Food & Nutrition

What’s the Difference Between Iced Coffee and Cold Brew Coffee?

Did you know there’s a difference between these two warm-weather faves? Check out what makes cold brew and iced coffee different.

Mason jar with cold brew coffee on tableShutterstock / New Africa

When the summer heat starts to rise, it’s time to swap your hot cup of coffee for a nice cold one. But when you get to your favorite coffee shop, you’re presented with two options: iced or cold brew coffee. Both are cold, both come with ice—so what’s the difference?

Well, the big difference is how they’re made. Get the scoop on each.

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Iced coffee—exactly what you think

Quite simply, iced coffee is exactly what it sounds like: regularly brewed coffee served over ice. This method is quick—all you have to do is brew as normal, cool it down, and pour over ice. However, this method dilutes the coffee. To prevent the ice from watering your cold cuppa down, make your coffee extra strong by doubling the amount of ground coffee you put in your coffee maker. Another way to double up on the flavor is to make coffee ice cubes. Pour cooled coffee into an ice cube tray, freeze, and use for your next cup of iced coffee.

How cold brew is a bit different

Making cold brew isn’t as straightforward as simple iced coffee. What makes cold brew so tasty is time. To make it, coarse-ground coffee is steeped in cold water for at least 12 hours. The longer the coffee sits, the stronger the flavor. Since it tends to be stronger, serving this one with ice is A-OK.

Once it’s done steeping, the grounds are filtered out, leaving you with a coffee-concentrate that can be mixed with milk or water and served over ice. Because cold brew uses time instead of heat to extract the coffee’s oils, sugars, and caffeine, the end result is generally less acidic and bitter than iced coffee.

Here’s an easy way to make your own cold brew from scratch at home. If you’re short on time, you can use purchase a pre-made option from the grocery store. Find out which ones we liked the best in our blind taste test. Now that you know how to tell these two types of coffee apart, get to the bottom of 8 more of the most common questions about coffee.

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