Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee

How to Pick Your Warm Weather Drink

If you have found yourself being asked to decide between a cold brew coffee and an iced coffee by your very hip barista, you have probably wondered, what the heck is the difference? You are probably debating between a thrifty coffee and looking like a cool uptown coffee enthusiast. There are a few key differences to this new cold coffee trend that you should know about before choosing the least expensive option to caffeinate and cool down in the unseasonably warm heat.

First, let’s outline some basics, iced coffee is brewed as regular coffee and is then cooled down and poured over ice, pretty self-explanatory. Cold brew, on the other hand, is never heated up, has twice the concentration of caffeine and is brewed for over 12+ hours. If twice the caffeine isn’t enough of an incentive to spend a little extra cash on your coffee, then the taste profiles might be the perfect tie breaker for you. Despite the fact that caffeine is naturally bitter, cold brew carries a smooth and chocolaty flavor. The brew doesn’t have the same watered down flavor that most iced coffee has, making your chilly coffee the perfect compliment to your favorite milk. The cold water brewing actually changes the chemical profile of the beans, creating an all around sweeter taste. The temperature of cold brew provides the optimal scenario to actually garner those flavorful oils in your beans and provides an overall delicious experience. That being said there are a few downsides to drinking this tasty beverage. It is more expensive due to the time-consuming process and because on average the coffee requires twice the amounts of grounds.

Cold brew is created by steeping a medium to coarse ground coffee, and there are two main ways to create it. Your brewing equipment can be as simple as a mason jar and a filtration device, or a French press, a cold brew pot can be as cheap as $20, which is a bargain considering that most people spend over $100 a month on cold brew coffees. You are going to want to add about 4 ounces of medium to coarse grounds (~8 tablespoons) to your filter and then pour about 4.5 cups of old filtered water. Make this tasty brew during dinner and let it sit in your refrigerator for about 12 hours, a longer brew time is entirely okay. After it’s sat, your cold brew should look very dark, and will be very concentrated. Pour it over ice, and I highly suggest adding your favorite milk as the coffee will not only taste strong, but it will have a lot of morning caffeine power! If that sounds like too much work to add to your already busy routine, investing in automated brewers that run at a higher ticket price, might be the answer for you. Making this coffee at home will have both your wallet and your taste buds thanking you.

To be clear, for my die-hard iced coffee aficionados, pouring a day old leftover coffee pot over a handful of ice cubes is not how prime iced coffee is created. Some coffee shops will even simply pour hot coffee over ice, creating a thin and bitter flavor. Iced coffee should be freshly-brewed coffee that cools to room temperature (about an hour) and then placed in the refrigerator to chill. If you have already made hot coffee, and then stepped outside to the sauna pretending to be a sunny Tuesday afternoon, no worries, there are a few quick ways to speed up your chill time. Put your fresh hot coffee into a metal cup and then dunk it into an ice bath. The metal will allow for better heat transfer compared to the ceramic coffee cup, or glass pot. To get your ice bath even colder, try adding salt to the bath. Finally, dip a metal spoon in and out of your cup, notice that you should dip not stir, dipping has been found to be the most efficient method. At the end of your process you will have a chilled coffee ready to be poured over ice on the go, note that because the coffee was brewed warm and then cooled, it will have an acidic taste. As you may have found out, your regular table sugar will not dissolve quickly into your cold coffee, try superfine sugars for your cold coffee beverages or syrups if you want to sweeten the flavor.

So I’ve got you hooked on the idea of trying a cold brew, but let me tell you a little more. If you are thinking of making it yourself or providing a cold brew option in your own café, there are a few pros and cons. Unlike hot-brewed coffee, which goes bitter quickly, your cold brew can last up to 2 to 4 weeks of refrigeration. A barista will also most likely add almost twice as many grounds to a cold brew than a popular brew, to help boost the concentration in the final product. This can make the coffee more expensive and time-consuming. However, your clients (and your taste buds) will be willing to spend the extra money for the flavor of the coffee, advertising it as double the caffeine will help convince even the thriftiest of spenders.

Whether you are buying your cold coffee in a café or perfecting the art at home, cold brewing, your iced beverage can create an overall better flavor profile, and allow you to sip on something less acidic. This new trend has been cropping up all over coffee shops over the last few years, and now most coffee shops will happily offer you the option. Once you’ve invested in waiting 12 hours for your coffee, there are many options for decorating your coffee, whether you are a die hard sugar and cream original kind of person, or want to add some sparkling water for a summer spritzer, this sweet coffee can shape into any recipe. Either way, don’t factor out coffee as a way to get your caffeine on a humid morning.



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  1. I had the same situation last week. When I got to my favorite café to ask for iced coffee, the barista asked me if I would like iced coffee or cold brew. I was confused at first but then I said iced coffee, and the barista didn’t bother to explain what’s a cold brew. I’m glad you posted a blog about the difference between the two.

  2. Before reading this blog cold brew and iced coffee was same for me too… There is a huge difference between them … Thanks for letting me know about this huge difference between both. Great blog!!

  3. Alright, so I have gone through this. I was asked the same question and I ended up going for the wrong answer. One thing that I learned from that experience was knowing MY right answer to this question but still, it didn’t help me knowing the difference between the two until now.

  4. Wow! I newer knew the difference betwen iced and cold brew coffee, as everybody else it just seemed the same for me. But in the end, I am glad that I learned the difference by reading this article and I can truly say that cold brew coffee is definitely the coffee for me.
    Twice the caffeine, twice the fun! 😀

  5. Ok, I have to be honest here: I’ve had cold coffee, but this is the first time I’ve heard (read?) about cold brew. I guess I never really encountered a coffee shop that offers one. Reading about this is certainly very interesting.

    To those who have tried it, according to the article, it really brings out the caffeine content, but does it also make it more acidic?

  6. Hi, I love iced coffee on a hot day! I will have to try cold brew some time.

    I was told about the difference between iced and cold brew awhile back, but I hadn’t given it much thought, till I read this blog. Thank you.

  7. I remember stepping into a cafe one day and asking for a cold coffee. The barista asked if I wanted iced or cold brew. So I asked what the difference was. Very enlightening information! That was the first time I learned that cold brew has a naturally lower pH level, and the flavor?? OH SO SMOOTH!!

    If I want to have fun with my coffee (like adding chocolate and other fun flavors), I’ll go for iced – well, blended into frappes… but for ‘expensive taste’ bring on the cold brew!

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