We drink a lot of coffee at Beverage Factory and we're big fans of cold brew. So much so, that it's always on tap in our kegerator. We'd like to clear up the confusion about cold brew and iced coffee, they're NOT the same.
We know they sound very similar but they're actually very different styles of coffee. In fact, iced coffee is just hot coffee poured over ice, turning it into the beverage we know as iced coffee. Cold brew actually refers to the brewing process, which uses cold water to brew the coffee instead of hot water. While cold brew can be served over ice, it's not the same iced coffee and it will taste quite different.
Brewing with cold water may seem like a strange concept because we are so accustomed to the traditional hot brewing method but cold brewing coffee actually can result in a more potent coffee, both in flavor and caffeine.
The brewing process for cold brew coffee consists of taking coarsely ground coffee and steeping it in room temperature or cold water for 12 hours to 24 hours. Coarse coffee grounds are used because it allows the water to filter through easily and it minimizes bitterness in the final product. This long brewing process results in a very rich and intense coffee concentrate, which can be mixed with water or milk to create a delicious cold brew beverage.
Iced coffee is brewed with hot water and can be consumed immediately after brewing poured over ice cubes. It is a much easier brewing process, that takes very little time, and can be replicated many times as needed. Cold brew requires long term planning prior to serving and for this reason, you will find the cost of cold brew to be higher than iced coffee at coffee shops and grocery stores.
Coffee brewed using hot water can be brewed within minutes because the heat extracts the flavors very quickly. Cold brew coffee can take between 12 and 24 hours, this long brew time makes it possible for the cold water to extract all the complex flavors, notes, and aromas from the coffee. It also means the result is highly concentrated and potent in flavor and caffeine.
While it takes a little more time and effort to make cold brew at home, the process is quite easy and requires as little as some coffee filters or a french press. Check out our article on How To Make Cold Brew Coffee at Home for the easy step-by-step process.
While iced coffee and cold brew are both coffees, because of their very different brewing processes, they have different flavor profiles. Cold brew coffee typically tastes less bitter and has a smoother overall taste than hot brewed coffee used in iced coffee. This is due to the long brewing process and the cold brew method. The smoother taste is from the lower acidity of the cold brew, which also makes other more enjoyable notes in the coffee stand out. The coffee flavor also has a tendency to be more intense in cold brew because it comes from concentrate.
Cold brew coffee tends to have a higher caffeine content than traditionally brewed coffee. You're not going to get espresso levels of caffeine but because cold brew coffee is a diluted concentrate, it tends to have higher caffeine content, which means you can get your caffeine fix with a lot less coffee.
Cold brew is also less acidic than iced coffee because of its brewing process, which results in a smoother tasting coffee with a reduction in harsh flavors and notes. The lower acidity makes this coffee significantly better for your stomach and it's gentle on your teeth.
Click here to read our article about the other benefits of cold brew coffee.