Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee – Are They the Same?

When the heat of summer hits, you probably crave for that refreshing coolness that only ice can provide, even when it comes to your daily dose of caffeine.

Jumping into the cold side of the coffee spectrum opens up a whole new list of options such as cold brew and iced coffee.

You’d probably be asking, is there a difference between a cold brew and iced coffee?

Yes there is!

Let’s take a closer look into the differences.

Cold Brew Coffee is Smoother and Less Acidic

Cold Brew Coffee in Jug

Cold brew is prepared differently than iced coffee and yields a different result, though they look very much the same on the outside.

The cold brew process results in a smoother, less acidic taste than is found in iced coffee.

I find iced coffee to feel far thinner on the palate while cold brew provides depth and also a larger dose of caffeine which is a plus for many.

According to Eat This Magazine, Scott Van Antwerp, who works with Commonwealth Joe Coffee Roasters, cold brew is more highly caffeinated because of the preparation process.

Allowing it to brew for longer and with cooler water packs in the power-boosting qualities. In addition, it also retains it’s enticing flavor for days which is not the case for iced coffee that only retains a high quality taste for a day or so.

How to Make Cold Brew Coffee Yourself At Home

The method used to produce cold brew takes a little longer. But, the way I see it, the depth of flavor gained from the process is well worth the wait and couldn’t be easier!

Here are 5 easy steps to make your own cold brew coffee at home.

Step 1 : Grind the Coffee Beans Coarse

Coffee Grind Chart

For cold brew, you’ll want to go the opposite direction on your grinder dial. Instead of fine, you’ll need your coffee beans coarse for this method.

Oftentimes you’ll hear that you want to use the coarsest setting possible, but I’ve found that I gain the richest flavor from a medium coarse grind.

Step 2 : Let the Coffee Steep In A Container

Cold Brew Coffee in a Jar

I use a tall glass jar that is easy to fit in my refrigerator and is easy to clean. Follow the guidelines of 1/3 cup of coarsely ground coffee (43 grams) per 1 ½ cups of water.

Don’t be afraid to double or triple this as cold brew keeps for days and you’re going to be addicted once you try it!

You don’t even need to heat the water. Simply dump it cold over the grounds and give it a stir. Cover the container, stick it in the fridge and forget about it for 12- 20 hours.

Step 3 : Let the Grounds Soak Between 14 to 20 Hours

Personally, I like to let the grounds soak for between 14 to 20 hours depending on the particular roast I’ve chosen. I generally go for medium, low acidity roasts that contain sweet notes like caramel and honey and 20 hours works great.

So, play around with the times and find out what you like best.

Step 4 : Strain the Coffee

Once you’ve let the grounds sit, you’ll need to strain the coffee. There are many different coffee strainers on the market to choose from.

I personally prefer to use a small, mesh tea strainer. As long as you’re using a medium coarse grind none of the grounds will escape through this filter. Simply place the filter above a clean container and pour.

Alternatively, you can also use your French Press as a strainer. Let the grinds sit in the glass container for the allotted time and then separate the grinds using the plunger just as you would with hot coffee.

Step 5 : Sit Back and Enjoy

Once you’ve strained, fill a cup of ice halfway with the cold brew concentrate and then the rest of the way with cold water and cream if you desire.

All that is left to do is sit back and enjoy your caffeinated bit of heaven.

Iced Coffee is More Acidic and Bitter

Ice coffee in a tall glass on an old rustic wooden table.

Iced coffee is basically dripped coffee in cold form.

If the hot coffee in your breakfast mug goes cold, you can pour it over ice and, voila, you have iced coffee!

However, due to the laws of nature, the ice will melt, decreasing the strength of your drink. You can counteract this phenomenon somewhat by brewing your coffee twice as strong as you normally would.

Coffee in this form maintains the acidity present in drip. It is a quick and easy way to switch your morning cup from hot to cold.

How to Make Iced Coffee Yourself At Home

Unlike cold brew coffee, iced coffee is even easier to make as it only takes minutes. Here are 4 steps you can follow to make your own iced coffee at home.

Step 1 : Grind the Beans Fine

In order to prepare iced coffee at home, you’ll need to make certain that your beans are ground to the correct consistency. If you’ve a grinder at home or are grinding it in store, you’ll want to set the grind too fine.

Step 2 : Get the Coffee/Water Right

If you’re familiar with making hot coffee, you perhaps have your own grounds to water measurements worked out. A commonly accepted ratio is 10 grams (2 tablespoons) of grounds per 6 ounces of water.

To make iced coffee, all you need to do is double the grounds and use 4 tablespoons of coffee per 6 ounces of water when you brew.

Step 3 : Heat Up the Water

Once the water is ready, pour half of it directly over the grounds and stir. Set a timer for 4 minutes.

Once the four minutes are up, pour the rest of the water over the ground, wait 30 more seconds and then use the plunger to strain.

Step 4 : Let if Cool Off and Enjoy

Make sure you cool the coffee completely before putting it over ice and you’re all set!

Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee - A Quick Comparison

Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee
Iced Coffee vs Cold Brew. Source: Cheat Day Design

Making iced coffee is straightforward and simple, taking only as much time as you normally spend preparing your morning cup of drip coffee.

Cold brew takes a little more time, but has a longer shelf-life and is especially tailored for the cold coffee experience, resulting in a smooth, rich, and highly caffeinated beverage.

Whichever method you choose, the important thing is to find out which method produces a result that is most pleasing to your palate.

So, give both a try and enjoy deliciously cool coffee all summer long!

Sarah Lee Headshot

About Sarah Lee

Sarah Lee is a former barista who discovered the power of coffee while maintaining a rigorous dance and writing schedule. She trained as a barista in the third-wave coffee industry, receiving in-depth instruction about how to assemble traditional espresso drinks and perfecting her latte art skills.