What Is Cold Brew Coffee & What Is The Difference Between Cold Brew & Iced Coffee

What is cold brew coffee and how is it made? What is the difference between cold brew and versus iced coffee?

#1 | HOW IS COLD BREW MADE? 

Coffee grounds (usually coarse) + water (cold or room temp) + time (8 to 24 hours) = most cold brew. Cold brew coffee is usually made by steeping coffee in water for a number of hours at cold or ambient (room) temperature. This slow, low temp brew makes cold brew taste very different from hot brewing the same type of coffee beans: mild chocolate and mellow, low acidity fruits are common flavor notes. We tested this for ourselves, and you can read our findings in our blog, “Cold Brew Taste Test: 5 Coffees, Hot vs. Cold”.

Cold brewing – or in many cases ambient temperature brewing – uses time in place of temperature to ensure extraction. Cold brewing can take between 8 and 24 hours, depending on who you ask and what your target cold brew taste is. Cold brew coffee is also often made as a concentrate which is then diluted – or “watered down” – to taste from there. So, while pour-over coffee and most drip coffees have a brewing ratio of about 1 to 16 coffee to water (ex: 20 grams of ground coffee brewed with 320 mL of water), cold brewing is usually done with less and with a wide range of possibilities to suit different tastes.

#2 | COLD BREW VS. ICED COFFEE

Iced coffee used to mostly be just what it sounds like: normal brewed drip coffee or espresso to which one adds ice. It was not — and maybe still isn’t — uncommon to watch a barista or diner employee simply take some coffee from batch brew, throw some ice in it, and call it “Iced Coffee”.

“Flash chill” or “flash brew” coffee is a more recently popularized innovation on iced coffee. These “flash” methods take two steps to increase the quality of iced coffee:

  1. reduce the ratio of water to coffee to account for the added ice that would otherwise dilute the coffee, and
  2. cool down the hot-brewed coffee immediately by brewing directly into the ice-filled vessel.

Cold brew is slow-steeped for longer periods of time. It differs from iced coffee, which has been hot brewed specifically to extract those additional layers of flavors and other natural coffee compounds that don’t get extracted much or at all in cold brew.

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