What’s The Difference: Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee

Both are cold coffee drinks but made in different ways.

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Are you a fan of iced coffee? If you are, then you are aware that there are many ways to make a cold cup of coffee. 

You can leave freshly brewed coffee alone and just let it cool before taking a sip. You can make a double-strength cup of coffee and pour this over a cup full of ice cubes. You can also be the type who makes coffee and turns these into ice cubes to enjoy later after it's been frozen solid. There are also those who prefer their brews gently extracted from the beans in cold water. 

Whichever you prefer, cold coffee is either iced coffee or a cold brew. Both iced coffee and cold brew are cold coffee drinks but each is made in a different way. Here are the differences between these two coffee drinks: 

1 Cold brew is steeped in cold water. Iced coffee is brewed using hot water. 

The biggest difference between these two kinds of coffee is how it's brewed. Iced coffee is brewed via the hot water method. It can be brewed using the pour-over method, in a drip machine, or in a coffee press. It can also be made from an espresso machine. What makes it an iced coffee is that it's usually poured over ice cubes, immediately cooling and then chilling the brewed concoction. 


Cold-brew however is completely different. To make cold brew, coffee beans are steeped in cool water and uses time instead of heat to extract the beans' flavor into the water. 

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2 Cold brew takes at least 8 hours to make. Iced coffee is made in minutes. 

Cold brew is basically almost no effort to make. The trade-off is that it takes time to brew. Since the ground beans are in cold water, it takes about 8 hours to extract or basically flavor the water with coffee. 


Iced coffee meanwhile is made by ground coffee shocked by hot water into infusing the hot water. This happens quite quickly in a matter of minutes, about 2 up to 4 minutes. This can also be immediately poured over ice to make your iced coffee. 

3 Cold brew is naturally less acidic. Iced coffee can taste bitter and sour easily. 

Since iced coffee is made with hot water, a machine or equipment to steep your coffee ground is best used. This is to avoid over-extraction which results in the brew tasting bitter and acidic or sour. 

Cold brew however with its long steeping time is less likely to turn sour or bitter since it's a much gentler extraction that will take time. This is also why cold brew naturally tastes less acidic.

Photo by Mark Jesalva

4 You can make cold brew without any special coffee equipment. 

Cold-brewed coffee is the easiest, almost no-effort brewed coffee you need to learn to make at home. What's great about making cold brew at home is that there is no special equipment you need to make it. If you have a strainer, a cheesecloth, and a jar big enough to contain the amount of cold brew you want to make, you can easily make it at home. 

Iced coffee can be as simple as well but the hot water needs to be steeped, and thus needs some sort of steeping vessel. It can't be left unattended or it can become bitter and acidic to the taste. This is also known as over-extraction. To avoid that, the hot brewed coffee ground is best left to steep like tea. A few minutes in the hot water is all needed then it needs to be strained out.  


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