Both iced coffee and cold brew coffee appear popular in the summer, on the beach, or anywhere there’s a bit of sun.
But how do they differ? Is one superior to the other?
If the question is out there, there will be enough people who want to know the answer. Therefore, this post will compare cold brew coffee to iced coffee to settle the score once and for all.
1. Iced coffee is typically brewed hot, whereas cold brew is brewed cold.
It is possibly the most important distinction, and it explains why these two drinks are not the same to those who are truly perplexed.
Both end up as a cold drink, complete with ice. But what is the main distinction?
Iced coffee is simply hot brewed coffee (French press, espresso, drip-filter, pour-over, you name it) poured over a large amount of ice.
High-end establishments replace the ice with coffee ice cubes to keep the drink from becoming too watered down. But you won’t see that very often.
As a result, the coffee brewed for iced coffee is stronger than a regular cup of joe.
Cold brew coffee is made uniquely. It is brewed in cold water for several hours, ranging from 8 to 18 hours. Because it’s a slow process, there should always be a vat of ready-made cold brew in the coffee shop.
Because the brewing process is different, the resulting cup of coffee will taste very different from iced coffee.
2. Iced coffee can be diluted.
Because iced coffee is meant to be poured over several ice cubes, it may taste a little watered down at times.
This may or may not apply to your particular cup of iced coffee. However, this has happened frequently enough that coffee shops take precautions to prevent it from happening again.
One such measure is to boil the coffee extra strong so that the water in the ice cubes is completely dissolved in the coffee.
Another option is to substitute frozen coffee for ice cubes. This isn’t very common, but you may come across it.
In the case of cold brew, the opposite is true.
Because this coffee is brewed cold, it rarely requires ice or as much ice as iced coffee requires.
And because of the way it’s brewed, it’s a sort of coffee concentrate, which may mean that in some cases, the barista will add plain water to your cold brew to tone it down a little.
The key point here is that cold brew is often the stronger coffee, with flavor and caffeine content.
Iced coffee is usually the prettier-looking coffee, with toppings and so on.
3. Cold brew produces a sweeter, milder coffee flavor.
When you order cold brew coffee, you’ll get a different flavor than you’re used to.
Because cold brew extracts flavor and caffeine from ground coffee, it tastes less acidic and bitter, allowing the actual aroma of coffee to shine through.
As a result, the coffee tastes lighter. Because there is less bitterness, it may taste lighter than hot coffee and more like a good cup of Arabica.
While all brewing methods have their own distinct flavors, cold brew has the purest of them all, while the others are dominated by scalded coffee and a slightly burnt flavor.
This leads people to believe that cold brew coffee tastes sweeter than other types of coffee. The distinction is subtle, but it exists. It appears sweet due to the absence of bitter and acidic tones.
Iced coffee, on the other hand, is hot coffee. Therefore, even after being cooled with ice, it will have a bitter, harsh flavor.
This is one of the reasons it takes to flavorings so well, whereas cold brew is typically served plain, possibly with a little sweetener.
4. Iced coffee is frequently flavored and may include toppings.
Because iced coffee tastes stronger (in the same way that Robusta tastes stronger than Arabica), it’s frequently used as the base for so many flavored summer coffees.
As a result, the strong coffee flavor will still be able to be detected through the caramel, strawberry, or chocolate syrup, and other toppings such as whipped cream, and so on.
And, if it’s made with a hot coffee that has more body or a grittier texture, such as French press or espresso, it’ll have a darker coffee color than other versions, such as filter coffee.
If you did the same thing with cold brew, the coffee flavor would be lost, or at the very least weak.
This is a more delicate, fragrant coffee that does not respond well to other ingredients that try to overpower it. However, like drinking black coffee, the whole point of cold brew is to enjoy its flavor.
5. Only coarse ground coffee is used in cold brew.
If you want to make iced coffee or cold brew at home, you should know that you’ll need specific grind sizes.
If you’re going to make cold brew coffee, you’ll need coarse ground coffee. It should have the appearance of Himalayan salt in large chunks.
That’s because cold brew coffee is ready in a matter of minutes because to the rapidity with which it brews.
It takes hours and hours, and it is assumed that the larger the surface area of the ground coffee, the better the flavor of the ensuing brewed coffee will be after it is finished.
Because coarseness also helps lower acidity and bitterness, medium or fine ground coffee may result in a bitter cold brew.
You can find coarse ground coffee fairly easily, though you may have to look a little harder. Alternatively, you can grind it at home.
Use whatever grind size you normally use to brew your coffee for iced coffee.
If you normally make espresso, you’ll use the same ground coffee as before. The same is true for any other type of brew.
Brew your coffee extra strong to allow the ice cubes to melt and water down the coffee slightly.
Another thing to consider is that cold brew coffee is often cloudier than iced coffee. Also, because cold brew is an unfiltered coffee, you may notice traces of coffee dust on the bottom of your cup.
Iced coffee is typically brewed through some filter, resulting in a ‘cleaner’ cup of coffee.
Comparisons of iced coffee and cold brew
Of course, there are some similarities between iced coffee and cold brew. Some may be obvious, while others may come as a surprise.
While these two beverages are diverse, they are also very similar and will be excellent choices for a summer beverage.
1. Both are excellent ways to beat the summer heat.
Cold-brew and iced coffee are both excellent ways to kick off the summer season as a treat on a warm morning.
They’re both cold, iced drinks with distinct but delicious coffee flavors.
While cold brew contains more coffee and less ice, you’ll still enjoy it even if you get the unsweetened version.
2. Both can serve as the foundation for a frappe.
As a continuation of how great these two drinks are for summer, consider how great they’d be in a frappe.
As you may or may not know, the frappe was originally intended to be made with instant coffee. However, it has a strong kick and can withstand copious amounts of whipped cream and sugar.
However, a frappe can be made with either iced coffee or cold brew. The flavor will differ from an instant coffee frappe, but I’ve seen it done before.
Largely, the bartender shook the coffee with ice and crushed it, and it was mostly done with iced coffee at this point.
Frappes made with iced coffee, or cold brew usually have a milder flavor. They can still be flavored and sweetened, but the flavors are usually more subtle, and they may contain less dairy, such as milk or cream.
3. Both are typically available in large serving sizes.
Both cold brew and iced coffee are available in a large cup if you prefer. However, there may be a slight difference in the amount of actual coffee you receive.
Cold-brew usually has a few ice cubes, whereas iced coffee has more than half of the cup filled with ice.
However, because both coffees are served in large cups, the difference is negligible.
For those seeking a pleasant, cold cup of coffee to sip on throughout the first half of the morning, either option will do the job just fine.
Is cold brew superior to iced coffee?
I don’t see any evidence that cold brew is superior to iced coffee, though this may be true for some.
I believe that cold brew coffee is the best option if you prefer to taste your coffee and look for hints of this and that in the cup.
It has a stronger aroma and appears to be a great way to taste the origin of a coffee bean.
Aside from that, there isn’t much reason to say one coffee is superior to another.
After reading this post, I hope you found the information you were looking for, whether you prefer iced coffee or cold brew.
Both cold brew and iced coffee are great ways to get your cold coffee fix, and understanding the differences between them may have helped you decide which you prefer this morning.