Although many associate cold brew with coffee, it comes from a totally different process than iced coffee. Knowing more about both products will help you appreciate and enjoy cold brew even more.

A Big Difference Between Cold Brew and Iced Coffee

Both cold brew and iced coffee are cold coffee-based drinks. They’re both delicious, but require different preparation processes. For this reason, they serve different purposes. This guide explains exactly how they’re different.

Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee: The Main Differences

  • Process
  • Ingredients
  • Additives
  • Decaffeination
  • Available at Starbucks


    Coffee beans are soaked in cold water for an extended period of time. Then, the grounds are filtered out and the infusion is sweetened if desired. Finally, the result goes into a keg, either to be consumed immediately or to be shipped to stores.


    The cold brew process doesn’t use heat, so coffee beans retain more of the original flavor. This results in less acidity and bitterness. Caffeine is extracted during the steeping process, but the amount is much lower than in a traditionally brewed cup of coffee. Water in iced coffee is almost always ice cold water, while the water in cold brew can be room temperature or cold water.


    Cold brew can be made with coffee grounds or with concentrates. Adding milk and sweeteners, such as simple syrup, is quite popular, but it’s a drink that stands on its own as well. Ice coffee, on the other hand, can be topped with whipped cream, flavored syrups, or other ingredients.


    The cold brew process retains some caffeine. This is generally less than 1% of the caffeine that’s naturally found in coffee. Iced coffee is, for the most part, decaf. It’s rare to find an iced coffee that has any caffeine in it.

    Available at Starbucks

    Although some of the drinks listed on Starbucks’ menu contain cold brew, they’re usually not labeled as such. Most customers rely on baristas knowing the different coffee processes to make educated choices. Lattes and frappuccinos commonly come in a variety of flavors, many of which have caffeine.