Iced coffee vs. cold brew

Iced coffee versus cold brew, our modern summer cold coffee showdown…or is it? While both chilled, iced coffee and cold brew couldn’t be less similar. One is your favorite coffee, with all of its wonderful notes and textures and the other is a rich, smooth, chocolaty drink. Confused? Keep reading!

ICED COFFEE is a brewed coffee that is cooled, either through a natural cooling processes of by pouring / brewing hot coffee over ice. There are many ways to make iced coffee – you can chill your brewed coffee, pour freshly brewed coffee over ice, or use a Japanese iced coffee brewing method (our favorite). Iced coffee preserves and often enhances the coffee’s natural aromatics and lovely, complex base and upper notes. It also preserves the coffee’s acidity, allowing the cup to have a sweet, “coffee” taste with a refreshing mouthfeel.

COLD BREW is made by steeping grounds in cold or room temperature water for 12-24 hours. Given the lack of heat, at least twice as many coffee grounds are needed to brew 1 cup of cold brew compared to 1 cup of iced coffee. Cold brew consistently produces a rich, smooth, chocolatey coffee with a heavy mouthfeel. The lack of heat during brewing leaves cold brew with an extremely low-acid, bitter-less, dense chocolate taste. The tradeoff for this rich flavor is a lack of complexity – without hot water extraction, the beans’ complex upper flavor notes cannot emerge. Essentially, with cold brew, as with most dark roasts, you are tasting a brew rather than a bean.

Is one method better than the other? No. It all comes down to personal taste. Iced coffee provides the diversity and subtly of flavors that you enjoy in a brewed coffee but can taste week and watered down if not brewed correctly. Cold brew offers a rich, sweet chocolaty drink but lacks complexity. For those who love acidic coffees, like Africans and Centrals, you’re probably going to prefer iced coffee. Those that dislike bitterness and lean more towards a low acid Sumatra, you may prefer cold brew. Bottom line is, if you are using good quality coffee, ground properly, and brewed correctly, you’re in for a nice cool cup.

Common cold brew FAQs

Does cold brew have more caffeine than iced coffee? Yes and no. Gram to gram, coffee grounds brewed with hot water have a higher caffeine content than those brewed with cool water. That said, comparing 8-ounces of brewed iced coffee to 8-ounces of cold brew, cold brew will have more caffeine as twice as many coffee grounds were needed to brew the 8-ounce cup.

Does cold brew mold? Yes! Cold brew coffee will develop mold. The greatest culprit is re-used containers that weren’t thoroughly cleaned between batches. If you are purchasing cold brew while out, be sure to look closely at the container, if you see any signs of mold, consider a different drink.

Ready to brew? Check out our how-to blogs:

The prefect cold brew coffee … with no clean up!

Iced coffee, Japanese style


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