Iced Coffee Vs Cold Brew

Iced Coffee Vs Cold Brew

No coffee lover can resist the lure of tantalizing and refreshing cold coffees on a hot summer day. So many coffee shops serve them using tons of recipes, ingredients, and garnishings to make them further irresistible.

While making iced coffee involves a similar effort as any other regular coffee. Cold brew uses cold water extraction, also referred to as cold pressing. Do you know that cold coffee originated in Japan and has been a beverage of preference for many centuries, brewed in a slow drip fashion known as Kyoto style?

Let us look at the critical differences between Iced Coffee Vs Cold Brew Coffee apart from the brewing process.

What Is Hot Brewed Iced Coffee?

Iced coffee is getting more popular by the day. There is practically an iced coffee version of any hot coffee drink you choose – traditional drip coffee, instant coffee, espresso, latte, cappuccino, macchiato, mocha, etc. Iced coffees are brewed like regular hot coffees.

They use a drip coffee machine, pour-over, French Press, Espresso machine, or any other traditional coffee maker before pouring and serving it over ice and/or cold milk or cold water.

Iced Coffee Drink 01

The sweeteners, syrups, and flavorings are added in hot conditions as the dissolution process occurs faster at higher temperatures. You can use mint, coconut, vanilla, hazelnut, cardamom, almond, etc for flavorings. You can even choose pieces of fresh fruits like strawberries, oranges, bananas, etc., or even go for rum, vodka, Irish cream liqueur, or amaretto liqueur.

It is available in most local coffee shops, and it is a common practice to brew it at a higher strength than regular hot coffee as it gets diluted with the addition of ice and cold water.

What Is Cold Brew Coffee?

In the cold brewing process, the coffee grounds are soaked in the normal water overnight for 12 to 24 hours. During this time, the coarsely ground coffee beans are left to steep in the water and are then filtered to obtain the cold brew concentrate. The coffee concentrate is then diluted with cold water and served cold with ice cubes.

Regular cold-brew coffee is steeped at room temperature water without any heat addition. Hence it does not carry any acidity or bitterness that comes out when you brew hot coffee. This smooth cold coffee cup with rich and clean coffee flavor finds much favor with young coffee lovers.

Bottles of Cold Brew Concentrate

Can you make a cold brew at home?

A large number of coffee makers are available in the market to help you prepare coffee using the cold brew method. The main features of any cold brew coffee maker are:

  1. Type: Non-Electric and Electric. The non-electric versions are further categorized based on immersion (Takeya and Kitchenaid) and slow drip (Oxo and Toddy) principles. In slow-drip coffee, the coffee drains into a different container once the stopper is released. The electrical versions take about 45 minutes to make cold brew coffee but are not able to create the robust flavors of non-electric ones.
  2. Type of Coffee Filter: Mesh stainless steel or paper filters.
  3. Material: Plastic, glass, or a combination of two.
  4. Size: Volume of coffee to be brewed.

As explained in our article, you can prepare your own cold brew drink without using a separate coffee maker, using simple home make things.

Iced Coffee Vs Cold Brew – The Differences

To me, both are equally enjoyable; it is just a matter of what you are looking for at any particular given time. It is not that one is better than the other, but there are differences that make each of them unique in their own way. You can understand these differences in the following sections.

Brewing Method – Cold Brew Vs Iced Coffee

We have already touched upon the differences in the brewing methods between the traditional iced coffee and the cold brews above.

Ice coffee is brewed as regular coffee with hot water and poured over the ice cubes while preparing a great cold brew concentrate by steeping coffee in water for longer durations is the key to making cold brew coffee. This method of brewing coffee may use either immersion or slow drip principles but does not use heat at any stage.

Grind Size

The average particle size for the iced coffee depends on the brewing method, with the typical average size and the percentage of fines for each of these methods listed below. The percentage of fines is based on the particles of size less than 100 Microns (Micro-meter).

  • Espresso: Particle Size – 240 microns, Fines% – 11.5%.
  • Stovetop or Moka Pot – 320 microns, Fines% – 10.5%.
  • Filter Coffee: Particle Size – 600 microns, Fines% – 7.8%.
  • French Press Coffee: Particle Size – 870 microns, Fines% – 5%.
  • Commercial Filter Coffee: Particle Size – 1000 microns, Fines% – 4%.

Full immersion cold brew uses coarse-ground coffee with a typical average particle size of 930 microns and 4.7% as the percentage of fines. This follows the established principle that the longer the time of contact between the coffee and water, the coarser the grind should be.

Brewing Water Temperature

As you undoubtedly know, the extraction of any particular compound in brewed coffee depends on its solubility in water. The water solubility, in turn, is temperature dependant and increases with temperature in most cases. This relation may not be linear.

For example, caffeine solubility increases multiple times between 80 to 100 degrees C. Hence, a small change in the brewing temperature significantly affects its extraction. Citric acid, on the other hand, follows an almost linear relation.

At higher temperatures, the kinetic energy of the water molecules increases along with their mobility. They exert higher physical forces on the compounds and force them out. In addition, the water is less viscous at these temperatures.

It can penetrate the coffee bed easily, even reaching inside the coffee particles to solubilize them. It results in higher levels of lipids and other less polar and hence less soluble compounds. Most bitter compounds are non-polar.

The polar compounds are usually sweet, acidic, and easily soluble at room temperature. The volatile compounds behave differently. Their extraction is similar to non-volatiles, but they again go to a gaseous state at higher temperatures and are released into the air. Hence their aroma in the air contributes to the experience, but the in-cup concentrations are less.

As stated earlier, iced coffee drinks are prepared at higher brewing temperatures allowing extraction of non-polar compounds but have a lower percentage of volatiles. In contrast, cold brewed drinks, prepared at 12 to 18 Deg C, have more polar compounds and volatiles.

Brewing Time

You need to increase the brewing time to extract flavors requiring higher brewing temperatures without actually reaching those temperature levels. In addition, the volatiles remains trapped in the drink when it is brewed cold.

Regular brewed coffee needs anywhere from 25 seconds to just a few minutes of brewing time based on the method used, while cold brewing requires 12 to 24 hours to prepare a nice cup of coffee.

Iced Coffee Drink 02

Caffeine Content

Caffeine extraction depends on the amount of coffee beans, bean types, serving size, grind size, brewing temperature, and brewing time.

Hence it is not easy to generalize unless some of the above factors are made constant. Cold brew coffees use more amount of coffee beans and have a longer brewing time. Iced coffees have finer grinds, and higher brewing temperatures, while bean types and serving sizes can be made the same. You can add more water to the concentrate to reduce the caffeine content.

Cold brews will normally have a higher caffeine content than most iced coffees and espresso-based drinks of similar volume and bean types.

Flavor Notes & Taste

As stated above, cold brews have a higher percentage of polar and volatile compounds, while compounds with lower polarity and some flavor compounds suffer. However, a long extraction time of 24 hours still allows a sufficient extraction yield.

A cold extraction has more body, sweetness, syrupy characteristics, and chocolate notes. The drink may lack strength as the taste-active compounds are usually less soluble at lower temperatures, leading to lower extraction.

If there is exposure to air during the brewing process, you may end up with oxidized flavors in the cup.

As stated earlier, most bitter compounds and lipids are non-polar and extract at higher temperatures. So iced coffee taste has more bitterness and feels harsh. In addition, when the ice melts, it dilutes the brew making it weak and watery. Many coffee lovers make coffee ice cubes by freezing the leftover coffee in the ice cube tray and using them in their iced brews.


The amount of acidity in a coffee cup depends on

  • Coffee beans
  • The Roasting Temperature.
  • The Roasting Duration.
  • Brewing Method.
  • Brewing Time.
  • Grind Size.

The lighter roasts usually have higher levels of acids, and roasting at higher temperatures or for longer durations reduces their levels. A short duration of brewing and finer grind sizes more produces acids in the coffee cup.

A cold brew coffee exhibits similar pH and 3-CGA concentrations to the hot brew within the range of 4.85 to 5.13. The hot brew has a higher total titratable acid and antioxidant activity than the cold brew if the grind-to-coffee ratio is kept constant. Both pH and titrable acid concentration has an impact on the taste.

In cold brews, medium roast coffees exhibit higher concentrations of 3-chlorogenic acid than dark roast. The extraction of the acids happens rapidly over the first 3 hours before slowing down, and it reaches an equilibrium value after approximately 7 hours.

Cost Difference

As stated above, cold brew requires a larger quantity of coffee beans and takes more time and effort to brew. Hence any coffee shop charges a significantly higher amount of money for it.

Which lasts longer between cold brew and iced coffee?

The cold brew concentrate can be stored in a refrigerator for about two weeks and still taste good. Like its hot brew version, an iced coffee must be consumed on the same day.

What is nitro cold brew?

Nitro Cold Brew Coffee

Nitro coffees were introduced in the 2010s in third-wave coffee shops. Starbucks introduced it in 2016s, and by 2020s, half of its stores in America offered it. It is brewed like a regular cold brew, and nitrogen gas is added for texture.

The nitrogen addition happens during the pouting of the cold brew and results in creamy foam on the top, similar to the draft beer. You don’t add ice to the Nitro brew as the foam gets damaged; serve it chilled.

Can You Freeze Cold Brew Coffee?

If you want your cold brew coffee to last more than two weeks, you can freeze the concentrate like regular ice cubes and use it over the next few months.


So now you know and understand all the main differences between iced coffees and cold brews and are in a position to choose your next cold coffee drink. I am a fan of both types and prepare both of them at different times. Do write about your experience with them in the comment section below.

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