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

Updated: March 28, 2022 by Owen Richardson

cold brew vs iced coffee

I know what it’s like to go into a coffee shop and stand there trying to figure out what type of coffee you should get this time around. Whenever I’m looking for a refreshing, cool drink, I always have this internal debate: Should I get a cold brew or an iced coffee, or are they essentially the same? If you are wondering the same thing, you need to read this guide on all things cold brew vs iced coffee.

By the time you finish reading this article, you’ll be able to tell between these two types of cold coffee concoctions.

Main Difference Between Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee

Here are the differences between cold brew and iced coffee

  • Cold brew is brewed cold, whereas iced coffee is brewed hot and then made colder with the addition of ice.
  • Cold brew takes anywhere from 12 to 24 hours to prepare, whereas iced coffee takes only 10 or 15 minutes.
  • Cold brew can be consumed within two weeks after preparing it, whereas iced coffee has to be drunk right away.
  • Cold brew generally tastes smooth, whereas iced coffee tends to be more acidic and bitter.

After seeing the main differences between these two types of coffee, likely, you are already leaning more toward one or the other. However, you should not decide which is the winner for you just yet.

But before you try them out, I would suggest that you get even more information on the pros and cons of both cold brew coffee and iced coffee. To do that, keep reading!

Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee: Overview

It is not easy to keep up with all of the things going on in the coffee world these days. With so many different coffee makers and brewing processes, new coffee variants are emerging every day. For today, I will keep it simple – I will only tell you about cold brew and iced coffee!

iced coffee
Iced coffee
Cold brew

You see, a lot of people consider these two options to be the same because the names both suggest cold coffees. Makes sense.

While that much is true, they are actually quite different. You will come to realize that the preparation methods and times, expiration dates, taste, and so many other things set cold brew and iced coffee apart.

To help you understand what these coffees are about, how you can prepare them at home, or what you can expect if you order them in a coffee shop, I will give you some key points.

Differences in Brew Method

The brewing method is one of the main things that separates iced coffee from a cold brew.

Iced Coffee

pour espresso over ice

For iced coffee, you essentially start with hot coffee brewed the usual way. Then, all you need to do is add some ice and wait for it to cool down.

What this means is that, since the ice melts quickly, it will dilute the hot coffee. So you should anticipate this and make a stronger brew than usual to avoid having iced coffee that tastes too diluted.

Cold Brew

cold brew

Things are completely different when it comes to cold brew. For cold brew, you need to use coarse ground coffee beans, preferably ones that have a strong taste. The beans that you use should be medium to dark roasted and freshly brewed.

Then, you mix the grounds with cold water. You let the mixture sit in the refrigerator anywhere from 12 to 24 hours. The longer you let it sit, the better your coffee will taste.

After the waiting period is over, you remove the grounds and get a cup of cold brew. You can choose to add ice cubes if you want to, but that is not necessary since the coffee will already be cold.

Different Brew Times

I already mentioned the brewing time needed to prepare a cold brew. After mixing the grounds with the water, you need to let the mixture sit for at least 12 hours. You can leave it up to 24 hours to get a cup of coffee that tastes stronger, but make sure that it stays in the fridge the whole time.

While cold brew takes a while to prepare, iced coffee is the complete opposite. When preparing this type of coffee, you will only need to spend 10 to 15 minutes brewing, mixing it with ice, and letting the ice cool the coffee. The process is simple.

Shelf Life

The expiration date on these types of coffees is very different, so this is something that you must keep in mind. You don’t want to end up drinking some old coffee that will upset your stomach. You must know how long it will take before the prepared coffee goes bad.

With iced coffee, it will take only a couple of hours for the coffee to go bad. This does not mean that it won’t be drinkable, but the melted ice will dilute it so much that it will probably not taste as good. I suggest that you drink the iced coffee as soon as possible after you get it or make it, for the best flavor.

As for cold brew, the expiration date is quite long. You can keep this coffee in your fridge for up to two weeks. This means you can make a large amount of the coffee, store it properly, and drink it over that two-week period.

Still, keep in mind that you need to keep the cold brew in the fridge. If you accidentally leave it out for a while, you should consider throwing it away, especially if it was in direct sunlight or a warm place. It is better to be safe than sorry!

Taste

The taste of both types of coffee will vary depending on the type of beans you use and your preparation method. However, it has been found that cold brew tends to be less acidic and bitter than iced coffee. The cold brew will also have a smoother, milder taste.

On the other hand, iced coffee tastes a bit more acidic and bitter. Depending on your preference, you can take this information and decide which type of coffee you would want to try first.

Digestion

The final point I want to make is connected to the impact these two types of coffee will have on your stomach. It has been found that iced coffee may upset a sensitive stomach quickly, so it is not quite suitable for people with digestive problems.

In contrast, cold brew coffee can be great for the stomach. It can boost your immunity and lead to better digestion. If you are someone who has digestive problems, I suggest that you give this type of coffee a try and see if it helps.

Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee: Which Is Better?

I hope the information shared here has helped you determine which of these two options is better for you. When you think about cold brew and compare it to iced coffee, keep this information in mind and base your decision on it. As you would expect, I am not going to give a clear winner – you have to decide that for yourself!

When it comes to cold brew and iced coffee, which one you go with depends on your personal preferences. Let me know in the comments which is your favorite and why. I would love to get your thoughts on the topic, so don’t hesitate to share them!

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