Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee: What’s the Difference?

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Summer is just around the corner. As a die-hard coffee lover, your day wouldn’t be complete without coffee. Drinking a cup of hot, steaming coffee may not be a great idea during the dog days of summer, but that doesn’t mean that you should give up on your favorite beverage. It’s time to swap your hot coffee for a cold one. Cold brew vs iced coffee: which one is for you?

Cold brew and iced coffee reigned supreme as the beverage of choice for sticky summer days. They can help you beat the heat while keeping your energized throughout the day. So what’s the difference between these to warm-weather favorites?

What is iced coffee?

Iced coffee

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Iced coffee is a classic summertime go-to. True to its name, it’s pretty much your average cup of joe that is served chilled, over ice or ice cold milk. You can use any other styles of brewing – drip, espresso, pour over etc. After brewing, just chill it in the fridge or pour over ice, and you have iced coffee. This is what you’d get when you order iced coffee in a coffee shop or a restaurant.

Iced coffee is regularly available in coffee shops and some restaurants. You can also get pre-packaged iced coffee in as a grocery item in most countries. Pre-packaged iced coffee are typically chilled, not served with ice.

Since sugar does not readily dissolve in cold liquids, sweeteners and flavorings are often mixed into the hot coffee before cooling. Due to the dilution caused by the ice, iced coffee is generally brewed at a higher strength than normal coffee.

What is cold brew coffee?

Cold brew coffee

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Cold brew has gotten a lot hotter over the years, and is slowly making its way into most coffee shops, restaurants, and grocery stores.

Cold brew coffee is just coffee that is brewed without hot water. It uses time, instead of heat, to extract coffee’s caffeine, oil, and sugars. Unlike regular coffee, it is created by steeping medium to coarse ground coffee in room temperature water for up 12 to 24 hours to produce a concentrated coffee essence. The grounds are strained out of the coffee before chilling.

The lower temperature and longer extraction time results in coffee with less bitterness and softer, richer profile.

Cold brew vs iced coffee: how do they differ?

Cold coffee beverages peak during the summer months. During this time of the year, a wide variation of beverages pop up on the menu of coffee shops. Most coffee shops now offer a dizzying number of cold coffee beverages.

Despite the wide variety of options, cold brew and iced coffee remained to be the preferred source of summer caffeine. While these cold coffee drinks sound like they’re the same, they are actually different in a lot of ways. Here’s how they differ from one another.

Brewing process

There is a big difference between cold brew vs iced coffee – starting with how they’re made.

Cold brew vs iced coffee require different brewing processes. As mentioned above, iced coffee is brewed just like regular coffee, cooled, and then poured over ice. Cold brew, on the other hand, is brewed using cold water. The brewing process includes soaking the coffee grounds for an extended period of time, straining the grounds out of the coffee, and then chilling the coffee concentrate. It relies on time rather than temperature.


Different brewing methods results in a significant difference in taste. We won’t beat around the bush – cold brew tastes better than iced coffee. Taste-wise, it’s in a league of its own.

Cold brew coffee has more body, smoother texture, and is generally less acidic. It is beloved for its sweet, smooth flavor. It turns out, steeping the coffee grounds in cold water helps bring out the oils, sugar, and caffeine from the coffee grounds. The end product is smooth and chocolatey. Since it is less bitter, you may find yourself using less cream and sugar.

Iced coffee uses hot water to extract the flavor. The oils in the coffee oxidizes more quickly at elevated temperatures, causing the coffee to taste bitter. The bitter or burnt coffee flavor subsides if you add enough cream. It also tends to have a subtle flavor due to the melting ice.

Caffeine level

As a coffee lover, you probably can’t go about your day without downing a cup or two of coffee. It is the fuel that gets you started in the morning and keeps you going throughout the day. Now, you may be wondering which beverage packs the biggest caffeine punch.

Cold brew is stronger in terms of caffeine content and ground-to-water ratio. It is typically brewed as a concentrate, with three times more caffeine than that of a regular cup of coffee.


Although both are cold coffee beverages, cold brew costs more than iced coffee. Often, it costs about a dollar more than regular iced coffee. Why? Because the brewing process is time consuming.  It usually takes about 12 to 24 hours, and then chilled for a few hours before serving. Plus, it requires about twice the amount of coffee grounds than its traditional counterpart.

Cold brew vs iced coffee: which one is for you?

Now that you already know the difference between cold brew and iced coffee, it all boils down to your taste preference and lifestyle.

As a coffee lover, you probably already know that good things take time. If you value taste and coffee quality and don’t mind the long brewing hours, then cold brew coffee would be an excellent option for you. But if you are a busy professional, who just needs a quick cup of coffee, then iced coffee may be just what you need.

If you have GERD or acid reflux, you may find that your symptoms are aggravated by coffee or tea. If you’re not ready to give up your morning cup of java just yet, then cold brew coffee may be a better alternative. Cold brew contains about half the acidity of traditional coffee, so it is easier on your tummy.

If you have caffeine sensitivity, you may want to drink less cold brew coffee. It has more caffeine than iced coffee simply because the coffee grounds were soaked for longer periods of time.

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