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Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee- What’s the Difference?

Come discover the differences between cold brew vs. iced coffee! It’s a fun world of caffeine that proves coffee is more than a beverage. 

It’s a cultural phenomenon. 

Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee featuring Ice Coffee with Milk Swirling

And all cultural sensations come with debates. In this case, the distinctions between cold brew and iced coffee. And which is better. 

Some argue that cold brew is smoother and less bitter than its iced counterpart.

Others swear that iced coffee has a certain unmatchable “Je ne se quois.”

So, grab a mug! It’s time to delve into the caffeinated waters of cold brew vs. iced coffee. Let the battle begin!

Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee (What’s the Difference?)

These two caffeinated concoctions may sound similar, but in reality, they are very different. 

Each has its own unique brewing method, taste, and caffeine kick. 

Let’s dive deeper into the key differences between these two fan-favorite drinks.

Brewing Method

To make cold brew, coarsely-ground coffee beans are steeped in cold water for 12 hours. Minimum. Some brewers let their coffee steep for 24 hours.

This extracts more oils from the beans, which produces a smooth and robust flavor. 

Also, this lowers the acidity of the resulting coffee. Which is not the case when hot water is used. 

On the other hand, iced coffee is brewed with hot water, like regular coffee. It’s left to cool down before serving. Iced coffee has a more acidic flavor profile. 


Cold brew has a distinct taste that differs from regular brewed coffee. 

The taste is often described as mellow, sweet, and smooth. 

The lack of acidity makes it very easy to drink. This is fantastic news if you’re sensitive to caffeine because it’s gentler on your stomach. 

Cold brew also tastes more like coffee than regular coffee. Every sip is less bitter, allowing you to savor its coffee goodness more. 

Iced coffee has a unique taste, often described as refreshing and energizing.

It features a bold flavor with hints of sweetness, acidity, and bitterness. The levels of each are affected by the beans used. 

The cold liquid gives it a smoother finish than hot brewed coffee. So, it’s very drinkable. Plus, a glass of cold iced coffee is downright refreshing. 

Are you looking for something more indulgent? Iced coffee is often made into fancy, flavored lattes.

Sometimes, it’s blended with ice cream for a delicious sweet treat! 

Caffeine Content

On average, cold brew contains significantly more caffeine than the same amount of hot coffee. Almost twice as much. 

The exact amount of caffeine in cold brew varies. It all depends on the type and strength of the beans used to make it.

And whatever extras you decide to add, like milk or flavor syrups. 

Regardless, most range from between 100 milligrams and 200 milligrams per 8-ounce serving.

But the amount of caffeine in iced coffee varies. It really depends on the type of beans used and the preparation method. 

On average, an 8-ounce cup of brewed iced coffee contains about 95 milligrams of caffeine. Often, that’s slightly less caffeine than you’d get in a hot cup. 

Why, you ask? Because it’s served over ice. This dilutes the caffeine content a smidge. 

So, it offers an energy burst without the intense caffeine hit of hot brewed coffee. 

Shelf Life

The shelf life of cold brew coffee is 2-3 weeks.

Cold brew is made with a higher concentration of coffee grounds than regular brewed coffee. The extra beans contribute to its longer shelf life.

Iced coffee has a short shelf life compared to other beverages. 

Iced coffee can last up to 2 weeks when stored in the refrigerator. But only 1-2 days at room temperature. 

Coffee contains compounds that are sensitive to oxygen, light, heat, and moisture. These factors can cause iced coffee to spoil quickly.

Two Glasses of Cold Brew, One with Milk and a Carafe of Cold Brew in the Background

What Is Cold Brew?

Cold brew is a smooth-tasting coffee made with cold water and coarse-ground coffee beans

It’s brewed over a long period (usually 12 to 24 hours) in cold water. This allows the flavors and aromas of the beans to infuse into the liquid. 

This technique yields a less acidic and intensely flavorful cup of coffee.

Moreso than traditional drip brewing methods like espresso machines and French presses. Cold brew can also be used as an iced or hot concentrate.  

You only have to add whatever milk, water, cream, or flavorings you like. Each cup will be perfect for you! 

Its popularity grows yearly because of its rich flavor and convenience — no machine required! 

Plus, it’s customizable and adaptable to any taste. From light and sweet to bold and smoky, it’s a coffee lover’s dream come true.

Two Glasses of Nitro Cold Brew

What Is Nitro Cold Brew? 

Nitro cold brew is a new and exciting coffee drink. And it has been attention in recent years. 

It’s made by infusing cold-brewed coffee with nitrogen gas. This gives it its signature creamy and smooth texture. 

Nitrogen also enhances the flavor of the coffee, making it more robust and bold. 

Unlike regular cold brew, nitro cold brew is served chilled and on tap. Yep, just like a beer. 

It has become a favorite among coffee enthusiasts because of its distinct taste. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to find as well.  

Of course, you find Nitro cold brew at many cafes. But you can also make it at home with an at-home nitro tap!

Two Tall Glasses of Ice Coffee

What Is Iced Coffee?

Iced coffee is a refreshing, delicious beverage ideal for hot summer days. 

It’s made by brewing strong coffee and pouring it over ice… or chilling the brew. 

The result is a cool, smooth cup of joe with a bold flavor and aroma. 

Iced coffee can be enjoyed black. That’s for the hardcore coffee aficionados. I prefer it when it’s combined with sugar, cream, and other flavors like vanilla. 

If you need an energy boost, iced coffee is the perfect pick-me-up!

Can Cold Brew or Iced Coffee Be Served Hot?

Although they’re best over ice, you can certainly enjoy reheated cold brew and iced coffee. If that’s what you like, go for it! 

They can be heated in several ways. A small saucepan on the stove or in a microwave-safe mug works well. 

As with regular coffee, it’s important to watch the temperature. You don’t want the drink to overheat and become bitter. 

Either way, you can still appreciate the subtle flavors of both drinks. 

Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee

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Kim - InsanelyGood
Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

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