The difference between cold brew and iced coffee

Coffee & Accessories

There are too many variables to accurately say whether or not cold brew has more caffeine than iced coffee, although it’s the topic of much debate.

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What’s the difference between cold brew and iced coffee?

As temperatures rise, many coffee lovers switch from hot to cold coffee; but not all cold coffee is the same.

Cold brew coffee is brewed with cold water for half a day or more. Iced coffee is brewed quickly using warm water and then poured over ice. You can make iced coffee or cold brew using any ground coffee, but the flavor will be different, as will the apparatus used to brew it. If you’re planning to drink your coffee cold this year, you’ll benefit from understanding what makes the two drinks different, how to make them and which kind of coffee maker you’ll use.

How to make cold brew coffee

You’ll typically use a pitcher containing a mesh or stainless-steel steeping filter to make a cold brew. Unlike regular coffee or iced coffee, with cold brew, you make a “coffee concentrate” that you’ll later mix with water or milk. It isn’t recommended to drink the coffee concentrate without diluting it as it will have a robust taste and be incredibly high in caffeine.

  1. Fill the steeper with your favorite coffee and the pitcher with cold water. (The amounts will vary depending on your cold brew maker.)
  2. Shake the pitcher until the water turns brown. (Some cold brew makers do not require shaking.)
  3. Let the mixture steep for 12-36 hours, and then remove the filter.

Downsides to cold brew

  • Cold-brew takes a long time to make compared to iced coffee, and the process requires considerably more effort. 
  • The filters can be kind of a pain to clean. 
  • After the 12-hour brewing process, you still have to mix the concentrate with water before drinking it.

Best cold brew makers

KitchenAid Cold Brew Coffee Maker

The KitchenAid Cold Brew Coffee Maker is a sturdy option that makes up to 14 servings of cold brew concentrate at a time. It takes up more space than other options and costs more money. Nonetheless, it’s a good-looking and solidly-built coffee maker. You can get the KitchenAid Cold Brew Maker from Amazon or Best Buy for around $80.

Takeya Deluxe Cold Brew Coffee Maker

The Takeya Deluxe Cold Brew Coffee Maker is a competent cold brew pitcher that costs less than $30. It isn’t as sturdy as more expensive options, but it’s a great cold brew maker at a fair price point. You can get the Takeya Cold Brew Maker from Bed Bath & Beyond and Amazon for as little as $20.

Bassani Cold Brew Coffee Maker

The Bassani Cold Brew Coffee Maker is another affordable option that sports an airtight seal and simple design. This pitcher is glass, so you have to be careful when handling it, but the steeper is stainless steel, making it sturdier than Takeya’s steeper. You can buy the Bassani Cold Brew Maker for less than $20 on Amazon.

How to make iced coffee

Iced coffee is brewed the same way as hot coffee, except that iced coffee machines typically brew it at a cooler temperature. After brewing coffee, it’s dispensed over ice and served cold. If the coffee maker you use to brew hot coffee has a wide range of temperature settings, you may not need a new machine to brew iced coffee. If you brew it too hot, the ice will melt quickly and dilute your coffee.

What you’ll love about iced coffee

Iced coffee is more of a light to medium-bodied drink, making it easier for some people to handle. Making iced coffee is objectively more straightforward than making cold brew, and you can do it in less than a minute, depending on your coffee maker.

Downsides to iced coffee

  • Quality iced coffee machines can be significantly more expensive than cold brew coffee makers.
  • The coffee gets watered down as the ice melts.
  • Iced coffee is more acidic than cold brew.

Best iced coffee makers

Keurig K-Elite Coffee Maker

The Keurig K-Elite Coffee Maker has an excellent iced coffee setting that makes you a cup of refreshing coffee in less than a minute. You do have to use single-serve K cups with this machine, but you can pack it with eight pods at a time for added convenience. You can buy the K-Elite from Best Buy or Kohl’s starting at around $170.

De’Longhi Dinamica Automatic Coffee & Espresso Machine

The incredibly versatile De’Longhi Dinamica Automatic Coffee & Espresso Machine makes smooth iced coffee in less than a minute. The Dinamica is a pretty pricey option compared to other iced coffee makers, but it provides a ton of functionality. You can buy the De’Longhi Dinamica from Best Buy or Amazon for around $900.

HyperChiller Iced Coffee Maker

Unlike other options, the HyperChiller Iced Coffee Maker works in tandem with your coffee maker. Freeze the HyperChiller overnight, and pour a cup of coffee into it in the morning for undiluted iced coffee in less than a minute. The container is small and has to be refrozen between uses, but it is significantly cheaper than most iced coffee makers. You can buy the HyperChiller for less than $30 from Amazon.

Should you drink cold brew or iced coffee?

If you’ve already developed a taste for cold brew, drinking iced coffee just won’t feel quite the same and vice versa if you already like iced coffee. Cold brew coffee is harder to make than iced coffee is, but iced coffee makers are significantly more expensive. 

The two beverages are surprisingly different from one another. If you haven’t already, go to Starbucks or another coffee shop, order one of each and let your tastebuds do the rest.


Cody Stewart is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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