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Cold Brew versus Iced Coffee

February 09 2023 – Stacey Oliver

Iced coffee versus cold brew

On the hottest and most scorching summer days, you will likely find cold or iced drinks appealing. However, if you are a caffeine lover, you must find a way to refresh yourself without missing out on the energy boost that a cup of coffee brings. But should you choose cold brew or iced coffee? 

What’s the difference between cold brew coffee and iced coffee? Is there really any difference between the two? You may also wonder what cold brew is and how to make the best cold brew coffee.

Iced coffee and cold brew coffee look almost identical. If you place each drink side by side, it is hard to differentiate which is which merely by looks. While they seem or look similar in name, these drinks are vastly different in the brewing method, brewing time, and taste. If you were to taste each drink, one is refreshing with a light body, while the other is slightly sweet and very smooth. 

The key difference between cold brew coffee and iced coffee is the time and brew method. For instance, iced coffee is standard brewed coffee that’s poured over ice. On the other hand, cold brew coffee is made by steeping or immersing coffee grounds in cold water for about 12 to 24 hours. 

What is Cold Brew? 

Cold brew is always served cold, as the name implies. Making cold brew coffee is not difficult. It’s brewed by steeping or immersing coffee grounds in cold or room-temperature water for an extended time period. After steeping time, the coffee grounds are filtered out, leaving a smooth concentrate that you may mix with water, milk, or ice before the coffee is served. 

With cold brew coffee, as long as you immerse the coffee grounds in cold water, you can prepare the drink in any container of your choice, though there are special pitchers you can buy online to make it easier! 

Time is important and directly affects the taste of the cold brew. This means the longer the coffee sits, the more potent the flavor. The good news is that you do not need any special equipment to prepare a cold brew besides a glass jar and a high-quality coffee filter. Cold brew coffee is most commonly made in the form of a coffee concentrate. One main benefit of a concentrate is that it is easy to store in your fridge and you can add whatever creamer or milk of your choice to the concentrate to make a delicious cold, coffee drink! 

What is Iced Coffee?  

Iced coffee is precisely what it sounds like. It is brewed the same way as a standard coffee: with hot water.  It takes time to cool, which is usually a couple of hours. However, you can speed up this process by chilling coffee in your fridge and/or adding ice. 

You may use any coffee grounds and brewing method that you like. Whether you prepare a pot of drip coffee in your coffee maker, use a French press, a pour-over, or even instant coffee, you can serve it iced!

Key Differences between Iced Coffee and Cold Brew

There are two notable differences between cold brew coffee and iced coffee in regard to the brewing process: the water temperature and the number of hours that the coffee grounds are immersed or steeped. Due to their different brewing methods, iced coffee and cold brew have significant differences in texture, flavor, and caffeine levels.

Since the coffee grounds are immersed for a longer period of time in cold brew,  cold brew coffee is more concentrated compared to iced coffee. Iced coffee is further diluted as it’s served over ice and usually served with added water. 

Brew Time

Iced coffee is simple to make and takes only 10 or 30 minutes—that is from brewing, mixing it with ice, and allowing the ice or refrigerator to cool down your coffee. In contrast, cold brew coffee takes between 12 and 24 hours to make after you mix the coffee grounds with water. 

The longer you wait with cold brew, the stronger and more enjoyable the flavor. If kept safely and properly in the fridge, you can drink cold brew within two weeks.  


Taste and Flavor

Because of the high heat and quick extraction, iced coffee tends to be more bitter and acidic, with brighter, bolder, and more nuanced flavors. Iced coffee usually has the same acidity and bitterness as hot coffee. This is the reason why you may feel the need to add cream and sugar to it. You will find less of that distinct mellow flavor and a more conventional coffee taste.

On the other hand, cold brew flavor will be different in taste and flavor, depending on the type of coffee beans used and how you make it. Cold brew has a stronger flavor and a smoother and less acidic taste. However, generally cold brew tends to be smooth, sweet, mild, and nuttier because of the slower cold brew process. 

Caffeine Content

Depending on the type of brewing method used, caffeine content may vary considerably between cold brew and iced coffee. Typically, cold brew has more caffeine than iced coffee. This is simply because it sits for much more extended periods. 

Final Thoughts 

Cold brew coffee and iced coffee both have unique perks and benefits. After all, they both offer a needed caffeinated boost to nudge you into high-power productivity. Neither cold brew coffee nor iced coffee is better than the other. Keep in mind that every individual has different tastes and might prefer one cold drink to the other. 

Iced coffee is more suitable for somebody looking for a light and refreshing drink with a timeless coffee flavor. However, if you are looking for a bold, strong, and smooth taste with a higher caffeine concentration, cold brew coffee is right for you!  


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