The terms “cold brew” and “iced coffee” are often used interchangeably, but there is a big difference between the two.
They taste different, are made differently and have different caffeine levels.
However, cold brew is iced coffee.
But... iced coffee isn't necessarily cold brew. In fact, most of the time, it isn't.
In essence: all cold brew is iced coffee; not all iced coffee is cold brew.
Does that sound too much like a confusingly-worded SAT question meant to test your patience more than anything else?
I agree! So let's take a closer look at the differences and similarities.
Comparing Iced Coffee to Cold Brew
What is Cold Brew?
Cold brew is made by steeping coffee grounds in cold water for an extended period of time, usually 12 hours or more.
What is Iced Coffee?
Iced coffee is regular hot-brewed coffee that is poured over ice. Often double brewed to prevent dilution from the melting ice.
Comparing How Iced Coffee and Cold Brew Coffee are Made:
There are a few ways that cold coffee is made in coffee shops:
The first is by brewing a pot of coffee using room temperature or cold water, and then pouring it over ice. This is the same way most people make iced coffee at home.
The second way is to make a concentrate by brewing a pot of coffee using twice the amount of grounds, and then diluting it with an equal part of water. This concentrate can be refrigerated for up to two weeks and poured over ice when needed.
Yet another way is "flash chilling" hot brewed coffee: pour the hot coffee into a container filled with ice cubes, wait until it's cooled down, and then remove the ice cubes.
The last is what we call "cold brewing," that is, steeping coffee grounds in cold water for an (extremely) extended period of time—about 12 to 24 hours.
Comparing the End Products: Does Cold Brew Taste Like Iced Coffee?
The cold brewing method produces coffee that tastes nutty, as well as a bit sweet. There's also a lot of "mouthfeel" to cold brew—it's creamy, even when there's no cream added.
Iced coffee, on the other hand, is just regular hot-brewed coffee that is poured over ice. It's usually made with stronger coffee so it doesn't get watered down when the ice melts.
So, while cold brew and iced coffee both have coffee and ice, the similarities pretty much end there. The taste, texture, and mouthfeel of cold brew are noticeably different from iced coffee.
Does Cold Brew Have More Caffeine Than Iced Coffee?
Since cold brew is made with a higher coffee to water ratio than iced coffee it will have slightly more caffeine per cup. With less ice needed you will likely end up pouring more coffee into you cup as well.
Is Cold Brew Healthier Than Iced Coffee?
Cold brew and iced coffee are the same when it comes to nutritional values. The only health benefit either posses over the other is acidity.
Cold brew coffee has a lower acidity level and can be beneficial for those with acid reflux or sensitive stomachs and will be less damaging to teeth.
Why Is Cold Brew Typically More Expensive?
At most coffee shops cold brew will be slightly more expensive. This is likely due to the longer brewing time needed and with less ice in the cup you will receive more actual coffee per order.
Which Cold Coffee Option Is Best?
If you're looking for a refreshing, cold drink that is less acidic and has a sweet, nutty flavor, cold brew is the way to go. If you're in the mood for something quicker to make that is still robust and flavorful, iced coffee is the drink for you. (Just make sure to use coffee ice cubes so your delicious iced coffee doesn't get watered down!)
Want a ready-to-drink cold brew for the road? Check out Black Insomnia’s highly caffeinated Cold Brew Cans.