Iced Coffee VS. Cold Brew Coffee - What is the difference?

There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to the differences between iced coffee and cold brew coffee. Have you ever wondered what differentiates the two? Then you have come to the right place, please keep reading below!


This form of coffee is one that has taken over the US and is frequently associated with the name Starbucks and their wide variety of different iced coffee beverages. To keep things simple, iced coffee is just hot brewed coffee that has been cooled down, then poured over ice. Although, the hot coffee is usually brewed extra strong to account for dilution from the ice it is poured over. If you don't hot-brew your coffee extra strong to pour over ice, you will end up with a watery and weak coffee that lacks depth of flavor and caffeine. Iced coffee consumed alone can be really hit-or-miss.

The important thing to note here is that iced coffee, while cold when consumed, is still hot-brewed very quickly (within minutes) with water around 200 degrees in temperature. This is critical to note because due to this brewing method, iced coffee is still highly acidic and can be bitter to taste; which is why companies like Starbucks drown their iced coffee beverages in syrups, milk, sugars, and whipped cream. Coffee beans contain chlorogenic acids (quinic and caffeic) that are extracted and absorbed by hot water when brewing coffee and this is what gives coffee its acidity and to some, bitter and bad tastes. Therefore, iced coffee as stated before, is quite simply hot coffee that was cooled and poured over ice.


Another form of "cold coffee", but the brewing method is drastically different than iced coffee and as a result, produces a much smoother, more palatable coffee that tastes amazing by itself. The cold-brewing method of coffee replaces temperature (200 degree-ish water) with time (24 hours by STIR's method) and uses either room temperature or cold water to slow steep the coffee.

By slowly soaking coffee grounds in cool water over a long period of time, the cool water absorbs far less of those quinic and caffeic acids. Therefore, your end product is 60-65% less acidic than hot or even iced coffee and results in a much smoother coffee that still boasts outstanding flavor and the same caffeine content as caffeine is water soluble. The slow steeping of coffee also reduces oxygenation, which is coffee's worst enemy. Reduced exposure to oxygen via this cold-brewing method drastically increases shelf-life of the coffee as well.

Many cold brew coffees are prepared as a concentrate, that need to be diluted prior to consumption. However, ready-to-drink cold brew coffees have become increasingly popular as companies such ours at STIR Mobile Coffee has taken ample time to figure out a perfect water-to-coffee ratio after months of testing. The result is a cold brew coffee product that is ready-to-drink straight out of the bottle that is high in caffeine (we also have a decaf), ultra smooth, boasts strong coffee flavor, and is low on acidity. Sounds delicious and refreshing right?

Which do we prefer at STIR?

The answer should be obvious considering we have a certain branded product line that we brew, bottle, and distribute. We have made iced coffee before for large events and catering and typically offered to serve it with milk or half & half over ice to cut the acidity. But since the development of our STIR Cold Brew Coffee products, we have fallen in love with the cold-brewing method of coffee and liken cold brew coffee to iced tea for coffee lovers. For us, cold-brewed coffee easily wins the day over it's iced counter part.

Written and posted by: Alexander Rubin, STIR Mobile Coffee, Co-Owner