Is cold brew the same as iced coffee? Baristas spill the differences

Coffee pros share the answer to the question ‘Is cold brew the same as iced coffee?’

Is cold brew the same as iced coffee? Here is a glass cup of brown iced coffee on a light wooden surface, with a hand reaching over to put in a black and white straw, with a lawn underneath the surface
(Image credit: Getty Images / Yana Iskayeva)

Is cold brew the same as iced coffee? This is a question that I've wondered while standing in the Starbucks queue, before reaching for my normal overly-complicated order.

If, like me, this question has come into your head, I've got you covered with advice from baristas on the differences between the two and top tips for making both. As well as this, I've shopped useful coffee buys to help you start making either.

Once you've chosen the best coffee maker, you might be wondering what coffee shop-style drinks you can make at home. Iced coffee and cold brews are both great choices for this — especially when the weather gets hot.

Is cold brew the same as iced coffee? We explain all

In terms of things to know before buying a coffee maker, figuring out if it can make your favorite brew is always a good idea. So, scoping out the differences between cold brew and iced coffee is useful to do.

Where our experts have recommended specific buys, I've shopped these as well as creating a cold coffee essentials edit to help you start making your own.

The prices below were correct at the time of publishing this article. 

Is cold brew the same as iced coffee?

A person wearing a light blue shirt pouring coffee into two glass cups with ice cubes in, stood on a rich wooden surface

(Image credit: Getty Images / evrim ertik)

If you’ve ever wondered ‘Is cold brew the same as iced coffee?’, I’m pleased to say you aren’t the only one and you wouldn’t be the first to get them confused, either.

“Cold brew and iced coffee are two popular choices that often get mixed up,” explains Kayla Stavridis, former Starbucks barista and coffee expert at Barista HQ.

Despite being served cold, Kayla says they have distinct differences in preparation, flavor, and the best ways to enjoy them.

“Cold brew is made by steeping ground coffee in cold or room temperature water for an extended period, usually 12-24 hours,” says Steve Spring, barista, coffee expert and owner of Seattle Coffee Roasters. “This slow extraction results in a less acidic and smoother flavor compared to iced coffee.”  

Because of the longer brewing time, it also has a bolder and more intense flavor. “It often has a higher caffeine concentration due to the higher coffee-to-water ratio and prolonged brewing time,” adds Kayla.

Steve continues, “On the other hand, iced coffee is made by brewing hot coffee using traditional methods and then pouring it over ice to cool it down.” 

He says this quick cooling process results in a brighter and more acidic flavor profile, compared to cold brew.

Tips for making cold brew coffee

A glass cup of brown cold brew coffee with a glass bottle filled with cold brew to the left of it, stood on a wooden board on a wooden ledge, with green leaves beyond the window

(Image credit: Getty Images / Hoai Qua)

If you want to create a smooth, caffeine-fueled drink, Kayla has broken down her top tips for making a cold brew.

“I recommend investing in a good-quality cold-brew coffee maker, or using a large mason jar, fine mesh sieve, or cheesecloth for straining,” she says.

She loves the OXO Good Grips Cold Brew Coffee Maker from Amazon, which has a rainmaker top that distributes water evenly over the coffee grounds, ensuring optimal flavor extraction.

“You can store your cold brew concentrate in the refrigerator for up to two weeks and dilute it with water, milk, or your favorite creamer as needed,” Kayla adds.

Tips for making iced coffee

A glass coffee cup with white milk and ice in it, being topped up with brown coffee, stood on a brown window ledge with a blue window behind it

(Image credit: Getty Images / Catherine Falls Commercial)

For those who love a stronger hit of coffee taste, iced coffee is easy to make with the best small coffee makers.

Kayla explains, “Brew your coffee stronger than usual since it will dilute slightly when poured over ice.”

“To preserve flavor and freshness, cool your coffee quickly by immediately pouring it over a cup of ice,” she says.

As well as this, Kayla advises experimenting with brewing methods. She likes to use the AeroPress from Amazon, which is ultra-portable and makes a rich brew that's perfect for chilling and serving over ice. 

Cold coffee essentials

Don’t want to get stuck again? “Just remember that it’s all in the brewing process — cold brew takes longer in cold water, while iced coffee is brewed hot and then is quickly cooled down,” Steve finishes by saying. 

Now you've got your brew down, learn how to clean your coffee maker to make sure your beverage tastes as delicious as possible.

Eve Smallman
Content Editor

Hi there! I’m a content editor at Real Homes. I've been a lifestyle journalist for over five years, previously working as an editor across regional magazines. Before this, I graduated from Nottingham Trent University a degree in journalism, along with an NCTJ gold diploma. I love running, decorating my rented Victorian home, and discovering new cheeses. For Real Homes, I specialize in interior design, trends and finding the best viral buys.