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As warm weather approaches, everyone’s caffeinated thoughts turn to the same thing: iced coffee. And if you’re hitting up a fancy coffee spot, you might notice they’re serving up cold brew like it’s going out of style. But don’t be fooled – there’s a big difference between these two chill caffeinated beverages.
Cold brew coffee, like its cousin iced coffee, is a popular beverage made by brewing coffee beans and then chilling the resulting liquid. These two beverages have different flavors and strengths because of the different brewing methods and tools used to prepare them.
Our post is all about the differences between cold brew and iced coffee.
Iced Coffee vs Cold Brew: The Primary Difference
Let’s start off by understanding the key difference between between iced coffee and cold brew.
On warm days, an iced coffee is a great way to cool down while still enjoying a brewed beverage. Hot coffee, ideally prepared from a fresh dark roast and ground to a medium consistency, is poured over ice and served cold. Commonly, sweeteners or syrups are added to make it more palatable. Coffee’s harsh flavor is mitigated by adding milk, nut milk, or cream. It is quick and easy, all you have to do is brew as usual, let it cool, and then pour it over ice.
On the other hand, By excluding the use of heat throughout the brewing process, cold brew yields a concentrated form of coffee.
The process of creating cold brew is more involved than that of regular iced coffee. The secret to delicious cold-brew coffee is patience. Cold brew is made by letting coarsely ground coffee soak in cold water for at least 12 hours. Coffee’s aroma and taste improve with time. Coffee should be served over ice since it is stronger when chilled.
After the coffee has steeped, the grounds are removed, and what is left is a concentrated coffee that can be diluted with milk or water and even served over ice. Since the oils, sugars, and caffeine in coffee are extracted via time rather than heat in the cold brew method, the final product is often less acidic and harsh than iced coffee.
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Differences Between Cold Brew and Iced Coffee
Ready to chill with a refreshing coffee drink? Before you choose between iced coffee and cold brew, let’s explore more of their differences.
Coffee grinds of varying coarseness are steeped in cold water for 12 hours or more before being filtered out and used to make a smooth, sediment-free cup of cold brew. Cold brew coffee, in contrast to ordinary coffee, is never heated; instead of using heat to extract the coffee’s sugars, lipids, and caffeine, cold brew relies on time.
The process of making iced coffee is identical to that of making hot coffee. Coffee that has been chilled to pourability temperature is just hot coffee poured over ice.
The End Result
Coffee beans are used extensively in the cold brew process, resulting in a concentrated beverage that is far more potent than regular drip coffee. Although cold brew concentration is not quite as potent as iced espresso, it still delivers nearly twice as much caffeine per ounce as your standard cup of coffee.
This is why it is affectionately known as “rocket fuel”. Cold brew concentrate is rather potent, therefore it is recommended that you dilute it with milk, water, or ice at a 1:1 ratio to make them more manageable to consume.
Iced coffee is made in the same way as normal coffee; the only difference is that it is cooled before serving and is often diluted due to the use of ice. That is how easy it is. The coffee’s chemical composition changes as the brewing temperature goes from hot to cold, so it is vital to get it just right.
It is common knowledge that after roasting, entire beans of coffee undergo a process called oxidation, which releases off-putting odors and makes the coffee “stale.” Coffee in liquid form turns stale just as quickly, if not more so. Brewing with heat accelerates oxidation, which is a major contributor to the subpar flavor of traditional iced coffees.
Taste is a key factor influencing which coffee you might choose when it comes to iced coffee vs cold brew. When making a cold brew, it is important to keep the temperature and pressure low and to take your time. This explains why the finished product’s flavor may vary greatly depending on the kind of cooking used. The cold brew process can unlock the most difficult-to-reach taste components in coffee beans because of its prolonged extraction time.
These are the mellow, sugary chocolate undertones, of course. The sweet, rich flavor of cold brew is well-known and appreciated for its mellow complexity. In addition to its distinctive flavor, cold brew coffee may also contain higher caffeine. Caffeine levels increase throughout the extraction process.
Although high temperatures may extract more coffee soluble than cold brew, the resulting iced coffee may be unpleasant due to the high temperatures used in its preparation. The additional extracted soluble may give the coffee a fuller body than cold brew, but they can also make it taste harsh due to the organic elements they contain.
Iced coffee, although not as novel or smooth, is a favorite of many coffee enthusiasts because of its vivid bitterness, and all of these exquisite fruity overtones may be preserved if the coffee is cooled just enough.
Suggested Reading: How to Make Iced Coffee in a Keurig?
The texture of the beverage is another distinction between regular iced coffee and cold brew. Since cold brew is steeped for a longer period, its viscosity is sometimes considerably thicker than that of iced coffee, often resembling syrup or honey.
Iced coffee, on the other hand, has a lighter, more refreshing mouthfeel than its hot counterpart. This makes it ideal for individuals who like lighter beverages or who need a pick-me-up during the workday.
Another major difference between cold brew and iced coffee is the water temperature. As a general rule, the quicker the extraction, the hotter the water must be. Consider that if you used a pour-over or drip coffee maker and poured cold water over coffee grounds, the water would only become a very faint shade of brown. In contrast, cold brew may be made by letting water sit on the grounds for many hours.
Therefore, you will need hot water if you want to prepare iced coffee. Water should be cold or at room temperature while making a cold brew.
Interested Reading: Strongest Types of Coffee
Infinite variables affect the outcome of the procedure known as “extraction,” which is used to extract taste from coffee beans. Time, though, stands out above everything else. Extraction rates vary for the many taste components in coffee beans, therefore brewing time may have a significant impact on the final product.
For the debate of iced coffee vs cold brew, Coffee is steeped in cold water for 12 to 24 hours to make a cold brew. For this method, coarsely ground coffee is preferable because of the extended soaking time. Too fine of a grind might lead to over-extracting the beans, which can cause bitter coffee.
In the case of iced coffee, only few minutes are required to prepare. Finer ground beans are preferable. In addition, hot water is required for this technique.
For a standard cold brew, you should use a ratio of one part coffee grounds to eight parts cold water. The slower rate of extraction made possible by the lower ratio results in a flavorful and creamy final product. An additional benefit of a longer brew time is that the beverage has an extra night to acquire its signature flavor after being refrigerated.
Some recipes for iced coffee call for equal parts of coffee grounds and ice, while others do not specify a specific ratio. The coffee dose should be adjusted so that it is just enough to cover the ice. Using cold water is also important while creating iced coffee.
Caffeine levels in cold brew coffee tend to be higher than in regular iced coffee. But there is no guarantee of it happening. Caffeine concentration varies widely amongst coffee places, even when comparing pieces of the same size.
You will get 297mg of caffeine from a medium iced coffee from Dunkin’, and 260mg from a medium cold brew. Caffeine content varies widely across Starbucks beverages, with a Grande (medium) iced coffee having just 165mg and a cold brew 205mg.
Since the ratio of coffee to water in the cold brew is substantially higher than in iced coffee, the caffeine content of the former is higher. Although iced coffee concentrate contains up to three times as much caffeine as regular brew, the result may not be much more potent due to the addition of water or milk. You may adjust the coffee’s strength by adding more or less liquid.
Learn more about caffeine content in coffee: How Much Caffeine In a Cup Of Coffee?
The strong caffeine content and mild acidity of cold brew coffee make it a great choice for the winter months. The amino acid L-theanine is abundant, and it includes more antioxidants than regular coffee.
Iced coffee is still a high-quality beverage, although having less caffeine than Cold Brew. Single-cup brewed coffee is poured over ice and re-brewed.
Acidity brings another difference between cold brew and iced coffee. Because of its prolonged steeping procedure and low-temperature brewing technique, cold brew coffee often has far less acidity than normally prepared cups.
If you are looking to add some health benefits to your daily coffee without sacrificing comfort, this is a great alternative.
Cold brew can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks without losing any of its flavor or quality. Making it into a concentrate is also a fantastic way to preserve room in the fridge. Although iced coffee can be stored in the fridge for up to two days, it is best consumed on the day it was prepared.
It could start to taste sour after the first day. It is fairly uncommon for iced coffee to be made using coffee that is a day or two old, but you probably will not even taste the difference. However, if you ask for longer than a day, you will be very optimistic.
Recommended Reading: Coffee Makes You Sleepy: 8 PROVEN Reasons Why it Happens
A key difference in the debate of cold brew vs iced coffee. Cold brew coffee may cost up to $4 per cup, while an iced coffee will set you back roughly $2 to $3. Since it takes longer to make, cold brew coffee is more costly than iced coffee. Because the result is stronger coffee than brewed coffee, more beans are used.
Cold brew coffee yields less than brewed iced coffee from the same quantity of coffee beans. The additional dollar for cold brew is well worth it if you want a stronger, smoother brew.
Which One is Better?
There is no clear winner between cold brew and iced coffee. Individuals vary in their preferences for drinks. Iced coffee is perfect for those who want a mild, refreshing drink with a typical coffee taste that can be customized with milk and sugar.
If you like your coffee with a little sugar and cream or milk, and want a somewhat higher caffeinated beverage, cold brew is the way to go. While the coffee taste in regular iced coffee will always be diluted as the ice melts, the coffee flavor in cold brew will remain unaffected. Both are equally good, so we recommend picking your favorite.
Both cold brew and iced coffee are fantastic concoctions that may provide a welcome caffeine boost on hot summer afternoons; it is all a matter of personal opinion when deciding which one is best for you. Iced coffee is a traditional cold beverage, but its “roasty” flavor dominates over the coffee itself.
The flavor of the bean, rather than the roast, is what the cold brew is renowned for. Try both beverages before settling on a favorite if you are unfamiliar with both. Whether you like iced coffee or cold brew, you may get a tasty and refreshing caffeinated drink that will keep you going all day long.