Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee: Yes, they are different

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Cold Brew, and Iced Coffee are two extremely common styles of cold coffee. Most probably think they are identical, as when you buy it from a coffee shop, you are handed a cold cup of coffee. Except did you know they are very different drinks that are brewed in very different ways!

What are these types of coffee

I think before we get into which version of coffee is better, we should first talk about what each style of coffee is, and how it is made.

Cold Brew

I am first going to talk about cold brew, as it is very quickly becoming one of the most popular styles of coffee that you will find. It is plastered all over the walls of coffee shops nation.

Cold brew is actually similar to french press coffee, as it is an immersion brew. However instead of hot water being added for a couple of minutes (Learn how to make french press coffee in my article here) you leave the coffee grounds in room temperature water for up to 16 or more hours.

Because the water is in a room temperature state, it doesn’t extract the coffee nearly as quickly. However, that also means it doesn’t pull out as much acidity, but instead pulls out much more caffeine into the drink.

The way cold brew is brewed, it makes a much less acidic, less bitter, and much smoother tasting coffee. When I first tried cold brew, I was extremely impressed by its taste and quality.

Now, as the brew has grown, you can get different styles of cold brew, including nitro cold brew, which is one of my favorite styles of coffee in general. Unfortunately that style is a little more complicated to make at home

If you want a step by step lesson on how to make a good cold brew coffee at home with the french press you probably already have, you can read through this article I wrote about that!


  • Has less acidity, and less bitter taste
  • Can be made at home, as long as you have a container and coffee grounds
  • Tastes awesome


  • Takes a long time to make, and needs to be planned ahead
  • Has more caffeine in it, and may not be needed
  • You have to use quite a bit of grounds for less coffee than iced

Iced Coffee

This method surprisingly is very different than that cold brew method. It essentially is the same exact thing as making drip coffee, except it is either immediately, or quickly after put into contact with ice to cool it down.

How I make iced coffee at home, is to basically fill my Yeti mug halfway up with ice and then use my coffee maker to brew a single cup directly onto the ice.

The taste of iced coffee is going to be extremely similar to hot coffee, just if it is iced. It will retain the acidic taste and will be a bit thinner. So you may enjoy the coffee more if this is what you are looking for.


  • Extremely quick and easy to brew this style of coffee
  • You won’t forget about it and over extract the coffee
  • You will use about the same amount of coffee grounds as a normal cup


  • Is a thinner coffee, which many people don’t enjoy

The Differences Between Cold Brew and Iced Coffee

There are a couple key differences between cold brew and iced coffee! These are brew time, taste, brew method, and the cost of each. Below is a table showing the differences between the two.

Cold BrewIced Coffee
Brew Time16 Hours5 Minutes
TasteSmootherMore Bitter
Brew MethodImmersionDrip
Cost At StoreMoreLess

Which coffee brew method do I like better

This of course is my personal preference, however ever since I had cold brew from the first time. With the smoother taste that the cold brew offers, it is just really difficult to beat.

Iced coffee is still great, and an awesome option for that quick cold drink during the summer. However for me it just can’t hold up to the better taste of cold brew.

Alternative ways to make each brew

There are some really great other ways to make each of these brews. Most of them do require you to spend a bit more up front, or in the long run.

For cold brew, I would really recommend looking into Driftaway Coffee, they sent me out some cold brew bags that you use instead of just lose coffee. It is considerably more expensive, but it made some of the best cold brews I have had, whether it be at home or in store. You can even buy it without a subscription now.

Another great product to look into is the FrankOne, and I wrote an article about it here. It is able to speed up that 16 hour process into 5 minutes.

As for the iced coffee side, there is a great way to make the iced coffee without watering it down with ice. It is called The ColdWave, and you can learn about it on their website here.

What has more caffeine iced coffee or cold brew?

Due to the brew process for cold brew coffee, it by far the more caffeinated version of coffee between the two. If you are wanting to sleep at night, I wouldn’t recommend drinking this in the evening.


Alright! So now we know the differences between iced coffee and cold brew. While I personally like cold brew a lot more than iced, there are definitely some upsides to iced coffee, which is mainly the speed at which you can make it.

I hope this quick guide on the differences helped you make a choice on which is right for you! In the end though, I would probably recommend going down to your local coffee shop, order both types and see which you like best. Who knows, maybe you will like iced coffee better!