Cold brew and iced coffee are popular choices for those living in warmer climates or those looking to enjoy a coffee in the summer.
But what is the difference between cold brew coffee and iced coffee?
You may be surprised to learn that a few key differences distinguish them from one another.
These differences contribute to the difference in taste and caffeine content.
Here, we will go through all the ins and outs of what makes cold brew and iced coffee different as well as tips on how to make your own at home!
Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee: An Overview
Cold brew coffee and iced coffee are both coffee drinks served over ice.
They are similar in look and form but differ in the way they are made.
They also differ in the caffeine content and the way they taste.
What Is Iced Coffee?
Iced coffee is a drink made by brewing coffee in a french press or traditional carafe and then serving it over ice.
It can also be served in cold milk with ice.
Iced coffee is sweetened by adding syrups or pre-dissolved sugar in water.
The origin of iced coffee can be debated, but it is a popular drink worldwide with variations of taste and serving habits in many countries.
Coffee brewed with the intent of making iced coffee, is often brewed at a lower strength.
This is because the ice will dilute the coffee.
Sometimes, iced coffee is brewed and then refrigerated to keep it cold and mitigate dilution.
What Is Cold Brew Coffee?
Cold brew coffee or cold pressed coffee, is made by brewing the ground coffee in cold water and steeping for 12-24 hours before straining the beans out.
It is thought that the process was invented in Japan.
The mixture can be left out at room temperature while steeping or placed in the refrigerator.
When serving cold brewed coffee, you can add creamers, milk, and syrups to the mixture and serve over ice.
You can also serve it cold without ice if you prefer.
Traditionally, cold brew coffee has a different taste and caffeine content because the beans are never in contact with hot water.
What Is the Main Difference Between Cold Brew and Iced Coffee?
The main difference between cold brew coffee and iced coffee is the way it is brewed.
This differentiation in brewing techniques affects the flavor profiles of each drink as well as the caffeine content of the two.
These are some of the main differences:
- Caffeine level
- Flavor differences
- Taste variations
- Brewing processes
Caffeine Content of Cold Brew and Iced Coffee
As mentioned, the caffeine content of cold brew and iced coffee varies.
Due to the brewing methods, cold brew often has higher caffeine content.
While hot water does help extract more caffeine, cold brew is made as a concentrate with a higher ratio of coffee to water.
How Much Caffeine Is in Cold Brew Coffee?
The average cold brew coffee has 200 mg of caffeine per 16 ounces.
This caffeine count will vary depending on how strong your coffee beans are and the ratio of water to beans you choose to make it with.
For instance, cold brew from Dunkin’ contains 260 mg of caffeine, but it is prepped the same way as other varieties that have less caffeine.
It’s all in the ingredients!
How Much Caffeine Is in Iced Coffee?
Iced coffee can contain more caffeine than cold brew coffee.
However, depending on the brewing methods and preparation, it can become diluted by water and ice.
This dilution makes it taste more watered down and not as strong.
Is Starbucks Cold Brew Stronger Than Iced Coffee?
Starbucks cold brew coffee contains 205 mg of caffeine.
Their iced coffee contains 165 mg for the same 16-ounce size.
In this case, the cold brew is stronger than the iced coffee.
The iced coffee is made by brewing the Starbucks Iced Coffee Blend, then serving it chilled and sweetened over ice.
Their cold brew process includes steeping coffee grounds in cool water for 20 hours.
They prepare it in small batches to ensure consistent quality.
Custom bean blends are used to achieve their smooth flavor.
Flavor Differences Between Cold Brew and Iced Coffee
The flavor is one of the key differences between cold brew and iced coffee.
Coffee’s flavor comes out based on the water temperature and the type of bean paired with that temperature.
Taste of Cold Brew Coffee
Cold brew coffee has a smoother taste with less acidity.
The process of leaching flavor from the beans in cold water only changes the chemical profile of the drink.
The caffeine, oils, and fatty acids in coffee are more soluble when brewed in hot water.
Cold brew coffee has a lower titratable acid composition.
Taste of Iced Coffee
Iced coffee has a taste very similar to traditional hot brewed coffee.
This is due to the process of making iced coffee being similar, if not exact to, hot brewed coffee.
Once the iced coffee is diluted with milk, ice, and other flavors and syrups, it has a milder taste than hot brewed coffee and cold brew coffee.
Brewing Differences Cold Brew and Iced Coffee
The brewing techniques of cold brew coffee and iced coffee are a big part of what separates them.
If you want to try your hand at making your cold brewed concentrate or iced coffee, you can make both varieties at home.
There are even devices on the market specific to making a cold brew and iced coffee!
How to Make Iced Coffee
- Brew coffee in a french press or carafe
- Refrigerate until cool
- Pour ice into a glass along with iced coffee and your desired add-ins
How to Make Cold Brew
- Purchase a cold brew maker or a french press
- Add in your coarse ground coffee beans
- Add in two cups of water per one scoop of beans
- Gently stir
- Cover tightly and let sit for 12-24 hours
- Strain the water away from the beans and you’re ready to enjoy
Differences: Beans, Water, Time and Temperature
As we have noted, there are a few key differences to what makes cold brew and iced coffee different.
The types of bean used, water temperature, steep or brew time, and storing temperature are all pieces of the puzzle to create the perfect drink.
We will break down the most crucial bits of each category of differences.
- Using a cold brew or iced coffee blend, like the Starbucks Iced Coffee Blend is a good idea to ensure the perfect taste once the coffee mixes with ice and flavors.
- This rule is good for iced coffee and cold brew.
- Iced coffee requires hot water because of the french press method or traditional carafe brewing method.
- Once brewed, refrigerate it.
- Cold brew is made with room temperature water or cool water.
- Steep cold brew from 12-24 hours, then storable for one to two weeks.
- Iced coffee is made by brewing hot coffee in a traditional carafe then refrigerating it. This process does not take a long time. Use this within a few days.
- Cold brew and iced coffee are served over ice or directly from a refrigerated carafe.
- Keep cold until served to protect the taste and texture of the coffee.
Which is Healthier: Iced Coffee or Cold Brew?
The debate of whether or not coffee is healthy for you or not is ages old.
It is less about a certain type of coffee and more about coffee in general.
However, recent research is being conducted on cold brew coffee specifically because of its acidity and potential antioxidant content.
Overall, the purported health benefits of coffee include the potential for your body to better process glucose, healthier enzyme levels in your liver, a decrease in breakage levels in DNA, and much more, according to Johns Hopkins research.
According to the evidence, the pros of drinking coffee outweigh the cons of drinking too much coffee.
Drinking too much coffee can lead to sleep impairment, heartburn, frequent urination, and more serious side effects like a higher risk for esophageal cancer, but drinking the right amount seems to come with some benefits.
According to other studies, hot brewed coffee releases more acids than cold brewed coffee.
These acids might be responsible for higher antioxidant activities.
These higher activities were observed in the hot brewed varieties.
Based on this logic, as long as iced coffee is brewed hot first, then refrigerated before serving, hot coffee could be considered more health-beneficial than cold brewed coffee simply because of the potential for higher antioxidant activity.
Our Thoughts: Is Cold Brew Better Than Iced Coffee?
We think that there is a place for both cold brew coffee and iced coffee in your coffee drink rotation!
Cold brew gives a strong but smooth coffee flavor that is perfect for sipping.
Iced coffee is a different way to enjoy the hot brewed coffee you may enjoy in the morning.
There is a need and a place for both in the market.
If we had to choose, we would choose cold brewed coffee for its smoothness of texture and strength of flavor.
The added caffeine boost is a plus that we love.