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  • Writer's pictureAnn Allanson

Cold Brew or Iced Coffee: What's the Difference?


Okay, I admit it. For a long time, I thought cold brew and iced coffee were the same creature comfort. Yes, I know. It was a considerable error.

As a hot coffee drinker, I figured there might be other Staunton coffee lovers who didn't know the difference either. And since warm weather is on its way, it's good to have a back up, right?

So coffee snobs, hold the judgment and pass the ice cubes.

The Difference Between Cold Brew and Iced Coffee

To begin with cold brewed coffee is for planners as well as for those who want double the caffeine. This summer rendition of coffee is always brewed "cold" or at room temperature.

Start by steeping medium to coarse ground coffee for at least 12 hours. Grounds are then filtered to remove sediment.

Unlike hot coffee, time not heat, is the factor here in creating a smooth cold cup of coffee that retains the brew's oil's, sugars, and caffeine.

The result is a rich flavor infusion that is also smooth with low levels of acidity. For those with sensitive digestive systems, this could become your go-to summer drink.

The cold brew process, however, neutralizes the acidic taste. Some cold brew lovers describe it as a full-bodied, Guinness-type mouthfeel. It's up to you how you flavor it or if you just want to add ice and enjoy.

There are many variations on the basic cold brew recipe, so you can adjust accordingly. Need some ideas?

Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee Infographic

Yes, there are thousands of ways to say YUM with this basic recipe.

For those that abhor planning your coffee day but still want the smooth, full taste of a cold brewed coffee, you can always stop by the Coffee Cave and we'll fix you right up.

Iced coffee, on the other hand, is simply regularly brewed hot coffee that is poured over ice.

Let me stress that it is NOT leftover coffee from yesterday with a bunch of ice cubes tossed in trying to conceal the fact that your coffee has just become a deadly weapon.

Leftover coffee oxidizes, causing the flavor to become flat, bitter, and funky. The serious iced coffee brewer opts for the Japanese method which does a good job of preserving the coffee's acidity, aroma, and richness.

Use about 10% more coffee and a finer grind. Then pour drop by drop onto ice which ensures minimal dilution.

This is not the same as pouring the hot coffee in a cup then adding ice. Au contraire. When you brew with stronger coffee, pouring it directly over ice, the melting cubes lock in flavors, while diluting the concentrate to the perfect coffee strength!

This also keeps the iced coffee from getting watery.

Cold Brew or Iced Coffee for People On The Go

For the rest of us, there is the Coffee Cave, dedicated to making gourmet cold brew and iced coffee for people on the go!

The Cave does do their iced coffee a little differently from most other Staunton coffee shops, and that's a good thing.

Instead of using hot espresso which makes the coffee more acidic tasting, the Coffee Cave uses their cold brew base to make iced coffee.

This method simply mimics the Japanese method, adding water to the cold brew base. Ice cubes then dilute the coffee liquid.

The result is a smooth tasting coffee that's never too strong or too weak.

Whatever you choose, you've got cold coffee that's still gourmet quality without sacrificing taste!

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