How To Brew: Traditional Iced Coffee Vs. Cold Brew – What’s the Difference?

The gentle clink of cubes on glass, the delicate condensation dappling the outside, a savory sip, and an immersive explosion of bold, crisp, decadently black flavor; summer has arrived, and with it the coffee enthusiasts’ summer love, iced coffee. Long-time fans of iced coffee have brewed it the traditional way, but in recent years a newcomer, the cold brew, has been turning heads. But what’s the real difference between cold brew and traditional iced coffee anyway? And which is better? Our coffee experts are here to break it down so you can let your palate decide.


The primary difference between cold brew and traditional iced coffee is that cold brew is -you guessed it- brewed with cold water. While traditional iced coffee is brewed with hot water and then chilled. Both end up on the rocks, but each is brewed to extract optimum flavors in different ways. So, let’s break down the differences:



Because traditional iced coffee is brewed with hot water, extraction time is significantly less, with brew times as short as two minutes, depending on your preferred brewing method. With cold brew, on the other hand, the grounds are left to steep in cold water at room temperature, and extraction can take up to 24 hours (a minimum of 12 hours).  



To brew traditional iced coffee, you use the same preferred method you use for hot coffee, with one exception; the grounds-to-water ratio should double. The other “half” of the water then is substituted by pouring over ice after brewing. 


Expert Tip: People often make the mistake of brewing their iced coffee with the usual ratios and letting it chill at room temperature or in the fridge. However, when iced coffee is chilled this way, instead of over ice, the coffee breaks down and loses its oxidation, going “flat,” and which often results in bitterness and lack of flavor.


To brew cold brew, you steep grounds directly in cold water. The grounds can be steeped in any container and filtered after brewing is complete with either a coffee filter, a cheesecloth, or with a unique cold-brew brewer. The coffee is ground very course to achieve the crystal-clear perfection of iced coffee, as a finer grind will result in a cloudy brew and over-extraction. The ratio of grounds-to-water for this method is 1:4, much higher than that of traditional iced coffee, resulting in higher caffeine content. After brewing, the cold brew concentrate can then be served directly over ice or diluted to taste with water or milk.


Expert Tip: Do you want to learn more about water-to-grounds ratio and other brewing basics? Check out the Four Secrets to Brewing the Best Torke Coffee at Home. Or, if you don’t want to worry about grind and ratio, check out our easy Tundra Cold Brew Packs



They’re both great; we recommend letting your palate decide. Traditional iced coffee is quick, easy, full-flavored, and bold, the hot water bringing out the more subtle flavors of the coffee. While cold brew takes longer to brew, it will have a smoother finish, less acidity, and higher caffeine content.


Any of our high-quality Torke Coffee can be brewed for traditional iced coffee and cold brew, but if you’re not sure where to start, we would recommend our Weeden Creek Sumatra roast. This medium-dark roast is sure to give the full-flavor one hopes for in iced coffee, while it’s low acidity and syrupy body will provide a smooth finish no matter which way you brew your iced coffee!


So, there you have it. The next time you’re invited into the iced coffee brewing debate, you have the inside scoop from the Torke experts on your side. If you want to learn more about at-home brewing and gain insights from our coffee masters, check out our other blogs and follow us on social media to get notified each time we publish more insider secrets.

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