Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee vs. Nitro Coffee Compared

Table of Contents

It’s summertime, and you’re looking for a chilled version of your afternoon coffee pick-me-up. As you stand in line at your local coffee shop, you contemplate options on the menu. Cold brew, iced coffee, and nitro cold brew all seem the same–so what’s the difference? 

It turns out, these three coffee drinks are actually a lot more different than you may think at first glance.

What Is Cold Brew Coffee?

There was a craze for cold brew recently as major coffee chains such as Starbucks adopted this type of coffee into their menu. Many people didn’t know what cold brew coffee was, but once they tasted it, they found it delicious and perfect for those hot summer days. 

It’s important to note that cold brew is not the same as iced coffee. When you order cold brew, you shouldn’t be under the impression that it’s just regular coffee with ice. Instead, cold brew is created over a long time and under specific conditions that make it distinct from other types of coffee. 

Cold brew is coffee that was brewed anywhere from 12 to 24 hours at a time. It specifically uses cold water or room temperature water. The end result is a strong coffee concentrate that has to be cut with water in order to be palatable; a pitcher of cold brew is usually ½ cold brew concentrate and ½ water. 

Many coffee shops have crafted their own version of cold brew. Depending on which cafe you visit, you may get a strong, robust flavor that’s rich and dense or a more citrusy and chocolatey profile. Either way, many people find cold brew to be delicious and refreshing. 

If you’re wondering whether you should give cold brew coffee a try, cold brew does have a few perks: 

  • The method of slow infusion brewing pulls excellent flavor from the beans. If you simply love the flavor of coffee, cold brew is for you.

     

  • Since the flavor is extracted slowly, it’s smooth and doesn’t have a lot of the compounds that typically make coffee bitter. All you get is that bold, smooth taste.

     

  • It’s easy to adjust the concentration–and strength–of cold brew, so you can make it to suit your personal taste. It’s recommended to brew it anywhere from 12-24 hours, and the longer it steeps, the stronger the brew.

     

  • Making cold brew saves people time. Rather than going through the process of brewing coffee every single morning, people will instead make a big batch of cold brew over the weekend. They can then help themselves throughout the week.

What Is Iced Coffee?

Iced coffee has a long history and has been enjoyed for centuries. In modern times, your iced coffee drink includes either coffee syrup, espresso, or filtered coffee mixed with ice cubes and milk. It’s typically made with a strong brew so that it doesn’t taste as diluted or watered down. However, dilution is difficult to avoid once the ice cubes are fully melted. 

Like hot coffee, there are many different types of iced coffee that you can order at your local cafe. You can get simple iced coffee that is truly just coffee with ice cubes, or get iced drinks such as: 

  • Iced latte
  • Iced mocha 
  • Iced cappuccino 
  • Iced americano 

 

Iced coffee especially got a boost in popularity during the 1990s, when Starbucks created its blended ice coffee drink Frappuccinos. These are an iced cappuccino and frappe combined. Whichever cafe you go to, you’ll have a variety of options for flavors and additions to your iced coffee.

What Is Nitro Cold Brew Coffee?

Nitro cold brew has gained popularity in recent years. It’s definitely become a big trend, and you might see it not only in your local cafe but in office break rooms and even at the grocery store. You’ve probably heard that it provides a completely different coffee experience–but what is it? 

Nitro cold brew goes through a unique process where cold brew coffee is infused with nitrogen through pressurized valves. The nitrogen results in a creamy, frothy coffee drink that many people compare to a dark beer such as Guinness. It boasts a velvety, thick, sweet flavor that you won’t get from ordinary cold brew or an iced coffee. 

The popularity of nitro cold brew has exploded for several reasons. It’s become a big office perk; companies are offering nitro coffee alongside other onsite drink options such as kombucha. People who are health-conscious enjoy nitro cold brew as well because its creamy, thick flavor feels like an indulgence at only a handful of calories. As draft beer becomes more popular, many people who enjoy craft beer find themselves enjoying nitro cold brew as well. 

Overall, nitro cold brew has something to offer everyone. It’s a unique coffee experience that’s worth a try at least once!

Iced Coffee vs. Cold Brew Coffee vs. Nitro Cold Brew

Now that you know the differences between these three refreshing coffee drinks, it helps to keep this information in mind the next time you order one from your local barista. Remember: 

  • Iced coffee is regarded as the “old-school” version to make cold coffee. After all, all you do is brew regular coffee and then pour it over ice. It’s not the best option for many people when they want a refreshing coffee drink, but some do enjoy it, especially if they prefer not to have a bold or strong coffee taste in their cup.

     

  • A lot of people choose cold brew coffee over iced coffee because cold brew provides that strong, robust flavor without being watered down. If you make cold brew on your own, you can also change the length of time that the coffee is being steeped. This results in different levels of concentration, making cold brew the perfect choice for people who are particular about their concentration levels.

     

  • Nitrogen cold brew is newer to the coffee world but gaining steam. It involves cold brew coffee but overall has a thicker, creamier texture. The resulting drink is very frothy and has a cascading profile that makes it very fun to watch as it’s poured into a glass. Nitro cold brew isn’t for everyone, but it is the coffee drink that many are reaching for when they’re in the mood for a coffee refreshment. 

How To Make Cold Brew Coffee

Although you’ll find cold brew at a lot of coffee shops, it’s possible to make a version of your own right at home. It’s a lot easier than it may seem at first glance, and you can nail down your brewing process, so your cold brew isn’t either watered down or too overpowering. You also don’t need any special equipment. 

Follow these steps to make cold brew coffee: 

  1. Grind fresh coffee beans to a coarse consistency. 
  2. Combine the coarse grounds with water and let it steep for at least 12 hours. 
  3. As time goes on, the coffee will slowly infuse into the water, resulting in a concentrated and strong brew. 
  4. Strain your brew the following day to remove the grounds. Enjoy! 

To make things easier, you can purchase some cold brew bags that are used the same way as tea bags. This means you don’t have to manually strain the grounds out of your brew–you can just steep and then toss the bag out. 

The length of time you brew your coffee depends on how concentrated you want it to be. For a very concentrated cold brew, let it sit for 24 hours. One of the best things about cold brew is that you are in control of the concentration and taste. 

Making cold brew coffee is perfect during the summer when you don’t want hot coffee but also dislike ice cubes in your coffee. Adding ice cubes–which is the way iced coffee is made–can result in a very watery drink that doesn’t have much coffee taste. You can ensure you get a flavorful and smooth cup of cold coffee throughout the summer months by cold brewing.

How To Make Iced Coffee

If you’re in the mood for a cold coffee drink quickly, iced coffee is the perfect thing to make. All you have to do is: 

  • Brew a cup or pot of coffee as usual. You can either put this in the fridge to ensure it’s chilled or let it cool to room temperature. 
  • Fill another glass with ice. Pour your chilled or room-temperature coffee into this glass. 
  • Add milk and sugar as desired. 

 

That’s it, plain and simple! You’ll be able to brew your coffee as you normally would and just add a cool twist for those hot summer days. 

If you don’t want your coffee to be watered down as the ice cubes melt, an excellent thing to do is pour cooled brewed coffee into an ice cube tray and freeze it. When you make iced coffee, you can pop out a couple of these ice cubes. They’ll add a boost of coffee flavor to your drink rather than water as they melt. 

How to Make Nitro Cold Brew Coffee

Since you need to infuse nitrogen with cold brew coffee through a pressurized value, it’s more complicated–but not impossible–to make nitro cold brew coffee at home. You will need special equipment, which makes homemade nitro cold brew a better choice for people who are able to invest in that equipment and really enjoy the taste of nitro cold brew. 

To make nitro cold brew, first, you need to make cold brew coffee as you usually would. Once you’ve done that, you will need either a whipped cream dispenser or your own mini-keg. These containers actually have the pressurized valve that’s necessary in order to truly infuse the cold brew with nitro. 

If you have a whipped cream dispenser, you’ll need nitrogen gas cartridges. This will actually add nitrogen to your coffee. It’s a simpler and cheaper method, but the cartridges do not last very long.

The other option is to own a mini-keg or your personal brewing system such as the At-Home-Mini-Keg. This can be more reliable, as it holds more coffee and gas. It can be reused over and over and really seals in the nitrogen. If you aren’t sure how to use a whipped cream dispenser, this method can also be safer. 

You can indeed have nitro cold brew at home whichever way you decide to make it. If you love the smooth, creamy, velvety taste of nitro cold brew, investing in a mini-keg may be a great option for you.

Nitro Coffee, Iced Coffee, Cold Brew Compared

If you’re looking for a unique way to experience your coffee rather than your typical morning cup or you need something to cool you off in the summer, you’ll have plenty of options when it comes to your coffee drinks. When choosing between nitro, iced, or cold brew coffee, remember: 

  • Iced coffee is strongly brewed coffee with ice cubes, milk, and sugar. It’s a great chilled drink but can become watered down once the ice cubes melt. 
  • Cold brew coffee is different from iced coffee. It’s brewed anywhere from 12-24 hours at a time and is highly concentrated, so it’s typically cut with water when served. 
  • Nitro cold brew coffee is cold brew coffee but infused with nitrogen. It has a distinct thick, velvety texture and can be more challenging to make at home than the other options. 

 

Try one of these coffee drinks the next time you’re at your local cafe. Or, make it a point this year to try all three! They each have something to offer everyone, and in the end, still result in a delicious cup of coffee.

Share This Article

Sources