When you walk into a coffee shop you want to pick the best for your daily cup of coffee.
Two options should instantly stand out to you; cold brew coffee and iced Americano. But what are the differences between the two so that you can make the right decision for your needs?
This guide will provide the full breakdown of a cold brew and iced americano and tell you everything you need to know to choose the right morning coffee drink.
Cold Brew Vs Iced Americanos - Key Differences Compared
1. Production Process
Cold brew coffee is brewed using a really simple technique. Cold brew is made by steeping coffee grounds in chilled water for 12-24 hours until the coffee flavor is absorbed into the liquid.
This gives cold brew all the bold coffee flavor, buy by using cold water it retains a lot more of the caffeine. This makes cold brew coffee slightly stronger than hot coffee, and you may need to have milk or ice added to taper it down.
Iced americanos, just like the hot coffee equivalent, are an espresso based drink. An iced americano is made using one or two shots of espresso as the base, topped with cold water, and ice.
The espresso is made with hot water and quite strong. Most of the rest of the cup of coffee will be ice and water to cool it down and make it less bitter. However, because the brewed coffee in the iced americano is not steeped for as long as cold brew, the Americano may not be as strong.
The flavor is the main difference between an iced coffee and cold brew coffee, and the taste profile of each is influenced by the water temperature used when brewing.
Cold brewing coffee means that it absorbs a lot more coffee flavor vs other iced coffee drinks. This gives the cold brew coffee a smooth, rich sweetness, and makes it less acidic.
An iced americano has the bold flavor of espresso in the base. Even though it is diluted by the cold tap water and ice you can really taste the espresso, and this gives the iced americano more body, along with slightly bitter and acidic notes.
An iced americano tastes a bit like a diluted espresso but still has the dark chocolate notes from the two espresso shots. Even though it has less caffeine than a cold brew coffee, the final drink still has more bitterness from the espresso shot.
In comparison, the cold brew has more body and a rich flavor, but is much smoother to drink.
3. Caffeine Level
Cold brew coffee is stronger than an iced americano, iced lattes, or any other brewed coffee.
Cold brew coffee has 150-200mg of caffeine in a serving, whereas an iced coffee americano has 100-120mg per serving.
The higher caffeine content in the cold brew coffee is a result of the slow cold brewing process. The long steeping in cold water makes the cold brew stronger because it retains a much higher percentage of the caffeine content. The resulting cold brew is essentially a very strong iced coffee.
An iced americano is stronger than a lot of other coffee drinks. However, in comparison to a cold brew an iced coffee americano has noticeably less caffeine (depending on whether you use a 1 or 2 espresso shots), so it won't give you as big an energy boost.
Both iced coffees are very healthy in this regard and the iced americano and cold brew have very few calories.
In fact, an iced americano or cold brew without any additions only has about 5 calories.
Coffee only has about 2 calories per 8oz brewed, so it doesn't really matter how much you have in either of the cold coffee drinks. However, the issue comes when you start adding creamers, milk, sugar, honey, and coffee syrups into the iced Americano or the cold brew.
The more of those that you put in with the coffee, the higher the calorie count will go so if you're watching your weight you should be careful what you add in.
5. Negative Health Aspects
Calories aren't the only health aspect to bear in mind when choosing between a cold brew and iced americano, but the good news is that there are no real health concerns for drinking either of these.
In fact, adding ice to your favorite coffee drink can help cool you down and hydrate you during the hot summer months.
However, both cold brew coffee and iced coffee americanos are relatively strong, especially as most iced americanos contain two shots of espresso. If you have a sensitivity to caffeine, you need to be careful and maybe make sure the iced americano is made with just a single espresso shot.
The higher caffeine levels make cold brew coffee a bit of a health risk too. The coffee is brewed specifically for its strength, so even though it tastes less bitter and less acidic, you should make sure you aren't drinking too much cold brew.
You should also be mindful of the additives that you put into the coffee. Drinking coffee on its own in moderation is healthy, but adding a lot of creamer and sugars can add to the negative health aspects of coffee.
If you drink cold brew and iced americano coffee plain, you will not have to worry about the negative health effects at all.
6. Price In Cafes
The cost of the coffees will vary depending on the café you go to and the size of coffee you order.
For an Americano, you will find that a small is around $2.25 while a tall will be $2.45, a grande is $2.95, and a venti will be $3.25. You can add more espresso to make the iced americano stronger, but it will be roughly $0.80 per shot.
A cold brew is costs a little more than the iced Americano. The price difference between an iced coffee and cold brew is mainly due to the long period of time taken to infuse the coffee, but it's also influenced by the water temperature used in the brewing.
A regular cup of cold brew coffee is about $5, which is a lot when you consider a regular coffee costs about $2 in most cafes. Unfortunately the higher price of a cold brew can put some people off.
Cold Brew Coffee - Overview & Why It's So Popular
Cold brew is made by brewing coffee cold water rather than hot water. Traditionally, this type of coffee will be made by pouring cold water (or water which is at least room temperature) over ground coffee into water, and then letting it infuse in the water for up to 24 hours.
A slow drip method is popular for this too. Rather than combining the ground coffee beans into the water right away, it will be added slowly over a few hours. The cold brewing process will take longer because cold water cannot extract the flavor as quickly as hot water.
Once the water and coffee have been infused together, the drink can be filtered through a paper or cloth filter. The coffee can be stored for up to a week when it is done. Brewing coffee for a cold brew with this technique requires a large ratio of coffee to cold water. Since it is a cold brew concentrate, water or milk will be used to dilute the drink.
There are a few key reasons why cold brew is becoming a favorite over traditional coffee flavors:
- It has a smoother taste because of the slow, gentle cold water infusion.
- It has a sweeter taste than hot coffee with less acidic notes and bitterness than traditional coffees.
- Brewing coffee using the cold brew technique retains a lot more caffeine, so cold brew is much stronger.
This makes cold brew a much better option for those who want a big caffeine hit but don't like the bitterness of brewed hot espresso.
Iced Americano - Overview & Why It's A Good Choice
Iced Americano is another iced coffee option that many coffee lovers enjoy in the morning.
It's an espresso based drink, similar to iced lattes or a hot cup of cappuccino, and the two key ingredients are espresso shots and water. The consistency is similar to a drip coffee. However, it has more traditional coffee flavors than drip coffee due to the method of brewing.
Espresso coffee, which is used in most iced coffee, is made with a brewing method which involves forcing pressurized hot water through densely packed coffee grounds. This is what produces your shots of espresso which make the coffee taste strong, bold, and aromatic.
Drinking espresso on its own can be bitter and strong, but when it's combined with cold water and ice it is a lot easier to drink. It can vary, but generally an iced americano is made with 1/3 - 1/2 espresso, and the rest is cold water and ice.
That's why the iced americano is considered one of the most refreshing espresso iced coffee drinks on a hot day, and a great way to wake up in the morning.
There are a few key factors which make an iced americano a really popular drink:
- It has a strong and bold flavor from the shots of espresso coffee
- It has more caffeine than regular brewed coffee, but not as much as cold brew
- An iced americano is made to be customised with milk, sugar, and additions, so you can enjoy it your way.
If you want a cold, refreshing version of a regular black coffee then an iced americano is a great choice.
Making These Coffees Yourself
Making iced drinks is surprisingly easy, and you don't need a fancy espresso machine (or nespresso machine), or barista skills to make a cold brew or iced americano at home. The recipes and technique are slightly different, but should be super easy for anyone.
Making Cold Brew Coffee At Home
- 80 grams of ground dark roast coffee beans (use more coffee beans for a bigger serving)
- 27 oz of cold water (or at least room temperature)- The coffee to water ratio should be roughly 1:10 and you can should use more water if you are using more coffee beans.
- Ice Cubes
- French Press Beaker
- Plastic Wrap/Cover
- A Tall Glass For Serving
- Start by pouring cold water over the ground roast coffee beans in the French press beaker.
- Stir thoroughly until fully combined.
- Cover with the plastic wrap and leave for 12-15 hours in a refrigerator.
- Press the French press plunger slowly down to filter out the coffee.
- Pour into cups, add ice, and add any milk, cream or sugar that you like.
- Store the rest of the cold brew for use later. It should keep its flavor for about a week.
- Relax and enjoy the final drink.
Making An Iced Americano At Home
- Two Espresso Shots
- 2 oz Of Chilled Water (preferably filtered)
- Ice Cubes
- A Cup Or Glass
- You need to start by making a double shot of espresso for the iced americano base. You can use an espresso machine if you have one, or an aeropress, moka pot, or French press. If you don't have an espresso machine and can't use one of these methods above to brew an espresso then you can use drip coffee to make an iced americano.
- Pour the hot espresso shots into your cup. These are made wth hot water as usual.
- Add the ice cubes and stir well (adding ice brings down the temperature but it may melt).
- Finish by adding cold water, and add ice cubes if it still needs to cool.
- Add milk, cream, sugar, or other additions.
- Relax and enjoy your fresh iced americano.
Starbucks Cold Brew Versus Iced Americano
Starbucks are experts in brewing coffee. They have a range of iced coffee drinks and some more traditional coffee flavors, so you can get exactly what you want.
Starbucks offer both a cold brew (made from cold brew concentrate) or iced americano on their regular menu. The cold brew method obviously means there's more caffeine in the resulting cold brew, but the Starbucks iced americano has the same amount of caffeine as a hot cup of espresso.
Both of the Starbucks iced coffee drinks can be customised. Use the additional flavorings, syrups, milks, or other extras to make it the iced coffee you really want.
Starbucks make cold brew in 4 sizes; tall, grande, venti, and trenta. The tall costs $3, but the trenta can cost over $6.
They each have about 5 calories on their own, but if you choose to add vanilla, pumpkin spice or other flavors then they'll have more. They'll also cost a bit extra.
The Starbucks iced americano is served in a tall, grande, or venti. A tall is $2.65, a grande $2.95, and a venti, $3.95, with the price increasing because the volume of espresso increases as they get bigger.
Starbucks make great iced coffee, and the quality of the ground coffee bean they use means that both these drinks are smooth and easy to drink. They work well with extra milk or flavors, and either will give you a big caffeine kick in the morning.
Americano & Cold Brew FAQs
Why are iced Americano coffees so bitter?
The Americano coffee can taste bitter from the coffee beans inside. The espresso is going to provide a bitter taste, which can sometimes be more hidden in a hot coffee than a cold one. Add in some sugar or artificial sweetener if you find that the iced Americano coffee is too bitter for your tastes.
What is the difference between the nitro cold brew vs iced Americano?
The biggest difference you will find between these two is the texture. Nitro is basically a cold coffee that will have an odorless and colorless nitrogen gas added to it. This results in an iced coffee that has a richer and smoother taste attached to it.
Are Americano coffees bad for you?
For most people, an Americano coffee will not be bad for you to drink each day. However, you do need to watch how you react to caffeine. Since there are two shots of espresso in it, if you have a caffeine sensitivity, you should avoid drinking this often. As for your diet or health, the Americano coffee will not add to your calorie intake unless you add a lot of creamer or milk to it.
Cold-brew and Americano coffees have some key differences, but they are both great options to choose for your morning cup of iced coffee. They both bring some unique flavors, and you'll get a great caffeine boost whether you order yours from Starbucks or use your own espresso machine.
If you like shots of espresso with their strong, slightly dark chocolate taste then you'll prefer an iced americano. If you prefer a smooth drink with a higher caffeine level then you should definitely go for a cold brew.