Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee: Which Is Best For Your Tumbler?
by Mark Morphew on May 05, 2022
Cold coffee, you either love it or hate it, but there's no denying its popularity. Walk into any high street coffee shop, and you'll be presented with a loaded blackboard crammed full of icy coffee beverages.
Cold coffee is taking over the world. Well, maybe not, but still, it's big business.
While some consider cold coffee to be a drink enjoyed in summer, here at Taste The Earth, we think it's acceptable to drink this caffeinated beverage all year round. Yum!
But which should you choose? Cold brew or iced coffee? After all, both are cold, and both come with ice, so what's the difference?
Before we dive in, I can give you a hint - the biggest difference is how they're both made.
If you want to know everything there is to know about these two popular cold coffee beverages, keep on reading.
From the brewing method to the flavor, I have the answers to all your nagging questions.
So grab your tumbler, and let's get started.
What's The Difference Between Cold Brew And Iced Coffee?
Cold brew and iced coffee. They look the same - so what separates the two?
Iced coffee and cold brew effectively use the same essential ingredients – coffee and water. But the main difference is how each drink is prepared.
One is brewed cold, and the ground coffee never touches any hot water, while the other is brewed with hot water and then cooled.
Can you guess which is which?
Need a little help? Let's take a closer look.
What Is Cold Brew Coffee?
The clue is in the name. Cold brew coffee is made with cold water.
Out of the two drinks, cold brew is the most time-consuming and can take up to 12 hours to complete or up to 24 hours for hardcore coffee lovers who enjoy a more robust infusion.
- Really, it's the long steeping time that makes cold brew so damn tasty.
Making a batch of cold brew coffee is easy. Coarse ground coffee is added to cold water and left in the fridge. That's it - easy peasy!
The longer you leave the coffee steeping, the stronger your cold brew will taste.
The ground coffee is then filtered out, and you're left with a delicious tasting coffee concentrate... mmm, coffee concentrate.
Because cold brew depends on time rather than heat to extract flavor, oils, and caffeine, the end product is almost always less acidic and bitter than regular coffee.
When you serve the cold brew, you can simply add a handful of ice cubes and enjoy or dilute with cold water to your liking.
Prefer a creamy cold brew coffee? Swap out the water for milk. Yum!
What Is Iced Coffee?
On the flipside, iced coffee is just that - iced coffee.
It starts its life as regular hot brewed coffee, which is then served over ice.
The problem with iced coffee is it's often very diluted due to the melting ice watering down your brew.
One way to prevent this is to make your coffee twice as strong as you would typically by doubling the amount of ground coffee you put in your coffee maker.
- A skilled barista will probably do this even without you asking.
Making iced coffee at home? Here's a neat hack.
Make "coffee ice cubes."
Just pour some leftover coffee inside an ice tray, and voila, coffee ice cubes which you can then use in your next cup of iced coffee.
Your coffee won't be diluted as the ice melts; your coffee will get stronger.
Taste And Caffeine Differences
Two things top the wanted list when you step inside a coffee shop and order a cup of coffee - taste and caffeine.
So which comes out on top - cold brew or iced coffee?
Let's find out.
Flavor is such a personal thing, and when it comes to coffee, we all have our favorites.
But one thing is certain in the cold brew vs. iced coffee debate, and that is cold brew is the clear winner. Well, we think so.
Because of the prolonged cold immersion style of brewing coffee, you get a slight bitterness married with a smooth, sweet flavor with deeper notes like chocolate and caramels that bland iced coffee just can't achieve.
Obviously, the type of whole coffee bean used to prepare cold brew also plays a vital role in the taste.
Still, there is no denying that cold brew beats regular iced coffee in the flavor department - hands-down.
Late-night last night? Need a cold coffee concoction to pry open those sleepy eyes? Should you order an iced coffee or cold brew?
As a rule of thumb, cold brew coffee will almost always contain more caffeine. Here's why.
The more prolonged contact with the water extracts more of the caffeine and other solubles from the ground coffee.
Whereas iced coffee is made using a regular espresso or auto-drip machine. The water passes through the grounds relatively quickly versus 12 plus hours that cold brew coffee is in direct contact with water.
Simply put. A glass of cold brew concentrate will have a higher amount of caffeine than an equal part of traditionally hot brewed coffee.
But because cold brew concentrate is often diluted with water just before drinking, it's usually not as strong.
Take Starbucks as an example. They typically brew their cold brew to a 1:8 ratio and then cut the concentrate 50/50 with water when served.
Throw some ice into the equation, and your strong coffee concentrate is not so strong after all.
At the end of the day, the amount of caffeine in both iced coffee and cold brew comes down to the water coffee ratios.
If you're a die-hard cold brew fan, a few ice cubes added to pure concentrate is totally drinkable.
For others, the large dose of caffeine will keep you up for most of the night glued to the shopping channel; who needs a 360-degree motorized rotating mop head anyway!
Yikes - so adding a splash of water is probably a good idea.
So there you have it, cold brew and iced coffee. Two drinks that look very similar, but when you pull back the veil, they are entirely different in both preparation, the taste department, and caffeine levels.
Just remember that cold brew is made with cold water and left for 12 to 24 hours to infuse and slowly pull all of the flavor oils and caffeine from the coffee grounds.
The resulting cold coffee is exceptionally smooth and has hardly any acidity compared to hot coffee.
On the other hand, iced coffee starts its life as regular brewed hot coffee, which is then cooled down with large amounts of ice.
Oh, and don't get me started on Nitro cold brew coffee, but that's a whole other blog post in itself.
So which team are you on? Team cold brew or team iced coffee?
Whichever side your taste buds fall, just make sure you have a good quality insulated tumbler to keep your icy coffee cold for the entire day.
Whether you're heading to the gym, going on a hike, or navigating through the morning rush hour traffic, our ceramic lined insulated tumblers are hard to beat.
Go on, have a quick peak - 👉 Head on over here and check out our best seller.