Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee: Brew Time, Flavor, How to Make

Nothing beats a cup or mug of some cold coffee on a hot summer day because besides cooling you down, it is very refreshing and will also give you that amazing caffeine kick.

But when it comes to cold coffee, you will often be faced with two popular options to choose from which are the cold brew and iced coffee. And while many coffee drinkers will just pick what they come across first as they assume they are the same, this could not be further from the truth.

Cold-brew and iced coffee are two different beverages that will differ in everything from the brewing time and temperature to the flavor. Hence, to make sure you know what you are ordering or what to make, it is vital to understand what sets them apart and this is what this piece is all about.

Comparison Table


Cold Brew

Iced Coffee

Brew Temperature

68 to 72 ˚F

195 to 205 ˚F

Brew Time

6 to 24 hours

Under 5 minutes

Average Caffeine Content

12 mg per ounce

10 mg per ounce

Flavor

Smoother and milder

Fuller body and a little bitter

Acidity

Less acidic

More acidic

Best Brew Method

French press

Pour-over, drip coffee makers

Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee

The cooling effect that you get from cold brew and iced coffee is just incredible, and it is probably one of the things that you always look forward during summer. But, the similarities between the two beverages probably end at their cooling effect as they differ in several other aspects. However, the following are the main points of departure.

1. Brew Time and Temperature

The brew time and temperature are perhaps the biggest difference between the two beverages. Cold brew coffee is made with room temperature water that has a maximum temperature of around 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

And given that the lower water temperature in cold brewing is not very effective at extracting the coffee beans, the brewing can take anywhere between 6 and 24 hours but some people will even leave their coffee steeping for up to 48 hours.

Iced coffee, on the other hand, is made by adding ice to regular coffee, and so to make it, you will first need to make a cup of regular coffee as you would normally. For hot brewing methods, the ideal temperature will be between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit for maximum flavor extraction and most brewing methods will take under 5 minutes.

2. Caffeine Content

Various factors will determine the caffeine content in your coffee from the type of the bean you choose to the roast you give them. And while the jury is still out there on which coffee has more caffeine between the cold brew and iced coffee, the former will in most instances have more caffeine.

With cold brew, there will be a higher coffee to water ratio, and this means it will have relatively more caffeine than iced coffee. But given that cold brew is often diluted before drinking, you can end up with less caffeine in your cup than you would with iced coffee.

Using the popular Starbucks cold brew and iced coffee for comparison, on average you will get around 200 mg of caffeine for a 16-ounce cup of cold brew coffee which translates to about 12 mg per ounce. And their iced coffee will have around 10 mg per ounce given that the 16-ounce cup has about 165 mg caffeine.

3. Flavor

Iced coffee retains most of the flavors from your hot brewed coffee when made properly. However, it can also taste bitter given that the high temperatures sometimes provide a bitter taste. But, the higher temperature also allows for the extraction of the more subtle coffee flavors and hence leading to a more flavorful and fuller body beverage.

With cold brew, on the other hand, you get a smoother and milder coffee with some hint of sweetness given that the longer extraction time allows for the extraction of most of the flavor oils from the coffee beans. A good cup of cold brew should carry notes of chocolate and give you an amazing Guinness-like mouthfeel.

4. Acidity

Overall cold brew coffee will be the less acidic of the two beverages, and hence if you have a sensitive stomach or tend to have acidity issues like reflux and heartburn, it will be the more appropriate choice for you.

Unlike iced coffee, cold brew coffee does not come into contact with hot water at any point, and so the temperature of the coffee will not get to the point required to extract a lot of the acidic compounds from the coffee grounds.

5. Best Brew Methods

There are different methods of making hot coffee, and the coffee made using these methods will still be ideal for your iced coffee as you will only need to add some ice cubes and your brew will be ready. However, pour-over methods like Chemex and drip coffee makers seem to produce the best brews.

With the cold brew coffee, on the other hand, any immersion method could still work provided you use cold water and give the coffee enough steeping time, but the French press is by far the best option and will also give you an easy time.

How to Make Cold Brew Coffee

How to Make Cold Brew Coffee

There are different things you can use to make cold brew coffee because all you need is a larger mason jar or any other container with a lid. But, the French press always seems to make things easier.

What You Will Need

  • French Press
  • 4 ounces coarsely ground Coffee
  • 3 cups filtered Water
  • Large spoon
  • Cheesecloth or paper filter (optional)

Brew Time: 6-24 hours

Step by Step Directions

Step 1: Start by rinsing out your French press to make sure everything is clean enough

Step 2: Next add the coarsely ground coffee to the bottom of the beaker

Step 3: Slowly pour in the room temperature water and make sure the coffee grounds are completely covered

Step 4: Using the spoon stir the coffee mixture thoroughly

Step 5: After stirring place back the plunger and mesh filter on the French press to act as a lid and place the French press in the fridge for 6 to 24 hours for steeping

Step 6: Once steeping is complete, you should slowly push down the plunger to filter the coffee, and if your coffee is not clear enough after plunging, you can filter it further with the cheesecloth or paper filter

Step 7: Serve over ice and enjoy

How to Make Iced Coffee

How to Make Iced Coffee

Pour-over coffee is delightful and it always seems to make much better iced coffee than most other hot coffee types. Hence, if you are planning on making iced coffee, it will be a great choice.

What You Will Need

  • Pour Over Setup (dripper and filter)
  • 25 grams medium ground coffee
  • 3 cups of filtered water
  • Gooseneck kettle

Brew Time: Under 5 minutes

Step by Step Directions

Step 1: Start by heating your water in the gooseneck kettle to around 200 degrees Fahrenheit

Step 2: Next prepare you pour over by first wetting the filter before placing it on the dripper

Step 3: Put some ice cubes on your coffee mug

Step 4: Add the coffee grounds on the filter and place the pour-over on the coffee mug

Step 5: Pour a little hot water over the coffee grounds and allow them to bloom for 30 seconds

Step 6: Now pour the rest of the water slowly but steadily in a circular motion using the gooseneck kettle, and it will take at least a couple of rounds to pour all the water

Step 7: Allow the coffee to slowly drip down into the mug with the ice and once this is done, you can add more ice cubes to further cool it down and your iced coffee will be ready

Which One Should You Choose?

What you choose between the iced and cold brew coffee will boil down to your preferences or how you prefer your coffee. But, note that cold brews have an acquired taste which will take some getting used to.

If you prefer a more refined cup of cold coffee with an extra caffeine kick and less acidity, the cold brew coffee will be the best option for you.

However, if you are one of those coffee drinkers that still prefer their cold coffee to taste like a cooled down version of their favorite hot brewed coffee, the iced coffee will be ideal for you.

With all said, the right idea is to make and try out both coffee types and choose what appeals most to your taste buds because with coffee, you will not know whether you like a particular drink until you experience it.