Iced Coffee vs. Cold Brew – 3 Main Differences

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iced coffee vs cold brewAs the weather warms up, summer will be upon us in a heartbeat. One of the summer’s joys is drinking a cup of iced coffee or cold brew on a beautiful sunny day. It has enough caffeine to get us going while having a refreshing taste.¬†We know that they are both cold coffee beverages, with the later, cold brew as a trendy drink in recent years. It also proves its popularity by becoming a permanent item on various coffee shop’s menu. So let’s dig down deeper to find the main differences between iced coffee and cold brew.

What are the differences between iced coffee and cold brew?

Brewing methods

Iced Coffee

Iced coffee is brewed coffee that has been cooled down so it can be poured over ice. For iced coffee, barista needs to make brewed coffee first and let it cool to room temperature. So the brewing methods would be similar to a regular coffee cup, it starts with choosing the coffee beans. Coffee connoisseurs recommend lighter roast coffee with a fruity and chocolaty note like the African Yirgacheffe for iced coffee. If you want stronger flavors, you can go with a medium roast.

Coffee grind size matches with different brewing method. For example, a fine grind is suitable for Aeropress, medium grind for pour-over, and a coarse grind for French press. You can experiment with different coffee types and methods of brewing until you meet the perfect cup of brewed coffee or iced coffee.

Cold Brew

Unlike brewed coffee, barista uses room temperature or cold water to make cold brew. They steep medium to the coarse coffee ground in room temperature water for 12 hours or more. Time is the key element instead of heat for the extraction process. Then, the used coffee ground will be filtered out for a cup of cold brew with no sediment.

If you frequently go to a coffee shop, you will notice that the price for one cold brew is much more than a cup of iced coffee. The coffee shop claims that the ingredients needed are more pricey. So if you drink cold brew frequently, love it but realize you spend more for cold brew coffee than maybe your meal. Then don’t beat yourself up, you can learn to make it.

Making cold brew at home can be much simpler than you might have thought. Just choose a recipe you like best and give it a try. It can taste so good and save you the time to a coffee shop as well.

The taste

The differences in the type of coffee beans used, the grind size, and brewing methods set cold brew and iced coffee taste apart.

Ice Coffee

Iced coffee has a medium-bodied flavor and refreshing taste. Barista often uses double the amount of ground coffee to have a strong brewed coffee base, to avoid diluting the coffee too much when served over ice. Another way is to serve it with coffee ice cubes to keep the flavor strength.

People enjoy iced coffee by itself or add in milk and other flavors. That will alter the taste, lead it to match personal taste choice.

Cold Brew

Cold-brew usually has a full-bodied flavor and less acidic taste. It is also mellower, naturally sweeter compared with a regular cup of coffee or iced coffee. It is due to the prolonged cold brewing process that extracts less of the bitterness from the coffee.

Starbucks cold brew coffee is well-known for having a chocolaty flavor note. They also work hard to create and introduce various cold brew flavor like sweet vanilla cream, pumpkin cream, or salted cream cold foam.

Another popular cold brew option is Nitro cold brew. It is made by charging nitrogen to cold brew coffee for a smooth, naturally sweet taste with velvety crema. People enjoy the silkier mouth-feel, similar to a Guinness beer (the feel only, not the alcohol part) that Nitro cold brew brings.

Caffeine content

Iced Coffee

According to the report of U.S. Department of Agriculture, one 12 fl. oz (473 ml) cup of iced coffee contains, on average, 189 milligrams of caffeine. Dunkin’ Donuts 24 fl. oz iced coffee has 297 milligrams of caffeine. As iced coffee is made of cooled brewed coffee, many factors can affect the caffeine content. They can be the variety of coffee beans, size of grind, roast level, and brewing methods.

Generally, hot water can extract more caffeine from coffee than cold water. But cold brew requires a higher amount of ground coffee to generate a cup. So all these factors play their role in designate the differences in caffeine content between cold brew and iced coffee.

Cold Brew

One 12 fl. oz (473 ml) cup of cold brew from Starbucks contains, on average, 205 milligrams of caffeine. Dunkin’ Donuts 14 fl. oz cold brew has 260 milligrams of caffeine, while the Energy cold brew contains 378 milligrams caffeine. The amount of caffeine differs based on the type of coffee and the flavor that brands come up with.

A Grande cup (12 fl. oz) of Starbucks Cold Foam Cold Brew has 205 milligrams of caffeine, while one Reserve Cold Brew has 200 milligrams of caffeine, and the Irish Cream Cold Brew contains 185 milligrams of caffeine. Some flavor combination offers on a limited time. So if you want to try but have concerns about the caffeine content, it is best to check with the barista or find information online.

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