Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee: What’s the Difference?



A hot pot of freshly brewed coffee can really jump start your day, or relax you at the end of a particularly long and tiresome one. Yet in recent times, we have seen a steep rise in the popularity of very different beverages—cold brew and ice coffee. These chilly twists on traditional coffee as we know it, are shaking up the industry, and are preferred by many coffee consumers as a refreshing pick-me-up.

Quite frequently, these two terms are mistakenly used interchangeably, and with such similar sounding names, it’s easy to see why it could be confusing, especially to those who don’t drink either. With this guide, we hope that we can shed some light on what exactly characterizes each one, and what is the correct usage.

Cold Brew

In comparison with iced coffee, cold brew takes much longer to prepare, as it uses time rather than heat to extract the quality of your coffee grounds. Cold brew is coffee that is brewed in room temperature or cold water over a period of 12-24 hours, depending on the recipe, after which, the liquid is poured through a filter to remove the grounds, and then ice is added. In terms of the flavor, cold brew coffee is thicker, has more of a full body, and has less acidity than an iced coffee. Cold brew also has double the amount of caffeine. While it takes more time to produce a cold brew, it is far less labor-intensive, since after you set it up, you just have to wait it out until it’s time to strain the concentrate.

Iced Coffee

The primary and most important difference between cold brew and iced coffee is the brewing process. Iced coffee takes just a few hours to prepare. When you are making iced coffee, you brew it in hot water, just as you would with a hot cup of coffee. Afterwards, you place it in the refrigerator for a few hours for cooling. Finally, you take it out, and pour it over ice. By cooling it prior to adding the ice, it reduces the amount of ice that melts into your coffee. Iced coffee is thinner in consistency than a cold brew, and also has a slightly bitterer flavor, and much less caffeine.