Starbucks Cold Brew Vs Iced Coffee - How Are They Different

Starbucks Cold Brew Vs Iced Coffee – How Are They Different?

Last updated on October 25th, 2023 at 13:47

By reading this article you will understand the differences between a Starbucks cold brew Vs Iced coffee. 

Unfortunately many cold drinks and iced coffee drinks get confused and mistaken for each other. This article will provide you with greater clarity.

Keep reading to understand just how different a Starbucks cold brew and an iced coffee are.

Starbucks Cold Brew Vs Iced Coffee – An Overview

To get a real good overview and understanding of what these two coffee drinks are, it is best to give you a quick overview of both beverages:

  • Starbucks Cold Brew: A coffee drink made with cold water and left at room temperature to extract overnight using a coffee to water ratio of 1:8. This drink extracts all the low temperature flavor compounds.
  • Iced Coffee: A coffee beverage that is brewed using hot a hot brewing process using brewed coffee (drip coffee) and chilled by pouring the coffee over ice.

The two very different brewing techniques result in very different tasting cups of coffee. Let’s get to the meat and bones and detail both of these coffee drinks.

Starbucks Cold Brew Vs Iced Coffee
Cold Brew With Ice

Read: Iced cafe Americano

What Is Starbucks Cold Brew?

Starbucks cold brew coffee is made with 100% Arabica coffee beans that are sourced from Africa and Latin America. The exact location of beans is a trade secret.

Although the exact blend is a trade secret, what I do know is that their beans are 70% Narino Colombia Supreme with the remaining 30% from East Africa.

The African beans used produce the citrus notes while the Latin American coffee beans are responsible for the sweet chocolate notes.

Cold brew coffee is a coffee brewing method where cool water is used with coarse ground coffee and left to steep overnight, for typically 16 to 24 hours or more. The result is a cold coffee that extracts the low flavor compounds and produces a rich, sweet, balanced and mellow coffee flavor that is very enjoyable and very refreshing.

Starbucks, I know as a matter of fact, brew their cold brew coffee overnight and at room temperature. Personally, I have a preference for using ice-cold water and brewing my cold brew in the fridge to get what I call a true cold brew (Vs room temperature cold brew).

Let’s get to the brewing temperature.

Brewing Temperature

The perfect brewing temperature for coffee is a small range of 92C to 96C (195F to 205F), with coffee brewed above this temperature too bitter and below this temperature range it will be too sour.

Well,

this rule is thrown out of the window with cold brew coffee. Assuming an average room temperature of 20C (68F), and coffee outlets like Starbucks extracting their cold brew coffee at room temperature, this completely breaks the rule. My own extractions of using the fridge, 1C to 4C (34F to 39F).

The lower brewing temperature slowly extracts delicious, tasty flavor compounds that can only be accessed by low temperature brewing.

Note: By brewing in the fridge I gain a freshness advantage and keep my brew away from strong harsh lights.

What Is Starbucks Cold Brew
A Cold Brew And A Latte

Read: Iced Americano Vs Iced coffee

Brew Time

The brewing time for cold brew is measured in hours. Typically, it will take you overnight, with 16 to 20 hours is a good brew time for room temperature extracted coffee and 24 hours and longer.

Due to the lengthy brew time, I advise that you taste test after 16 hours and then every couple of hours after that until you get the perfect flavor for your cold-brewed coffee.

Flavor Profile

The flavor profile of Starbucks cold-brewed coffee is sweet chocolate notes with light and lingering citrus notes. It’s mellow and has a low acidity.

The brewing process, regardless of what coffee beans are used, produces a well-rounded and balanced coffee with a reduced acidity.

The African beans used produce the citrus notes while the Latin American coffee beans are responsible for the sweet chocolate notes.

Starbucks Cold Brew Customizations

The slow method of extraction and the resulting coffee that has a reduced acidity and none of the bitter coffee notes means that you are left with a coffee that has a more natural sweeter taste and notable notes of chocolate and caramel.

With that in mind, you can work with what will result in great tasting customizations of your own.

Some customizations include:

  • Salted caramel sweet cream cold foam.
  • Saramel sweet cream cold foam.
  • Vanilla sweet cream cold foam.
  • Peppermint and vanilla sweet cream cold foam.

You can have a little milk added to your cold brew; notably oat milk makes a fantastic choice as does almond milk. Coconut milk can be added if you want an exotic choice.

Good seasonal choices include pumpkin spice cold brew, nutmeg and irish cream cold brew. Cinnamon and cocoa sprinkling are common choices.

Cold Brew And Milk
You Can Add Milk To Cold Brew

Read: What is an iced Americano?

Nitro Cold Brew – A Special Note For A Special Coffee

Nitro cold brew is a very eye-catching version of cold brew coffee. It’s a regular cold-brewed coffee that, in a matter of minutes (or seconds!) has nitrogen bubbles infused to make a rich and creamy coffee that looks a lot like a stout beer as it cascades and settles. It has foamy creamy head and is cold without the requirement of ice to be added.

You can pair your nitro cold brew with milk, sugar or simple syrup, but this is not required as it is sweet and creamy without adding anything to it.

What Is Iced Coffee?

Iced coffee at Starbucks is, despite the name, hot brewed coffee using the drip coffee brewing methods and then served over ice.

If you want your iced coffee, request it when you order as the sweetener dissolves better at higher temperature than a low temperature and will result in a better and more even distribution of sweetness.

At Latte Love Brew, we recommend that you sweeten your drinks with simple syrups for the same reason, getting a better and more even distribution of the sweetness with no residue at the bottom.

Brewing Temperature

The brewing temperature of iced coffee is within the perfect brewing temperature of 92C to 96C (195F to 205F) to extract the high temperature flavor compounds.

It can be bold, strong and intense or light and bright depending on the beans and the roast profile that you choose. Starbucks has some very good options with an excellent blonde roast that is light, bright and floral and some great clover brewed coffees.

Brewing Temperature
Iced Coffee Is Brewed Hot

Brew Time

The brew time to make an iced coffee at home is measured in minutes and is fully automatic. All you need to do is add coffee grounds to your machine, ensure it has water and switch it on.

After about 4 minutes, your coffee will be ready.

Flavor Profile

The favor profile will vary based on the coffee coffee beans that you choose. Even at Starbucks you have a choice of coffee beans of varying roasts.

At home you can alter the flavor more by changing the type of filter that you use. A paper filter will result is a clean and crisp tasting cup of coffee with all the coffee oil removed while a metal filter will produce a fuller flavor and will have all the coffee oils in your drink.

Iced Coffee Customizations

You have a lot of customization options here, including the coffee beans. At Starbuck, you can choose:

  • Pike Place.
  • Blonde Roast.
  • Clover Brewed coffee of Blonde roast, reserve roast, dark roast and medium roast.
  • Other beans can be brewed upon request.

Their most recommended is their breakfast blend.

Since their coffee has pronounced notes of vanilla and caramel and comes with classic syrup as standard (unless requested unsweetened) and is well-balanced, you can add all kinds of milk and syrups to suit your own personal taste and perhaps make your own brilliant iced coffee creations.

Iced Americano – A Special Note

An iced Americano is not to be mistaken for iced coffee as these are two very different coffee drinks:

  • Iced Americano: A cold coffee beverage made with shots of espresso, cold water and ice.
  • Iced Coffee: A cold coffee drink made with brewed coffee and ice.

The two coffees use a different brewing method and produce two very different tasting cups of coffee.

The cold brew coffee is made using cold water brewing technique which extracts low temperature compounds producing a well-rounded and balanced tasting cup of coffee with reduced bitter notes and acidity.

An iced coffee is brewed coffee that is brewed hot to extract the high temperature compounds and then served over ice to cool it down. The flavors of an iced coffee are more present than cold-brewed coffee and has a brighter and notable acidity.

Starbucks Cold Brew Vs Iced Coffee Calories

Both cold brew and iced coffee are low calorie coffee drinks. The table below shows the calorie content of these two coffee drinks for all drink sizes.

Drink Size Starbucks Cold Brew Starbucks Iced Coffee
Tall 12 Oz (360 ml). 5 Calories 10 Calories
Grande 16 Oz (480 ml). 5 Calories 15 Calories.
Venti 24 Oz (720 ml). 5 Calories 15 Calories.

*Starbucks cold brew is also available in Trenta 30 Oz (900 ml) which also has 5 calories. 

Starbucks Cold Brew Vs Iced Coffee Caffeine

The caffeine content of these two drinks vary from normal and what you would expect from a coffee drink to strong and high-caffeinated.

The table below shows you exactly how much caffeine is in each of these drinks for all drink sizes available.

Drink Size Starbucks Cold Brew Starbucks Iced Coffee
Tall 12 Oz (360 ml). 155 mg 120 mg
Grande 16 Oz (480 ml). 205 mg 165 mg
Venti 24 Oz (720 ml). 310 mg 235 mg
Trenta 30 Oz (900 ml). 360 mg 285 mg.

Starbucks Cold Brew Vs Nitro Cold Brew

Regular cold brew forms the base of a Starbucks nitro cold brew. The addition of nitrogen infusion alters the taste slightly, making it sweeter, creamier and with a head of foam that is like a glass of beer.

It’s certainly worth trying, at least once.

The biggest difference between these two drinks is Starbucks regular cold brew is not creamy and sweet naturally and needs to have simple syrup added to make it as sweet as a nitro cold brew and a cream topping to make it creamy.

Cold Brew Vs Iced Latte

These two coffees are very different, let alone the addition of milk that is in an iced latte: 

  • Cold Brew: A coffee that uses a specific low temperature extraction using cold water to get a balanced and great tasting coffee. 
  • Iced Latte: An espresso-based coffee drink made with 2 or more shots and milk. Chilled with ice. 

An iced latte is great and is a chilled version of a regular hot latte with the milk dominating the coffee drink with the best of the coffee flavors passing through the milk.

Frequently Asked Questions About Starbucks Cold Brew Vs Iced Coffee

Iced coffee has more of a stronger coffee flavor than a Starbucks cold brew due to the difference in the brewing methods. An iced coffee, despite the name, is a coffee that is hot brewed and then cooled with ice. The result is the extraction of the high temperature flavor compounds.

A cold brew coffee is brewed with cold water and extracts the lower flavor compounds, which are naturally mellower. In terms of caffeine content, a cold brew coffee has more caffeine than iced coffee and an iced latte.

The table below shows the caffeine content of these three drinks.

Drink Size Iced Coffee Iced Latte Cold Brew
Short 8 Oz (240 ml). 120 mg 75 mg 155 mg
Tall 12 Oz (360 ml). 165 mg 150 mg 205 mg
Grande 16 Oz (480 ml). 235 mg 225 mg 310 mg
Venti 24 Oz (720 ml). 285 mg N/A 360 mg.

Which is better is very subjective and depends on the individual coffee preferences of each drinker. If you love a mellow and well-balanced coffee with a reduced acidity, a cold brew coffee is what you will find to be much better for you.

However,

if you enjoy the taste of a coffee to be more present and stronger, you will have a preference for an iced coffee.

 No, both an iced coffee and a cold brew are two different coffees, very different coffees. An iced coffee is brewed coffee that has been hot brewed, extracting all the hot flavor compounds and then cooled using ice. A cold brew coffee is brewed with cold water to extract all the low temperature compounds.

The result is two coffees with very different characteristics.

Many people prefer and love cold brew coffee as it extracts some very tasty parts of coffee that otherwise would not get into your cup of coffee. It’s tasty, less bitter and less acidic and has a strong caffeine kick. Above all, it tastes great.

The reason that cold brew is more expensive than iced coffee is due to the brewing method using a lot more coffee grounds to produce a cup of coffee. The coffee to water ratio is typically 1:8.

Is Cold Brew Stronger Than Iced Latte?

Neither a cold brew nor an iced latte has a particularly strong or prominent coffee flavor due to the iced latte being subdued by the milk content and a cold brew being a naturally mellow and well-balanced brew. If it is extra caffeine that you are seeking, a cold brew is stronger and will provide you with a greater boost.

Final Thoughts – Starbucks Cold Brew Vs Iced Coffee

If you have read this far (thanks, it’s appreciated), you will know the differences between a Starbucks cold brew Vs Iced coffee, and which is more suited for you and which you perhaps feel like trying.

Which do you prefer? How do you customize your drink?

Let us know!

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Derek Marshall, a certified barista by the Specialty Coffee Association possesses over two decades of experience in specialty coffee shops. He holds professional certifications for coffee brewing and barista skills. Derek is also an author with authoritative books covering various coffee topics including specialty coffee, sustainability and coffee, coffee brewing, coffee recipes, coffee cocktails and books focusing on Brazilian coffee, Vietnamese coffee, Indonesian coffee and Malaysian coffee. As a barista for over two decades, Derek Marshall has worked in specialty coffee shops across the United Kingdom, Spain, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. His expertise extends to the distinct coffee cultures, specialty beverages, and brewing techniques of each nation. Functioning as a coffee consultant, Derek charges US$50 per hour. To learn more about Derek Marshall and Latte Love Brew, visit his About Me Page. For coffee inquiries, contact him at +34-639-410-375 or Derek@LatteLoveBrew.com, mentioning your name and location

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