Just because the words 'cold' and 'ice' are related, doesn't mean that cold brew and iced coffee are the same.
Don't worry. You're not the only one who is confused about the difference between today's cooler coffee drinks.
The one that trips people up the most is cold brew versus iced coffee...
Although both of these caffeinated concoctions can be every coffee lover's favorite, there are a few things that makes these two popular coffees very different from one another.
Knowing the difference between coffees like iced coffee and cold brew will help you know what you like best (super important!).
In this 2-minute read, I share a few of the biggest things that makes cold brew and iced coffee each a different coffee experience.
What Is Cold Brew Coffee?
Before anything else, cold brew is not a variant of iced coffee. From how cold brew is made to how cold brew coffee is served, it shares very little with iced coffee. That means everything from acidity to taste is unique in cold brew coffee drinks.
Cold brew coffee is brewed with room temperature or cold water for a staggering 12 to 24 hours.
Yes, it's a base brew made out of coarse coffee grains steeped at least overnight. This actually makes cold brew coffee less acidic than iced coffee. And for some coffee drinkers who may have sensitive stomachs, a lot less harsh on the digestive system.
After overnight steeping, the cold brew concentrate is strained with a coffee filter, which gives cold brew a much smoother mouthfeel than other coffees.
The base brew is a very strong concentrate so cold brew coffee is typically served with half water and half concentrate or mixed with other delicious add-ins like cascara cream, or flavoring.
The ultimate favorite is infusing cold brew concentrate with nitrogen to make nitro cold brew.
What Is Iced Coffee?
Iced coffee is made through hot brewing methods, and is served on the rocks once the coffee has cooled to room temperature. Super easy to make at home with your regular drip coffee machine, there's little wait time to make iced coffee.
To make iced coffee, some coffee lovers directly pour hot brewed coffee on ice, which requires a lot more ice, and produces a much lighter, iced coffee.
Others let the base brew cool down first before pouring it on the rocks, in order to create a stronger, also slightly more acidic, iced coffee.
To yield a superior iced coffee, use a pour-over coffee maker.
Set the equipment so that your hot base brew is poured directly on ice drip by drip.
This special method helps preserve the richness and smoothness of your coffee with minimal dilution, and the best iced coffee.
Cold Brew VS Iced Coffee: The Good And The Bad
Choosing between cold brew and iced coffee comes down to personal preference. Here's how they compare:
Cold Brew Coffee
- Base brew is acquired through 12-24 hours of steeping with cool or room temperature water
- Less acidic
- Lower caffeine content
- Smoother flavor
- Concentrate can remain chilled for up to two weeks
- Can be served fresh or with ice and some other tasty additions such as milk and soda water
- Easier on digestive system
- Less bitter
- Can be significantly more expensive than iced coffee
- Base brew made through hot water coffee brewing methods
- More acidic
- More caffeine in base brew, although the ice used in your prepared drink can reduce caffeine intake
- Hot water brewing extracts more aroma
- Unused hot brewed base is not as tasty when used on the next day
- Can have a more bitter taste
- More difficult to recreate the smooth mouthfeel of cold brew
- Tends to be cheaper
Learning more about coffee helps you have a better coffee experience.
From the looks of the two, it's hard to see the difference between iced coffee and cold brew coffee.
The main difference between cold brew and iced coffee is in their brewing methods. Iced coffee is made through hot water brewing whereas cold brew requires a longer process of brewing through cold or room temperature water.
And this difference in brewing provides the main precursor for their individual distinctions.
It helps to know how your coffee is brewed to perfectly match your taste and other personal preferences.
And even though health experts claim that drinking coffee has a number of health benefits, it is still important to bear in mind that hot brewing extracts more caffeine as compared to cold brewing.
I personally love cold brew more than iced coffee.