Difference between Cold Brew and Iced Coffee - Coffee Life by EspressoWorks

The Two Coolest Choices for Summer

When the weather gets a little too hot to handle, there’s nothing like a cool, refreshing brew to beat the heat. Fortunately, there are two coffee options that fit the bill – cold brew and iced coffee. While they may sound similar, they are actually very different in not only taste, but also in brewing methods. Here’s all you need to know about the difference between cold brew and iced coffee!

The Magic is in the Method

The difference between cold brew and iced coffee is not in their respective components, but rather, how they are made. Both types of coffee actually utilize the same ingredients – coffee grinds and water, but the results are distinctly unique in terms of flavor profile and caffeine content. Depending on whether you enjoy sharper or gentler notes, you’ll soon find out whether an iced coffee or a cold brew will suit you best.

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Creating Your Own Cold Brew

When it comes to cold brew, the name can be misleading as this type of coffee can actually be served hot or cold. Preparing cold brew coffee is surprisingly simple, as it just requires coarsely-ground coffee grinds to be steeped in cold water for a period of 12 to 24 hours. The longer the grinds are left to steep, the stronger the flavor profile you’ll end up creating. After steeping, the coffee is filtered and can then be combined with water, milk, or even your favorite milk substitute! A key difference between cold brew and iced coffee is that adding ice to cold brew will not dilute its flavor, something we will touch on again later. 

Creating Your Own Iced Coffee

Unlike cold brew, iced coffee is exactly as its name implies. This refreshing beverage is super simple to brew as it essentially consists of making regular hot coffee and adding ice to it afterwards. One important factor to keep in mind is that the strength of iced coffee will weaken as the ice dilutes. This means that the flavor profile may be inconsistent, especially on hotter days when your ice is prone to melting faster. The easiest way to navigate around this problem is to simply double the amount of coffee grinds during the brewing process. This will help combat the flavor loss that occurs as the ice dilutes over time. If you’re a flavor fanatic, add some of your coffee into an ice tray and let them freeze into coffee ice cubes. Using coffee ice cubes instead of regular ice means that there is no risk of the flavor being watered down over time.  

Flavor Variance

To the casual coffee drinker, and even among coffee lovers, the flavor difference between cold brew and iced coffee often remains a mystery. The biggest difference in taste between cold brew and iced coffee is caused by the heat that’s necessary to create iced coffee. Since you’re basically making a regular cup of coffee and just adding ice, the heat required to extract the flavor from coffee grinds imparts a slight bitterness and mild acidity. This signature sharpness is preferred by a lot of coffee drinkers who enjoy a little kick with every sip. Meanwhile, since no heat is required to prepare cold brew, the taste tends to be gentler on the palate and occasionally, a little sweeter. Of course, your results may vary depending on the type of coffee grinds you use, how much you use, how coarse they are, and even how long you brew your coffee for. One thing’s for sure, there’s a definite difference between cold brew and iced coffee in terms of flavor. 

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Caffeine Content

While it’s relatively easy to pin down the characteristics of these refreshing beverages, the difference between cold brew and iced coffee’s caffeine content can vary considerably. As a general rule of thumb, since cold brew is steeped longer than iced coffee, you can extract more caffeine from the coffee grinds. Be sure to note, though, that any ready-to-drink brands of cold brew and iced coffee can have caffeine artificially added to them or removed, so you should always check to make sure you’re getting a caffeine amount that suits you.

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The Cold, Hard Facts

All you need to remember is that the brewing method of each of these two stellar coffees is what gives them their unique taste. The major difference between cold brew and iced coffee is that cold brew requires no heat in the brewing process, while iced coffee does. The addition of heat results in distinct changes in each type of coffee’s flavor profile and caffeine content. Whether you’re planning on making your own, or changing your order at your favorite coffee shop, you now have the knowledge to be a connoisseur on the difference between cold brew and iced coffee!