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Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee

Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee

Are you a cold coffee connoisseur? You’re not alone. If you take your coffee iced year-round, you’ve probably wondered how exactly iced coffee differs from cold brew coffee.

In our cold brew vs. iced coffee guide, we’ll cover how to make each drink (at home), why they taste different, acidity levels, brewing requirements, and more.

By the end, you’ll hold the power to make your daily caffeine kick taste as delicious as possible – and impress all your friends with your new craft!

On Deck

What is iced coffee?

Iced coffee is pretty self-explanatory. Just take a cup of regularly brewed joe, add ice, and voila! You’ll have iced coffee. Of course, there are techniques to make it taste better than a watered-down cup of cold coffee.

Chill your coffee in the refrigerator until it reaches the desired temperature – before adding ice cubes. If you stick your ice straight into the hot coffee, you could sacrifice flavor and tasting notes as the ice melts. However, don’t leave your brewed coffee in the fridge for too long (more than a day or two), or it can become stale and have a less appealing taste.

Iced Coffee Specs

  • Time requirement: A few minutes to a couple of hours
  • Process: Pour brewed coffee over ice
  • Expiration: 1-2 days
  • Taste: More bitter than cold brew, possibly weaker flavor
  • Caffeine level: Around 160 mg per 16 ounces of coffee

What is cold brew coffee?

Making cold brew is more time-intensive, but it’s still a simple process. Time is what makes it taste smooth and so darn good, so it can be well worth the wait.

Create cold brew by steeping coffee grounds in water for at least 12-14 hours (we explain how to perfect your cold brew below). Once the steeping process is complete, just filter out the grounds, leaving your cold brew concentrate.

Cold brew is tastier, smoother, less bitter, and sweeter than iced coffee. The cold brew process effectively extracts the coffee’s natural sugars, oils, and caffeine without using heat, resulting in less acidic coffee. Cold brew can have a much stronger flavor than iced coffee, so it’s highly encouraged to pop in some ice, water, or your favorite milk to soften the kick.

Cold Brew Specs

  • Time: 12-24 hours
  • Process: Steep coffee in filtered water for at least 12 hours, strain, and serve with water, ice, or milk
  • Expiration: Two weeks in the refrigerator (in concentrate form)
  • Taste: Smoother, sweeter, and less acidic than iced coffee
  • Caffeine level: Around 200 mg per 16 ounces

Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee: The Main Difference (TLDR)

In a nutshell, the difference between cold brew vs. iced coffee comes down to the brewing method. Cold brew is created without using heat, while iced coffee is simply brewed hot coffee that’s chilled.

Each method produces different textures and tastes. Cold brew is smoother, much less acidic, less bitter, and sweeter than iced coffee.

How to Make Iced Coffee

Follow this process to craft great-tasting iced coffee at home:

  1. Brew your favorite coffee using your top method of choice. You can use a standard coffee maker, French press, pour over, or another technique. If you want to add cream or milk when it’s done, brew your coffee stronger than usual.
  2. Allow your coffee to cool either to room temperature or by sticking it into the fridge until it reaches the desired temperature.
  3. Add ice cubes. To ensure you don’t dilute your coffee, try swapping your regular cubes for coffee cubes (coffee frozen in ice cube trays).
  4. Drink it as is, or add your favorite milk and flavors, then enjoy!

How to Make Cold Brew Coffee

To make a stellar cup of cold brew, follow these steps:

  1. Coarsely grind your coffee beans (so they’re easy to strain later). Our Brazil Cerrado Low Acid beans make a great cold brew.
  2. Use a ratio of 2:1 coffee grounds (in ounces) to cups of water. For example, if you use 12 ounces of ground coffee, add 6 cups of filtered water. Mix until all your coffee grounds get wet.
  3. Steep at room temperature for 16 hours for maximum boldness and flavor.
  4. Strain into another container using a fine mesh strainer or coffee filter. Repeat once to remove all coffee grounds from concentrate.
  5. Pour your concentrate into a glass jar (like a mason jar) or pitcher, and cover with a lid to seal and preserve freshness.
  6. Stick it into the fridge until you’re ready to indulge.
  7. To serve, use a 2:1 water (including ice cubes) to coffee concentrate ratio. If you prefer, swap the water for your favorite milk.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is cold brew stronger than iced coffee?

Generally, yes. Cold brew uses more coffee than iced coffee. It typically contains around 200 mg of caffeine per 16 ounces, compared with iced coffee containing approximately 160 mg per 16 ounces. But it depends on the brand, how much coffee you use for each method, and how much milk or water you add before serving.

Does cold brew or iced coffee last longer?

Cold brew, hands down. You can keep the concentrate in your refrigerator for up to two weeks. Iced coffee only lasts for a day or two and then turns stale, even somewhat sour. If you want to make a single batch of cold coffee to drink at home throughout the week, cold brew is the way to go.

Is cold brew or iced coffee healthier?

According to a nutrition expert at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, cold brew coffee is just as healthy as regular coffee. The top health benefits of coffee (cold brew and iced) include a decreased risk of:

  • Developing type 2 diabetes, neurodegenerative disease, or heart disease
  • Dying prematurely

Cold brew can end up being even healthier than regular iced coffee because it’s less bitter and acidic and may require fewer additions (milk, cream, sugar, etc.) to alter the taste.

Can you serve iced coffee or cold brew hot?

You can serve cold brew hot by heating it on the stove or in the microwave. Hot, iced coffee would be diluted regular coffee, so we don’t recommend serving it hot. Just brew yourself a regular cup of java instead. (Wink.)

Why is cold brew more expensive than iced coffee?

Since iced coffee can be brewed quickly and requires minimal coffee compared to cold brew, it’s less costly to make. Cold brew takes at least 12 (sometimes up to 24) hours to brew and requires a lot more coffee.

What is nitro cold brew?

Nitro cold brew is cold brew with an added step: nitrogen infusion. Like your favorite craft beer, it’s served on tap. But it’s even smoother, sweeter, and can have more caffeine than cold brew. Nitro cold brew creates a foam when poured. You don’t drink it iced like cold brew because the nitrogen keeps the coffee cold naturally. How cool is that?

Coffee Beans for Iced and Cold Brew Coffee

Looking for the perfect bean to try out your new favorite hobby? Fathom Coffee sells specialty beans from across the globe. Shop online or visit us in person if you live in the Virginia Beach area. We can’t wait to serve you!

Image Alt Text: How cold brew compares to iced coffee


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