Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee – Which Can Bring A Better Taste?

What do you think when it comes to cold brew vs iced coffee? Both of them are the most loved beverages with caffeine in the world. Also, we make both of these brews from coffee grounds and water, then serve them with ice. Are they different from each other?

The answer, undoubtedly, is YES. Well, the differences lie in their brewing method, taste, caffeine content as well as how long you should store them in the fridge or at room temperature. For more understanding of the differentiation, why don’t we look at the quick comparison first?

What Is Iced Coffee?

Iced coffee is a type of coffee that is brewed hot, then poured over ice cubes and served cold. In order to make iced coffee, you can use any type of coffee beans and grind size. The most important factor that will affect the taste of your iced coffee is the brewing method.

What Is Cold Brew?

On the other hand, a cold brew is a coffee that is brewed without using any heat. It is made by steeping coarsely ground coffee beans in room temperature water for 12 hours or more.

After that, the mixture will be strained to remove the grinds and you will get your final product which is cold brew concentrate. This concentrate can be diluted with water or milk, then served over ice.

Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee – The Difference Between Cold Brew and Iced Coffee

Simply put, the most obvious similarity between these beverages is the amount of water and ground coffee needed for the brewing process. Despite that, they require different brewing methods to bring out flavors that are not entirely the same.

Below, we list the four typical differentiations: 

  • Iced coffee means precisely how we name it – coffee mixed with some ice. Also, it comes to the world as the most straightforward caffeinated drink to make. You only need to make hot coffee by a machine and then add ice. On the contrary, cold brew refers to a more complicated process at room temperature. In particular, you can enjoy it hot or with ice cubes
  • The time needed for the two is also different. With the latter, the iced drink takes 5-10 minutes only. In simpler terms, it does not matter to use an old product made yesterday and add ice to have a tasty iced drink to enjoy the following day. By contrast, the cold brew needs more time to get done. The process is likely to take between 12 and 24 hours
  • Cold brew seems to be more expensive than its counterpart. The higher amount of coffee and water in use typically costs more expenses. Also, a multi-hour process needs more intensive attention from the barista
  • Iced coffee extracts have more acidic content than the other. This output will not be friendly to your stomach. Thus, this drink is not a good idea for those who suffer from indigestion

For more detail, it is time to dig deeper into the difference between cold brew and iced coffee

Difference In Brewing Method

Iced Coffee

Of these two brews, this type comes as the faster one. When knowing how to make hot coffee, you can make this drink much more quickly. It often takes only a few minutes, for sure.

Things to do only include brewing coffee grounds in hot water, as usual, cooling it down, and adding some ice. Instead of waiting for the hot liquid to cool down at room temperature, you can place it in the refrigerator to save time. Plus, the longer you keep the drink hot, the higher its flavor will degrade.  

The drawback of this method is that it dilutes your beverage. Don’t worry too much. You totally can slow the ice-melting in the cup by making an extra-strong brewed drink. It means that you double the ground coffee amount used in the maker. 

Another way for water-down prevention is to use ice cubes made from coffee. After pouring coffee into the ice-cube tray, you freeze it and then use it to make your iced coffee. 

Cold Brew

The making process for this one is not as simple as for its rival in this battle. The most significant difference between these drinks is the brewing time.

It is a common thought that the longer the brewing time, the stronger the drink’s flavor will be. Hence, the ice, in turn, cannot make a dilution. 

After brewing, the barista can serve this caffeinated beverage with some water or milk. The point is to use time rather than heat for extraction, so the drink tends to be more bitter than its rival.

For better understanding, the following instruction can help. No special equipment is needed; it requires a bowl or a pitcher only.

  • Step 1: Add approximately 285g of ground coffee into the pitcher. We prefer the coarse ground to the regular type for a more straightforward filtering stage in this step. That said, any type can work
  • Step 2: Pour the water (about 5 cups) into the pitcher and ensure that everything gets wet evenly. For less coffee and water, you can use the ratio of 30g of coffee to ½ cup of water as a reference
  • Step 3: Steep the mixture at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. The longer time helps to extract more caffeinated flavor
  • Step 4: Rinse the pitcher slightly. Then, strain the brewed output through a mesh filter into a bowl. This straining process needs to get done twice
  • Step 5: Pour the drink into a container and place it in the refrigerator. After that, serve it with ice, water, or milk.

Difference In Flavor

The Flavor

In terms of iced coffee, hot water always does a better job of preserving the brighter flavor. However, the trade-off may come when it is cooling down. If that process cannot get done well, it will bring out an unpleasant bitterness.

To put it simply, it contains an acidity that tastes like wine. Hence, it becomes bitter after getting chilled. 

On the other hand, cold brew does not encounter the same story since it focuses on the body and sweetness. It is why you will feel a bit sweeter with a thicker texture when enjoying a cold brew. This taste is thanks to a slow brewing method at a consistent temperature level. 

To sum up, we highly recommend this approach if you cannot prepare fresh beans. For around 20 days after roasting, they probably begin to lose the original flavor. As a solution, cold brew enables baristas to bring them a new life with a better taste.

The Mouthfeel

Not only in the flavor, but these brews also differ in the mouthfeel.

The barista uses a smaller batch with a paper filter to make an iced coffee. These layers, in turn, remove almost all sediments along with oil in coffee grounds. As a consequence, you will have a smoother and lighter-bodied drink.

Meanwhile, cold-brew drinks appear in larger batches with thinner paper filters or cloths. So, you will find some sediments dropping into your cup. Then, they make the cold brew a bit more texture. 

Difference In Caffeine Content

Despite the differences mentioned above, these caffeine-packed beverages are not necessarily different regarding caffeine content. In detail, the amount depends on how much coffee you use for brewing. Honestly, the recipes can change this content dramatically.

For years, it has been a common thought that cold brew bears a higher level of caffeine content. But the reality goes in the opposite direction.

The baristas can completely control and make the coffee with their desired caffeine level. These caffeinated beverages from one café may contain more caffeine than the same drink from another. 

An Example:

Once again, it is unnecessarily the case that cold brew comes with stronger caffeine than its counterpart or vice versa. The key lies in brewing recipes. When comparing the equal amount of the same coffee drink from different café, you will find out the difference in the story.

Let’s take Starbucks and Dunkin as an example. 

In Dunkin, the caffeine content takes up around 297 mg of a medium-sized iced coffee. By contrast, a cold brew in the same size contains 260 mg of caffeine only. In Starbucks, the caffeine level in an iced coffee and a cold brew is 165 mg and 205mg, respectively.

Differences In Time and Temperature

Cold brew is made at a lower temperature, around 60-70ºF. On the other hand, iced coffee is brewed at a higher temperature of 195-205ºF and then cooled down with ice cubes.

The brewing time for cold brew is much longer, about 12 to 24 hours. Iced coffee can be brewed within 5 minutes.

Cold brew is usually stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks while iced coffee can only last for a day or two.

Differences In Beans

When it comes to cold brew, you can use any type of coffee beans. The rule of thumb is the darker the roast, the more mellow the flavor.

In contrast, iced coffee is mostly made from Arabica beans that are lighter in roast compared to Robusta beans. The light-roasted beans will give iced coffee a more sour and acidic taste.

How Many Calories Are In These Coffees?

When it comes to calorie content, cold brew has lesser calories than iced coffee. This happens because in making cold brew, we use higher water to coffee ratio which means that there will be fewer coffee oils and solids in the final product.

On the other hand, iced coffee generally has more calories since it is brewed using the hot brewing method which means that all the coffee oils and solids are extracted from the grinds. These oils and solids end up in your cup, making iced coffee more caloric than cold brew.

A cup of cold brew coffee has 5 calories on average, while iced coffee has around 60 calories. If you’re trying to lose weight or want to reduce calorie intake, then cold brew is a better choice.

Adding Amount Calories
Whole milk 1 oz (30 ml) 19 calories
2 % fat milk 1 oz (30 ml) 15 calories
Nonfat milk 1 oz (30 ml) 10 calories
Almond milk 1 oz (30 ml) 7 calories
Oat milk 1 oz (30 ml) 16 calories
Soy milk 1 oz (30 ml) 15 calories
Simple syrup 1 tbsp 25 calories
Brown sugar syrup 1 tbsp 50 calories
Honey 1 tbsp 64 calories

Health Benefits Of The Two

In addition to differences between cold brew and iced coffee, there are also similarities in other contents. And we love the potential perks for health here. 

First of all, in each cup of these brews, there are about three calories along with 118 mg of potassium. According to the US Agriculture Department, this combination plays an essential role in helping nerves function and muscles contract.

These beverages also offer many antioxidants to boost the immune system and your overall health. They will weaken the cell-damaging radicals. 

Another highlight is that roasted coffee contains as many polyphenols as wine and tea. This compound excels in slowing the process of cellular aging and improving your heart health. 

However, the brewing method can somehow affect the antioxidant activity. In detail, a cold brew can enhance the antioxidant activity better than the hot one. 

So we can say that the two both perform well in terms of health perks.

Lifespan Of These Beverages

Iced Coffee

After brewing, the hot drink takes time to cool down slowly. Then, the barista will add some ice to create iced coffee. At that time, the beverage tends to become stale, and the flavor starts to water down. In other words, due to the cooling down process, it will not be as great as its freshly-brewed taste.

This drink typically bears the best flavor within the same day of brewing. But it is still fine if you want to save the beverage for the next two days. In this case, we suggest keeping it in the fridge. 

On the first day of storage, it often starts tasting slightly sour. If the old or low-quality coffee ground is in use, this change will be more distinct. Hence, choosing fresh ones is never a bad idea. 

However, the fact shows that many cafes use old ingredients after days to make the iced drink for more caffeine. Unfortunately, not many people notice the difference in its taste then. 

Cold Brew

You know that cold brew results from a super-high concentration in which more coffee grounds (than the iced counterpart) get extracted in water. Thus, this brewing method allows you to store the beverage in the fridge for a week on average. 

The drink will not stay fresh when that time passes due to bacterial growth. Consequently, its lifespan drops so quickly. 

Also, diluting your cold brew with water or milk will shorten its lifespan. Because of dilution, the drink can last from 2 to 3 days only. 

Which One Should You Choose?

It seems hard to decide the winner in the debate between these caffeinated brews. Generally, the two of them have some perks and drawbacks on their own.

If you always have been a coffee aficionado and value its flavor, we suggest giving the cold brew a shot. Cold brew takes a lot of time and effort to make, but the taste is well worth it. 

Also, if you have problems regarding indigestion, cold brew should be your priority, as we explained above. The cold brew, after the steeping process, tends to become less acidic than the hot brewing stage. As a consequence, it will be much easier to go through the digestive system.  

For those who have to limit their caffeine use, it would be better to choose iced coffee. This drink boasts a lower caffeine content than its counterpart due to its shorter brewing time.

That said, you should drink these fantastic beverages only rather than adding some cream, sugar, or milk as a healthier way of enjoying it.

FAQs Of The Difference Between Cold Brew and Iced Coffee

1. How to make coffee ice cubes?

The best way to make coffee ice cubes is by using brewed coffee. It’s important that the coffee is already cold or at least room temperature before freezing it. This will help prevent the ice cubes from cracking or breaking as they freeze.

To make coffee ice cubes, simply pour brewed coffee into an ice cube tray and place it in the freezer. Once the coffee is frozen, you can transfer the cubes to a freezer-safe bag or container. Coffee ice cubes will last for up to 6 months in the freezer.

2. Is cold brew stronger than espresso?

Espresso is a concentrated form of coffee that has more caffeine per fluid ounce than cold brew. However, since people generally drink less espresso than cold brew, the overall caffeine content in a cup of cold brew is higher.

The brewing method also affects the strength of the coffee. Cold brew is brewed for a longer period of time, which extracts more caffeine from the beans.

3. Can you add vanilla extract to cold brew coffee?

Yes, you can add vanilla extract to cold brew coffee. In fact, many people prefer to add vanilla extract to their cold brew coffee because it enhances the flavor and aroma of the coffee.

Vanilla extract is also a popular additive for iced coffee. However, adding vanilla extract to iced coffee can make the drink more difficult to drink because the ice cubes can melt and dilute the coffee.

4. Is iced coffee a laxative?

No, iced coffee is not a laxative. However, if you drink too much coffee in general, it can have a laxative effect. This is because coffee contains caffeine, which is a natural stimulant of the digestive system.

5. Can cold brew cause anxiety?

The answer is that it’s possible, but it’s more likely that it’s the caffeine in coffee that causes anxiety, rather than the brewing method. Cold brew tends to have less caffeine than other methods of brewing coffee, so if you’re sensitive to caffeine, it may be a good option for you.

However, if you’re prone to anxiety, it’s always best to speak to your doctor before drinking any coffee, cold brew, or otherwise.

6. What happens if you drink cold brew coffee everyday?

If you drink cold brew coffee every day, you may notice some changes in your body. Cold brew coffee has a higher concentration of caffeine than regular coffee.

As a result, you may feel more alert and energetic after drinking it. You may also notice an increase in your heart rate and blood pressure.

While these effects are usually harmless, they can be dangerous for people with heart conditions or high blood pressure. If you experience any negative side effects after drinking cold brew coffee, it’s best to stop drinking it or cut back on your intake.

7. How do you drink cold brew?

You might be surprised to know that you can drink cold brew in different ways. For example:

– Black: black coffee without adding any milk or sugar.

– With milk and sugar: this is how most people drink their cold brew. You can add your favorite milk and sweetener to taste.

– Straight up: if you are looking for a more intense flavor, you can drink it black or with just a little bit of milk.

– Iced: this is how most people drink their cold brew. You can add your favorite milk and sweetener to taste.

8. How long does cold brew last in the fridge?

Cold brew can last up to two weeks in the fridge, while iced coffee only lasts for a maximum of 48 hours.

9. What do you mix with cold brew coffee?

A lot of people prefer to add milk, sugar, or syrups. But the coffee’s natural sweetness, bitterness, and oils make it pretty much perfect on its own.

10. Do you put ice in cold brew?

No, we don’t put ice in cold brew coffee. The ice would melt and water down the concentrate. You are supposed to serve cold brew over ice, or with cold milk and sweetener.

11. Do you put sugar in cold brew?

In cold brew, there is no need to put sugar because the brewing method using room temperature or cold water extracts more sweetness from coffee beans. As a result, this type of coffee is less acidic and smoother than iced coffee.

Although you can find some sugar in bottled or canned cold brew, it is not as common as iced coffee.

12. Does cold brew need Creamer?

You can make both iced coffee and cold brew without adding any dairy or creamer. Some people might like their coffee black, but most of us would love to add some creaminess to it.

Iced coffee generally goes well with milk, while the cold brew is perfect when you add some sweet condensed milk.

13. Does iced coffee wake you up?

Yes, iced coffee does wake you up. Caffeine is a stimulant, and it will give you a boost of energy. Iced coffee has about the same amount of caffeine as hot coffee. However, if you are sensitive to caffeine, you may want to avoid drinking iced coffee in the evening because it could keep you up at night.

14. Does cold brew make you less jittery?

Yes, cold brew does make you less jittery because the brewing process for cold brew uses a lower temperature and grinds the beans for a longer time. This extracts less of the oils that contain caffeine.

15. Is cold brew coffee easier on your stomach?

As we know, hot water is able to extract more oils, bitterness, and acidity from coffee beans. That’s the main reason why iced or cold brew coffees often taste smoother and less acidic.

If you are suffering from stomach issues, it’s better to go for a cup of cold brew.

16. What’s so special about cold brew?

Technically, cold brew is brewed at a lower temperature than iced coffee. The water-to-coffee ratio is also higher in cold brew, which makes the final drink less acidic and more mellow.

17. Which is a sweeter iced coffee or cold brew?

Iced coffee is brewed hot, then cooled down with ice, so it has a higher level of acidity and sweetness. On the other hand, cold brew is created by steeping coffee beans in room-temperature or cold water for 12 hours or longer.

This process results in a less acidic and more chocolatey taste. In short, iced coffee is more like a regular cup of coffee that has been diluted with milk and sugar, while the cold brew is less sweet and more concentrated.

18. Do you add milk to cold brew?

The answer is yes, you can. In terms of beverage and adding milk, both iced coffee and cold brew are versatile. You can enjoy them with or without milk, as well as with different types of milk such as soy milk, almond milk, oat milk, etc.

19. Will cold brew wake me up?

Of course, it will. A cup of cold brew has similar caffeine content as a cup of iced coffee. The main difference is in the brewing method and how long you steep the coffee grounds in water.

20. What is nitro cold brew?

If you love the taste of cold brew coffee, then you will definitely adore nitro cold brew. It is made by infusing nitrogen gas into the cold brew coffee, which makes it even smoother and creamier.

The best thing about nitro cold brew is that you don’t need milk or sugar to enjoy its taste since it is already naturally sweet and creamy.

21. Can cold brew or iced coffee be served hot?

The answer to this question is no. Iced coffee is brewed hot, then cooled down and served over ice, whereas cold brew is made at room temperature or cold water from the start. This means that you can’t reheat either of them without ruining the taste.

22. Why is cold brew more expensive than iced coffee?

The price of cold brew is expensive since the brewing process takes more time, about 12 – 24 hours. In other words, it’s a slow method that requires patience. On top of that, you need a piece of equipment, which is a cold brew coffee maker.

In contrast, making iced coffee is faster and easier since you can do it with the coffeemaker that you already have at home, such as a pour-over coffee maker, French press, or even an espresso machine.

23. Can you make cold brew at home?

Of course, you can. You will need a cold brew coffee maker, which is different from a French press, for example. This brewing method uses time instead of hot water to extract the flavor from coffee grounds. As a result, the coffee tastes less bitter and has a lower acidity level.

Conclusion

Now, you get an answer for the comparison. The two have their own moments in different aspects. And the choice all boils down to your preference.

There are a lot of things to love about cold brew as well as iced coffee. Numerous people find their interest in the former while many others are keen on the latter. Also, lots of drinkers like both. We prefer cold brew for its deeper flavor.

What is your choice between cold brew vs iced coffee? We are so eager to hear about your favorite. Leave a comment below, and see you in the next post.

Almost 20 years already spent committed to coffee and more than 3 years of experience as a barista at Starbucks. Madelyn Doyle graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutritional Science from the University of California and finished the Coffee Skills Program at the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA).