Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee: What is the Difference?

This article will help you understand the difference for cold brew vs iced coffee - how to make such beverages and what makes them unique
Samanta Fryer
Samanta Fryer
Samanta Fryer is our senior editor and content writer, at CoffeeVibe. Apart from writing and reading, she’s fond of the coffee brewing process and enjoys tasting new coffe read more
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Ryan Hendricks
Ryan Hendricks
Ryan Hendricks is our tester, who puts products through their paces. He used to be a barista and is now a full-time coffee enthusiast. He’s always testing out new gadgets, read more
Last updated: August 19, 2023
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Cold brew and iced coffee are top favorites for most caffeine lovers, especially in the hot weather seasons. Cold brew or iced coffee is undoubtedly the only thing on any caffeinated mind on a hot summer afternoon. However, there has long been a cold brew vs. iced coffee debacle amongst coffee aficionados. Some argue that there aren’t any notable differences between the drinks while others can’t stand one of them.

So what’s the difference between cold brew and iced coffee? Iced coffee is basically any cold coffee. It starts out as hot coffee then it’s served over ice. Cold brew on the other hand is brewed cold as its name implies. There is a notable difference between the flavors of the 2 coffees. Cold brew has a smoother and sweeter flavor with very little acidity and bitterness whereas iced coffee has the same level of acidity and bitterness of regular hot coffee.

Cold Brew Explained

Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee: What is the Difference?

Cold brew is increasingly gaining notoriety as a standard summer drink in high-end cafes. Unlike the traditional iced coffee, it is brewed cold. It has a smooth and sweet flavor with very little bitterness and acidity. This is because hot water used to brew the standard hot coffee usually extracts the oils from the coffee beans. It is these oils that cause acidity. Since cold brew is made with cold water, the extraction of the oils doesn’t happen hence the low acidity levels. This makes it a perfect option for anyone who gets stomach problems caused by the acidity in hot coffee.

Recipe example

Making cold brew is as simple as steeping coarse ground coffee in cold water for 12 to 24 hours. You can leave it outside or put it in the fridge. The result will be a coffee concentrate that you can pour in a cup and then add water or milk at a ratio of 1:2. You can dilute the concentrate to your taste preferences.

Here is a simple recipe;

Add 10 ounces of coarse ground coffee to a pitcher.

Add 5 cups of filtered water then mix up everything to ensure all the coffee grounds are wet. For every ounce of coffee use ½ cup of filtered water.

Allow the mixture to steep at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours.

Strain the mixture into a bowl using a fine mesh strainer at least twice to ensure none of the coffee grounds slips through.

Pour into a mason jar or any container with a lid and put in the fridge.

When ready to serve, use a 2:1 water to coffee ratio.

Pro tip: Use the best quality coffee beans and a cold brew coffee maker for the best results. The Nitro Cold Brew Coffee Maker is a prime option worth considering. It has a rugged stainless steel build and an ample 64-ounce capacity that can easily fit in your home fridge.

You can also try a Starbucks recipe like this one:

Iced Coffee Explained

Iced coffee is essentially regular coffee served over ice. You can use any type of coffee grounds and any brewing method that works for you. The only thing you must do is allow the coffee to cool before serving it over ice, otherwise it would taste watered down. Alternatively, you can brew very concentrated coffee then serve it over ice immediately if you can’t wait for it to cool down.

Recipe example

Brew regular coffee Trusted Source What’s the healthiest way to brew coffee? News briefs with your preferred method (French press, pour over, or instant coffee) as long as it can be served over ice. You can also use a dedicated iced coffee maker for the best results. The popular Mr coffee iced coffee maker is one of the best that money can buy. It comes with a re-usable tumbler and filter, is a breeze to use and produces great tasting coffee consistently.

Allow it to cool down at room temperature or inside the fridge.

Serve over ice.

Difference between Cold Brew and Iced Coffee

Here are the most notable differences between cold brew and iced coffee Trusted Source Is Cold Brew as Healthy as Regular Coffee? Does cold brew coffee and ice coffee have the same high antioxidants, minerals, and caffeine levels as the hot kind? Here’s what the experts had to say. .

Caffeine amount

Cold-brew contains more caffeine than regular iced coffee. This is only evident when you compare the same amount of cold brew to iced coffee. The cold brew will have a higher amount of caffeine than iced coffee because its coffee to water ratio is bigger.


Cold-brew takes time to make compared to iced coffee because it has to steep for over 12 hours. Iced coffee can be done in less than an hour as it wouldn’t take long to cool down the coffee.


Iced coffee tastes like regular hot coffee cooled down. It is usually thinner because of the melting ice it is served with but it retains its full body. Cold brew, on the other hand, tastes smoother and less acidic or bitter. It also has a chocolaty flavor that iced coffee lacks.


Cold-brew is not only higher in caffeine, but also stronger than traditional iced coffee. Remember cold brew starts as a concentrate which is very high in caffeine. The amount of water or milk added to the concentrate determines its strength but it almost always turns out to be stronger than regular iced coffee.


Cold brew is pricier than iced coffee. In fact, you may find the price of cold brew a bit off-putting. You can get a cup of regular coffee at 2 dollars and a similar cup of cold brew at 5 dollars. It is the time consuming and labor intensive process of making cold brew that makes it expensive.

Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee: What is the Difference?

Final Thoughts

The cold brew vs. iced coffee debate is common among caffeinated minds that love a cold cup of coffee. The two drinks are entirely different, from how they taste to how they are brewed. You can drink cold brew all year round and it is highly recommended for anyone who gets stomach issues from the acidity in hot coffee. Although it is more expensive than regular iced coffee, it is more flavorful and much stronger.

You can make both drinks at home as they both have very straightforward recipes. Cold brew will take longer to be ready and will require much of your attention but it is worth the wait and the efforts. For the best results with both recipes, ensure you have the best quality coffee.


What’s the healthiest way to brew coffee?
News briefs
Is Cold Brew as Healthy as Regular Coffee?
Does cold brew coffee and ice coffee have the same high antioxidants, minerals, and caffeine levels as the hot kind? Here’s what the experts had to say.

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