What’s The Difference Between Cold Brew And Iced Coffee?

By Evelina •  Updated: 07/15/22 •  9 min read

Cold brew or iced coffee? Many people confuse the two, thinking they’re one and the same. But there are actually many differences between the two types of coffee.

If you’re someone who enjoys a refreshing cup of coffee in the summer, then you might be wondering what the best type of coffee is to beat the heat. So, today we’re going to take a closer look at cold brew and iced coffee, and what sets them apart!

What is Cold Brew Coffee?

Iced Coffee vs Cold Brew

If you’ve ever been in a Starbucks coffee shop, you’ve probably seen the signs for “cold brew” coffee. Cold brew coffee is made by steeping coffee grounds in cold water for an extended period of time, usually 12 hours or more (closer to 24 hours is even better).

This brewing method results in a coffee that is less acidic and has a smoother flavor than coffee that is brewed with hot water. Cold brew coffee is also less likely to cause jitters or an upset stomach.

Related Read: Cold Brew Benefits

How to Make Cold Brew Coffee.

To make cold brew coffee first you’ll need a cold brew coffee maker. If you do have one then you can move to the next step. If you don’t have a cold brew coffee maker, don’t worry, you can easily make one at home with a few supplies from your local grocery store.

To make a DIY cold brew coffee maker you’ll need:

Take your large jar or pitcher and add coffee grounds to the bottom (medium-fine grind size). Next, slowly pour cold water over the coffee grounds, making sure all of the grounds are evenly saturated.

Cover the jar or pitcher with a coffee filter or cheesecloth and let it sit for 12-24 hours. After 12-24 hours, strain the coffee using the coffee filter or cheesecloth and enjoy your cold brew!

What is Iced Coffee?

Iced Coffee from Starbucks

The truth is that iced coffee comes in many variations. Iced coffee can be made by brewing hot coffee and then pouring it over ice, or by cold brewing coffee and then pouring it over ice.

Iced coffee can also have ingredients like milk, cream, sugar, and flavorings added to it. One of the most popular drinks for example is the iced mocha, which is iced coffee with foamed milk and chocolate syrup.

For anyone who wants a simple answer to what iced coffee is, it is coffee that is served cold over ice with added flavors.

How is Iced Coffee Brewed?

Brewing iced coffee can be done with espresso or regular coffee. If you want to make iced espresso, simply brew a shot of espresso and pour it over ice. For iced regular coffee, brew a pot of coffee using your preferred method (like Moka Pot or AeroPress) and then pour it over ice.

The key here is to chill the coffee before adding ice, otherwise, you’ll end up with a watery drink. To do this, you can either brew the coffee directly over ice (which will take longer) or brew it normally and then wait for it to cool down.

Once your coffee is chilled, add milk and ice (if desired) and enjoy!

TIP: Don’t let the coffee sit for too long (around room temperature) because it will start to oxidize and lose its flavor.

Differences Between Iced Coffee And Cold Brew

Now it’s time for the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the differences between cold brew and iced coffee. We will compare these two in the following categories:

1. Taste.

In terms of taste, the differences are obvious. Cold brew has less acidity, a smoother taste, and is less bitter. Iced coffee tastes more like traditional hot coffee because the brewing process doesn’t remove as many of the oils that contain flavor.

Although when you add all the extras like milk and sugar, the original coffee taste is more difficult to distinguish. But it’s still a nice cold drink on a hot day!

2. Preparation Time.

As I previously mentioned, cold brew takes a lot longer to brew than iced or drip coffee. It can take 12 hours or more! The idea behind cold brew is to let the coffee grounds steep in cold water for a long period of time. This produces a concentrate that can be stored in the fridge and used to make iced coffee throughout the week.

Iced coffee, on the other hand, is brewed using hot water and then cooled down. It’s a much quicker process and can be done in minutes.

3. Caffeine Content.

When we think of caffeine, we often think of coffee. But the truth is, that all caffeinated beverages have different levels of caffeine. And cold brew has more caffeine than iced coffee.

This is because the brewing process for cold brew is longer, which means that more caffeine is extracted from the beans. Also per serving, cold brew has more coffee than iced coffee. So if you’re looking for a caffeine kick, cold brew is the way to go.

4. Price.

The difference in price depends on how you make your coffee and where you buy it from. If you’re buying pre-made cold brew or iced coffee from a coffee shop, they’ll most likely cost about the same.

For example, a grande cold brew from Starbucks costs $3.25 while a grande iced coffee costs $2.95. If you’re making your coffee at home, cold brew will generally be more expensive. This is because you’ll need to buy more coffee beans since the brewing process uses more coffee.

Also, the type of coffee beans you use will affect the price. For example, if you use specialty coffee beans for cold brew, it will be more expensive than using regular coffee beans.

5. Water Temperature.

Since cold brew is more diluted than iced coffee, the water temperature is important to consider. If the water is too hot, it will make the coffee taste bitter. The ideal water temperature for cold brew is between 20-50 degrees Fahrenheit.

For iced coffee, the water temperature isn’t as important since it’s brewed using hot water and then cooled down. However, it’s still important to use fresh, cold filtered water so that your coffee doesn’t taste stale.

6. Coffee Beans Used.

Espresso roast is going to be the best type of beans to use for both iced coffee and cold brew. The darker the roast, the more oil is released from the bean and this is what will give you more of that iced coffee flavor that you’re looking for.

Arabica beans are going to be your best bet as they have a sweeter flavor and a more delicate body. If you use Robusta beans, you’re going to find that your coffee is harsher and has a bit of a burnt flavor to it.

Keep in mind that cold brew and iced coffee are not like pour-over or drip coffee where you can use any type of beans. The brewing process for these two drinks is different and requires a different type of bean in order to get the best flavor.

Related Read: Cold Brew vs Espresso

Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee? The Verdict

Difference Between Cold Brew And Iced Coffee

When you compare cold brew vs iced coffee, it’s important to consider the taste, preparation time, caffeine content, price, water temperature, and type of beans used. If you’re looking for a quick and easy iced coffee, then iced coffee is the way to go. However, if you’re looking for a stronger coffee with more caffeine, then cold brew is the best option.

The longer brewing process for cold brew also means that it’s more expensive to make at home. However, many coffee shops now serve cold brew, so the price difference isn’t as significant.

When it comes to taste, cold brew is less acidic and has a smoother flavor. Iced coffee is more bitter and has a higher acidity level.

So, if you’re looking for a stronger coffee with less acidity, cold brew is the way to go. However, iced coffee is a better choice if you’re looking for a quick and easy option.

Read Also: Cold Brew Tips

Frequently Asked Questions

Iced coffee vs cold brew FAQs

Is Cold Brew Better Than Iced Coffee?

There’s no denying that iced coffee is delicious. But is it really better than a cold brew? Well, that depends on your personal preferences. Some people prefer the smoother, less acidic taste of the cold brew, while others find iced coffee to be more refreshing.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which type of coffee you prefer. If you’re looking for something new to try, why not give the cold brew a chance? You might just be surprised by how much you enjoy it.

Is Cold Brew Stronger Than Iced?

Yes, cold brew is stronger than iced coffee. The main difference between the two is how long the coffee beans are steeped. Iced coffee is made by brewing hot coffee and then cooling it down with ice cubes, while the cold brew is made by steeping ground coffee in cold water for 12-24 hours. The longer brewing time results in a higher concentration of caffeine and a more intense flavor.

What Is The Difference Between Cold Brew and Regular Coffee?

Ever wondered why cold brew coffee tastes so different from regular coffee? It’s all in the brewing process. Regular coffee is brewed with hot water, which extracts oils and bitterness from the beans. This is why brewed coffee can sometimes taste “burnt.”

Cold brew coffee is brewed with cold water, which results in a smoother, less acidic cup of coffee. The cold brewing process also brings out more of the natural sweetness of the beans, resulting in a richer flavor. So if you’re looking for a sweeter, smoother cup of coffee, cold brew is the way to go. Just remember to give it a good stir before you drink – the cold brewing process can sometimes leave sediment at the bottom of the cup.

Final Thoughts

To sum it up, when it’s time to order or make your next coffee, think about what you want most out of your drink. You might find that cold brew is a better option if you’re looking for a stronger, less acidic cup of coffee.

However, iced coffee is still a delicious choice if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to enjoy your favorite beverage. No matter what you choose, both cold brew and iced coffee are sure to hit the spot!

Happy Brewing!


Evelina’s passion for coffee could never been hidden. Having worked as a barista, she learned the true value of the coffee bean and its secrets. As she continued to evolve as a barista, so did her knowledge, techniques on making different coffee blends and most importantly how to operate every kind of gear when it comes to coffee. Having a degree in biomedicine and being a barista, allows her to provide our community with in-depth knowledge surrounding the topics of coffee.

Keep Reading