Curious about the difference between Cold Brew and Iced Coffee? Of course you are! While these two drinks may look the same, they are actually quite different in terms of brewing method, taste, and caffeine content.
In this complete guide, you’ll learn the differences between cold brew and iced coffee. Then, you can confidently decide which one is right for you.
Cold brew and iced coffee are both cold (duh!) coffee drinks, but the way they are brewed in very different ways.
Iced coffee is made by brewing hot coffee and then cooling it down with ice.
Cold brew, on the other hand, is made by steeping coffee grounds in cold water for an extended period of time, usually 12-24 hours. This slow brewing process extracts the coffee’s flavors and caffeine without the use of heat, which typically results in a smoother and less acidic taste.
Cold brew and iced coffee also have different flavor profiles. Iced coffee has a flavor similar to hot brewed coffee, but with a lower temperature. Cold brew is generally sweeter and less bitter than iced coffee.
Cold brew is popular among those who prefer their coffee without added sugar or cream. Additionally, cold brew tends to have a higher caffeine content than iced coffee due to the longer brewing time.
Cold Brew Vs. Iced Coffee: Understanding the Basics
Coffee connoisseurs tend to know the difference between cold brew and iced coffee. If you’re a layman, however, these drinks may seem the exact same, even though they both appear on the menu at your favorite coffee shop.
There are, in fact, key differences between cold brew and iced coffee. So, it’s important to understand the basics. Let’s dive in.
Cold brew coffee is made by steeping coffee grounds in cold water for an extended period of time, usually 12 to 24 hours. This results in a potent coffee concentrate that is less acidic and smoother than traditional coffee. Cold brew coffee is typically served over ice and can be diluted with water or milk to taste.
Cold brew requires a higher ratio of coffee grounds to water compared to iced coffee. This is why the coffee is more concentrated. It’s also why Cold Brew has a stronger flavor profile.
Iced coffee is brewed hot and then chilled. It is made by brewing coffee – as you might normally -with hot water, and then pouring it over ice to cool it down. It’s really that simple.
Compared to cold brew, iced coffee typically has a milder taste and a higher acidity level. It is also much less concentrated, which means it can be more easily diluted.
Which One Should You Choose?
This is completely up to you, of course. Both cold brew and iced coffee have their own unique flavors and brewing processes. So, it’s a matter of personal preference.
If you prefer a less acidic and smoother coffee, then cold brew is probably the way to go. If you’re looking for a more traditional taste with a higher acidity level, then iced coffee may be the better option.
It’s worth noting that cold brew is typically a little more expensive than iced coffee because it takes longer to make. However, coffee enthusiasts believe that the unique flavor and smoothness of cold brew are worth the extra cost.
One of the key differences between cold brew and iced coffee is the brewing process. Let’s take a closer look at how cold brew and iced coffee are both prepared.
Cold Brew Process
As previously described, cold brew is made by steeping coarsely ground coffee beans in cold water for an extended period of time, usually 12 to 24 hours. This steeping process extracts the coffee’s flavors without exposing the grounds to heat. This results in a smooth, less acidic coffee that many people find very appealing.
To make cold brew, you can use a variety of methods. Some people prefer to use a French press, while others use a specialized cold brew coffee maker. You don’t actually need anything fancy, however. Many people simply use a mason jar with a filter – like this one from County Line Kitchen.
Regardless of the method you choose, the basic process is the same: mix coffee grounds and cold water, let the mixture sit for several hours, and then strain out the grounds.
One of the advantages of cold brew is that it can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for several days. This makes it a convenient option for those who like to have coffee on hand without having to brew a fresh pot every morning.
Iced Coffee Process
Iced coffee is brewed hot using your standard coffee maker. It is then cooled and served over ice. The brewing process is similar to making hot coffee, except that most people use half the amount of water to make a stronger brew.
One of the main distinctions here, aside from the water temperature, is that iced coffee requires a higher ratio of grounds to water compared to regular drip coffee (or hot coffee), sometimes up to double the amount. This because the coffee becomes diluted when poured over ice.
There are several methods to prepare iced coffee, including drip coffee makers, pour-over methods, and flash brew methods. Flash brewing involves brewing hot coffee directly onto ice, which cools it down quickly and creates a unique flavor profile.
Taste and Flavor Profile
Cold Brew Taste
Cold brew coffee is known for its rich and smooth taste. Again, the cold brewing process results in a less acidic and less bitter flavor profile compared to traditional hot brewed coffee or iced coffee.
Cold brew coffee tends to have a mellow flavor with natural sweetness and subtle notes of chocolate or caramel. Because there is no heat during the brewing process, the coffee’s natural flavors are more pronounced, resulting in a full-bodied taste and aroma.
Iced Coffee Taste
Iced coffee typically has a thinner – and some think more refreshing – taste compared to cold brew. Iced coffee has a profile that is more similar to traditional hot brewed coffee, but with a more pronounced acidity.
Iced coffee is typically more bitter than cold brew coffee, and can have notes of chocolate or nuttiness. Many describe the taste of iced coffee as refreshing and invigorating.
When it comes to caffeine content, cold brew and iced coffee differ in significant ways. A typical 16-oz. cold brew has approximately 200 mg of caffeine, which is more than a typical iced coffee.
The difference in caffeine content is the result of the brewing process. Again, cold brew is much more concentrated because it is steeped for up to 24 hours.
The caffeine content of cold brew and iced coffee can vary depending on how they are brewed. Some cold brew methods can result in a drink with nearly double the caffeine content of iced coffee.
Ingredients and Ratios
If you’re looking to experiment with cold brew and iced coffee at home, it’s important to have the right ingredients and use the right ratios.
Cold Brew Ingredients and Ratios
To prepare cold brew coffee, you will need coarse ground coffee beans and cold water. The ratio of coffee to water is typically higher in cold brew than in traditional hot coffee. A common ratio is 1:5, which means one part coffee to five parts water.
Some recipes may call for a higher ratio of up to 1:2. This higher ratio is necessary because cold water extracts coffee more slowly than hot water, requiring more coffee to achieve a rich flavor.
Iced Coffee Ingredients and Ratios
To prepare iced coffee, you will need ground coffee beans, hot water, and ice. The ratio of coffee to water is typically much lower than in cold brew. A common ratio is 1:16, which means one part coffee to sixteen parts water.
Hot water extracts coffee more quickly than cold water, so less coffee is needed to achieve a good flavor. Once the coffee is prepared, it is poured over ice to cool it down.
Both cold brew and iced coffee can be customized with extra ingredients like milk, cream, sugar, or other sweeteners. Cold brew is typically served as a concentrate that is then diluted with water or milk, while iced coffee is served directly over ice.
Popular Variations and Recipes
Cold brew and iced coffee can both by enjoyed in variety of ways, using a variety of different recipes. Let’s take a look at some popular variations and recipes:
Cold Brew Variations
Cold brew is a versatile drink that can be enjoyed in many different ways. Here are some popular variations to try:
- Classic Cold Brew: This is the basic recipe for classic cold brew coffee. Simply mix cold water with coarsely ground coffee and let it steep for 12-24 hours in the fridge. Strain out the grounds and enjoy the smooth, rich flavor of cold brew.
- Cold Brew Concentrate: For a stronger coffee flavor, make a cold brew concentrate by using a higher coffee-to-water ratio. Dilute the concentrate with water or milk to taste.
- Flavored Cold Brew: Add a splash of vanilla extract, a sprinkle of cinnamon, or a drizzle of caramel syrup to your cold brew for a tantalizing twist on the classic recipe.
- Iced Cold Brew Latte: Pour cold brew over ice and add milk or cream for a refreshing iced latte.
Many coffee shops and chains, including Starbucks, offer their own variations of cold brew coffee on their menus.
Iced Coffee Variations
Here are some ways you can enjoy iced coffee:
- Classic Iced Coffee: Brew coffee using your preferred method and let it cool. Pour over ice and add milk or cream to taste.
- Iced Coffee Concentrate: Make a stronger coffee by using a higher coffee-to-water ratio. Dilute the concentrate with water or milk to taste.
- Flavored Iced Coffee: Add a splash of flavored syrup or a sprinkle of cocoa powder to your iced coffee for a tasty twist.
- Iced Coffee Latte: Pour brewed coffee over ice and add milk or cream for a refreshing iced latte.
No matter how you enjoy your coffee, there are plenty of variations and recipes to try. Experiment with different flavors and ratios to find your perfect cup.
As previously mentioned, cold brew is generally a little more expensive than iced coffee. This is because the process of making cold brew takes longer and requires more coffee grounds.
It’s not uncommon to see cold brew priced at $4 or more per cup, while iced coffee is usually priced around $3 per cup. Of course, prices may vary depending on the location and the establishment.
If you’re on a strict budget, iced coffee may be the better choice for you. It’s a more affordable option, and you can still enjoy a refreshing and delicious cup of coffee without breaking the bank.
Again, the choice between cold brew and iced coffee is a matter of personal preference. If you’re looking for a quick and affordable pick-me-up, iced coffee is a great option. But if you’re willing to splurge on a more decadent and luxurious cup of coffee, cold brew is the way to go. And don’t forget: Both can easily be made at home.
The Final Scoop
When it comes to choosing between cold brew and iced coffee, it’s all up to you. Some coffee connoisseurs may prefer the full-bodied, mellow acidity of cold brew, while others may appreciate the lighter body and more present acidity of iced coffee.
In America, iced coffee has often been a popular choice, especially during warm weather and summer months. It is typically made by brewing hot coffee and then cooling it down with ice, resulting in a quicker and more convenient process than cold brew. However, cold brew has gained widespread popularity due to its unique brewing method and less acidic taste.
Both cold brew and iced coffee can be enjoyed in various ways. Some people prefer to add milk or cream, while others like it black. Many people use sweeteners like sugar, honey, or flavored syrups to enhance the taste.
Both cold brew and iced coffee have their unique characteristics and benefits. It’s up to you to decide which one you prefer based on your taste and your budget.
Frequently Asked Questions
How is cold brew different from regular coffee?
Cold brew is made by steeping coffee grounds in cold water for an extended period, usually 12-24 hours. Regular coffee is brewed with hot water and typically takes only a few minutes to make. The extended steeping time of cold brew results in a smoother, less acidic coffee that is often described as sweeter and more chocolatey.
What makes cold brew stronger than iced coffee?
Cold brew is often stronger than iced coffee because it is brewed with a higher coffee-to-water ratio. Additionally, the extended steeping time allows for more extraction of coffee flavor, resulting in a more concentrated brew.
Can milk be added to cold brew?
Yes, you can add milk (or cream) to your cold brew just as you would regular coffee. Many people enjoy cold brew with milk or cream and a sweetener like simple syrup or honey.
What is the difference between cold brew and nitro cold brew?
Nitro cold brew is cold brew that has been infused with nitrogen gas, giving it a creamy, smooth texture similar to Guinness beer. Nitro cold brew is often served on tap and has a frothy head, while regular cold brew is typically served over ice.
How do you make cold brew at home?
To easily make cold brew at home, simply mix coarsely ground coffee with cold water in a container and let it steep in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours. Strain the mixture through a coffee filter or cheesecloth to remove the grounds, and then dilute the concentrate with water or milk to taste.
Is cold brew considered black coffee?
Cold brew can be considered black coffee if it is served without any added milk or sweeteners. However, many people enjoy cold brew with milk or cream and a sweetener.