Many people who are new to coffee often become confused when they see contradicting things about Cold Brew and Iced Coffee. Many people tend to think they are the same thing, however, wonder why it goes by two different names. The truth is that it goes by two different names because it is two different things!
Iced coffee is simply hot coffee that has been brewed the normal way with hot water. Cold brew coffee is brewed in a completely different manner than hot coffee.
Cold brew is brewed with room temperature or cold water and is allowed to steep for about 12-24 hours depending on the recipe being used. The reason that cold brew coffee steeps for so long is due to the fact that the lower the water temperature, the less it is able to extract flavors from the coffee grounds. Hot coffee is brewed at a high water temperature which allows it to extract flavors quickly, however, cold brew is brewed at a much lower temperature which causes it to take much longer to extract the flavors. (Read about ideal brewing temperatures for hot coffee here)
You may be wondering “Why would you ever brew it this way if it takes so long?” The reasoning is that coffee brewed at cooler temperatures produces significantly different flavors than coffee brewed at traditional temperatures.
Iced Coffee: More acidic, has a “bite”, more bitter, brings out lighter and more fruity flavor notes
Cold Brew: Less acidic, smooth, less bitter, brings out darker and bolder flavor notes
There ya go! Next time you are in line trying to decipher the menu; keep this in mind!
P.S. If you want a great system to brew Cold Brew at home, check out what I use! Let me know if you have any questions on it…it is pretty much the industry standard for cold brew. Your local coffee shop may even use this exact model!