Cold brew is the hot thing right now!
The smoother, milder, less-acidic blend is perfect for late summer, and not too difficult to make.
The Definition of “Cold Brew” Versus “Iced Coffee”
Simply put, iced coffee is simply Hot Coffee Cooled; Cold Brew is brewed by Steeping Grounds in cold water.
Because the brewing process is so different on a chemical level, cold brew creates a wildly different result. Instead of being brewed with heat (as with normal coffee), heat and pressure (as with espresso), or heat and rapid cooling (as with iced coffee), cold brew is brewed with time.
The brewer essentially bathes the coffee grounds in water over a long period of time, and that’s true whether the brewer is using the immersion, drip, or cold press method.
The 9 Major Differences Between Iced Coffee and Cold Brew
1. Cold brew has a Nuttier, Sweeter flavor, often requiring less Cream and Sugar
While iced coffee is considered to be “full-bodied,” cold brew mutes the bitterness of the bean and creates a chocolaty, almost hazelnut-like flavor. It creates far less vinegar-like sharpness. It also doesn’t have as much of a bitter aftertaste. For that reason, many people find themselves pouring far fewer packets of sugar and dollops of cream into cold brew.
If you’re one of those people, cold brew might be the right choice for you. Many arguments have been made as to whether cold brew is healthier with dubious results, but lowering your sugar intake daily can direly affect weight gain as well as many other bodily hormones. Having less sugar and cream on a regular basis will likely lead to positive health effects on its own!
2. The Mouthfeel is slightly different too
A real coffee aficionado might notice that cold brew coats one’s tongue slightly differently, with almost an oil-like quality. The buttery, creamy sensation can feel more relaxed than iced coffee, which has a watery, front-of-the-tongue sharpness that doesn’t provide much textually.
3. There’s less Acid in Cold brew, making it better for people with illnesses like IBS or Acid Reflux
Because it’s a different brewing process chemically, the end result contains less acid. This means that those who are on a low-acid diet might, with their doctor’s approval, be able to sample some cold brew without experiencing irritation. This lower acidity has been studied a great deal, but the way one’s body will react depends on the person.
4. There’s less Dilution, as Melting Ice isn’t a core issue
While it’s true that iced coffee is usually brewed to have an unusually high caffeine content before it’s watered down, the melting ice will still affect the flavor, mouthfeel, and quality of the final drink. One is taking a highly acidic brew and simply adding water.
There may be more or less caffeine in cold brew versus iced coffee, depending on your cold brew concentrate ratio as well as the brewing process for your iced coffee. One way to get around this is to make ice cubes with leftover coffee, however!
5. Cold Brew takes MUCH longer to brew
That’s one of the most important differences in choosing which cold coffee drink to DIY: time. How much time do you have? Because cold brew is meant to sit overnight or over the next day. The ideal amount of time is 24 hours. Using the French Press (aka “cold press”) method will only cut your cold brew time down to 15 hours, and using a cold drip device like a Toddy Cold Brew Maker will cut it down to five. Iced coffee is much faster, by comparison.
6. Cold Brew is arguably much more expensive, as it requires more Coarse Grounds per cup
If you’re making iced coffee, you would normally only use about the same amount of grounds as hot coffee, more if you want to combat dilution. If you’re making cold brew, you’ll want anywhere between a third to an eighth of coffee, depending on your personal preference. Cold brew concentrate requires a 1:3 ratio of coffee. Getting the ideal coffee-to-water ratio takes practice no matter the brewing method, but since cold brew requires so many coarse grounds from whole beans, each experimentation might cost you some cash.
7. Cold brew is arguably better to cook, bake, and create cocktails with
Because it’s sweeter and nuttier, cold brew can be a pleasant alternative to hot coffee in recipes for cocktails and baked goods. There’s dozens of recipes one can use for cold brew; it makes for better smoothies, floats, and martinis. Also, it’s pretty easy to innovate and improvise the basic cold brew formula. Don’t feel like shelling out cash for Starbuck’s toasted coconut cold brew? Make your own at home by adding toasted coconut to your coffee grounds before adding the water. It’s that simple. A popular New Orleans version involves adding chicory to the water as well.
8. Cold brew can be just as easy if not easier to make at home
There are many different brew methods for making cold brew, as we mentioned before (the cold press method, the cold drip method, and the immersion method, for those counting at home). The simplest way to do it is the immersion method: Pour one part coffee ground and three parts cold coffee into a mason jar and leave it in the fridge for a day, then strain. For those truly wishing to maximize their weekend, cold brew can be far less fussy than one thinks! Brewing hot coffee, adding ice, and then adding more ice as it melts can be, in the long run, more effort than simply leaving it in your fridge to be enjoyed Saturday morning.
9. Cold brew lasts longer than regular coffee
Ever experienced the woe that is stale coffee? It tastes like an ash tray mixed with the existential sadness of not being able to retire at 70. Hot coffee goes bad within a few days. Cold brew will still taste pleasant days later. It can last about five days to a week in the refrigerator without going bad or stale, as long as you don’t leave it out to reach room temperature.
Cold brew is a great solution if you have a lot of time, prefer a sweeter, nuttier cold coffee, and want something with less dilution. For those who want a full-bodied flavor profile and a fast fix with lots of acid and tang, iced coffee may be the way to go. But either way, don’t shy away from trying to make DIY cold brew – it’s not very complicated and a lot of fun! See more instructions on making your own cold brew and Death Wish Coffee’s original infographic here.