What’s the Difference Between Cold Brew and Iced Coffee, Anyway?

When things get hot, there’s no beating a chilled, caffeinated beverage. But while there’s no question of what temperature we want our morning cup of joe (frosty), does it matter if we choose cold brew or the iced stuff? And why is one so much more expensive than the other? We spill the beans (sorry, had to) about the difference between the two.

How to make iced coffee: Iced coffee is just coffee that is brewed the normal way (i.e., with hot water), allowed to cool and then poured over ice and served cold. This usually takes a couple of hours, although you can speed up the process by chilling coffee in the fridge. 

How to make cold brew: Medium to coarse ground coffee is steeped in cold or room temperature water (instead of hot water) for 12 hours or more. (You can use a French press or even a mason jar.) The liquid is then filtered out, leaving you with a smooth concentrate that you can mix with water (usually a 50:50 mix, but it depends on how strong you like your coffee) to make cold brew. 

So, which one’s better? It all comes down to personal preference. Generally, cold brew is slightly less acidic and less bitter than iced coffee, with a more mellow taste. But unless you’re making your own, cold brew is usually more expensive (since the flavor is less watered down and it’s more time-consuming to make). And when it comes to caffeine content, cold brew has the edge (Chameleon producers say cold brew has twice as much caffeine as its iced counterpart, but it depends on the brand). But honestly? Once those temperatures start to climb, we’re happy to sip on either. 

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Executive Editor

Alexia Dellner is an executive editor at PureWow who has over ten years of experience covering a broad range of topics including health, wellness, travel, family, culture and...