Cold Brew and Iced Coffee: What's the Difference?

How are they made?

  • Iced Coffee This technique consists of brewing your coffee hot, but instead of being left to cool slowly, it is instantly cooled by ice cubes. By brewing the coffee hot, you ensure that the full flavor of the coffee beans are extracted into the final product.
  • Cold Brew Coffeecoffee made by steeping ground coffee in room-temperature water for several hours, usually 12 to 18 hours or even longer, then straining out the grounds and chilling it before serving it either as-is, over ice, or diluted with water.


The greatest distinction between making a cold brew vs an iced coffee is time. Coarsely ground coffee is steeped in cold water for 12 to 24 hours. The longer the coffee steeps, the stronger the flavor of the drink; which means serving it with ice will not dilute the flavor within the same way it would an iced coffee.

Cold Brew is a lengthy steeping method, lasting anywhere from 12 to 24 hours. Due to the time the coffee grounds have been in the water, they should be coarsely ground. You may over-extract the beans if you grind them too finely, leading to bitter coffee.

Iced coffee is made much faster, usually in just a few minutes, so you'll need finer ground beans. This method also relies on another factor: hot water.

Refreshing Iced Coffee


Water Temperature

Another important factor in coffee preparation is temperature. A good rule of thumb is the hotter the water, the faster the extraction. Consider this: if you poured cold water through coffee grounds in a drip coffee machine or pour-over, the result would be only slightly brownish water. But leave the water in your grounds for hours and you will have a flavorful cold brew.

That’s why to make iced coffee, you’ll need hot water. To make cold brew, you’ll need cold or room temperature water.


What do they taste like?

  A Cold brew is made of low pressure, low temperature, and a whole lot of time. This is why the resulting taste can be so different from other methods of preparation. Cold brew's long and drawn-out extraction period allows it to access the most stubborn of flavor compounds within coffee beans. These are – of course – the smooth, sweet chocolatey notes.

 We all know and love cold brew's sweet, indulgent taste, and it's mellow and complex. Cold brew may also have a higher caffeine content than traditional iced coffee, in addition to its unique taste. With a longer extraction period, more caffeine emerges from the beans.  

Cold Brew Coffee

And what does Iced coffee taste like? As a result of the high heat, the extraction occurs much more quickly, and the resulting flavor compounds are bold, bitter, and acidic. There won't be as much mellow flavor and more of a traditional coffee taste.

The bright bitterness of well-brewed iced coffee is not as unique or smooth, but many coffee drinkers enjoy the bright bitterness, since - if chilled properly - all of these delicious fruity notes can be locked into iced coffee.

In a nutshell: Cold brew vs Iced coffee

The next time you have to choose between cold brew and iced coffee, you'll know what to choose! Try comparing the flavors of these unique drinks and see what you like best? You might find that you prefer one over the other, or maybe you'll just know that some days you need a cold brew, and other days you want iced coffee.

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