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

Not all cold coffee drinks are created equal. Just because they are refreshing and give you a needed boost doesn’t mean the brewing process is the same.

So, let’s break down one of such dilemmas: cold brew vs iced coffee.

What is Cold Brew Coffee?

Just as its name suggests, cold brew coffee doesn’t use hot water. Yet, the brewing method is relatively simple. You don’t need to spend excessive amounts of money on a coffee shop’s cold brew when you can make it yourself.

Cold brew is an extraction method, not a serving method.

Cold brew is less bitter, more delicate, and has a smoother taste (1). These qualities happen because the oils and acids that cause unpleasant flavors are not soluble in cold water. Although cold brew coffee already tastes better than other coffee drinks, you can always find ways to make your cold brew taste even better.

What is Iced Coffee?

Iced coffee is another cold coffee beverage, but the brewing process is different. Just as its name suggests, iced coffee is regular coffee served over ice. So, you brew it using a more traditional approach with hot water. That hot coffee beverage is either chilled for a few hours or immediately poured over ice to create the refreshing drink you love to sip on in the summer.

Which Has More Caffeine?

Now that you know not all cold coffee is alike let’s compare caffeine levels.

Most cold brew coffee has more caffeine. The brewing process extracts more caffeine than an auto-drip coffee machine using hot water (2). So, cold brew concentrate will have more caffeine than an equal part of traditionally hot brewed coffee. However, most people dilute the concentrate to create a coffee that is not as strong.

The final product (diluted cold brew concentrate) in the cup might have more or less caffeine than its hot-brewed equivalent.

Typically, iced coffee is even more diluted and has less caffeine, but this is not always the case.

Brewing Methods

Now let’s explore the ideal brewing methods for a cold brew and iced coffee.

cold brew vs iced coffee
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How is Cold Brew Coffee Made?

If you are okay with prepping your coffee one day before you plan to drink it, then cold brew is a great option to quench your coffee cravings on a hot day.

All you need is freshly ground coffee, room temperature or cool water, a large container like a mason jar or French press, and cheesecloth. Place your coffee grounds into your container and add water. More coffee equals a more potent concentrate. You can learn about the importance of coffee to water ratio in this post.

Let this solution sit for 12 to 24 hours, although the precise steeping time for cold brew will depend on your preferences. Next, remove your concentrate and filter through the cheesecloth. You may want to repeat the filtration process to remove all of the fine particles. Finally, add cold water to taste, and you have a fresh cold brewed cup of coffee.

How To Make Iced Coffee

Iced coffee is a much faster way to get a chilled coffee beverage to cool you down. If you know how to make hot coffee, then you can make iced coffee.

First, brew your freshly ground coffee beans in whatever method you prefer. Then, either pour this hot coffee over ice or let it sit in the refrigerator for a few hours. Keep in mind that the more time hot brewed coffee sits, the more its flavors degrade.

Final Thoughts

In the debate about cold brew vs iced coffee, you can be confident that either option is great on a hot day. Cold brew takes longer to make but has a less bitter taste. However, iced coffee can be brewed in minutes and still taste delightful.

It’s up to you! If you wish to make different cold brew drinks, here’s some really cool and tasty cold brew recipes to try!

FAQs

Cold brew is less acidic, so if you have a sensitive stomach, it may be better than iced coffee. However, if you are watching your caffeine intake, iced coffee tends to be the better option.

Cold brew is more expensive than iced coffee because the cold-brewing process takes much longer and tends to use more coffee.

Cold brew stores better. Homemade cold brew concentrate can last up to two weeks in the fridge if stored properly. Iced coffee does not last this long.

  1. The NCA Guide to Cold Brew. Retrieved August 26, 2020, from https://www.ncausa.org/Industry-Resources/Cold-Brew
  2. An Easy Cold Brew Recipe You Can Make At Home. Retrieved August 26, 2020, from https://www.npr.org/2020/07/31/894863556/an-easy-cold-brew-recipe-you-can-make-at-home?t=1598430679131
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I come from a country where people drink domestic coffee (what the rest of the world knows as Turkish coffee) and where Nescafe designates all instant coffees ever made. So, imagine my first encounter with, say, Hario V60...Yes, it was love at first sight. Today I’m a moderate coffee connoisseur and a huge coffee lover. My favorite brewing methods are the V60 and traditional espresso-making. Yet, despite my country’s long tradition of Turkish-coffee-adoring, I somehow cannot stand it. That’s just too dark, even for me.

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