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Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee Compared

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Cold-brewed coffee has less acidity, more caffeine, and takes longer to brew than iced coffee. It also has a smoother taste. There’s a lot more that goes into the differences between each drink. Keep reading to learn more.

Cold brew is my favorite way to drink coffee, and I’ve noticed that many folks confuse it with iced coffee. That inspired me to write this list to show you the differences between these beverages.

I’ll explain what each drink is and how they’re similar and different throughout various areas (e.g., taste).

Here is an overview:

Let’s dive in.

Key Takeaways

  • Cold brew has more caffeine.
  • Iced coffee costs less to make (on average).
  • It takes much longer to make cold brew.
  • Cold brew is less acidic than iced coffee.

Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee

This table will explain the difference between cold brew and iced coffee. It is applicable to all major coffee shop brands and if you make it at home. 

Cold BrewIced Coffee
Caffeine *205 mg165 mg
Flavor NotesChocolateyCaramel & cold
Device/s Used to MakeCold brew maker systemDrip coffee maker, French Press, pour-over, phin
Time to Make12–24 hours5 minutes
AcidityLess acidicMore acidic
Avg. Cost Per Cup **$3.95$2.25
ConsistencySmooth & slightly syrupyVaries depending on the brewing method & coffee beans used


  • Calories & caffeine content at Starbucks. [1]

Cold brew coffee takes much longer to make and has different flavor notes and consistency. These factors contribute to its higher cost at coffee shops, stands, and cafés.

There’s much more to explain about the differences between these drinks, though. I’ll cover them throughout the following sections.

Read on to learn more.

1. Caffeine Content

Cold brew has more caffeine than iced coffee because the prolonged brewing process allows more caffeine to absorb into your beverage. Moreover, many cafés and coffee shops will put less coffee in an iced coffee since the ice cubes will take up most of your drink’s mass.


Caffeine is heat sensitive. The less heat used to brew coffee, the more caffeine your drink will have. And since all brewing methods for iced coffee involve heat, you’re bound to have caffeine loss.

However, iced coffee could have a lot more caffeine if you use coffee ice cubes instead of water cubes.

Cold brews will give you more energy, but will they affect calorie counting?

2. Calories

According to Starbucks’ menu, there’s no calorie difference between iced coffee and cold brew. You’ll only notice a difference if you add creamers, sweeteners, syrups, and other condiments.

Check out an attribute that actually makes a difference in taste.

3. Tasting Notes

Iced coffee usually has a medium body and a lighter taste. But this will depend on the beans and brewing method used. Hence, it’s difficult to provide a definitive answer in this area. In general, iced coffee will have cola and caramel notes.

Cold brew will have a smooth, aromatic taste and is full-bodied. It also has a natural sweetness; you may notice chocolate(y) notes.

Again, the taste of both beverages will depend on the beans used.

How do you make each drink?

4. How It’s Made

Each cold brewing system works differently. I’ll use the Toddy system as an example, since it’s one of the more popular devices.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Insert stopper into brewing container.
  2. Add water to brewing container.
  3. Add coffee grounds.
  4. Pour more water on top.
  5. Let coffee brew.
  6. Place brewing container over glass decanter, remove filter, & let concentrate flow into container.

Most cold brewing devices require you to steep your coffee grounds in a brewing container for 8 to 24 hours. Brewing for longer than 8 hours allows for a more flavorful coffee.

To make iced coffee, you’d use one of many brewing methods to make hot-brewed coffee. Once your coffee’s brewed, pour it into a glass filled with ice. Or add ice to your coffee.

The order you add ice doesn’t matter.

When making these drinks, you’ll need to grind your beans to different consistencies. Figure out what in the next section.

5. Bean Grind Consistency Used

Cold brew coffee required an extra-coarse grind type. These appear as large, uneven chunks. Iced coffee will need varying grind consistencies based on the brewing method used.

If you use instant coffee, you won’t need to worry about grinding. Brewing in a moka pot will require extra-fine grinds. Whereas, brewing drip coffee would require medium, sand-like grains.

Will the bean grinds affect the way each drink affects your stomach

6. Drink Acidity

Toddy, a cold brew equipment company, performed a study that suggests cold-brewed coffee has 67% less acidity than hot-brewed coffee [2].

A study by Nature proposes that cold brew extracts have lower concentrations of acidity than hot-brewed coffee prepared from the same beans [3].

The lower acidic content in cold brew could make it a better choice for folks who frequently suffer from acid reflux when drinking coffee.

It sounds like cold brew is better for your stomach. But is it better for your wallet?

7. Cost to Make

I found the prices in the table above from Starbucks. These prices are for Tall drinks. A cold brew ordered from here would cost 75% more than an iced coffee.

It’ll cost you around $0.10 per cup of iced coffee and cold brew made at home. However, that cost doesn’t account for filters, electricity, and the coffee maker.

Cheap cold brew makers usually cost $20–30, while higher-end models cost around $50. These don’t require electricity to use, but will require filter replacements every “X” amount of uses or after a certain number of months.

Prices for coffee makers for iced coffee will vary. Here are some examples:

Most of the above options, other than the drip coffee maker, don’t require single-use filters or electricity to make coffee.

How long do each of the above methods of coffee making take, though?

8. Time to Brew

It’ll take 8 to 24 hours to brew cold brew. But iced coffee isn’t cut-and-dried.

Here are examples of the time it’ll take to make iced coffee using different brewing methods:

Brewing MethodBrew Time
Drip Coffee5 minutes
French Press4–5 minutes
Phin5 minutes
Moka Pot3–4 minutes
Percolator7–10 minutes
Pour-over3.5 minutes
Instant Coffee0 minutes
Coffee Bags3–5 minutes

It’ll take, on average, 5 minutes to make hot-brewed coffee with the various brewing methods. From there, you add ice cubes and drink. There’s nothing else to it.

Hold on. Do you not know what iced coffee is? Let’s fix that.

What Is Iced Coffee?

image 9
Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee Compared 3
Caffeine Content *165 mg
Recipe7–8 g ground coffeeInstant coffee (alternative)IceSweetener (optional)Creamer/milk (optional)
Cup Served inAny

Iced coffee is coffee brewed hot and then poured over ice. You can make it with any type of coffee, but it’s often made with a darker roast to create a bolder flavor.

Enjoy iced coffee black or with milk, sugar, and other flavorings.

To make iced coffee with a drip coffee maker, fill the water reservoir with cold water and add the desired coffee grounds to the filter basket. Then, place a glass filled with ice on the warming plate of the coffee maker and start the brewing process.

As the coffee brews, it will drip over the ice and chill instantly.

Making iced coffee with a drip maker typically takes 5–10 minutes. However, the exact brewing time will vary depending on the type of coffee maker and the amount of coffee.

Some drip coffee makers have an “over ice” button. This button brews a stronger cup of coffee well-suited for iced coffee. When pressing the “over ice” button, the coffee maker will use less water and brew the coffee for a longer period

This results in a more concentrated cup of coffee that won’t lose flavor when poured over ice.

Most coffee shops and cafés will serve iced coffee.

Let’s move on to what a cold brew is.

What Is Cold Brew?

image 10
Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee Compared 4
Caffeine Content *205 mg
Recipe1 gram of coffee for every 8 g of waterWaterCreamer/milk (optional)Sweetener (optional)
Cup Served inGlass that’s narrower at the bottom

Cold brew is coffee made by steeping ground coffee beans in water for 12–24 hours. This slow brewing process results in a less acidic coffee with a smoother flavor than traditional hot-brewed coffee.

To make cold brew, combine coarsely ground coffee beans with cold water in a pitcher or jar. Stir to combine and then cover the container. Let the coffee steep in the refrigerator for 12–24 hours.

Then there’s nitro cold brew.

To make it, add 40 psi of nitrogen to the cold brew. This infuses the coffee with nitrogen gas, which gives it a creamy texture and a foamy head. Nitro cold brew is typically served on tap, but you can also make it at home using a nitrogen keg or a whipped dispenser.

You might want to add a bit of flavor to your cold brew. Try one of these syrups:

  • Vanilla syrup
  • Caramel syrup
  • Hazelnut syrup
  • Chocolate syrup
  • Cinnamon syrup
  • Peppermint syrup
  • Maple syrup
  • Honey syrup
  • Lavender syrup
  • Rose syrup
  • Orange syrup
  • Coconut syrup

To create different flavor profiles, you can add flavored creamers or milk to your cold brew. For example, you could add hazelnut creamer to make a hazelnut cold brew latte or chocolate syrup and milk to create a mocha cold brew.

Benefits of cold brew coffee over iced and hot brewed coffee include:

  • Smooth & less acidic than hot brewed coffee.
  • Strong & flavorful, but without the bitterness.
  • Easy to make at home.
  • You could store it in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Noteworthy places that typically sell cold brew coffee include:

StarbucksBluestone LaneBlue Bottle CoffeePeet’s Coffee
La ColombeDunkin’Tim HortonsDutch Bros Coffee
Caribou CoffeePJ’s CoffeeStumptown 

Congratulations. You know the differences between iced coffee and cold brew.

Wrapping Up

You’d make cold brew coffee by brewing it from 8 to 24 hours in a cold brew system. With ice coffee, you’d brew hot coffee as usual, then add ice cubes to it.

You’ll need an excellent coffee maker to brew these drinks. Check out our recommendations.


* Estimated numbers

** Based on Tall size drinks at Starbucks. Prices will vary at different Starbucks locations and coffee shops. Source [4]

Photo of author


Tim Lee is, as you might have guessed the founder of He is a former barista and a professional web publisher. He has now combined his knowledge and expertise in both subjects to create
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