Coffee comes in two basic forms: hot and cold. While most of us have had plenty of experience with the first, not all of us are quite as versed in the latter.

If you’re looking for the healthiest way to enjoy your caffeine fix, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the differences between iced coffee and cold brew — and how to make them properly.

But what are the real differences between these cold coffees? I’ve uncovered everything you need to know about iced coffee vs. cold brew so that you can make the best decision for yourself.

I’ll end this comparison with a conclusion, where you’ll read about my thoughts and opinions of which coffee is the better option.

Iced coffee vs. cold brew

Iced coffee and cold brew coffee are two popular types of coffee. Both are easy to make at home, but each offers a unique experience. The main difference is that iced coffee is brewed hot and then cooled with ice, while cold brew coffee is brewed at room temperature for over 12 hours.

But there are so many distinct features to both coffees that make them unique in their own way. Below, you can find the main differences between these two popular types of coffee.

Iced coffee vs. cold brew comparison.

I’ll go over the difference in taste, calorie difference, caffeine difference, and how to make these cold coffee versions yourself! Let’s get started.

What is the difference in taste?

Cold brew coffee tastes stronger than iced coffee. Because cold brew coffee uses more ground coffee and is steeped for a longer period, it develops more flavor than iced coffee.

The longer the coffee is steeped, the more coffee flavor it develops. At some point, mainly after the 18-hour mark, it will develop bitter and even sour flavors that aren’t necessarily great. But the coffee tastes stronger regardless.

You can make iced coffee with any brewed coffee you like, such as a French press, Chemex, and even Hario V60 coffee. I’ll tell you about all your options further down.

On the other hand, cold brew coffee is made only one way, and that is by steeping ground coffee and cold tap water for well over 12 hours. I like to steep my coffee between 15 and 16 hours.

"Iced coffee vs. cold brew."

As you might’ve guessed, cold brew coffee is stronger in flavor because it has been given more time the extract those delicious flavors out of the coffee beans.

However, iced coffee tends to get slightly acidic from the disturbance of brewing, just like cold brew coffee. By directly putting ice on top of hot coffee, it shocks the coffee, and it will leave it a bit more sour than you might like.

Not to worry, I’ve got a great technique to counter this. You’ll find a step-by-step guide a bit further down on how to make yourself a nice cup of iced coffee.

How many calories are in these coffees?

Both coffees can be made as a low-calorie drink. Coffee itself has virtually no calories. However, when you pour in milk or milk alternatives, sweeteners, and other kinds of additions, the calories counter will go up.

So I’ve told you coffee, without anything added, has almost no calories. But you do want to know how many calories your iced coffee or cold brew coffee will have when you’re adding a splash of milk or a little sweetener.

This is why I’ve made the calorie table down below. In this table, you can see how many calories your coffee will contain when adding different kinds of milk and sweeteners:

Adding:Amount added:How many calories:
Whole milk1 oz (30 ml)19 calories
2 % fat milk1 oz (30 ml)15 calories
Nonfat milk1 oz (30 ml)10 calories
Almond milk1 oz (30 ml)7 calories
Oat milk1 oz (30 ml)16 calories
Soy milk1 oz (30 ml)15 calories
Simple syrup1 tbsp25 calories
Brown sugar syrup1 tbsp50 calories
Honey1 tbsp64 calories

As you can see when looking at the table above, I’ve only listed 1 oz of milk or milk alternative. This is because when it comes to iced coffee and cold brew coffee, you still want to taste the coffee but might want to dilute it just a bit.

By adding just 1 oz milk of choice to your iced coffees, you get to have the diluted version of the coffees, but the intense coffee flavors are still there. I like to drink my cold coffees quite strongly, but you might not feel the same.

If you want to add more milk to your iced coffee, you can add double the amount. It’s really easy looking at the table above and doubling the number of calories from the milk of choice. This way, you’ll have an insight into how many calories are in cold coffee.

What is the difference in caffeine content?

There’s a big difference in caffeine content between these two coffees. Because iced coffee can be made using various brewing techniques, I’ve listed a few brewing techniques best used when brewing iced coffee and noted the amount of caffeine of each:

Brewing technique used:Amount of caffeine for 1 cup (0.24 l)
Chemex172 mg
Hario V60185 mg
French press223 mg
Cold brew240-280 mg
(source)

Cold brew coffee has the most caffeine content of all the coffees listed. The amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee can change depending on the number of hours it has steeped.

When the coffee is steeped for just 8 hours, it already has a whopping 240 mg of caffeine; this can run up to 280 mg when steeped for 24 hours.

Now you see why this can change depending on the person making the coffee in the first place. I like to steep my coffee for 15 to 16 hours at most. So the caffeine content will be around the 250-260 range.

How to make iced coffee at home

The best part about making iced coffee at home is that it’s quick and efficient. To make iced coffee yourself, you’ll need the following items:

  • 1 cup (0.24 l) brewed coffee of choice
  • Ice cubes
  • Optional: a touch of milk or a coffee sweetener
"Iced coffee with milk."

As I’ve said before, you can use any brewed coffee you like for this technique. I like to use French press coffee as this coffee has a full-bodied coffee taste.

But if you like your coffee on the less punchy side, you can choose to brew coffee using a pour over technique like Chemex or Hario V60. These coffee techniques have a more rounded flavor that isn’t so strong.

Optionally, you can make iced coffee using Nespresso coffee pods. You can check out this guide to Nespresso iced coffee if you want to learn more about it.

To make the iced coffee follow the next steps:

  1. Brew the coffee of your choice.
  2. Place enough ice cubes in your favorite coffee cup to fill it to 2/3 of the way.
  3. Once your coffee has brewed, directly pour it into your ice-filled cup.
  4. Stir until the coffee has thoroughly cooled, and optionally add some more ice cubes to make it extra cold.
  5. Now is the time to spice things up and add ice, some milk or milk alternative of your choice, or even some coffee syrup.

You’ve now made some super easy iced coffee from scratch. This technique of iced coffee is great when you just want an iced coffee in a matter of minutes. If you have a bit more time on your hands, I suggest using the technique down below:

If you have more time, let the coffee cool down completely without adding ice. This will help with the sourness that some iced coffee tends to have.

The ice cubes are so powerful to cool the drink down that the coffee is shocked, and you risk making the coffee a bit sourer than you’d have hoped for. To counteract this, let the coffee cool down, and then add ice to make it an iced coffee.

How to make cold brew coffee

Making cold brew is one of the simplest ways to making coffee, in my opinion. There are just a few steps involved to make it amazing tasting. You’ll need the following items:

  • 80 grams of coarsely ground coffee
  • 800 ml of cold tap water
  • A large container or preferably a French press
  • Ice cubes
  • Optionally: some milk and a coffee syrup
"Cold brew coffee with milk."

The first thing you have to do is choose a place to keep the coffee in while steeping. I like to use a French press for this, which includes the filter that makes it so much easier. But you can also use a large resealable container for this.

  • If you haven’t done so, grind your coffee beans into a coarse grind size.
  • Add the coffee beans to the container or French press.
  • Pour the cold tap water on top.
  • Stir this coffee and water mixture until all the coffee grounds are equally wetted.
  • Cover the coffee and let it steep for 15 hours. You can leave the covered coffee on your kitchen table to steep.
  • After the coffee has steeped for 15 hours, it’s time to filter it.
  • To filter, either press down on your French press plunger when used or run through a sieve with a cheesecloth or kitchen towel added when using a large container. These techniques will remove the unwanted coffee particles from your coffee.

Your coffee is now done and can be drunk as is, or with just a touch of milk or milk alternative added. The choices are endless.

If you want to learn more about this coffee, you can check out the guides I wrote about making cold brew coffee and espresso cold brew. You can check them out if you’re interested in learning in-depth about these techniques.

Extra iced coffee tips

There are a few ways that you can make your iced coffee even better, and I’d like to share my thoughts with you about it. Down below, you’ll find two techniques that make iced coffee so much better:

Make coffee ice cubes

A great way to go against the melting ice cubes is to make coffee ice cubes. Coffee ice cubes are really easy to make and can be made with left-over coffee or made in larger batches at once.

To make coffee ice cubes, fill up an ice cube tray with a coffee of your choice. Preferably a strong-tasting coffee that you like to use in the brewing of iced coffee anyway.

I like to use these ice cubes bags filled with water but cooled down coffee works just as great for this technique:

Ice Cubes Disposable Ice Cube Bags,Food-Grade PE Material Ice Cube Mold Trays Self-Seal Faster Freezing Maker (100pcs/2400 Ice Cubes)
  • FOOD-GRADE SAFETY MATERIAL:Made from food-grade PE material, it is safe and odor-free.
  • DESIGN:Self-sealing and disposable ice cube bags, it includes 100 pcs, 24 ice cube per pcs, you will get 2400 ice cubes in total.
  • HOW TO USE:add water to the water injection hole,stand it upside down, and then freeze it.Once frozen, tear off the ice as needed and use.
  • CONVENIENT FOR CARRYING: the bags and lightweight,easy to stack space saving. You can take it to travel, for parties, BBQ.Great for home use, parties and bars.
  • DIY:You can make ice as you like, simple, convenient, sanitary and healthy, you can make different flavors according to your tastes.

Freeze the coffee cubes in your freezer for the next few hours.

Now, the next time when you plan on slowly sipping on your iced coffee, you can add a few of these coffee ice cubes to your coffee and enjoy.

You could even switch out all of your regular ice cubes for coffee ice cubes if you want to get the best tasting coffee you can make. However, I found that using half normal and half coffee ice cubes work great for this.

Double brew your iced coffee

I’ve already told you about the diluting of your iced coffee. Because you’re using a large amount of coffee and ice, some of those ice cubes will dilute back into water when heated up.

Image sitting in the sun, slowly sipping on your iced coffee. You forget to drink the iced coffee for a second, and most if not all ice cubes are gone. They’ve melted and have become water again, making your coffee taste flatter.

Here’s where double brewing your coffee comes in handy. By double brewing coffee, you’ll be using double the amount of ground coffee beans to brew the same amount of coffee you would typically make.

"Double brewed coffee using the Chemex."

For example, if you’re brewing 2 cups of pour over coffee, you’d generally use about 38-40 grams of coffee.

To double brew your coffee, you’re going to use 76-80 grams instead. This will ensure that the slowly melting ice cubes do not impact the strength of the coffee.

If you want to learn more about double brewed coffee, you can check out this great article I wrote about it. Make sure to check it out. There are some cool tips in there that might be useful.

Iced coffee vs. cold brew, which is better?

Cold brew coffee is better tasting than iced coffee. It tastes less acidic and has a more balanced flavor profile. Iced coffee tends to have sour notes that make the coffee taste a bit less pleasing and more watery.

So for me, cold brew coffee is the clear winner. Although the coffee has to steep for a very long time to create that distinct and robust coffee flavor, iced coffee seems to be less pleasing and exciting when it comes to taste.

On a brighter note, when using the tips to double brew your coffee to make an iced version and using coffee ice cubes to cool it, it gets better in flavor and has the same smoothness that cold brew coffee has.

Even using the double brewed method will give your iced coffee the boost that it needs.

Conclusion

Now that you know all about these cold coffees, you get to make and try these coffees yourself, so you can decide which of the two suits you best.

For me, cold brew coffee is the better option. But for you, this can differ. You might like a less strong coffee taste and don’t want to wait at least 12 hours to drink your coffee. Test the coffees out, and let me know how it goes!

I’ve covered the most important things about brewing coffee at home; however, there is so much more to learn about home-brewing coffee. If you’re interested in learning more, you can check out the articles I’ve listed below.

Which of the two coffees do you like best? Let me know by leaving a comment down below. If you have any other questions regarding coffee, you can also contact me directly by pressing the “Contact Me” button at the top!

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On my coffee blog you will find everything you need in order to start brewing coffee at home. Ranging from the basics; to the newest coffee recipes everybody talks about!

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