Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee: What is the Difference?

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A common question as summer approaches is cold brew vs iced coffee, which is better?

 If you walk into your local Starbucks, then chances are that both will be present on the coffee menu. But it can be hard to know what the difference is, or if there is even a difference. It is like asking someone would you like a cold coffee or a cold coffee? 

In this article, we will outline what makes a given coffee cold brew or iced coffee. We will talk about the difference in taste and method, and help you to navigate that coffee menu like a pro.

What is Cold Brew?

Cold brew coffee is coffee that is brewed in cold water over a long period of time. The Basic process for cold brew is that coffee beans are coarsely ground and then left to soak or ‘steep’ in cold water for 12+ hours. What makes this distinct is that it means the coffee grinds never touch hot water which in turn plays into the extraction process. Following the steeping process the grinds are removed through some form of filter, and the concentrated cold brew can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 10-14 days. Cold brew is very simple to make, but takes a long time. It can be made in a mason jar or French press or cold brew coffee maker.

In terms of taste and texture, it depends largely on the specific coffee beans which are used. However, the lack of hot water used in the process means that the finished coffee is often very smooth and less acidic and bitter than iced coffee. So on the cold brew vs iced coffee showdown, that is one point for the cold brew. It is usually brewed in concentrate form and then placed in a cup with 1 part concentrate, 1-2 parts milk or cold water, and ice. 


  • Very simple to make
  • Can be stored for up to 10-14 days
  • Smooth and sweet taste


  • Takes a prolonged period to brew 

What is Iced Coffee? 

Iced coffee is basically coffee that is brewed as per normal and then cooled down and poured over ice. So while there are specific iced coffee makers on the market (like the Mr Coffee Iced Coffee Maker), these aren’t strictly necessary for iced coffee. Instead iced coffee is usually some form of dripped coffee. It can be made in an Aeropress, a French Press, a drip coffee maker, a pour over or an iced coffee maker –  you name it really. From there you can either let the coffee cool and pour it over ice cubes, or brew it directly over the ice cubes so that the hot coffee melts the cubes and cools the drink.

The major points of difference in the iced coffee vs cold brew competition are time and taste. The major advantage of iced coffee over cold brew is that it can be made in 5 minutes rather than 12+ hours. So if you feel like it you simply make it and there is no rigmarole. Similarly, many specialty coffee fans have edged towards iced coffee as it showcases the flavor profiles of different coffee beans more than cold brew. Our favorite way to make iced coffee is the one shown below with the Kalita Wave. 


  • Fun to make
  • Better for specialty coffee 
  • Quick to make


  • Cannot be stored for any prolonged period of time
  • Harder to make 

Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee: The Verdict 

So cold brew vs iced coffee, which should you opt for? Is one objectively better than the other? The short answer is that cold brew involves cumulatively less work but has a more generic flavor, while iced coffee over time involves more work but allows for a more varied flavor profile. 

So it depends on what you are looking for. It is hard to deny that the option of storing cold brew in the fridge for a few weeks is an appealing draw. However, iced coffee can be made on a whim rather than requiring an entire day. Iced coffee wins the day for me, but you may have a different answer. 

Cold brew vs iced coffee, what would your answer be? Have you found one to be nicer than the other? Let us know below!

Happy summer days. 

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