Iced Coffee vs Cold Brew Coffee

Iced coffee vs cold brew coffee


What is the difference between iced coffee and cold brew coffee?

You can drink cold brew hot, but most people want to drink their cold brew... well, cold, so we get asked this question a lot! It all boils down to (excuse the pun) how iced coffee and cold brew coffee is actually made, which in turn affects the flavour and how it's served.

Firstly, we need to know how you make iced coffee and cold brew coffee. You can think of it a bit like flash frying food versus slow cooking it.

For iced coffee, the coffee is extracted with very hot water in a very short period of time, for example by extracting an espresso shot from an espresso machine. This coffee is then mixed with ice and other ingredients such as milk and sugar.

For cold brew coffee, the coffee is extracted with cold water over a long period of time. At Derw Coffee, we brew our coffee for 16 hours to get the flavours just right. The result is a very strong cold brew coffee concentrate with a lot of depth of flavour, which is then normally diluted with water. You can also use cold brew coffee concentrate to make ‘cold brew martinis’ or pour it over ice cream to make a cold brew affogato dessert. It’s very versatile!


How does hot and cold extraction affect flavour?


Pure iced coffee is a lot more bitter than cold brew coffee, because hot water extracts everything including the bitterness. It is less noticeable when drunk hot, but if drunk cold, it can taste burned or sour (ever had a cold espresso??). This means iced coffees are usually diluted or sweetened more in order to lessen the bitterness. That’s why so many iced coffees have lots of syrup or whipped cream or other flavours added.

On the other hand with cold brew, the gentler extraction with cold water over a longer time allows the depth of the flavour to shine, but with much less bitterness. As a result, less or no dilution or sugar is needed to make the cold brew taste great. 


As well as bitterness, hot water also extracts more acid from the coffee than cold water. In fact, iced coffee is typically around 60% more acidic than cold brew coffee. This is why many coffee drinkers who suffer with acid-related issues such as heartburn or acid reflux now prefer to drink cold brew.


Finally, the caffeine content in cold brew coffee tends to be higher than in iced coffee. For example, each Derw Cold Brew bottle has the equivalent of around 2 shots of espresso in terms of caffeine. 

So there you have it! Except for the actual method of extraction, the main differences between iced coffee and cold brew coffee are bitterness, acidity, and caffeine content. At Derw, what we love about our cold brew is that the natural, smooth and deep flavour of the coffee can be fully appreciated as there is no need to mask unwanted bitterness. That’s why all of our blends taste natural and refreshing.

So which do you prefer? Iced coffee or cold brew?