Iced coffee and cold brew coffee filled in a glass placed togather on the wooden table

Cold Brew Vs Iced Coffee: 7 Major Differences You Need to Know

Audrey
Audrey Harrison
Home brewer

Cold brew and iced coffee are two of the most preferred coffees worldwide but most people don’t know the difference between them and get confused.

They keep thinking about which one to choose or which one is testier.

Well, to answer this question, one must have a deep understanding of these two caffeinated drinks and that’s what we will discuss here.

In this article, we will try to help you understand the difference between iced coffee and cold brew coffee.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s dive deeper into cold brew vs iced coffee.

What is cold brew coffee?

A cold brew is a slightly lengthy process, where the drink is prepared with the coffee brewed in cold water usually overnight.

First, the best quality coffee beans are coarse-ground and steeped in cold (or room temperature) water for 12-24 hours.

After this, the grounds are strained out, and you get a coffee concentrate that you can mix with milk, cream, or water and serve with ice cubes. There is no place for heating in this coffee type.

cold-brew-coffee

For a cold brew, the steeping hours are not fixed. The longer you let the coffee sit, the stronger the flavor it gets. So, if you want to make a cold brew, you will need to plan ahead.

You should also note that cold brew coffee can also be served with hot milk or hot water and is still called cold brew coffee because it is named after the brewing process and not after its serving temperature.

Now that you’ve understood what a cold brew is, let's talk about iced coffee.

What is iced coffee?

Simply put, when any regular brewed coffee is served over ice, you can call it iced coffee. It doesn’t need a lengthy process of steeping coffee for long hours.

All you have to do is brew coffee in hot water, cool it down, pour it over ice, and serve.; it is that simple. In short, when any coffee is served cold with ice cubes, it can be called iced coffee. Strictly remember that, unlike cold brew coffee, iced coffee can never be hot.

iced-coffee

Now that you are familiar with the difference between these 2 commonly mistaken coffees, let’s discuss what is the exact difference between iced coffee and cold brew coffee.

Cold brew vs iced coffee

There are many factors in which cold brew and iced coffee differ from each other, Here will cover them in detail.

Caffeine content

Generally, cold brew coffee is lower in caffeine but when compared to iced coffee, it is high in caffeine.

Let’s have a quick look at the data.

 

(Source: Healthline)

However, the caffeine content may differ depending on the types of coffee beans, steeping hours, water temperature, grind size, etc.

Here, you may wonder that even if hot water brewing can extract more caffeine from coffee beans, iced coffee has low caffeine. The main reason behind this is the ice cubes that are added to iced coffee.

When more ice cubes are added to cool down the hot brewed coffee, it gets diluted and the caffeine content of iced coffee decreases.

In short, cold brew coffee is high in caffeine as compared to iced coffee which is one of the major dissimilarities between these caffeinated beverages.

Acidity

When we compare cold brew and iced coffee, their acidity can be one of the differentiating factors.

There is no dispute that caffeine is acidic but the brewing pattern can decide whether the coffee will be more acidic or less acidic. 

As far as cold brew and iced coffee are concerned, iced coffee is more acidic, in fact, you even say that cold brew is very low in acidity as compared to iced coffee. It is because hot water can extract more oil from coffee beans which is the main factor that brings acidity to your glass of coffee.

Since cold brew coffee doesn’t involve heating, the oil of coffee beans can’t be extracted more and that’s why it is very low in acidity as compared to the iced one.

low-acidic-cold-brew-or-iced-coffee

Taste

Well, when it comes to taste, everybody has a different choice.

So here I won’t describe which coffee tastes better but I can describe the tastes of both iced and cold brew coffee and I am pretty sure that this will help you choose the most suitable coffee for you.

As far as cold brew is concerned, it is less acidic tasting with slightly bitter notes than iced coffee, and to enjoy this taste, most people don’t prefer adding cream, milk, or sweetener to cold brew coffee.

Whereas normal iced coffee tastes similar to regular hot brewed coffee served at low temperature.

In short, you may find cold brew coffee to be more bitter than iced coffee.

(Remember that the exact taste of any coffee largely depends on the types of coffee beans, degree of roasting, other items added to coffee, etc)

Appearance

We’ve already mentioned above that while brewing coffee with cold water, we need to steep it for 12-24 hours and after that, we get coffee concentrate. This coffee concentrate is extremely dark.

Even you can think about the color of the liquid in which lots of coffee grounds and a very little amount of water is used.

Of course, it will be extremely darker and due to this dark color, cold brew coffee also appears darker as compared to iced coffee but it still depends on how much water, milk, or cream you use in a glass of coffee.

iced-americano-coffee

Price

Well if you have understood the brewing process of both coffees carefully, you can easily decide which type of coffee would be more expensive.

If your guess is cold brew then you are absolutely right.

Cold brew coffee is very expensive compared to iced coffee and the main reason behind this is the brewing process. Cold brewing needs a long time and reasonable effort and that’s the reason why it is more expensive.

You will often find cold brew coffee to be the most expensive coffee in many coffee shops.

Amount of coffee used

If I give you a general scenario, cold brew coffee needs more amount of coffee but still it depends on various coffee shops and on your own brewing method. Many coffee shops add more coffee to iced coffee to increase its caffeine content.

If you are a home coffee brewer then you are the best to decide on the suitable amount of coffee in your refreshing caffeine drink.

Calories

If you are a true coffee lover, I don’t think calories will restrict you from enjoying your favorite drink but since we are discussing the major differences between cold brew and iced coffee, we will discuss this too.

Well, here it is a tie.

According to Starbucks, 16 ounces of both cold brew coffee and iced coffee can provide you with 5 calories. This data may differ depending upon the amount of milk, cream, sweetener, etc you use in your glass of coffee.

These are a few key differences between cold brew and iced coffee that you should remember while going to enjoy coffee no matter at a coffee shop or at home.‍

 

ice-coffee-in-glass

Conclusion

Drinking cold brew or iced coffee for refreshment is good but choosing the most suitable one is best and this article can easily help you with this.

Iced coffee and cold brew are different in many factors such as caffeine content, acidity, price, taste, etc.

Which one to choose completely depends on you. If you want to enjoy coffee considering your health, you should go for cold brew because it is less acidic and more gentle on the stomach. If you are a home brewer and have no prior time, you can go with the iced one.

Profile-image

Audrey Harrison

Team TAB
View Profileright-arrow

I am a coffee aficionado based in Seattle. I have devoted my passion and expertise to perfecting the art of home coffee brewing. I became known for my exquisite pour-over and espresso creations. I source coffee beans from local roasters and explores ...