Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee – What’s the Difference?

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The other day Mr. SBF and I were taste-testing my latest batch of Cold Brew Coffee (trying to decide if I had finally nailed the coffee to water ratio or if I still needed to tweak it) and he told me that he had been talking to someone about our little experiments and the person he was telling looked at him and said, “Cold brew? Isn’t that just regular coffee with ice in it?” 

Wait.

What?

No.

But if you’re not as into coffee as we are I could see how you might be confused.

Cold Brew coffee is a fairly new thing (at least in the U.S.) and over the past couple of years, it has become increasingly popular. But a lot of people still don’t know the difference between  Cold Brew and Iced Coffee. 

Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee isn’t a competition  but there is a distinct  difference between the two. Not only are the brewing methods different but so are the taste and flavor profiles.

left – glass of ice & 4 ounces of hot espresso; right – 2 ounces of cold brew in glass with 4 ounces of cold water in measuring cup

Iced Coffee:

As you may have guessed (or already know) iced coffee is double-strength coffee brewed using heat – a double-strength traditionally brewed hot coffee if you will – that is poured over ice and enjoyed by many.

Now, there are several methods for hot brewing and the debate about which method is best continues. We certainly have our opinions as to which hot brewing method results in the perfect cup and you can read about it here.

If a good iced coffee is what you’re after, make sure to start with an excellently brewed hot coffee first (by using one of the methods mentioned in the referenced article of course)!

Whichever method you use to brew your hot coffee, just make sure to make it double-strength    because when you pour it over the ice, it’s going to become diluted.

Your iced coffee will (or should) taste like your brewed coffee, only – cold. 

When I owned my Cafe/Bakery, we used our espresso machine to brew our  coffee and then bottled and refrigerated it to use for our iced and blended drinks. That was before Cold Brew was a thing.

It worked and people liked it (I think – haha).  

But now…well…now there’s…

Cold Brew:

Cold Brew doesn’t use heat and takes longer to brew.

Cold water is poured over coarsely  ground coffee and left to steep for a day(ish) then strained (or pressed). 

What results is a smooth, low acidic, velvety coffee concentrate. 

Since it is concentrated (very strong), you will add water at either a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio, depending on how concentrated it is and how strong you like it.

As I mentioned earlier, I have been experimenting with coffee to water ratios, both for brewing and for reconstitution. After several  batches, I have finally figured out the perfect coffee to water ratio for our SagebrushFarm Special Blend Cold Brew. 

As with hot brewing, there is a general “recipe” or place to start when making cold brew, and the type of bean used and the steep time definitely play a role in the flavor of your coffee (as does personal preference).

If you’ve never tried a Cold Brew coffee before, I’m sure your favorite coffee house offers one and there are several who bottle and sell it. I have even seen Cold Brew in some grocery stores. Mr. SBF and I tried one of the grocery store variety last year but decided that homemade is best (of course)!

left – hot espresso poured over ice; right – water added to cold brew

I hope that clears up any confusion you might have had about Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee.

Or perhaps I’ve just made it as clear as coffee (wink, wink).

Or maybe, just maybe, you’re ready to dive into Cold Brew and try your hand at making your own! It really isn’t hard!

All you need is quality, coarsely ground coffee, filtered water and either a glass jar or a french press. Personally, I use a french press. A large one. It just makes life easier. 

Well, heck, I might as well just show you!

How to make Cold Brew at home:

Like I said, I use a large french press (48 fluid ounce capacity) because we like coffee and in the summer it’s necessary (for us) to have Cold Brew on hand. If you don’t have a 48-ounce French press, no worries, just use a glass jar!

Pour 40-ounces of filtered water (room temperature is fine) into a glass measuring cup or bottle.

Coarsely grind enough coffee beans to equal one and a half cups of grounds. Some people weigh the whole beans and then grind them but personally, I don’t. I did at first but it doesn’t seem necessary.

Once your coffee grounds are ready, add four ounces of filtered water to your french press or jar.

Pour the ground coffee over the water, then allow it to sit for about five minutes. This allows the coffee to begin to bloom.

Then, slowly pour more filtered water over the coffee until the grounds are just covered (approximately eight ounces). Allow that to sit for about ten minutes so the coffee will continue to bloom.

Once the coffee has bloomed, slowly add the remaining water and allow it to sit for another ten minutes, allowing it to breathe.

After ten minutes, place the lid of your French press on top with the plunger UP!   (If you’re using a jar, simply place the lid loosely on top).

Now, timing is everything when it comes to Cold Brew. You will want to allow it to sit on the counter and steep for 20-22 hours. Twenty hours is the magic number around here. Sometimes I forget about it and let it go for an extra hour but whatever you do, don’t let it go beyond 22 hours – it gets bitter! And nobody wants bitter coffee. Blah!

Once the time is up, slowly plunge the French press about half way. Allow it to sit for about five minutes and then finish plunging it. Pour into a glass bottle or container and refrigerate for several hours until cold. (If you’re using a glass jar instead of a French press, strain the coffee through a cheesecloth into a glass bottle). 

There you have it! Cold Brew! That wasn’t so hard, was it?

But seriously, whether you prefer Cold Brew or Iced Coffee, for the best tasting brew, make sure you’re using quality coffee (like our SagebrushFarm Special Blend – wink, wink)!

You can purchase it here!

Now that you’ve got your Cold Brew, make sure to check back soon because we’ll be sharing our favorite Cold Brew recipes! Some of them might even be “adult beverages”! 

**Remember that your Cold Brew is concentrated so you will want to add water to it when you serve it. For our SBF Special Blend Cold Brew, we use one part concentrate to two parts water but make it the way you like it!

If you’re in the mood for some baking, check out my Mocha Cake Recipe – made with, you guessed it, SBF Special Blend Cold Brew!

To make sure you’re not missing out on anything that’s happening with SagebrushFamNV, follow us on social media!

Happy brewing!

Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee | Do you know the difference? | Learn how to make Cold Brew at home!

18 thoughts on “Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee – What’s the Difference?

  1. Wow you have got this! One can tell you had a cafe. Delicious iced coffee is an art. I have often wondered how to make it taste like it does in the coffee houses in India for example. Great article.

  2. I love coffee, preferably hot. But between iced coffee and cold brew, I’m inclined to iced coffee. I’ve trued both, but the cold brew was a bit bitter and you gave me the answer as why. Guess I should try it again. Great info!

    1. We all have different tastes and preferences for sure. Honestly, I like BOTH or should I say ALL (hot, cold, iced, lukewarm,etc-haha)! But NOT bitter, definitely not! But yes, maybe give it another try and see how it turns out with less steep time. Please let me know how it goes. 🙂

  3. I’m so happy to have found this post! I’m a superfan of iced coffee and I’ve just thought cold brew is a fancy name for a (different kind of) iced coffee and I always just order iced coffee. I had no clue that there’s such a big difference between them and that cold brew is non-acid and has a smoother taste. Next time I’m definitely going to try the cold brew one and see if I can taste the difference!

    1. I’m glad you found this too! 🙂 Both cold coffees are great but Cold Brew is definitely a richer, full-bodied taste (at least we think so)! Let me know what you think when you give Cold Brew a try!

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