When comparing cold brew and iced coffee, it will oftentimes come down to personal preference for taste. On the surface, the two seem to be the exact same or similar.
But, when digging deeper into details, cold brew and iced coffee are actually quite different. That being said, there are a few differences between the two that can be highlighted below.
What is Iced Coffee & How is it Different From Cold Brew?
Iced coffee is traditional coffee made in a coffee machine such as a Keurig, French press or coffee pot. It is then served with ice, and any combination of milk, creamer, and sweeteners of different types. The ice is usually regular ice, not coffee ice cubes, so as the ice melts it usually becomes more watered down.
The iced coffee has a more acidic taste compared to cold brew, which some people do tend to enjoy. It is an easy, quickly made beverage to enjoy.
Iced coffee is especially enjoyed by younger individuals, as it has become trendy to drink in many different situations and environments.
In Contrast, cold brew is coffee grind that that has been steeped in room-temperature water for at least 12 hours before being chilled or warmed up for serving.
The flavor slowly goes into the water to create a coffee drink after it has been thoroughly strained.
Is Nitro Coffee Different in Any Substantial Way?
There is also a subset of cold brew coffee called Nitro brew. Nitro brew coffee begins in much the same way as traditional cold brew coffee. Coarsely ground coffee is steeped for a minimum of 12 hours and then poured into a keg.
The cold brew coffee is then infused with nitrogen to create very tiny bubbles which are then pushed through a pressurized valve which creates the signature smoothness of nitro brew coffee.
The appeal of nitro brew is most notable the smooth texture of the drink. The small bubbles create a richness of the coffee that feels fuller on the palate and allow for different flavors to be enjoyed, particularly when paired with milk and other added flavors.
Another reason for the appeal of nitro brew is the aesthetic of the beverage. Sitting in a coffee shop and having a foaming cold coffee poured from a keg similar to that of a traditional beer is the perfect millennial experience that not only is delicious to many, but also serves as a unique update to the traditional coffee date with friends and fits perfectly into hipster Instagram culture.
But Is One Better than the Other?
When talking about flavor, cold brew coffee in its different forms usually has more natural flavor than iced coffee. That’swhy some call it a concentrate. Because of the time-consuming way that cold brew is produced, the taste is most certainly worth the wait and I would consider it to be a better product but not everyone would agree.
Let’s start by looking at the caffeine content.
Does Cold Brew or Iced Coffee Have More Caffeine? Which Is Stronger?
Like all of life’s most important questions, the answer to this question is complicated and hard to pin down. There are so many variables when it comes to coffee and brewing methods that it can be nearly impossible to get a straight answer regarding caffeine levels and coffee strength.
That said, in this article, we’ll do our best to give you the closest to a straight answer as possible, so let’s start this investigation.
Caffeine Levels in Coffee: Far from Straightforward
The problem with determining caffeine levels for cold brew versus iced coffee is that caffeine content in coffee is highly variable and depends on innumerable factors. We don’t have the space to list them all here, so just know that caffeine content can be influenced by everything from the type of bean to the method of brewing.
Caffeine: Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee
With that being said, there are certain factors that influence the caffeine levels in coffee that are easier to understand. For instance, we know that heating coffee in the brewing process releases the caffeine trapped in the coffee beans.
Now, since iced coffee is simply hot brewed coffee that has been chilled, that might lead you to believe that iced coffee has more caffeine. This is partly true. However, the exceptionally long brewing time for cold brew might actually bring out more caffeine in the end.
Further, since cold brew is a concentrate the most people dilute, the amount of caffeine you’re consuming with cold brew is also dependent on just how much water you add to dilute the concentrate.
Strength: Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee
Just as with caffeine content the strength of cold brew versus iced coffee is a matter of many variables.
What we can say for certain is the cold brew has the potential to be much stronger than iced coffee. This is primarily because cold brew is a coffee concentrate. Thus, you can choose to dilute with water as much or as little as you like.
In fact, we’re big fans of simply pouring the concentrate over a large ice cube or two and drinking it undiluted! It’s strong, but if you like your coffee with a bit of a punch, it’s a great option.
Is Cold Brew Coffee Healthier?
There’s no doubt that the cold brew coffee craze is sweeping the nation, and for good reason: it’s delightful and refreshing! No more drinking piping hot coffee on blistering summer afternoons for me!
But is it possible that cold brew coffee is actually healthier than traditionally brewed coffee?
The answer is a resounding…kind of. Maybe. Sort of.
We’ll give you all the reasons why below!
“Healthier” Depends on What Is Actually Healthy for You
Our bodies are all different, with different needs and concerns. Thus, the potential health benefits of cold brew really depends on what kinds of health issues you’re most concerned with.
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the potential health benefits of cold brew over traditional brew and also consider some misinformation that has been spread about the brewing method.
Lower Acidity Can Be a Huge Boon for Some
If you’ve ever experienced heartburn or indigestion, you know the kind of havoc that the acidity in coffee can wreak on your system. That’s why tons of people with consistent issues of this kind (a condition known as GERD) are flocking to cold brew.
It is true that cold brew has much lower levels of acidity, making it a great alternative to traditionally brewed coffee for those who suffer from these conditions (source).
Cold Brew Has More Antioxidants, Right?
A common selling point for cold brew’s health benefits is that it has higher levels of free-radical fighting antioxidants than hot brew. But is this accurate?
Nope. In fact, the most recent research shows quite clearly that hot brew is much higher in antioxidant levels than cold brew (source).
So that’s a point for hot brew!
The Bottom Line: Which is Best, Cold Brew or Iced Coffee
After considering the two primary claims for the superior health benefits of cold brew over hot brew, we end up with a dead tie between the two. So, unfortunately, the jury is still out on which brew method is healthier overall.
But not to worry! There’s a simple solution to this cold versus hot brew dilemma, though I admit it’s somewhat radical: drink both!
For those who are not as fond of a strong coffee flavor, iced coffee may be the way to go because of the way the ice dilutes the coffee as it melts. Either way, both forms of coffee are favorites for many different coffee enthusiasts and each have good qualities. It all comes down to what each individual likes and dislikes.