As we transition into the warmer months, many will make the switch from hot coffee to iced coffee for their choice of caffeinated beverage. Popular chilled refreshments include iced lattes, frappes, iced Americanos, iced coffee and cold brew. Often there is confusion between iced coffee and cold brew, and while they might seem similar, there are some key differences between the two.
Cold brew is coffee that is brewed with cold water instead of hot water and over a much longer period of time. Ground coffee is steeped in cold or room-temperature water, usually 12 to 18 hours or even longer. The grounds are then strained and chilled before serving it either as is, over ice, or diluted with water. Regular coffee methods use near-boiling temperatures to quickly extract properties of coffee. Conventional iced coffee is made by brewing hot coffee using a standard method and then chilling it either by refrigerating it or pouring it over ice.
Cold-brewing extracts the flavor along with the caffeine from the coffee beans which yields a strong, flavorful, richer and smoother concentrated coffee with character. Many say that the flavor of cold brew is much smoother, milder and less acidic than ordinary brewed coffee. This is because cool water doesn’t bring about the chemical changes that produce the acidity as well as the bitter flavor associated with hot coffee.
While cold brew may be toned down in terms of bitterness and acidity because of the long extraction period, it usually tastes a bit stronger than traditional drip coffee. Cold brew tends to have higher amounts of caffeine than drip coffee because it steeps for a longer period of time and produces a more concentrated product. The trouble with iced coffee is that it can often taste weak once it’s been poured over ice, as the ice dilutes the coffee when it melts. As with conventional coffee, milk, cream or sugar are frequent add-ins with cold brew as well. However, because cold brew is less acidic and naturally sweeter, many feel they do not need to sweeten their coffee as much if at all.
One great thing about cold brew is that, because of its stability in flavor and body, it’s incredibly versatile. It can be used in many recipes such as alcoholic cocktails, drinks without alcohol, ice cream and even cakes. As a caffeinated beverage, you’ll sip the rich flavor notes of a day-long steeped cold brew that you won’t get in a regular iced coffee. All in all, cold brew is an excellent choice if you’re interested in experiencing a full, rich flavor profile, without the typical dilution.