Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee: the Differences You Need to Know

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Isn't cold brew coffee just synonymous with iced coffee? Since a lot coffee shops are known for serving fancy coffees, it's quite hard to differentiate cold brew vs iced coffee. 

That's why this article aims to compare cold brew vs iced coffee from the coffee beans, recipe, preparation, serving, up to its taste.

cold brew vs iced coffee

When we talk about cold brew vs iced coffee, the main difference is their brewing process. The cold brew uses cold water to brew the coarsely - grinded coffee beans for about 12 hours, producing a less acidic and less bitter coffee. While an iced coffee involves brewing the coffee grounds with hot water in just 2 to 4 minutes, resulting to a more acidic, brighter-tasting but cheaper coffee.

To make a better understanding, let's first find out how cold brew and iced coffee differ in recipe and preparation.

cold brew vs iced coffee

How to Make a Cold Brew?

There are 3 ways to make a cold brew using:

  • Cold Brew Iced Coffee Maker
  • French Press
  • mason jar and nylon stocking


  • High Quality Coffee Beans
  • Filtered Water

Coffee Beans

When we say high quality coffee beans, you might be wondering on what the best coffee beans for cold brew are.

A lot of people prefer to use Dark roasted coffee beans for their cold brew. Because the dark roast is the easiest to extract and it's a lot cheaper.

How about using a lighter roast for my cold brew, will it be the same?

Yes, you can use any type of roasts, but when it comes to cold brewing a lighter roast requires a longer time to extract all the favorable flavors of coffee.


Now your next question might be "How cold is the filtered water needed to be to make a cold brew?"

You'd be surprised that a cold brew doesn't necessarily means ice cold water, a room temperature water is normally used for this.

Well, it's called cold brew because it doesn't involve using hot water. The cold brew aims to eliminate or minimize extracting the unwanted compounds of coffee beans, like acidity, which is one of the reasons it is so popular.

Using a room temperature water will result in faster brewing or extraction compared to using ice cold water.


Grind the Coffee

cold brew vs iced coffee

We now have the best coffee beans for cold brew, and the room temperature filtered water, what's next?

You must know that the most essential part of preparing Cold Brew lies on the perfect grind size of the coffee beans, it's the secret to your perfect brew.

We need an Extra Coarse Grind to achieve a good-tasting cold brew.

An Extra Coarse Grind is very similar with a ground Peppercorn, it should be coarser than espresso or table salt. Usually, it's the coarsest grind available in your burr grinder, but it still depends with the machine you are using.

We can actually use Medium, Medium Coarse, Coarse, and Extra Coarse to prepare a Cold Brew.

But never a Fine Grind, because if we use a finer grind and let it steep for about 12 hours, the brewing will result in over extraction.

The coffee will then have a harsh and unpleasant taste, far from what we expect from a cold brew.

The ideal Cold Brew Ratio is 1:4, for every 1 part of ground coffee, it's ideal to have 4 times of water.

However, you can always experiment with the grind size, brewing time, Cold Brew Ratio, and type of coffee to achieve the taste you want.

Coffee Extraction

Unlike other coffee brews, a Cold Brew does not require any barista expertise.

Once you have the coarsely-ground coffee beans and filtered water, you just need to fully soak the coffee beans into the water, and let it steep for about 12 hours in a refrigerator or chiller.

Again, you can use a Cold Brew Iced Coffee Maker, a French Press, or a mason jar and nylon stocking to make your cold brew at home.

If you want a consistency in the quality of your cold brew, using a Cold Brew Iced Coffee Maker is recommended.

Plus, the cold brew made from a machine can last up to two weeks.

If you want details about it, I have a some suggestions below on how to choose a Cold Brew Coffee Maker.

A French Press method is suggested if you just want single-serve cold brew.

On the other hand, using a mason jar and a nylon stocking seems to be the cheapest choice, but might not give you a consistent quality.

Let's now proceed with the other half of the cold brew vs iced coffee debate, the ice iced coffee.

cold brew vs iced coffee

How To Make Iced Coffee?

So, you're not a fan of hot coffee, but you also can't spare 12 hours to prepare a nice cold brew.

The next best option for you would be the Iced coffee. You get to have an ice-cold coffee, without having to spend a couple of hours extracting coffee flavors.

Here's how to prepare it:


  • High Quality Coffee Beans
  • Hot Water


Though cold brew vs iced coffee might sound very tricky, these two actually differs a lot.

Unlike with the Cold Brew, the iced coffee uses hot water first. But a refrigerated leftover coffee isn't what I'm talking about.

If you want to prepare a decent iced coffee, the Kyoto Style Coffee Method is advisable. Also check out the Japanese Iced Coffee.

Any type of roast will do, and the grind size depends on the machine you use in brewing the coffee. You just need to brew the coffee grounds using hot water, it will only take about 2 minutes. It's just the same brewing process when you plan to drink a brewed coffee.

But this time, it's advisable to make your brew a bit stronger so when the ice melts down, your coffee won't taste watery.

Then, you have to pour it right away on a glass filled with ice. The brewed coffee immediately cools down, as poured over ice. And there's your iced coffee, ready in a couple of minutes. Adding creamer, sugar, or syrup to your iced coffee is optional.

Now that we're done comparing cold brew vs iced coffee in terms of recipe and preparation, let's talk about machines.

As I mentioned earlier, I'll give you a guide on how you can choose for the best Cold Brew Coffee Maker.

cold brew vs iced coffee

How to Choose a Cold Brew Coffee Maker?

Isn't it interesting to taste a cold brew, a coffee that did not use hot water?

Of course we only want to drink a decent cup of cold brew, not just any coffee left in the chiller. And among the ways to make a cold brew, it's the cold brew coffee maker that can give us a satisfying coffee.

So, here's what we need to consider when purchasing one:

  • 1
    Ease of use - As someone new to the process of cold brewing, it's helpful to find a simple and easy-to-use machine. Why would you deal with a complicated machine, if even a French Press can do the job? A good cold brew coffee maker should make cold brewing more efficient, not make things harder.
  • 2
    Size - This one is important because when steeping the ground coffee, it must be stored in a chiller or refrigerator. You actually need to consider the space on your fridge before you can decide on which coffee maker to buy.
  • 3
    Reusable - Another purpose of buying one might be to save on your coffee expenses when buying from your favorite coffee shop. So, it's going to be helpful if buying a cold brew coffee maker won't require you to buy a brand new filter every time you make a coffee.
  • 4
    Materials used - A good cold brew coffee maker should only make a good-tasting coffee, without a weird after taste. And by letting your coffee stay in a low quality plastic container for about 12 hours might give it a hint of plastic.

So, here are our favorite coffee makers. The links to Amazon are affiliate links, so if you decide to click and buy these coffee makers, we will earn a commission at no extra cost for you. 

Takeya Patented Deluxe Cold Brew Iced Coffee Maker

Let's take a look if Takeya has all the things we're looking for in a cold brew coffee maker.

  • Easy to Use - In just 3 easy steps, you can easily prepare your cold brew using this machine. First, you will add 14-16 tablespoons of coarsely ground coffee into the infuser. Then, fill the pitcher with 32 ounces cold water and let the coffee steep for 12-24 hours. And lastly, serve it with milk, water, or over ice, actually makes up to 4 servings.
  • Size - Takeya Patented Deluxe has a size of 5 x 7.5 x 9.5 inches and only weighs 12.8 ounces. It's size fits most refrigerators and chillers.
  • Reusable - Takeya is dishwasher safe, you just need to clean the infuser and the pitcher right after use to prolong its usefulness. This coffee maker actually has a 1 year warranty.
  • Materials used - Aside from being dishwasher safe, the Takeya Patented is made of BPA-free materials. This will assure you that your cold brew will not have a hint of plastic. Also, Takeya Patented Deluxe Cold Brew Iced Coffee Maker is made from the USA.

KitchenAid KCM4212SX Cold Brew Coffee Maker

Unlike the Takeya, KitchenAid makes up to 14 servings, perfect for offices and with friends.

Let's also find out if this coffee maker has everything that we're looking for to make a nice cold brew.

  • Easy to use - Just like Takeya, KitchenAid Cold Brew Coffee Maker will only require you to fill the steeper with coffee, fill it with water, and let it steep for 12-24 hours. But the additional function of this coffee maker is its stainless dispenser, which makes your cold brew very accessible.
  • Size - Since KitchenAid makes up to 14 cups of coffee, it also requires a bit bigger space from your chiller. KitchenAid measurements are 8 x 7 x 6.9 inches and weighs 5.5 pounds
  • Reusable - Its steeper is also reusable, there's no need to buy a filter each time you brew.
  • Materials used - The reservoir is made of thick and sturdy glass, and the steeper is made from a stainless steel. As long as you regularly clean your cold brew coffee maker, there'll be no problem with the taste.

And it's great to note that both Takeya and KitchenAid makes cold brew that can last up to 2 weeks!

Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee: How are they Served?

After all the differences in preparation and recipe, you might wonder if there's also difference in serving them.

Actually, cold brew vs iced coffee doesn't have any significant difference in serving.

Since both are cold beverages, cold brew and iced coffee are usually served in plastic cups with lids. Though at home, we serve it using glasses.

Adding sugar, creamer, milk, or syrups to your cold brew and iced coffee is just optional.


The Cold brew vs Iced coffee debate may seem tricky to most of us, but knowing the preparation process will definitely clear our minds.

A cold brew uses cold or room temperature water to minimize extraction of undesirable compounds of coffee during the brewing process.

The cold brew coffee has a smoother taste, with lesser acid and bitterness.

On the other hand, an iced coffee is made similar to the brewing process of a hot coffee, but it's poured over ice before serving it.

A properly made iced coffee tastes bolder and brighter, with more acid compared to cold brew.

Both of them tastes great if you'll use right grind size for high quality coffee and filtered water.

The cold brew requires 12 - 24 hours of preparation, while an iced coffee only needs 2 - 4 minutes.

So, overall cold brew vs iced coffee differs in so many ways.

And you can never decide which one you love more unless you try both cold brew and iced coffee yourself!

That's it for the cold brew and iced coffee.

I really would love to hear which is your favourite. Let us know in the comments.