn a commission for purchases made using our links. Please see our disclosure to learn more.
While glancing at menus in restaurants, have you ever asked yourself, “what is the difference between cold brew and iced coffee?” It’s quite easy to confuse the two of them. You’re probably more familiar with their conventional counterparts like macchiatos, cappuccinos, and lattes.
However, during the summer, you may want to swap traditional hot coffee with an iced coffee or a cold brew coffee. While they may look the same, they’re brewed differently, taste different, and served uniquely.
Here’s how they differ:
The first and biggest difference lies in their making process. Therefore, let’s understand the process in detail.
There are two popular ways of making iced coffee, which is different from cold brew coffee. In both methods, hot water makes the coffer yummier.
The range of flavors you experience is similar to that of hot coffee. To make iced coffee, just pour the hot one over ice using an AeroPress. This way, you force the coffee to chill right away! This method is often called Flash Chilling or Japanese Iced Coffee.
Another method is to let the hot coffee cool inside the refrigerator for a few hours. This is an older method that deprives the iced coffee of its natural aroma.
Cold Brew Coffee
There is no heat involved in cold brew coffee. The “slow drip method” involves cold water to gradually seep through the bed of coffee for more than 12 hours.
You could also use a french press to immerse coffee grounds in cold water. Either way, you don’t use hot water to make cold brew coffee. That’s a major difference.
Now let’s go over some other key differences between cold brew and iced coffee:
Difference in Flavor
Hot water makes the iced coffee crisp, acidic, aromatic, refreshing, rich, and flavorsome.
Although iced coffee’s acidity is not actually stronger, you feel it is because of its ice-cold nature. However, if you use the older method of making iced coffee by simply storing it in a refrigerator, you’ll get an odd acidity without aroma and sweetness.
However, for people who don’t prefer high acidity, cold brew is a better choice. Since it brews for hours, it has a sweeter and weaker coffee taste than iced coffee. Cold brew’s unique and rounded flavor is a plus over the iced coffee.
Both drinks aren’t very different in this category. However, cold brew has a slightly creamier texture and a lower acidic profile as compared to iced coffee. So, if you want to cut back on sugar and cream, cold brew is a better option for you.
Both sugar and cream are responsible for increasing the calorie count of your coffee by hundreds! Therefore, instead of adding these unhealthy ingredients, opt for a cold brew which will offer you a natural creamier taste.
A cold brew can take anywhere between 12 – 24 hours to make. It requires a lot of time to extract the flavor compared to iced coffee. Hence, you need to plan ahead to make a cold brew.
On the other hand, it takes just 2 – 4 minutes to make iced coffee. The process is a lot easier and less time-consuming.
There’s a considerable difference in caffeine content between the two, as opposed to calorie content. A cold brew has more caffeine compared to iced coffee. This is why, depending on your lifestyle and the amount of caffeine you require, choose either one of them.
For instance, there is 165 mg of caffeine in a 16-ounce Starbucks iced coffee. On the other hand, the same amount of cold brew contains 205 mg of caffeine.
Iced coffee conveniently lasts for the next few days. On the other hand, cold brew is fit to store for about two weeks in the fridge. Additionally, you can also add soda-water, milk, or hot water to your cold brew because it has a smooth flavor.
Do you prefer the crisp acidity that your typical iced coffee has to offer? Or do you like the convenience of cold brew coffee sitting inside the refrigerator, ready to use? Take your pick!
If you’re on a budget, you may want to opt for iced coffee since it is more pocket-friendly compared to cold brew!
Pro Tip: Making Stronger Iced Tea and Cold Brew
The taste of iced coffee may seem diluted since you pour it over the ice rather than meticulously brewed for hours. There are ways by which you can make your iced coffee taste stronger if you are short on time or budget.
You can just double the quantity of ground coffee to enhance the taste of iced coffee. You can also pour cool coffee on an ice tray and let it freeze. On a subsequent day, pour hot coffee on those frozen coffee ice cubes. You are now good to go!
Note: While cold brew is generally stronger than iced coffee, you can make it even stronger as per your taste. The general concentrate to water ratio in the cold brew is 50:50. You can increase this ratio to make it stronger.
We have discussed differences between iced coffee and cold brew, including caffeine content, brewing time, calorie content, flavor, storage, and brewing processes.
Water and coffee grounds make both these drinks. Yet, they taste different because of the process involved. Choose according to what suits your preferences and lifestyle.
I recommend you try both variants before making a decision! Whether you choose iced coffee or cold brew, make sure that coffee beans are of high quality and are freshly roasted.
Try avoiding these 12 mistakes that most people make when brewing coffee.
Hey there, I'm Brett Lewis, the self-proclaimed brew master behind Brew Dog Metrics. I am a long time coffee, tea, and beer drinker and have begun brewing my own beverages at home since 2001 to get the best tasting drinks for me & my family. I began this website to help others learn more about brewing coffee, tea and beer at home to improve the quality of their daily lives. I'm thrilled at how much Brew Dog Metrics has grown and I look forward to expanding this site and sharing more at home brewing solutions and information with you. Cheers & happy brewing!
What started out as the desire to brew the perfect cup 'o joe, turned into an obsession in brewing coffee, tea, and beer at home. This has turned into a mission to share my experience and research with as many beverage drinkers as possible. :)
More Brewing Articles To Explore