In a nutshell, cold brew is coffee brewed with cold water, and iced coffee is regularly brewed hot coffee served over ice.
The terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but cold brew vs. iced coffee flavors are worlds apart.
You have to remember that making coffee is no different than cooking. And cooking is just another form of chemistry.
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Temperature is the magic “ingredient” of every chemical reaction. Generally speaking, the hotter the temperature, the faster the reaction. The cooler the temperature, the slower the reaction.
That’s why you see coffee nerds debate one-degree differences in water temperature used to brew coffee.
Water temperature affects the rate of extraction and which of those complex substances and flavors get pulled from the coffee beans and into your cup.
The hotter the water, the quicker compounds like oil, acids, and caffeine are pulled out. If the water is too hot, you end up with bitter-tasting coffee.
The cooler the water, not enough compounds are released, so you end up with a sour taste and a tea-like “weak” body.
With cold brew, we get around this slower reaction, or under-extraction, issue by increasing the brew time and the amount of grinds used.
Hot-brewed coffee is typically made with 1 part grinds to 16-20 parts water. Cold brew is often between 1 part grinds to 4-8 parts water.
This is why most cold brews — even the ones you make at home — are concentrates. You dilute the cold brew over ice and/or with milk or cream.
If you want to put hair on your chest, drink your cold brew straight.
While each coffee has a different flavor profile when prepared with the cold brew method, nearly all will produce a smoother, sweeter, and less acidic flavor than just about any other type of iced coffee.
When it comes to coffee, there really is no right or wrong. Just more flavorful and less flavorful. And you get to decide what flavors you like or don’t like.
We always encourage everyone to be an experimental chef in the kitchen.
The high heat extraction that comes with iced coffee will give you a bolder, more bitter, brighter, and acidic brew. Some people dig that.
Cold brew’s longer extraction process allows more stubborn and subtle flavor compounds to be released. This will give you a complex but mellow, naturally sweeter taste.
Explore your options!