Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee: What Is The Difference?

A guide to understand the difference between cold brew vs iced coffee. Plus an explanation of what the flash chilled method is.

Drawing of coffee plant and coffee beans

Cold-brew vs iced coffee, what is the difference (if any) between these drinks and which one should you order next time you visit your favourite coffee shop?

With summer just around the corner, it's probably the time to start thinking: hot coffee despite the weather or switch to the beautiful ice-cold coffee served in a transparent plastic cup? You've probably seen cold brew in pretty much every single coffee shop menu, but do you know the difference between cold brew and iced coffee?

It is believed that cold brew has a loooong history, dating back to 16th century Japan. You read that right: very likely it's thanks to Japan that we get to enjoy this awesome drink. Right, so what is the difference between cold brew and iced coffee?

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What is cold brewing?

Cold brewing is also called cold water extractions and is the process of steeping ground coffee in the water at cool temperatures. Coarse ground beans have to be soaked in water for around 12 hours.

Once the steeping is done, a filter is used so the grounds are filtered out of the coffee. The result is a highly concentrated coffee which is then diluted with water or milk. The cold brew (despite its name) can be then served hot or over ice.

So a cold brew does not get its name from the fact that is served as cold coffee but from the method of preparation. Steeping ground coffee over 12 hours will result in a super caffeinated drink.

Cold brew coffee is believed to have originated in Japan in the 1600s. While cold brew is also known as Kyoto style coffee, in Asia, cold brew is called "Dutch coffee".There are sources which suggest that the Japanese learnt about this method from the Dutch traders, hence its name.

Japan sure knows how to put a show when it comes to popular foods, and coffee is no exception. Instead of steeping the ground in water for hours, the Japanese created the dripping cold brew method. A single drop of water would be let through the coffee grounds at the time, creating an artistic way of creating a sole cup of coffee.

an illustration of cold brew and vital information about the beverage

What is iced coffee?

Unlike cold brew, iced coffee means hot coffee poured over ice. There are a variety of ways to create iced coffee. You can use ice cold milk in a tumbler and add hot coffee over it. There is also Freddo Espresso which is very popular in the summer: an espresso with a little sugar mixed with ice.

an illustration of iced coffee and vital information about the beverage

Cold brew vs iced coffee?

We learnt that cold brew means steeping the coffee grounds for 12 hours whereas iced coffee simply means a shot of hot espresso over ice.

What is the difference between cold brew and iced coffee beyond the brewing method? Coffee tastes different depending on the method we employ to create a beverage. Coffee beans react differently to temperature, for example, resulting in more or fewer oils or fatty acids.

So, in a nutshell, the difference between cold brew and iced coffee is a completely different chemical profile of your beverage. Brewing your coffee at low temperatures means lower acidity. So cold brew is expected to have around 60% less acidity than hot drip coffee or espresso.

Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee vs Flash chilled

But wait...what about the flash-chilled method?

There might a new wave of coffee brewing method making its way around the world. Flash-chilling is a Japanese style method which extracts the coffee with hot water, then brings it back to a colder temperature very quickly (in a flash!). Again, this is a different method to cold brewing where the coffee is stepped with cold water over 12 hours.

The flash-chilled method (pronounced aisu kōhī) is similar to the pour-over method for hot coffee only that it's done so directly on ice. You can use a Chemex for it, just make sure you add lots of water in your container. What is striking about the flash chilled method is the taste of the coffee. Many say it's actually similar to that of tea. You should expect a more floral flavour, quite bright and elevated.

When you use different roasts and beans you will notice their difference a lot better as well. This, in our opinion, is a type of brew which should be enjoyed without milk or sugar. Enjoy the true taste as it is.

an illustration of flash chilled method for coffee and vital information about the beverage

Now you know the difference od cold brew vs iced coffee. And you also learned about another cool method of brewing coffee. Are you ready to order your favourite? Which one do you prefer?

What do you think?

Did you like this recipe? Do you have any questions or suggestions? Leave a comment below.

Your Comment


It's learned not learnt


Not necessarily. "Learned" is more common in American English, and "learnt" is more common in British English. People are more likely to use "learned" but this does not make "learnt" any less correct. "Learnt" is just the older version of "learned". It's really more of what type of English you use rather than what's "correct" in this case. So maybe don't try to correct people with English when you don't even have all the info yourself. :)

Cory Varga
Cory Varga - You Could Travel

Hi Kathy, thank you so much for your thoughtful message. We always strive to do better and improve on our site.

However, please note that learnt and learned are both used as the past participle and past tense of the verb to learn. Learned is the generally accepted spelling in the United States and Canada, while the rest of the English-speaking world seems to prefer learnt. As we are from the UK and this is a British blog, we'd rather stick to our preferred spelling :)

P.S. We hope you learnt the differences between cold brew and ice coffee.