Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee

The myths abound and confusion reigns over what designates a proper, chilly cup of coffee. If you haven’t heard of cold brew then you’ve been living beneath a rock. And that’s ok. The newest trend in brewed consumption is sweeping cafes and taking to the streets with companies like Stumptown and Dave’s offering an increasing array of bottled coffee drinks. And what’s that jingling in your cup? Is it ice? Why, doesn’t that mean you’re drinking an iced cup of coffee? Iced coffee? shockingly no. Well, yes, but ultimately no. Let me explain.

Like everything in the world of third wave coffee, names mean things, things with specific designations. Cold brew refers to a singular method of preparation as does iced coffee. They each affect the coffee beans differently, producing flavors of varying qualities while altering the sensation experienced by the tongue. In my humble (ha!) opinion they each offer a delicious experience and should be enjoyed in equal measure. So let’s dive in and swim the channel of a healthy warm weather caffeine buzz.


You all know it. You’ve all thought about having it or have had it already. So what’s the deal? It’s cold coffee, right? Boring. But is it? As is easily inferred by its name ‘cold brew’ is coffee that has been brewed in cold water instead of hot. Simple, right? Yet timing is everything and the time it takes to brew coffee in cold water is typically about twelve hours. Although the extraction period is longer the taste will be different as not all flavors are equally soluble in cold water. So while some flavors are left relatively untouched (piquancy), others are enhanced (sweetness). Thus a chocolatey, floral beverage is achieved with great juiciness and low acidity.


So then what’s ‘iced coffee?’ Take a guess. Alright now stop. I’ll tell you. Iced coffee is coffee concentrate over ice. As the ice melts, the ice cubes chill the extraction and compensate for the diminished water volume, balancing out the intense amount of coffee solubles that overpower the original hot extraction. Again, simple, right? But not really.

The amount of ice used is weighed out specifically to enhance the hot extraction rather than take away from it. The entire process is a tightrope act with perilous consequences should the barista misstep and plummet to their doom. Because the coffee is brewed hot those acidic flavor compounds missing from the cold brew are locked into the overall profile. The resultant extraction is similar to the juicy, bright effects of a pourover or chemex. A welcome chance to chill out.

Now that we’ve got it all cleared up, get off your keister and head to Zoka to try either a heaping serving of cold brew or a superbly balanced iced coffee. And if you want to do it at home? Check out our step by step instructions for cold brew orJapanese iced coffee and more posts about the hottest (and coldest) coffee topics you may or may not have heard of. It’s all there. It’s all free. And it’s the only thing you need to be a…BARISTA CHAMPION. Enjoy.

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