Iced coffee is a delicious, refreshing, and energizing summertime favorite, and has been for decades. In recent years however, you may have noticed that cold brew coffee has skyrocketed in popularity. It seems like almost everyone serves cold brew and iced coffee now, from small cafes and coffee shops to international chains. But, do you know the difference between cold brew and iced coffee?
Cold brew is made by replacing heat with time. Cold Brew is coarse ground coffee brewed in room temperature water between 12 – 24 hours. This give you coffee that is less acidic and with more caffeine. Iced coffee is brewed with hot water to pull out the taste of the coffee and then put over ice.
In this article, we’re going to take a deep dive into the world of Iced Coffee and Cold Brew coffee and see what the differences are.
What is Iced Coffee?
Iced coffee is rumored to have originated in Algeria in the mid-1800s. 19th century French colonial troops stationed in Algeria’s Mazagran fortress invented a delicious sweetened beverage made with coffee syrup and cold water, which was aptly named “mazagran.”
Over the decades, mazagran made its way to Portugal, Austria, and Catalonia, where it’s sometimes mixed with lemon, sugar syrup, or even rum. Most coffee connoisseurs believe mazagran to be the original iced coffee. Many other countries have their own national variations on iced coffee, including Australia, Chile, India, Italy, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.
As its name suggests, iced coffee is literally just coffee served chilled. It’s often combined with different creamers, milks, dairy substitutes, or flavored sweeteners to create concoctions that almost resemble desserts.
When iced coffee first started gaining popularity in the United States, it was prepared simply by pouring regular hot coffee into a glass of ice. However, the melting ice cubes diluted the coffee, creating a subpar beverage that tasted weak and watery.
To combat this dilution of flavor, restaurants and coffee shops soon learn to brew iced coffee using double batches. They would use double the amount of coffee grounds when brewing the hot coffee, so that even when diluted with ice, the resulting iced coffee still tasted just as strong as a cup of hot coffee.
How to Make Iced Coffee
Making Iced coffee is a very straight forward process. You can make coffee using a pour over method such as a Chemex or V60 or you can use coffee from a drip coffee maker such as a Oxo brewer.
Either way you decide you will need to grind the coffee for the brewing method you decide and brew the coffee for 4 minutes using a water to coffee ratio of 15 to 1.
Once you brew the coffee using your preferred method then all you need to do is put some ice in a glass and pour in the coffee. You can also add your favorite milk or milk substitute depending on your tastes.
What is Cold Brew Coffee?
It was pioneered by Blue Bottle Coffee and Stumptown Coffee Roasters around 2010, and for the first few years of its existence, it remained a very niche, very quirky method of preparing coffee, only available at hipster cafes and coffee shops. However, in 2015, Starbucks began offering cold brew in some of its locations.
Within the next few years, cold brew expanded to every single Starbucks in the entire United States. Other coffee chains started to offer cold brew as well, including Dunkin’ Donuts, Peet’s Coffee, and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.
Now it seems like cold brew has become a permanent and unescapable part of the coffee landscape, joining a formidable roster of predecessors, including the frappucino, the flat white, and the pumpkin spice latte.
When cold brew first exploded onto the popular market, many people were skeptical. What is the difference between cold brew and regular old iced coffee? Was cold brew just made up by coffee chains to scam unsuspecting iced coffee lovers?
It turns out, the process of making cold brew is quite different from the process of making regular iced coffee. When done correctly, the cold brewing process creates a glass of coffee that’s smooth, rich, and balanced, without the harsh tones of acidity and bitterness that can sometimes mar a glass of regular iced coffee.
How To Make Cold Brew Coffee
Unlike iced coffee, which is brewed using heat and then poured over ice, cold brew is never exposed to heat. To make a batch of cold brew, you need to steep coffee grounds in room temperature water for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours ( everybody has an opinion on their favorite number of hours) and can do this by using something like the Toddy System which you can get on Amazon. or a variety of more “homemade” methods
If you feel like making just a basic brew, you can easily make cold brew at home by combining coffee grounds and water in a mason jar, leaving it out overnight, and then filtering the grounds out using a muslin cheesecloth.
The extended brewing process at room temperature extracts the natural sugars, oils, and caffeine from the coffee grounds, creating a finished product that’s smooth, highly caffeinated, and that enhances the flavors of the coffee used taste that regular iced coffee lacks.
For example, if you make cold brew with say coffee from Brazil, the coffee natural chocolate nutty taste will really come through. Just be sure you cut the cold brew with either water or some milk product as it is a concentrate.
Differences Between Cold Brew Vs Iced Coffee
Time and Temperature
Cold Brew coffee is brewed at room temperature over a long period of time Usually it between 12 to 24 hours depending on how strong you want it. Since there is no heat added, this is a slow brewing process where the coffee is allowed to “marinate” for a long time. Personally, I have found that 16 hours works best but this will vary from person to person.
Iced Coffee as mentioned earlier is regular drip coffee and is a quick brewing process that takes only minutes to make. This coffe is either poured over ice right after the brewing process or allowed to cool and then poured over is.
Cold Brew coffee has a higher caffeine amount due to the brewing process and is the finished brew is considered a concentrate. In order to reduce the strength of the coffee, it is usually diluted using a 1 to 1 ratio of coffee to milk (milk substitute) or water.
Since Iced Coffee is regular brewed coffee poured over ice, the caffeine content is less and is considered weaker then cold brew.
This area is little more difficult to explain because there are alot of variables such as what coffee you use, how fresh it is etc. But cold brew is always going to be heavier tasting and the flavors much more pronounced. It may also have a less acidic taste since their is no heat involved in brewing
Iced coffee, if brewed properly, will keep the flavors of the coffee used and give you a nice easy drinking coffee that won’t be overpowering.
Coffee hipsters tend to prefer cold brew over iced coffee mostly because of the flavors and extra kick you get out if it since it’s brewed at room temperature and then poured over ice. After having cold brew regular iced coffee will taste weak or even watery.
Also some glasses of iced coffee might taste stale, overly acidic, or overly bitter due to the brewer and coffee roast level used. In contrast, good cold brew can last up to a couple of weeks and still have its flavor profile.
The time-intensive brewing process that Cold Brew requires creates a strongly caffeinated, smooth, and silky finished product that tastes great with or without milk and sugar. Keep in mind that due to the brewing process, at most coffee shops, cold brew is also a bit more expensive than regular iced coffee.
To the uninitiated, iced coffee might seem basic and simple. However, a little bit of research reveals that the world of iced coffee is much wider than it might initially seem. There are dozens of different kinds of iced coffee drinks out there, each made using unique ingredients and preparation methods.
Cold Brew coffee is also absolutely delicious, and if you’ve been reluctant to try it in the past, you absolutely should give it a try! Who knows, you just might discover your new favorite beverage!