Cold Brew Vs Iced Coffee: Differences, Similarities, And More

by John Griffith

I can’t start my day until I’ve had my morning coffee. And like most people, I usually drink my cup of Joe nice and warm. However, now that the sun is finally shining, and it’s starting to feel like summer, my taste buds are craving something more refreshing early in the morning. So, I decided to treat myself and popped into Starbucks. I told the barista I was looking for coffee but wanted it cold. She gave me a variety of options, including cold brew and iced coffee. This left me a bit confused, as I pretty much thought they were the same thing. Well, they are not. The sweet barista took her time to explain to me why these similar-looking drinks are actually quite different. And today, I’m here to pass this knowledge on to you as well. So, let’s finally settle the cold brew vs iced coffee question.

Nothing beats a good cup of coffee early in the morning

What Is Cold Brew Coffee?

While it’s called cold brew, this name is a bit misleading. It would be more accurate to call it cold steep or cold infusion, but we can all agree they don’t sound as appealing. Cold brew is a smooth, rich coffee made by steeping coffee beans in cold water for 12 or 24 hours. Unlike classic hot brewing methods, this process gives the coffee a sweeter, less acidic taste. According to James Hoffmann, a renowned coffee expert and author of “The World Atlas of Coffee”, cold brews extended steeping time allows for the extraction of complex flavors that are overwise masked by the heat. And since it’s cold, it’s a wonderful, refreshing alternative to regular coffee for the warmer weather. Once it’s brewed, you can easily dilute this coffee with milk or water and serve it with ice.

Cold brew takes between 12 and 24 hours

What Is Iced Coffee?

Iced coffee is made just like you would make normal, hot coffee. The grounds get brewed in hot water for a short period of time. No matter if you are making it with a drip coffee maker or a pour over, the coffee grounds quickly bloom under the boiling water. And voilà, you get coffee in a couple of minutes, instead of hours. Then, after the coffee is brewed, you simply cool it down. To speed up the cooling process, you usually pour ice over it. This method maintains the original flavor of coffee as well as the wonderful aroma. According to Scott Rao, a coffee expert and author of “The Coffee Roaster’s Companion”, iced coffee tastes best when you make it with a double-strength brew. This ensures that it doesn’t become too diluted when you add the ice.

Iced coffee is made like normal coffee and then chilled

Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee: Everything You Need To Know

Choosing between cold brew vs iced coffee is a dilemma many coffee lovers seem to have. I say, have both! Both are great, refreshing ways to get your daily caffeine in, especially in the warm weather. Each has its own unique taste and charm, which means you can enjoy whichever one you are in the mood for at that specific moment. Today, I will explore some of the key differences and similarities between the two, in order to help you understand them better. This way next time you are in line at your local coffee shop, you’ll know what to get.

Both taste amazing in their own way


Cold brew: Cold brew is famous for its smooth, mellow flavor, its low acidity, and natural sweetness. Thanks to the extended cold steeping process, fewer bitter compounds are extracted. Thus resulting in a rich and slightly sweet profile.

Iced coffee: Iced coffee is brewed with hot water, so it retains all the bold and vibrant flavors of regular warm coffee. It has a noticeable acidity and a slight bitterness to it. And the quick cooling process can even sometimes highlight these notes. This gives iced coffee a more robust taste than you would get with traditional coffee.

Coffee Grounds

Cold brew: Cold brew needs coarsely ground coffee beans to achieve its wonderful taste. The coarse grind helps ensure a slower extraction. Plus, it prevents over-extraction and bitterness during the long steeping process.

Iced coffee: Iced coffee uses medium- to fine-ground coffee, similar to regular hot coffee. The finely ground beans allow for a full extraction of flavors and a short brewing time.


Cold brew: This wonderful brew often has a higher caffeine concentration due to the higher coffee-to-water ratio used when brewing. However, you can easily adjust the final caffeine content by diluting it with some water or milk.

Iced coffee: Iced coffee generally contains less caffeine per ounce compared to a cold brew, as it is brewed with a standard ratio of coffee-to-water. And you can dilute it even more by adding milk or water.

Brewing Time

Cold brew: Cold brew needs quite a bit of time to “brew”. It typically takes between 12 and 24 hours for the beans to steep to achieve that smooth, rich flavor.

Iced coffee: Iced coffee takes a couple of minutes to prepare. It takes a couple of minutes to brew it and then some to add whatever you like to it, like milk and ice.


Cold brew: Due to the higher quantity of coffee grounds needed to make cold brew, as well as the longer process, it can be a bit more expensive.

Iced coffee: Iced coffee typically costs less than cold brew as it uses a standard amount of coffee grounds and takes minutes to make.


Cold brew: Since it takes a long time to brew, cold brew can be a bit less convenient. However, once prepared, you can store it in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. So, you’ve still got a ready-to-drink option every day.

Iced coffee: As I mentioned, iced coffee only takes a couple of minutes to make for immediate consumption. This makes it a highly convenient option for most.

Health Benefits

Cold brew: Thanks to the fact that cold brew is less acidic, it is considered to be gentler on the stomach and teeth. This is great for people who have sensitive stomachs or deal with acid reflux. Otherwise, it still has the same properties as regular coffee. But it all depends on how you make your coffee. There are plenty of ways to make it healthier.

Iced coffee: Iced coffee has all the benefits of regular hot coffee, like antioxidants. However, its high acidity may not be for everyone.

These drinks have many things in common 

This is everything you need to know about cold brew vs iced coffee. I hope you found this article useful. Now you finally have all the info on these two popular drinks and can choose which is the better pick for you. While I wished to hop on the cold brew trend, I simply love myself a good iced coffee. And there is nothing wrong with that. How you prefer to take your daily caffeine intake is all up to your personal preferences, and no one should judge you for it. So, sip on your coffee and enjoy it full-heartedly.

Now you know everything about cold brew and iced coffee


Can I drink cold brew every day?

Yes, you can! However, like any other caffeine drink, it’s important to drink it in moderation. It’s best to avoid excessive caffeine intake, as it can lead to an increased heart rate or insomnia.

Is cold brew coffee more healthy?

Thanks to its low acidity, cold brew can be a healthier option for some people as it is gentler on the stomach and the teeth. Plus, it still contains all the antioxidants and nutrients found in regular coffee. However, the health benefits depend on how you consume it. Adding excess sugar and cream will negate any benefits from the coffee.

Can cold brew be decaf?

Yes, cold brew can be decaf. It just needs to be made with decaffeinated coffee beans. But the process stays the same as with regular beans. You coarsely grind the decaf beans and steep them for 12 to 24 hours. This way, you can enjoy the smooth, rich flavor of cold brew without the caffeine.

You can enjoy a cold brew coffee every day

John Griffith

John Griffith is a young, passionate journalist. Writing has been John’s hobby ever since he was a boy. He has worked in some of the UK’s most successful news portals over the course of his professional career but found his forever home at Archzine.