Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee: What are the Differences?

In the last couple of years, coffee beverages have become quite popular. This is due to their many advantages nutrition wise and in terms of flavor.

The fact that they pack a number of health benefits and have sweet taste makes them the go to beverage for everyone.

The cold brew vs iced coffee debate has been raging for some time now. Though both are coffee brews, the have distinct tastes due t their brewing processes.

Iced coffee is the normal hot brewed coffee, which is then poured over ice to chill it. You can also decide to refrigerate but this takes time before it gets to the desired temperature.

On the other hand, cold brew has a completely different brewing process. It entails steeping coffee grounds in cold water.

Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee

Iced coffee vs. cold brew, what are the differences?

In this article, we shall explore some of the major differences that set apart these two brews. Though both are coffee brews, they have a number of differences.

The brewing process

Iced coffee basically, is just the normal hot brewed coffee. The only difference is the temperature. Ice is added to make it chilled hence the name, iced coffee. Another option would be to refrigerate it. However, most people do not like this option since it takes too long.

Cold brew takes quite some time to brew. The brewing time ranges from 12 hours up to a full day. it can even take a few days for some flavors. The process entails steeping coffee in water at room temperatures to get a coffee concentrate.

This concentrate is then diluted in water or milk and even liquor to taste. Cold brew can be served chilled but due to the different brewing process, it will not have a similar taste to the iced coffee.

Both of these brews can be prepared at home. the cold brew coffee tends to be richer due to the concentrate used. Iced coffee has a diluted flavor due to the addition of ice on the already brewed coffee.

Types of coffee beans used

In cold brew making process, the coffee beans are soaked in cold water for a minimum of 12 hours. This is among the reasons why it takes long to brew. This process extracts the sugars, caffeine and oils.

When brewing iced coffee, the coffee beans need not be soaked. They are brewed in hot water like the normal hot cup of coffee.

Nevertheless, there is no difference in terms of the types of coffee beans used. Depending on individual preference, you can use the ground you like most.

The only difference comes when it comes to the preparation of the coffee beans.

Is there any major difference when it comes to taste or flavors?

The simple answer is yes. Iced coffee is richer in terms of flavor with the distinct coffee aroma accompanying it.

The hot brewing makes the chemical reaction between water and the coffee grounds quicker.

However, the hot temperatures make it more acidic hence; it has a bitter taste as compared to the cold brew. The result is a strong coffee taste with a bitter flavor.

In cold brews, the coffee grounds steep in cold water and the coffee flavors extracted at low temperatures. The process takes longer but still, fewer flavors are extracted.

This makes the cold brews to lack the distinct coffee flavor. Though the coffee flavor is muted, the brew is smoother, milder and lacks the fragrant coffee aroma.

In addition, due to the low brewing temperatures, less acidic is produced. This makes the cold brew coffee relatively sweeter and less acidic.

The difference in taste and flavors is one of the major differences you can use to tell these two brews apart. The cold brew coffee is a step away from the traditional coffee flavor you are used to.

Calories in Cold brew vs. iced coffee

When it comes to calorie content in the different brews, preference in taste plays a major role. This is due to the amount of additives like sugar and sweeteners that you will prefer in your coffee.

Cold brew coffee is naturally sweeter than the iced coffee. Therefore, you will require less sugar or sweeteners to bring it to taste. On the other hand iced coffee has a bitter and acidic taste so you will add more sweeteners.

Therefore, unless you prefer your coffee bitter, the iced coffee brew has a higher amount of calories. Having said that, let us now look at it from purely scientific view.

Ignoring the taste and flavor side off thing, (honestly, this is hard for me to do) they both have similar calorie levels. Without any additives, coffee has negligible calories.

The caffeine content in cold brew vs. iced coffee

Caffeine content can vary greatly in different coffee brews depend on a number of factors. These factors include the brewing time, type of coffee beans, how coarse the grind is, the amount of water used among other things.

However, if you are to standardize these factors and make them constant in the two brews, iced coffee have more caffeine contents.

The main reason is in higher temperatures, more caffeine is extracted from the coffee beans than in lower temperatures.

It is imperative to note that iced coffee tends to be diluted due to the use of ice. When the ice melts, the coffee is diluted. However if we were to compare them using a similar water to brew ratio, the caffeine content in ice brew is higher.

Acidity levels

There are no grey areas when it comes to the acidity levels of these two types of coffee brews. Iced coffee is brewed in the high temperatures associated with hot brewed coffee. The high temperatures extract more acids and oils.

Some people would prefer to add cream or milk to counter this effect. As we have seem above, this is counterproductive since you will now end up with more calories in your coffee.

As for the cold brewed coffee, the lower temperatures are gentler on the coffee grounds. This means that the acids extracted will be less.

According to the, cold brew coffee contains up to 67% less acid than the iced coffee.

This is why cold brew coffee is smoother and naturally sweeter than the iced coffee.


When it comes to deciding which the best coffee brew, the lines become blurry. It hard to say with certainty but the truth is, coffee brews all have nice flavors.

The only way you can differentiate is you try them both and decide the one you will like most. Otherwise, everything else is just a matter of give and take.

One thing is for sure; coffee brews are delicious beverages and have rich flavors.

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