Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee: is there a big difference?

Starbucks has a wide variety of drinks; hence one cannot miss their preference. However, some of their drinks are quite confusing, and you can have a difficult time deciding on which one is best for you. Recently, a folk of mine visited and insisted on us grabbing a Starbucks coffee. Though I am used to having their cold brew coffee, I decided to try out their iced coffee due to the summer weather.

After taking the coffee, I noticed some major differences between the two drinks. I, therefore, created this post to help you decide which coffee between cold brew and iced coffee suits you best.

What are the differences between Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee?


Cold brew

Iced coffee


Coarse ground coffee, cool water

Ice, milk, espresso, sweet syrup, whipped cream

Taste profile

It tastes smoother, less bitter, slightly sweeter, and chocolatier.

Lighter body, refreshing, acidic, and bitter. Often served sweetened and with a splash of milk.

Caffeine content/ nutritional value

A cup of cold brew coffee has 200 mg of caffeine per 473mL.

405 ml of the coffee has 19g net carbs, 19g total carbs, 0g protein, 0g fat, and 80 calories.

A cup of iced coffee has 165mg of caffeine. Per 240g of iced brew, coffee has 2.4 calories. This same amount of coffee has 0.2g of proteins, 0g of fat, 0g of dietary fibre, 0g of sugar, and 0g of carbohydrate.

Availability/ accessibility

You can easily access Starbucks cold brew coffee via their mobile app or the physical stores. However, Starbucks experiences shortages of the cold brew seasonally.

Starbucks iced coffee is readily available at Starbucks locations. You can also order the drink via the Starbucks mobile app.

Roast level

Dark roast

Medium roast

Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee – How They Compare

Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee
Starbucks’ pumpkin cream cold brew. Image source: Pinterest

What it’s made of (ingredients)

Cold brew coffee is made of medium to coarse ground coffee and water. Cold brew is made by steeping the coffee in the water at room temperature for a period of 12+ hours. The mixture is then filtered to remove the grounds and get a clean cup without sediment. Unlike normal coffee, cold brew coffee is not exposed to heat at any point when it’s being created. Cold brew coffee uses the time to extract coffee oils, sugars, and caffeine rather than heat.

On the other hand, iced coffee can be simply termed by many as normal coffee which has been iced. Iced coffee is usually finer ground coffee and hot water. Iced coffee is made like normal coffee and then cooled down later on.

Cold brew wins this category as the ingredients and the method used to create it make the coffee less acidic.

Taste profile

Cold brew coffee tastes sweeter and smoother than iced coffee mostly because it does not have the bitterness and acidity that a hot brewed coffee has. The drink is slightly sweeter and has a chocolate-like taste. On the other hand, iced coffee has a bitter taste due to acidity as it is brewed as normal coffee and then cools down for hours till it is ready. Another reason that intensifies the bitterness of the taste is that it is brewed at a high temperature. However, the flavour of iced coffee can be sweetened depending on the flavour of the iced coffee you’ve ordered. It is mostly served with sweeteners and a splash of milk.

Cold brew wins this category as it has a sweeter and smoother taste than iced coffee.

Caffeine content/ nutritional value

If you order a typical 160z of cold brew coffee which has 200mg of caffeine, and compare it to a typical 160z of iced coffee which has 165mg of caffeine, you will consume more caffeine with a cold brew. 405ml of coffee has 19g net carbs, 19 g total carbs, 0g of fat and proteins, and 80 calories. On the other hand, a cup of iced coffee has 2.4 calories, 0.2g of proteins, and 0g of dietary fibre, sugar, carbohydrate, and fat.

If you are an early bird and require a lot of caffeine content to push you through the day, the cold brew is for you. But if you just want to be productive but not too jolty, I recommend the iced coffee.

Availability and accessibility

Both the Starbucks iced coffee and cold brew are easily available at Starbucks locations. They are also available when ordering via the mobile app. While customizing your drink via the app, you can order them by simply inserting their names. However, different flavours of both coffees are seasonal and can miss in the stores at certain times.

In this category, both of them are easily accessible at Starbucks stores.

Roast level

Starbucks uses dark roast for their cold brew coffee because the roast profile provides a consistent flavour. The rich flavour is essential and suitable for those who love adding sweeteners or milk to their brew. Furthermore, using dark roasts provides a low margin of error.

On the other hand, Starbucks uses the Terraza Blend for their traditional iced coffee. The Terraza Blend is pre-packed pre-ground coffee which is medium roasted. This type of coffee is Starbucks’ signature blend when it comes to iced coffee. However, on other occasions, Starbucks uses the Starbucks Kenya medium roast coffee. This coffee has an acidic flavour that is well balanced and is more accentuated when served cold.

Both iced coffee and cold draw in this category as the roast level used in preparing each is essential to bring out the flavours required in both.

Cold Brew Vs. Iced Coffee: A comparison review

Starbucks cold brew overview

The Starbucks cold brew coffee gives you a unique and different experience of coffee. The flavours of the cold brew, when perfectly combined with sweeteners, create a sweet and smooth taste. I like the fact that this drink is less acidic hence the smooth taste.

Starbucks offers cold brew in several varieties to make your experience more unique and enjoyable. If you like more caffeine, then trying out a cold brew drink will be great for you. However, the high-calorie content in Starbucks cold brew did not impress me due to my fitness goals. The beverage is best suited for someone who loves high caffeine content but dislikes acidic drinks.

What I liked

  • Less acidity, thus a smoother taste
  • High caffeine content

What I didn’t like

  • High-calorie content

Who is best suited for

  • A coffee lover who is looking for a less acidic drink with high caffeine content.

Starbucks iced coffee overview

If you are a Starbucks lover and enjoy all the variety of drinks that they offer, then definitely their wide range of iced coffee will excite you. Starbucks iced coffee offers the perfect refreshing and cooling option to hot coffee, especially during the summer or when you want to cool down after an intense day of running errands.

What I really like about the coffee is its low-calorie content and the wide range of varieties of iced coffee that Starbucks provides. Wide varieties of iced coffee allow you to customize your drink to your preferred taste.

However, I did not like the bitter finishing taste of the drink and the high acidity content it carries. The drink is, therefore, best suited for people who prefer less caffeine content. Furthermore, if you do not have any acidity issues or do not mind the level of acid you consume, the drink will suit you best.

What I liked

  • Low-calorie content.
  • The vast range of varieties

What I didn’t like

  • High acidity.

Who is best suited for

  • Customers who prefer less caffeine content in their drinks

Final verdict: so, which is better? Starbucks cold brew or Starbucks iced coffee?

Both iced coffee and cold brew are great, depending on your preferences. Therefore, I cannot conclude that one is better than the other. If you are searching for a refreshing and light drink that contains a classic coffee flavour that can be sweetened easily by adding syrup or milk into it, then iced coffee is definitely your best option. However, if you want a more caffeinated drink that is less acidic, and has a smooth taste, then the cold brew suits you best. The major difference that can affect your decision is that the flavour of iced coffee dilutes as the ice melts while that of cold brew remains strong.


Is Starbucks cold brew stronger than iced coffee?

Yes, Starbucks cold brew is stronger than iced coffee as it has more caffeine content.

Which one tastes better between Starbucks iced coffee and a cold brew?

The cold brew tastes better as it is less acidic than Starbucks iced coffee.

Which one is healthier between a Starbucks cold brew and an iced coffee?

Both drinks are basically identical when it comes to nutritional value. The main difference is the acidity level and the flavour. Cold brew has low acidity levels and tastes sweeter and smoother than iced coffee.

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