Cold Brew Vs Iced Coffee (Key Differences Compared)

Cold brew and iced coffee have distinctive yet appealing tastes that refresh you whenever you need them. But without knowing the differences between cold brew vs iced coffee, it's challenging to choose which one is best for you.  

In this article, we'll compare the similarities and differences between them to help you make a choice. 

Cold brew coffee is made by creating a concentrate, which is achieved by steeping coffee grounds at room temperature. It doesn't even have to stay cold, as you can serve it hot! 

There are numerous other key differences when comparing cold brew coffee vs iced coffee. Cold brew coffee is much less acidic, takes far longer to make, and often has more caffeine.

These contribute to the cold brew vs iced coffee taste difference. Cold brew coffee has a signature taste, which is smooth and sweet. 

The 50-67% reduction in acidity also makes it less bitter, which is usually compensated for by adding sugar or honey.

That taste helps to refresh and relax people, which is why people enjoy cold brew coffee.  

Coffee shops will typically use a jar with ground coffee and water mixed together when making cold brew coffee. 

This will be left in a fridge for 12-24 hours, then strained, chilled in the jar, and served. Customers can then drink out of the jar or take a disposable cup. Cold brew coffee is often consumed by millennials looking for an energy boost without the artificial sweeteners and sugar found in soda cans. 

Cold Brew Vs Iced Coffee (Key Differences Compared)

Iced Coffee: Why Coffee Drinkers Enjoy It 

Iced coffee is like regular coffee, but cold, and it’s popular in numerous countries. However, the process isn’t as simple as just leaving it to cool down.

When made, it will be iced and will come without milk or foam. That’s what makes it different from a cup of coffee left to cool. When considering the difference between cold brew and iced coffee, there are quite a few.

Iced coffee only takes minutes to brew and retains the bitterness and acidity that regular coffee is known for.

However, it can sometimes taste diluted. It's also best consumed within one day, as that's when the taste is best.

If you’re wondering what’s the difference between iced coffee and cold brew when made in coffee shops, the answer is simple.

Instead of mixing coffee grounds in jars and refrigerating them, the barista can simply grab a glass, fill it with ice, place a brewer on top, and pour kettle water in. 

After that, it gets stirred, left for a minute, and served. Younger women and those in urban areas tend to like it the most. It’s often taken at breakfast and in a disposable cup.

iced coffee in jar

Cold Brew Vs Iced Coffee (Differences Compared) 

1. Production Process

The cold brew vs iced coffee production processes differs significantly. When making cold brew coffee, the coffee needs to be steeped for 12-24 hours at room temperature or in a refrigerator. 

The length of time and the temperature are essential for getting the taste of cold brew that coffee drinkers know and love. It’s usually done overnight to prepare the cold brew to serve the next day. What happens is the coffee infuses into the water and concentrates, then it can be strained and served. 

On the other hand, iced coffee has a much faster production process that only takes minutes. So if you're thinking wondering, 'what's the difference between cold brew and iced coffee?' the most striking difference is in the production. You can make regular coffee, and allow it to cool, then blend it with ice until it’s smooth, and serve in a chilled glass.  

Because of the time it takes to produce cold brew coffee, it’s no good if you need it quickly and want to make it at home, like if you’re having a quick breakfast before work. Most coffee shops should have some steeped overnight, but it’s best to check in advance. 

2. Ingredients Used

The ingredients used in making cold brew vs iced coffee are generally similar, and that's because the end result is still coffee. 

However, it’s essential to consider the ingredients for both to find any differences. Cold brew coffee contains the obvious coffee grounds, plus water, and that’s it.

The coffee infuses the water when it’s steeped, giving you cold brew coffee.

You can use still or sparkling water, depending on your preferred taste. Iced coffee also contains coffee grounds and water, but will have added ice as well. 

That makes it colder than cold brew coffee and more difficult to heat up because the ice will melt. 

However, additional ingredients can be used in cold brew coffee and iced coffee. You can add milk to give it some froth and added smoothness or a sweetener like honey or maple syrup to take away some of the bitterness. But usually, cold brew is sweet enough to tolerate.  

Cold brew coffee uses fewer ingredients as you don’t need to make ice to create it, but it does take longer to produce because of the steeping. If you like sweet coffee, cold brew is the best choice.  

3. Flavor For Drinkers

If you’re thinking, ‘what is the difference between cold brew and iced coffee?’, another key area to look at is the flavor available.

Cold brew is much less bitter, has a smoother taste, and is more delicate than iced coffee. That’s because coffee contains various oils and acids, which give it a bitter taste. These oils and acids are not soluble in water, so they’re excluded from the final product by the steeping process. 

Iced coffee is more well-balanced in its flavors because it’s similar to regular coffee. Cold brew coffee is steeped, whereas iced coffee is simply coffee cooled down with ice added and sometimes a few extra ingredients for sweetness.  

That means the ideal choice between cold brew vs iced coffee depends on whether you want sweet or bitter coffee. If you want the sweetest coffee without taking the time to add other ingredients, then cold brew is best. 

If you prefer the traditional bitter taste of coffee, then iced coffee is better. However, if you want a quick cup of coffee and only iced coffee is available, you can still add extra ingredients to get those sweet flavors. 

4. Caffeine Content (Strength)  

Caffeine in iced coffee vs cold brew is an important consideration when it comes to how much energy you can get out of the coffee you're drinking. There is a difference, and it’s pretty substantial. Iced coffee at 16-oz has around 165mg of caffeine. Cold brew at the same size has about 200mg. That means cold brew coffee has more caffeine than iced coffee does.  

Sometimes the way cold brew is brewed can increase the caffeine content to almost double the amount of iced coffee, so it’s best to be aware of the brewing method. A handy tip to remember is that cold brew coffee involves steeping the coffee grounds and filtering them out. That means the end result is coffee, but much more concentrated than usual. The more concentrated it is through steeping, the higher the caffeine content.  

If you’re looking for an energy boost with your coffee, like if you’re pulling an all-nighter, need to get up early, or have a long day ahead, then you'll want to go for cold brew coffee as it has a higher strength. On the other hand, if you just want a little pick-me-up, iced coffee will be best.  

5. Negative Health Aspects

There are some negative health aspects from coffee intake, which apply to both iced coffee and cold brew coffee.

If you’re wondering, ‘what is the difference between cold brew and iced coffee?’, then you’ll be relieved to know that neither is worse for your health than the other and that coffee intake has to be excessive for any side effects to manifest. That means drinking more than a few cups of coffee every day, which is more than what most people have. 

But there are two areas of concern that you should keep in mind. These are acid intake and sugar intake. Caffeine increases the release of stomach acids, which can occasionally lead to an upset stomach or heartburn.

Coffee itself is also highly acidic, so you might need to be careful if you have conditions like acid reflux or IBS. If you have a sweet tooth and like to add sugar, you should be modest in your use of it. Excessive blood sugar levels can exacerbate conditions like type 2 diabetes.   

6. Milk Options

Some people take their coffee without milk, whereas others do take it. In case you’re someone who likes milk with coffee, we’ll explore the options available to you. The milk options you can add to your coffee apply to both iced coffee and cold brew coffee, but cold brew coffee can also be served hot, so the cooling benefits of milk are more noticeable with it.  

There are many milk types you can use in coffee. These include cow’s milk, goat’s milk, coconut milk, and almond milk. Coconut milk is known for its thick and creamy texture and goes great with cold brew coffee. Almond milk typically makes coffee taste sweeter, so it is an excellent choice for pairing with iced coffee 

However, different people claim to taste milk more sensitively than others. For example, some people can distinguish between goat’s and cow’s milk. Some also have an intolerance for it, so prefer coffee without it. Ultimately, the best way to determine which milk you like in your coffee is to try as many as possible, and if you know you don’t digest dairy well, you can try the non-dairy alternatives. 

7. Price In Cafés

If you want to know, 'is there a difference between cold brew and iced coffee?', then you can also look at the price of both types. You'll notice that the cost of cold brew is more expensive than iced coffee. This may not make sense at first, but it does when you consider how both types of coffee are made.  

Cold brew coffee takes longer and requires more resources, like using a refrigerator overnight. That makes it cost more for cafés to make, and they have to profit from their customers by charging more for cold brew than for other types of coffee. But there is also another more straightforward reason.

Cold brew coffee requires 3x more ground coffee beans than iced coffee. That means the café has to use more of its supply of coffee beans to make your coffee, which is another reason the price is higher than iced coffee.  

However, the price of the coffee you buy will also vary depending on your location. Chain stores and independent stores will have different prices, as will urban and rural areas. Nevertheless, iced coffee will most likely be cheaper everywhere. 

Starbucks Cold Brew Vs Iced Coffee 

Starbucks cold brew vs iced coffee is an interesting comparison, as some customers say that the cold brew tastes much better than their iced coffee, whereas others claim the iced coffee is better and the cold brew is diluted. So it seems the taste is quite subjective. 

In terms of price, iced coffee is cheaper, as is the case for most coffee shops. Iced coffee is drip coffee cooled with ice and then refrigerated, whereas cold brew is steeped for 20 hours. Iced coffees are generally more popular in Starbucks stores than cold brew is. 

Starbucks Cold Brew Vs Iced Coffee

Dunkin Donuts Cold Brew Vs Iced Coffee 

Dunkin cold brew vs iced coffee comparisons are a good option if you're not a fan of Starbucks or simply want to see an alternative. Cold brew at Dunkin Donuts tends to taste strong and creamy, whereas the iced coffee is weak and watery. 

Cold brew is more expensive than the iced coffee at Dunkin Donuts stores, but it’s better quality. Dunkin Donuts steep their cold brew coffee for 8-12 hours before it’s ready to serve, and their iced coffee is made in a similar way to Starbucks. Iced coffee is more popular than cold brew coffee.  

Common Cold Coffee Questions

What is the difference between Japanese cold brew and iced coffee? 

Japanese iced coffee vs cold brew comparisons are similar to American ones, with some differences. Cold brew only takes 4-12 hours, and iced coffee is made by brewing the coffee over a container full of ice. It takes a similar amount of time as American iced coffee but results in a higher concentration of coffee. 

Is cold brew stronger than regular hot coffee? 

Cold brew coffee tends to be stronger than most coffees as it’s concentrated during the steeping process, maximizing the caffeine content. Cold brew coffee also uses more coffee grounds, making it stronger than regular hot coffee. However, it would become weaker if excess water was added before steeping, as this would dilute it. 

Can you use regular coffee beans for iced coffee? 

You can use regular coffee to make iced coffee, but you’ll need to make sure they are fresh and stored in a cool and dry place. Ideally, medium or dark roast beans will be available, as strong coffee tastes richer when iced, but you can experiment to see which beans work best for you.  

What coffee beans does Starbucks use for iced coffee? 

Starbucks uses Terraza Blend coffee beans for its iced coffee and has done so for many years. These are medium roast coffee beans sourced from Kenya and have retained their popularity over time.  


You should now know the answer to ‘is there a difference between cold brew and iced coffee?’. As we’ve covered in this article, there are many differences, but the key to remember is that both of them make a great cup of coffee!