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The Great Debate: Which Is Better, Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee?

Posted: While Drinking Coffee!   |   Coffee Related Articles

In winter, a hot cup of joe is the perfect way to start a cold day, but what do coffee-lovers do in summer? Some carry on with their usual routine, but others venture into new, cooler caffeine-filled depths. Most shops sell iced beverages for those wanting to chill, but lately, we’ve seen an up-and-comer creep up the mainstream ranks: cold brew coffee.

  • What is cold brew?
  • The difference between cold brew and iced coffee
  • How do you make iced coffee?
  • Cold brew coffee recipe

Read on for a coffee breakdown, but the end victor is up to you…

What is cold brew?

It’s not your classic iced latte, it’s not hot coffee cooled and then served over ice, it’s an entirely different brewing method that utilities time over temperature.

The flavor and properties of the coffee grounds are extracted in cold temperatures for up to 24 hours. There’s no heat or boiling water, just coffee, water, cool temperatures and time.

There are different brewing methods for cold brew coffee, immersion and drip:

  • French press – much like with regular hot coffee, this immersion method adds your coffee grounds to water and lets them stew over time.
  • Filter bottle – another immersion method where the grounds are placed in a filter and submerged in a water bottle
  • Coffee drip – This involves a slow, continuous drip of cold water through the grounds.

The difference between cold brew and iced coffee

As we’ve said, the main difference is the heat. Iced coffee is traditional hot brewed coffee that is then cooled and served over ice. Whereas Cold brew coffee is made with cold water and steeped for a long time to garner a rich flavor. They may sound essentially the same, but the end flavor of both is markedly different.

With regular hot coffee, the hotter temperature of the water instantly reacts with the grounds and extracts the specific bean’s set of flavors. At a scientific level, the heated water molecules give the coffee molecules energy and increase their interactions. This causes the coffee compounds to be dissolved faster, giving you your favorite bitter coffee flavor.

This interaction doesn’t happen as fast with cold brew due to the temperature – it can take up to 24hours to extract similar flavors. This low and slow method is like a waltz instead of the hot coffee salsa – it’s a gentler extraction that gives the molecules time to develop the sugars in the coffee. The result is a more caramelized beverage with all the caffeine from coffee and the flavor you expect.

photo of cold brew

Another main difference is the slightly reduced levels of acid in cold brew coffee. One 2018 study found that “The pH values of the cold and hot brew samples were found to be comparable, ranging from 4.85 to 5.13. The hot brew coffees were found to have higher concentrations of total titratable acid…”. So, cold brew is marginally more neutral in PH level, which could be one of the reasons it’s less bitter.

How do you make iced coffee?

The most basic iced coffee recipe calls for cold water, ice and instant coffee with a lot of mixing and maybe some milk or creamer for added richness, but a good iced coffee takes some time.

Step one:

You need to start the night before by brewing your favorite coffee in the evening with some fresh ground beans and hot water. Let it sit and cool and brew overnight until it’s room temperature.

Step two:

Whip up some optional simple syrup to sweeten the flavor by adding 1 cup of granulated sugar to 1 cup of water on the hob. Let it boil and simmer for two or three minutes until it’s all dissolved. Let it cool completely with the hot coffee overnight.

Step three:

Have a good night’s sleep while everything cools.

Step four:

Wake up, do your morning ablutions and pour your cooled coffee and a splash of syrup into an ice-filled glass. Add milk or creamer if you like, and enjoy!

Top Tip: Add vanilla extract to your simple syrup for added flavor – any leftovers should keep for up to a month.

Cold brew coffee recipe

Much like hot coffee, there is an optimal cold brew coffee ratio to follow. This is usually around 1:2 (1 cup of coffee to 2 cups of water), which is a lot more concentrated than regular coffee and will need additional dilution to make it more palatable.

If you make it concentrated, then dilution is where you’re most likely to have problems. The right strength to drink is usually around 1:15, although some cold brew drinkers like it stronger around 1:10. So, we need to do some math to get it right – here’s an example:

Let’s say your cold brew concentrate is 1:2 – that’s one part coffee and two parts water. In a 30ml dose, that’s 10ml coffee and 20ml water.

A 1:10 ratio strength cold brew beverage will need 11 parts total or 110ml overall. So, considering the 30ml dose of concentrate has 10ml coffee and 20ml water already, you need to add another 80ml of water (8 parts) to make it right (11 parts).

In summary, if a classic coffee mug holds 330ml, and you want a 1:10 strength, go with 90ml of 1:2 concentrate and 240ml of water.

See, not easy to understand – especially when you’re sleep-addled and in need of caffeine to wake up. To make it easier, most people brew it at the right dilution. The following recipe makes (roughly) a 1:12 ratio cold brew which is a nice light-strength beverage you can drink straight:

Cold brew coffee recipe

80g of coarsely ground coffee

1litre of cold filtered water

A French Press


Combine it all and let it steep at room temperature for 12hours. Give it longer if kept in the fridge. Use a seal-able container if you can, and try not to leave too much room at the top of the container to avoid oxidization. Serve over ice in the morning for a refreshing wake up call.

There’s no outright winner here. Both iced coffee and cold brew coffee are refreshing summer options, but they both take varying amounts of time and math! It might be best to try them both and vary your brewing and cooling times until you find your ideal.

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About Mr We Got Coffee

About Mr. WeGotCoffee
We Got Coffee is where I share all of my coffee obsessions, meal prep guides and recipes for things that pair well with coffee. I also throw in lots of humor and caffeinated wisdom. Read More...