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Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee: Which Coffee Is Better For You?

What is Iced Coffee?

Iced coffee is a coffee lover’s go-to on a hot day. What exactly is iced coffee, though? Iced coffee is made by brewing your regular cup of coffee and then pouring it over ice. That’s about as simple as you can get! No matter if you brew it using a French press, an Aeropress, or even a high-end espresso machine, it all boils down to pouring your finished brew over some ice.

Some folks also make creamier iced coffees by pouring it into a glass of cold milk rather than ice. If you want an iced coffee that’s extra cool, try making some coffee ice cubes by freezing coffee in an ice tray. You can then plop these in a tall glass and pour milk to dissolve them!

Usually, people add their creamers and sweeteners before their coffee is poured on ice. That’s because dissolving these ingredients tends to be easier with hot liquids than with cold ones. That said, instant coffee can also be made into iced coffee.

What is Cold Brew Coffee?

Cold brew coffee is another staple in most coffee shops. Cold brew coffee is made by steeping your ground coffee beans in room temp water and leaving it for 12 to 18 hours. No fancy equipment is needed, just a large container or jug and a filter are all you need.

Yes, cold brew is often served cold and over ice. But cold brew coffee can also be served warm by heating it up before you drink it. This is particularly easier to do if your cold brew mixture is freshly filtered after steeping since it’s still at room temp. 

Cold brew coffee can also be brewed inside the fridge, but this process takes about twice as long. After brewing, you definitely want to keep cold brews in the fridge. Even though cold brew is usually steeped with room temp water, that doesn’t mean it’s shelf stable!

If you want your cold brew sweeter, you can mix some sugar in some hot water first and then pour it in. 

Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee: Key Differences and Similarities

Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee: Key Differences and Similarities

The differences between cold brew and iced coffee can be summarized in the points below:

Brewing

  • Iced coffee is brewed using regular methods, with hot water
  • Cold brew coffee is brewed, or steeped, with room temperature water

Prep Time

  • Iced coffee doesn’t take long to brew - usually about 15 minutes, depending on your coffee-making process
  • Cold brew takes 12 - 18 hours to brew at room temperature and even longer inside the fridge

How They Are Served

  • Both can be served over iced or put in the fridge to be chilled and then served
  • Cold brew can also be served hot

Additional Ingredients

  • Both can be enjoyed with sweeteners, creamers, and milk of your choice

Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee: What Does Each Taste Like?

Let’s get into what the taste difference between cold brew and iced coffee is. Because iced coffee is made using your regular methods and then poured over ice, it tends to taste more balanced. Depending on how you serve it, it can be a light and refreshing drink. You often get what you expect when making iced coffee because it’s just your regular cup - iced!

Cold brew coffees tend to be less acidic than iced coffee because they aren’t brewed using heat. This gives them a smoother and naturally sweet taste. When it comes to cold brew coffees, the steep time can make a difference in taste, so it’s something to factor in.

Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee: Caffeine Battle

The caffeine difference between cold brew and iced coffee matters, believe it or not. You may use the same beans to make both, but their caffeine levels vary at the end of the day. 

Which one has more caffeine? Cold brew coffee does. It’s steeped at room temp water and usually left to brew overnight. That means a more concentrated coffee and therefore more caffeine. 

A regular cup of cold brew coffee will give you 205mg of caffeine. For the same cup, a typical iced coffee will give you about 165mg. Does that little bit matter? Well, yes. A healthy adult can have up to 400mg of caffeine a day. If you’re the type that enjoys two cups or more a day, you may want to take that into consideration.

What is Better for You: Iced Coffee or Cold Brew Coffee?

When it comes to the cold brew vs iced coffee comparisons, some make the case that one is healthier than the other. In truth, one isn’t better than the other. It really all boils down to your preference.

Referring back to our average cup of coffee, cold brew coffee and iced coffee have the same amount of calories (5 grams). The biggest factor that may make one or the other healthier is what you add in.

Artificial sweeteners, creamers, milk… These ingredients can make your coffee more sugary or fatty. If you can drink cold brew as it is but prefer your iced coffee sweet and creamy, then we might say that cold brews are better for you. It’s all in the additional ingredients!

There you go! The cold brew vs iced coffee confusion has now been sorted. You won’t be in the dark when talking about the difference between cold brew and iced coffee any longer. We hope this has been a fun and insightful read for you. Go forth and brew your fave cold coffees!
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