Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee | 5 Main Differences To Know

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You’re asking yourself: is cold brew coffee the same as iced coffee? Fret not, I was confused as well. Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee, what’s the hype about these two coffee drinks?

I thought they were similar but then why the difference in name?

Many people have a love-hate relationship with iced coffee.

On one hand, it’s refreshing and vibrant on a hot summer day, but on the other hand, it can be too sweet and heavy.

We’ve rounded up 4 coffee options you can try out in your kitchen this summer.

This article will help you make the transition from iced coffee to cold brew, and back again.

What Is A Cold Brew?

A cold brew is a traditional coffee brewed in room temperature water for a number of hours in an airtight container. It is usually made without any milk, and with little acidity.

During this time, the grounds are allowed to absorb as much of the water as possible.

The result is a strong, complex coffee with a creamy texture and less bitterness than regular brewed coffee.

Being that cold brew is naturally sweeter, it’s best to pair it with rich desserts like cheesecake or panna cotta.

What Is Iced Coffee?

Contrary to what you will think, iced coffee is not initially made with icy or cold water. So, what exactly is iced coffee?

Iced coffee is the opposite of cold brew. It is hot brewed coffee that has been cooled down and poured on ice cubes.

However, this process also means that some of the flavor will be lost due to the dilution of the brew as the ice cubes melt.

Since it’s a process of dilution, the iced coffee will taste a little bit sweeter than regular brewed coffee.

It is usually topped with milk and sugar to balance out the bitterness of the brew.

The Differences Between Cold Brew And Iced Coffee

While by no means exclusive, the differences between cold brew and iced coffee are clear.

Because of their different brewing methods, how they are made, and how they end up tasting, these two types of coffee are based on different tastes.

They both have their pros and cons. Being able to identify them will help you determine which type of coffee you prefer.

Without any further ado, let’s look at the differences of cold brew vs iced coffee.

1. Time Factor

One of the major differences between cold brew and iced coffee is the time required to make them.

Iced coffee is made in around 20 minutes, while a cold brew must be brewed from 12 hours for up to 24 hours.

While this may not seem like much, you should consider how you will use your iced coffee and then decide which brew to opt for.

Taking into consideration both the size of your coffee maker and the time required by the brew to cool down, you can probably tell that an iced coffee will be faster to make.

2. Acidity Level

This is another major factor that contributes to the differences of cold brew vs iced coffee.

Knowing this beforehand will allow you to decide which coffee drink you will indulge in.

Typically, cold brews have a lower level of acidity than iced coffees, as they are brewed for longer. Most importantly, the acids present in the coffee grounds are only extracted with hot water and after a certain amount of brew time.

This means you will have to reduce the amount of sugar you put in your coffee, depending on how sweet it is.

The reason for this has to do with the process of extraction that is common in cold brews.

Why is it that cold brew is less acidic than iced coffee you ask? Well, it’s due to the brewing temperature.

With hot water, the oils are more quickly extracted, so there is much more acid in the coffee.

A reason why you should brew your coffee as a cold brew is that it reduces the amount of acid seeping from the bean.

This can mean 70% fewer acids in coffee than it would with hot brewing coffee.

3. Brewing Method

Different brewing methods apply for iced coffee and cold brew, once again, making these two types of coffee distinct from one another.

In the brewing process, equipment is required.

To make an iced coffee, you will need a type of coffee maker, either a chemex, moka pot or another coffee maker you have on hand.

On the other hand, a cold brew requires a cold brew maker such as this OXO Cold Brew Coffee Maker, a mason jar or a french press for the grounds to steep in. 

4. Taste Profile 

The taste of cold brew vs iced coffee greatly depends upon the length of time they are brewed for and the ingredients used in them.

Due to the different brewing methods, cold brew is known to have a richer flavor than iced coffee.

It also is full-bodied and more mellow than iced coffee since it is brewed with coarse ground beans that allow a smoother taste.

On the other hand, iced coffee is made with finely ground beans which are usually a little bit harsher since they tend to strip more flavor and body out of the brew.

5. Caffeine Content

The different brewing methods also affect the caffeine content of your brew.

Cold brew coffee tends to have more caffeine than iced coffee due to the longer brewing time, which helps in preparing a stronger, more intense brew.

It is also recommended to make a cold brew since it has more health benefits than brewed coffee.

It is also less acidic and it tastes better. So if you love a good tasting coffee without the acidic notes, you will want to make that one instead of an iced coffee.

Is Cold Brew Better Than Iced Coffee?

That really depends on your preference. I am not here to tell you to choose one over the other.

The better question you should be asking is: which one do you like better?

And also which type of coffee person you are. Are you someone who enjoy a medium-bodied yet can feel the acidic and bitterness in the coffee?

Or are you someone who enjoy a full-bodied cup of coffee but cannot tolerate the acidic notes on your stomach?

Whatever your answer is, you will get your answer in the previous section.

Some people would rather taste the sweetness and acidity of iced coffee over cold brew, so they would rather choose that over cold brew.

As far as health benefits go, cold brew is definitely the way to go. It has less acid and more antioxidants and vitamins, which makes it the healthier choice of the two.

If iced coffee is your jazz, then I tell you “Drink Away” my friend. And if you prefer cold brew, you are not any less of a coffee drinker.

Cold Brew Coffee Recipes

Now I know I’ve been talking about cold brew vs iced coffee. Hold on, now is the best part. I am sure you want to know how to make cold brew at home.

Everyone loves a good recipe and here are 2 cold brew coffee recipes you will surely enjoy.

Try one out and let us know which one you liked best!

1. Irish Coffee

A great recipe that is perfect for the holidays. It’s really easy to make and it’s quite delicious, too.


  • 2 ounces Irish whiskey
  • Ice cubes
  • 1 cup cold brew coffee
  • 1 tablespoon Irish cream liqueur


  1. In a large bowl, mix together the brown sugar and Irish whiskey until it becomes dissolved.
  2. Next, pour in the cold brew coffee and mix well so that all of the grounds are wet.
  3. Add in the ice cubes and stir as well.
  4. Pour over a serving glass and top it off with the Irish cream liqueur.

2. Cinnamon Cold Brew

This is a great recipe that will help you use up any leftover coffee that you might have.

It also has antioxidants and vitamins, which is a huge plus.

You can also add vanilla extract if you want and substitute the coconut milk with almond or soy milk.


  • 2 cups cold brew coffee
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk


  1. In a large pitcher, mix together the cold brew coffee and cinnamon until they are well combined.
  2. Add in the coconut milk and stir again.
  3. Pour into a tall glass and add ice cubes to it so that it is chilled enough to drink at least 5 minutes before serving.
  4. Serve right away or refrigerate for up to 24 hours before serving.

Iced Coffee Recipes 

This iced coffee recipe from One Sweet Appetite is great for the summertime. It hits all the right notes for an iced coffee – it is, creamy, and sweet. 

1. Caramel Iced Coffee


  • 2 cups coffee, brewed and chilled
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice
  • 2 tablespoons caramel sauce
  • Ice


1. Fill two tall glasses with ice.

2. Pour in 1 cup of coffee to each cup.

3. Add 1/4 cup milk to each cup.

4. Stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons caramel sauce, top with whipped cream if desired, and enjoy!

2. Vanilla Iced Coffee


1 cup coffee, brewed and chilled

2 tablespoons creamer of choice


1/8 cup Vanilla Syrup


1. Fill a tall glass with ice.

2. Pour coffee on top.

Next, add the vanilla syrup and coffee creamer and voila!

Serve immediately. 

Tips For Making Cold Brew Coffee

1. Use Good Water

Using bottled or filtered water is advisable since tap water contains a lot of minerals in it that can affect your coffee’s taste.

Remember, for a really good brew, you need pretty good quality ground coffee and a good-quality water source.

2. Make Sure Your Coffee Is Of The Best Quality

If you want the best coffee, you need to make sure that it’s of the highest quality.

If your coffee is already not as good as it should be, then you will get a subpar brew no matter what method you use to make it.

So don’t be afraid to use an expensive roast if that’s what you want. Just make sure it’s of the best possible quality and that it is fresh.

3. The Type Of Grind Size You Use Matters

You will want to use a ground coffee that is coarse-ground.

Because the grounds will be steeping in water for long hours, a coarse-grind will let the flavours, aroma and all the shebang present in the coffee be released more slowly and gradually.

Using a finer grind won’t do the trick. The finer the grounds are, the more acidic and bitter the coffee will taste with a long steeping time.

I have a whole blog post dedicated to the size of grind according to each type of coffee drink and equipment. Check it out here.

4. Experiment With Brew Time

There is no set time that you will want your coffee to steep. It really depends on how strong you want it to taste and how strong it is when you first brew it.

Some prefer theirs stronger, while others will want a milder brew. Just experiment and find the right time for yourself and your taste buds.

 Final Thoughts About Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee

So now that you know the difference between cold brew and iced coffee, do you think you will make the switch?

There are a lot of people out there that would rather drink iced coffee than hot coffee, so it is worth it to try.

As far as advantages go, cold brew coffee has more benefits than iced coffee. They are both good, but you will have to decide which one works best for you.

If you need your coffee quick, then go with iced coffee. Otherwise, if you want a clean brew and one that is better on the stomach, then cold brew will be your best bet.

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