This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through a link I may earn a commission. As an Amazon affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Is Iced Coffee Different from Cold Brew?
From the outside, iced coffee and cold brew coffee look precisely the same, but this couldn’t be more false. The two refreshing caffeinated beverages have many differences, from how they’re made to taste.
When it comes down to iced coffee vs. cold brew coffee, deciding between one depends on your taste preference and how long you have to make it.
Here are just a few ways cold brew coffee and iced coffee are distinct from each other:
How it’s Made: Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee
The main difference between iced coffee and cold brew is how they’re made.
Cold brew coffee involves steeping ground coffee in water for at least 12 hours. Once it’s ready, you can serve it black over ice or with your favorite creamer.
Iced coffee, on the other hand, is made by cooling hot brewed coffee. In essence, cold brew is brewed cold, and iced coffee is brewed hot.
How it Tastes
Cold brew and iced coffee have significant flavor differences, too. Since cold brew sits and steeps for hours, the flavors saturate better into the water. The longer it sits, the more flavorful the coffee flavors. If you like strong, smooth coffee, cold brew is for you.
Iced coffee has a weaker coffee flavor but it retains more of the bitter flavors of hot brewed coffee, which is ideal for those who don’t like the strong taste of coffee in their morning beverages. Since you’re pouring ice over a hot brew, the ice melts, dilutes the coffee, and weakens the flavor. If you want a strong iced coffee, brew your coffee strong.
If you add lots of cream and sugar, you may not notice this. But if you want black iced coffee, it’ll taste more bitter and acidic than a smooth cold brew.
Difference Between What’s Extracted
The compounds extracted from iced coffee vs. cold brew coffee also determine the taste of each icy beverage. The heated brewing extracts many organic coffee compounds from iced coffee, which creates a more bitter taste. This brewing method also removes more acid, making a more tart coffee flavor.
A cold brew’s distinct brewing process extracts the coffee’s oils, caffeine, and sugar over a long period, which creates the smooth, creaminess of the liquid.
It doesn’t pull quite as much acid or organic compounds out, so it’s less acidic and bitter (which is excellent news for those who experience stomach problems after a morning cup of iced coffee).
While cold brew creates a smooth, intense flavor, the brewing process can hamper some more delicate notes in your favorite coffee. The process can mute bean flavors that you can taste better if you brew the coffee hot.
Time to Make
Your choice between iced coffee vs. cold brew coffee may be between the time required to make each one. If so, iced coffee is much easier and faster to make in the morning before you rush out the door.
You can make iced coffee with any hot-brewed coffee—from a maker, a Keurig, or even from the fridge from a batch you made overnight. All you have to do is add ice and your favorite milk, and you’re on your way in minutes.
Cold brew takes several hours to make a flavorful cup of coffee. After steeping the coffee for several hours, you need to filter it before adding it to your to-go cup and mixing your milk and sugar with it.
Which is Healthier?
For the most part, iced coffee and cold brew hold the same nutritional value. Coffee is coffee, no matter how you make it. However, cold brew does have some health advantages.
Being less acidic, it’s easier on the stomach for those with digestive issues. It also tastes smoother, so you may be less tempted to add a high-calorie sweetener.
Which Stays Fresh Longer?
After making a batch of cold brew coffee, you can store it in the fridge for up to two weeks, depending on how diluted you made it. Iced coffee doesn’t stay fresh nearly as long.
Hot-brewed coffee is only viable for a few hours and adding milk and other ingredients that dilute it doesn’t help. If you want coffee that you can pull out of the fridge and enjoy every day, cold brew will stand the test of time.
Which is Stronger?
Cold brew requires more beans per serving of coffee, so it is inherently more caffeinated than iced coffee. You can dilute it a little bit by adding a lot of milk or creamer. While iced coffee has some caffeine in it, it’ll be easier on your stomach if caffeine is a worry for you.