Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee - What's the difference?

Tuesday, 10 July, 2018

What’s the difference between cold brew and iced coffee?

South Africa is settling into winter and some of us are dreaming of summer... Whether you’re dreaming of warmer weather, or planning a trip in search of the sun, there are two drinks that are sure to be on the menu for any coffee lover in need of a fix: the traditional Iced Coffee and the trendy Cold Brew. So, what exactly is the difference between the two? Cold Brew is cold coffee, but – it’s not Iced Coffee.


The main difference between Cold Brew and Iced Coffee is in the process (which also accounts for the differences in taste). Cold Brew coffee is steeped in cool water at room temperature for at least 12 hours (usually more), before the coarse grounds are filtered out. Without the heat, it takes a long time to extract maximum flavour. Cold Brew coffee tends to be much less bitter than regular coffee because heat is what releases the acidity of the coffee bean oils. The result is a much smoother coffee concentrate that can be mixed with milk or water. 

Iced Coffee is brewed like regular coffee (usually extra strong) and then cooled by pouring over ice. Simple really! At some establishments, you might run the risk of being served this morning’s stale coffee over ice, but the way it’s supposed to be served is immediately over ice after brewing. It’s typically sweetened and may be served with a pinch of cream or milk, and the result is a light, refreshing drink with all the natural aromas of your regular hot coffee.


Because the brewing process for both beverages is so different, the flavours are as well. The brewing temperature impacts the extraction of acids, sugars and oils from the bean, and ultimately, the final cup. Cold Brew is much smoother and milder in flavour than regular coffee – it tastes sweeter and less acidic. This is because less flavour is extracted at a lower temperature.

If mild and sweet are not what you want from your coffee, Iced Coffee preserves all the natural aromas of regular coffee, with a crisp acidity and rich flavour profile. When done right, Iced Coffee retains the intense flavours and complexity of the bean, delivering all the goodness of your regular cup of coffee – just chilled.


Cold Brew is easy to try at home if you have the patience! Using a French press, steep coarse coffee grounds in cold water for between 12 – 48 hours. Press down on the plunger when you’re ready and voilà, you have a coffee concentrate! You can pour it over ice or dilute it with water or milk, and enjoy! 

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