You see it on menus everywhere – but is cold brew essentially a fancy term for iced coﬀee? No, says Pamela Chng of social enterprise Bettr Barista Coﬀee Academy. She tells us what the diﬀerence is.
1 The brewing method
“Iced coﬀee is essentially brewing coﬀee with hot water and then cooling it down, either with ice or with cold milk, water, or an ice bath,” says Pamela. That essentially translates to having your coﬀee – whether it’s an espresso, latte or cappuccino – on the rocks. Depending on what you’re brewing, it can take 30 seconds to prepare an espresso and three to 15 minutes if you’re making a filter coﬀee.
Cold brew, on the other hand, is a type of chilled coﬀee that requires a specific brewing method. “The ground coﬀee is fully immersed in room-temperature or cooler water for a much longer time – between eight and 24 hours – before extraction,” adds Pamela. In other words, it doesn’t get diluted the way iced coﬀee does. The type of beans used and the length of time they’re steeped aﬀect the taste of a cold brew. Dark roasted beans and a longer steeping time essentially make a more bitter drink.
2 The taste
Overall, you’ll find that cold brews are less acidic than their iced counterparts. Because no heat is involved in their making, the acids and oils that give coﬀee its bitter taste don’t get released. Also, expect more complex flavours from a cold brew. “Cold brew, with its slow extraction, brings out diﬀerent flavours of the coﬀee,” says Pamela.
Depending on how sensitive your palate is, it’s actually possible that you might not be able to tell a cold brew and an iced coﬀee apart, Pamela adds. That’s because if both have been brewed and extracted well, you’re unlikely to be able to taste a marked diﬀerence.
At the end of the day, it’s all about your preference. Broken down simply, cold brews are for those who prefer a more full-bodied cup – which means the coﬀee feels heavier and thicker in the mouth. Cold brews also tend to be less acidic, and generally possess a more mellow flavour.