Iced Coffee vs. Cold Brew
Is that the question, or is it just a matter of taste?
What's the difference between Iced Coffee and Cold Brew?
We’re often asked if these two beverages are the same thing. They’re not. From time to flavor, there’s a specific distinction between the iced coffee vs. cold brew. For starters, there’s approximately a difference of 12 hours in their preparation. Let’s start with that—where’s that time difference coming from?
Basically, the “over ice” or “iced coffee” method involves brewing a hot cup of coffee as you normally would … but brewing it directly over ice cubes. Also known as flash-brewed iced coffee, or Japanese-style iced coffee, this technique makes a cup that’s bright, clean, and complex, with balanced acidity (that’s coffee-speak for mouth-watering). It requires a pour-over set up and will take less than ten minutes.
For step one, let’s say you are using the pour-over Hario filter method. If you usually use a ratio of 16 parts water to 1 part coffee, halve the water and use only 8 parts water. For step two, make up the other half in ice cubes and put them directly into your glass server. As you pour the hot water over the coffee grounds, and it begins to seep through the filter and into the server, it will melt the ice cubes you placed there. The hot brew rapidly melts those ice cubes and adds volume to the final drink, which is why you need to reduce the quantity of brew water you add. If you end up with a finished drink that’s too strong, you can always dilute it to taste later. But if you start off brewing too weak, you can’t add strength back in. (Check out the table at the end of this article—If you’re not used to weighing your ingredients to make coffee, we included measurements for easy reference.)
As soon as the brew is completed, bottle it and put it in the refrigerator. Brewing with hot water means you rapidly extract bright notes. Cooling it straight away by putting it into the refrigerator slows down oxidation—or the loss of flavors—and by-production of any off tastes, you know, those pot-stewed-forever-on-a-brewer kind of tastes.
BREW OVER ICE
What makes a good iced coffee? A great option is any coffee with great aromatics. We think that the sweet-forward fruit notes inherent in East African coffees shine in a cold cup. Which is why we developed and suggest medium-roast Baridi Blend, highlighting the fruity notes of East Africa and Central America, as the perfect blend for iced coffee. We’d also recommend two single origin coffees that are lightly roasted. Experience the elegance of Ethiopian Fancy or the juicy and complex notes of our Kenya Auction Lot. Or take it up a notch with our recipe for Minty Iced Coffee. A homemade mint syrup adds a cooling sweetness that makes for an exceptionally refreshing iced coffee.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ICED COFFEE AND AN ICED LATTE?
Good question, it’s all about your preferred brewing style and ratio of coffee to milk. Feel free to pour milk into your iced coffee, or Americano—or not—but by definition: a latte requires a layer of foamy, steamed milk. For an iced latte, we recommend a loophole, skip heating up the milk and just froth it. This adds a foamy, creamy layer without introducing heat to a refreshing beverage that you ultimately want to enjoy chilled. Pro tip: If you prefer strong coffee but still want to add ice, set aside cooled coffee to freeze and use as ice cubes in your next batch. When the ice cubes melt, this will increase the volume of coffee in your glass.
“Cold Brew”, by contrast, is a slow brew style in which cold water is poured over coarsely ground coffee and left to infuse slowly for at least 12 hours in the refrigerator. When you’re brewing with hot water, the coffee is highly soluble, and it’s easy to “over-extract.” But cold water takes a lot longer to extract coffee flavors, hence the crazy-sounding brew time of 12 to 15 hours.
Brewing cold from start to finish results in bold, smooth, refreshing coffee with lower acidity than coffee that’s been brewed hot and then iced. Cold brewing extracts different flavor notes than hot, resulting in a smoother cup. The slow extraction delivers a mellower drink, free of the bitterness you would get in such a long extraction period if the water were hot. Even after 15 hours of infusion in the refrigerator, the cold brew method won’t produce bitter, stewed notes.
As with the iced coffee method, a much higher concentration of coffee to water than usual yields a better brew; try 5 parts water to one-part coffee. You can always dilute later. To see how it’s done, check out our video here. (If you’re not used to weighing your ingredients, see the measurements in the table.)
It’s also pretty straightforward to scale up and make a big batch of cold brew concentrate that can be stored in a sealed container for up to ten days in the fridge. Because it’s a concentrate, your cold brew will probably require less room in your fridge than you might expect. And if it tastes stale after only a few days, it might be a sign that you need to clean old coffee oils that are coating your equipment.
READY TO BREW COLD
At the end of the day, as with all things coffee, your taste reigns supreme. Experiment and see which method you prefer. We have our viewpoint on what coffee is best suited to cold, and we created Baridi Blend to reflect that taste. But we’ll never tell you your preference is wrong—your palate is your own best judge. So, try it with Costa Rica Aurora, Costa Rica meets Kenya in this bright, electric light roast with notes of lemon bar, black cherry and molasses. Or try it with a medium-roast single origin from Brazil, a body-driven single origin coffee with notes of hazelnut and caramel that’s naturally processed in the Brazilian sun. Check out our variety of coffees we recommend using and see what sits best for you.
WHAT ABOUT NITRO COLD BREW?
Are you equipped to make nitro cold brew at home? The reality is, probably not. Although nitro cold brew has become increasingly popular, investing in very specific, expensive equipment is a big hurdle to brewing nitro cold brew at home. So stop by one of the Peet’s coffeebars that serve this refreshing beverage on draft.
Our Nitro Cold Brew features our signature, bright Baridi cold brew, infused with nitrogen for a foamy head and a velvety cascade. This twist on a classic means that your cold brew coffee is infused with nitrogen gas right before it’s poured into your cup. A pressurized valve adds tiny nitrogen bubbles that push out the oxygen and allow foam to float at the top before cascading down your glass.
|Coffee to Water Ratio
plus over 8 parts ice
|Coffee to Water Measurement
|4 tbsp ground coffee brewed with 6 fl oz hot water over 6oz ice cubes
|1/4 pound ground coffee (1 1/2 cups) to 2 1/2 cups cold water
|Immediate, as with any hot brew, then chill in fridge
|12 to 15 hours infusion in refrigerator
|When chilled to your taste preference
|After 12 hours, dilute the concentrate with 1 part cold brew to 2 parts cold water
Costa Rica Aurora
Single Origin Brazil
Luminosa Breakfast Blend
Zenith (Limited Release)