Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee: What’s the Difference?

Lady drinking iced coffee

Are you a hot coffee or cold coffee type of person? Over here at SANG, we’re definitely part of the cold coffee crew. Regardless of the weather, we believe it’s always iced coffee season. 

When you think of cool coffee, the two most popular options are cold brew and iced coffee. Both make for a delicious caffeine fix, but what’s the difference between the two? Read on as we dive in and look at all the differences between iced coffee and cold brew and try to suss out which one is better.

What’s Iced Coffee and What’s Cold Brew Coffee?

Let’s start with the basics – what each type of coffee is. 

Iced coffee is a drink that has been brewed using hot water and then poured over ice. This can be made with instant coffee, coffee from your espresso machine, or your preferred brewing method. It’s basically regular coffee that’s been cooled or had iced added. 

Cold brew coffee, on the other hand, is a bit more intricate. It’s a coffee that’s brewed using room temperature or cold water over a period of 12 to 24 hours. This process creates a smooth, low-acidic coffee concentrate.

Iced cofffee in a glass
Picture courtesy of Daniel Hooper via Unsplash​​
Cold brew coffee in a glass
Picture courtesy of Steve Tsang via Unsplash​​

What’s the Difference Between Iced Coffee or Cold Brew?

There are three main differences between these two types of coffee: flavor, caffeine content, and brewing method. 

1. The Flavor: 

Probably the most notable difference is the taste. Without any additions, iced coffee tends to be a bit more bitter and acidic, while cold brew is smoother and less acidic. This is because the hot water used in brewing iced coffee can cause the coffee beans to release bitter compounds, while the cool water used in cold brew extraction produces a mellower, less acidic flavor.

2. The Caffeine Content:

The strength of the coffee also varies greatly. Cold brew typically has a higher caffeine content than iced coffee because it is brewed with more coffee grounds. Continually, iced coffee isn’t as potent because the ice cubes dilute the coffee, whereas cold brew is a coffee concentrate that needs to be diluted before being drunk. Finally, cold brew’s longer steeping time also affects its potency.

3. The Brewing Method:

While delicious, making a cold brew at home requires some patience as you need to steep your beans for a minimum of 12 hours, but even that may result in a weak and watery brew. For the best results, you should let your beans soak for 18 - 24 hours. When making iced coffee, you can brew it any way you like. Our go-to method is using a phin Vietnamese coffee filter, as it ensures you get a tasty yet strong brew.

Iced coffee in a glass
Picture courtesy of Kartika Paramita via Unsplash​​

Why Do People Mistake the Two?

The main reason people usually mistake iced coffee for cold brew coffee is their similar appearance. Both drinks are served over ice, making them look almost identical. Also, many use the terms interchangeably, making it very confusing if you aren’t familiar with the differences.

Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee Which is the Best?

The answer to this question largely depends on personal preference. If you’re looking for a stronger, more robust coffee with an acidic taste, then iced coffee is probably the way to go. On the other hand, if you're looking for a smoother, less acidic coffee with sweet notes then you’d love cold brew coffee.

While both these options are delicious, there’s one major drawback when making iced coffee or cold brew at home – convenience. If you want a quick caffeine fix, something which you can grab and go, these two aren’t great as they require a certain amount of prep work. Instead, you should try SANG Vietnamese iced coffee.

Our collection of ready-to-drink iced coffees is perfect if you want to enjoy a strong flavorful coffee, without the hassle of trying to brew a cup of coffee. Choose from our five fiery flavors and experience the deliciousness of Vietnamese coffee.