Around here, two drinks keep us going every summer: iced coffee and cold brew.
Even if it’s pouring with rain, there is nothing like an ice cold coffee to help pretend the sun is out. But have you ever wondered whether cold brew and iced coffee are the same thing? Is cold brew basically just hipster iced coffee?
We can tell you that cold brew is not the same as iced coffee. Not at all.
It’s like comparing orange squash and freshly squeezed orange juice - both taste great, but both are different.
How they are made is what sets them apart and accounts for their different flavours. We’ve broken down the method for each drink and chucked in a couple of recipes so you can brew them at home.
Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee - what’s the difference?
Whether you’re making iced coffee or cold brew in the shop or at home, the rules are all the same.
The brew temperature is the first big difference. To make iced coffee you brew the coffee with hot water. To make cold brew coffee, the water temperature must be cold.
Brew time is another key difference. While cold brew prep takes hours, making iced coffee takes a matter of minutes. This is because the process for cold brewing coffee involves steeping the coffee in water (room temperature water is ideal) anywhere between 12-18 hours before straining the concentrate and storing it in the fridge until it’s ready to be served.
Iced coffee, on the other hand, is hot espresso poured over cold milk and/or water. Much quicker. More instant. Involves heat.
This is where size matters.
To make the best cold brew, you want a coarse ground coffee (just like what you’d use for Cafetiere). You’ll find most coffee shops (like ours) using coarsely ground coffee for their cold brews.
While the grind size for iced coffee depends entirely on your brewing device: fine for espresso, medium for aeropress or other filters etc.
Why is coarse grind better for cold brew? There is no hard rule saying you can’t use fine ground coffee for cold brew. It’s just that using a coarse grind is better for the filtration process. Using fine ground for cold brew means decreasing the brew time and producing a stronger, more intense coffee taste.
A question we got from one of our customers recently was, “is cold brew stronger than iced coffee?” Yes. Cold brew does have more caffeine than iced coffee, plus iced coffee also tends to taste a bit more watered-down than cold brew.
Something else you’ll notice (or might not) is that cold brew tastes sweeter than iced coffee. We won’t get too into the science, but cold brewing coffee doesn’t extract the chemicals that lead to high acidity or bitterness.
Also don’t forget that the flavour and sweetness will be affected by the type of coffee itself.
Iced coffees are served as the iced version of all your usual black and milky based hot drinks - so you’ll get your iced americanos, iced lattes, iced mochas, iced flat whites etc.
There is nothing stopping you from adding milk to cold brew, but it’s rarely served with milk. Order cold brew at a coffee shop and expect it to arrive with ice and ice only.
In general, you should be able to refrigerate cold brew for up to 14 days, but if it starts tasting weird, give it to the plants.
When it comes to iced coffee - drink it the day you make it, don't store it, or it may turn sour.
How to make iced coffee at home
Iced Coffee Equipment:
- Whatever equipment you usually use to brew your coffee hot (pod machine, aeropress, cafetiere etc)
Iced Coffee Ingredients:
- Your coffee of choice. Our personal favourite Brazilian Love Affair.
- Make your coffee like you would normally, brewing it hot to your preferred taste in whatever method you normally use.
- Add milk, water and ice (it’s that simple).
How to make cold brew coffee at home
Cold brew equipment:
- Brewing vessel (something that can fit in the fridge, like a mason jar or cafetiere)
- Filtration (paper filters, cafetiere)
- Timer (clock will do)
Cold brew ingredients:
- A coarse ground coffee of your choice (understanding that it won’t taste the same hot as cold - recommendations to follow)
- Measure out your coarsely ground coffee using a ratio of 60 g coffee per liter of water.
- Add the water and coffee to the vessel
- Stir everything to make sure it’s mixed
- Steep your coffee in the fridge for a minimum of 12 hours.
- Try it after 12 hours and see what you think. If it tastes a bit watery, keep it in the fridge longer (18 hours should be fine).
- Once you are happy with how it tastes, strain and enjoy.
Best coffee for iced coffee
200 Degree recommends: We love Brazilian Love Affair for at-home iced coffees.
Best coffee for cold brew
200 Degree recommends: We love our guest coffee blends for at-home cold brewing.
If you’re realistically never going to make either of these drinks at home - come round to ours and we will sort you out with a cold one.