Iced Coffee vs. Cold Brew: All You Need to Know


Bryan Huynh

on April 06, 2024

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During warm seasons consumers prefer drinking cold instead of hot coffee. During summer, iced coffee and cold brew are the popular alternatives most consumers like. 

However, many consumers don’t know the difference between these popular drinks. If you wonder what the difference between these two drinks is, you have come to the right place. Check out our Coffee Clubs page to compare and read more reviews of our favorite coffee clubs.

How Are the Two Products Made

Iced and cold brew coffee uses the same ingredients, coffee and water, but they utilize different production procedures to differentiate flavors. Below are the preparation procedures for the products.

Iced Coffee

The process of making iced coffee is straightforward, but the result is delicious and, at the same time, refreshing. Essentially, iced coffee is not a mystery; it sounds like regular brewed coffee served with ice. It is one of the most straightforward cold coffee drinks to make.

All you need to do is brew your coffee using the standard procedures, let it cool down, and pour it over ice. However, as you can imagine, pouring coffee over ice may result in a diluted brew, which may compromise the flavor of your favorite drink.

One way to ensure that you maintain the taste of your drink is by doubling the amount of coffee you use in the hot version coffee drinks. With the high concentration of ground coffee, even when the ice melts, the resulting beverage will still maintain its flavor and won’t get watered down. In addition, you can supplement the flavor in your next iced coffee drink by preparing coffee ice cubes. The preparation method of these cubes is direct, and all you need to do is pour your leftover coffee into an ice tray and freeze. When enjoying your iced coffee drink, you can add these cubes without diluting the flavor of your favorite beverage.

Cold Brew

Cold brew coffee preparation is not as straightforward as iced coffee. The term cold brew describes making the drink but not the temperature at which it is served. Cold brew coffee can be drunk hot or cold, but most people prefer it cold.

The main difference in preparing cold brewed and iced coffee is time. Ground coffee berries are steeped in cold water for 12 to 24 hours to prepare cold brew coffee. The longer the coffee remains soaked in water, the stronger the flavor of the resulting beverage. This intense flavor ensures that the coffee is not diluted even after serving it with ice, like the iced coffee.

After steeping the ground berries, they are filtered out, leaving you with a highly concentrated coffee beverage that can be mixed with milk, water, milk substitute, and served over ice. Cold brew coffee uses the time to extract coffee, sugar, oils, and caffeine; the resulting drink is bitter and less acidic when compared to iced coffee.

Preparation of the cold brew is time-consuming, and many people would like to enjoy the beverage but do not have the time to prepare it. However, the good news is there are many grocery stores where you can purchase a premade option and enjoy the drink, either cold or hot.

Difference In Flavor

The preparation process of these two coffee drinks affects the flavor of the end product. Cold brew is prepared in a low temperature, low-pressure environment and uses a whole ton of time. Due to these factors, the resulting coffee tastes different from other types prepared at high temperatures and pressure.

Soaking the coffee beans in cold water for long hours leads to the extraction of some deep-seated flavor compounds within the coffee beans. These flavors differentiate the cold brew from other coffee drinks and make it one of the most preferred drinks during the warm seasons.

Cold brew coffee has chocolate notes and has a smooth mouthfeel. Moreover, this beverage drink has less perceived acidity than iced coffee. Because cold brew is prepared as a coffee concentrate, it still retains this sweet taste even after adding milk, water, or ice. On the other hand, iced coffee is extracted under high temperature and pressure, and the resulting flavors can be bitter and acidic. The high temperature used to prepare the iced coffee extracts more soluble compounds than cold brew. Some of these extracted soluble are responsible for the bitter taste in iced coffee.

Difference in Price

The two types of coffee differ in their prices. Typically, iced coffee costs around $2-$3 depending on your state or the coffee shop you visit. On the other hand, cold-brewed coffee is more expensive, and it is sold around $3-$4 in different locations. The price difference between these coffee brands results from the production process and the number of coffee beans used to produce each type. Essentially cold-brewed coffee takes a long time to be brew and uses more coffee beans. Therefore, if you look for a coffee cup with a higher concentration of caffeine, it would be advisable to pay an extra dollar and enjoy the cold brew.

Caffeine Difference

The extraction method used in the preparation of different coffee drinks adversely affects the amount of caffeine in the resulting beverage. Generally, the cold brew coffee will have more caffeine than iced coffee. During the preparation period, the cold brew coffee remains soaked in water for long hours, and thus more caffeine is extracted in the process.

Cold brew coffee has more than 50 mg of caffeine than iced coffee. However, the concentration of caffeine found in the cold brewed coffee is not always constant, especially in ready-to-drink coffee brands. There are brands whose coffee has as little as 50mg of caffeine while others are as high as 400 mg.

Which Coffee Lasts Longer: Cold Brew Or Iced Coffee?

Following the extraction processes, these two coffees have a different shelf life. Cold-brewed coffee can retain its viability for up to two weeks if stored properly in the fridge. In addition, the cold brew can be made as a concentrate, which would save you more room in the refrigerator to store other things.

On the other hand, iced coffee has its best taste the same day it is brewed and can retain its viability for one to two days when refrigerated. After two days, the iced coffee starts to develop a sour taste, and thus you may not enjoy drinking it anymore. 

Pro of Iced Coffee

In this section, we will have a look at some of the advantages associated with the famous iced coffee drink:

Easy to Make

Iced coffee preparation follows a straightforward procedure, and everyone can make it. Indeed, it does not require any sophisticated machines or knowledge, and you can make it using your regular coffee maker. In addition, you can use any leftover coffee by storing it in your fridge and adding ice to it or using it to prepare coffee ice cubes.

Less Brew Time

Because Iced coffee is prepared like regular coffee, the brewing period is around 10 minutes. It is thus advantageous because you can prepare and enjoy your coffee without compromising other daily activities. On the other hand, cold brew coffee takes at least 12 hours to prepare, and thus you cannot make and enjoy it simultaneously.

Iced Coffee Cons

Some disadvantages are associated with this highly ranked beverage; below are some noticeable drawbacks.

More Acidic

The extraction process used to prepare iced coffee extracts compounds that make the drink more acidic than cold-brewed coffee. For this reason, this type of beverage is unsuitable, especially for people having existing indigestion problems.

Weak and Bitter Taste

Iced coffee may have some compounds extracted from the coffee beans using heat that may be bitter and thus affect the flavor and taste of the beverage. In addition, if the iced coffee does not use enough ground coffee, the taste may become weak when poured directly over ice, and the coffee becomes watered down. 

Cold Brew Pros

Below are some advantages associated with cold brew coffee and why you should try it the next time you visit a coffee shop or brewing at home.

Higher Caffeine Content

Cold brew coffee is allowed to sit soaked in water for long hours. This time allows the extraction process to occur, and more caffeine and other compounds are extracted from the coffee beans. If you are looking for an instant energy boost, cold-brewed coffee maybe you’re your best beverage. 

Smooth Taste

There are no bitter notes in cold-brewed coffee like in iced coffee. The cold brewing process results in a milder taste because it does not extract the bitter-tasting compounds from the ground coffee beans. Its taste makes this coffee the favorite choice among many coffee users.

Less Acidic

Lack of acidity in this type of coffee makes it easier on the stomach. Unlike the case in hot-brewed coffee, cold brewed coffee contains less acidic compounds, making it a better choice, especially for people who have sensitive stomachs and frequent heartburns. 

Cold Brew Cons

Below are some disadvantages associated with cold brew coffee, and you may notice them once you consume the beverage.

More Labor Intensive

Cold-brewed coffee requires more work, unlike the case in hot-brewed coffee. It needs to be stored for more than 12 hours for the extraction process. In addition, you will need to purchase a cold brew coffee maker for you to get the best results. Moreover, the long brew period means that the brewing process takes advanced planning.

More Expensive

Cold-brew coffee is prepared with a high ratio of ground coffee to water and thus becomes expensive to produce. Moreover, the long hours used to brew this type of coffee makes it labor-intensive, and therefore you have to pay an extra amount to your favorite coffee shop when you want the cold-brewed coffee. This cost is also incurred when preparing cold brew coffee at home.

Cold Brewed Coffee Has Muted Flavor

Cold-brewed coffee lacks the complexity found in the hot-brewed alternatives. The extraction process used in making this beverage mutes the flavor of the coffee beans. If you are looking for the best taste and aromas in coffee, it would be best to try hot brewed alternatives. 

Which Coffee is Better For You

Neither of the two described coffee types is better than the other as different people have different tastes and preferences. Some people may enjoy one kind than the other. Iced coffee may serve well for people looking for a refreshing drink with the best coffee flavor and aroma.

Conversely, cold-brewed coffee is best suited for people looking for smooth and sweet coffee with a higher caffeine concentration. It is thus advisable to try the two coffee types and know your best taste and preference. 

Bottom Line

Coffee has been a staple beverage worldwide for centuries, and there are many ways to be enjoyed. During the summer, most consumers prefer this beverage served cold to energize their bodies and at the same time cool their bodies. Next time you choose between cold brew and iced coffee, you will be more informed and prepared to select the type that serves your needs. 

About the Author

Product Tester & Writer

Bryan Huynh

Product Tester & Writer

Bryan Huynh is a determined Product Tester & Writer. Being a coffee addict, it is only right that he mainly tests and reviews different coffee from around the world and coffee subscription services.

Bryan Huynh is a determined Product Tester & Writer. Being a coffee addict, it is only right that he mainly tests and reviews different coffee from around the world and coffee subscription services.