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As the days warm up, many coffee drinkers put a refreshing twist on their daily cup of java by serving it chilled.
Two of the most popular ways to consume this style of beverage are cold brew coffee and the iced Americano. But what is the difference between a cold brew and an iced Americano?
They are quite distinct from each other in both preparation and taste. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, and each has its own loyal drinkers.
The Difference Between a Cold Brew and an Iced Americano
The main difference between a cold brew and iced Americano comes down to cold brewing versus hot brewing.
The cold brew method involves brewing coffee at cold or room temperatures for long periods of time (usually 12-24 hours, with 15 hours being around average).
And iced Americano is an iced coffee made by brewing espresso in the usual manner with an espresso machine, then adding ice and water to it.
(See our guide on making an espresso-like brew with an AeroPress. It’s a little trickier than you might expect.)
If you compare the taste of cold brew with an iced Americano, you’ll find the cold brew to taste less acidic and have more body. Notes of dark chocolate, hazelnuts and red fruit are not uncommon.
An iced Americano has more traditional coffee flavors and an earthy bitterness.
The more traditional coffee flavors of an iced Americano are due to the oils that are extracted while brewing with hot water under pressure.
An iced Americano is basically a diluted cup of double-shot espresso, and it retains those taste characteristics before any milk or sugar is added.
Cold brew takes a lot more time and work, but results in a unique drink that tends to be naturally sweeter and healthier, with strong flavors and a smoother yet more robust taste.
Coffee strength refers to concentration rather than caffeine. It is a product of the coffee-to-water ratio used when brewing. Cold brew concentrate tends to be stronger than an iced Americano, because it uses a very high proportion of coffee grounds during brewing. Many people dilute their cold brew with water.
An Americano coffee starts off as highly concentrated espresso, but then is diluted with water to turn it into an Americano, and further diluted with ice to make it an iced Americano. Inevitably, it will come out less concentrated than a cold brew.
Most researchers put the caffeine content of an eight-ounce cup of cold brew in the range of 100-125 milligrams.
The caffeine level of an Americano really depends on whether a single or double espresso shot is used. For our purposes, let’s assume a double shot. After all, we want some volume to our coffee.
An iced Americano (using a double shot) weighs in slightly stronger than a cold brew, with an estimated 125-136 milligrams of caffeine. You can cut that in half if you use only a single shot.
Both cold brew and iced Americanos contain virtually zero calories as black coffee. If you add any cream, sugar or other additives, you’re getting into iced lattes and all bets are off.
Both of these cold coffee drinks are great sources of antioxidants, magnesium and polyphenols.
Making Cold Brew and Iced Americanos at Home
How To Make Cold Brew
What you’ll need: 80 grams of coarsely ground dark roast beans, with 800 milliliters (27 ounces) of cold tap water (preferably filtered), for a 1:10 ratio.
- In a French press beaker (or an alternative; see below), combine the ground coffee beans and water. Use a coarse grind size like you would for French press.
- Stir well.
- Cover the beaker with plastic wrap and let it sit for 12-15 hours at room temperature or inside the refrigerator.
- For filter coffee, press the plunger on top of the beaker and slowly press down. (No French press beaker? Use a sieve and cheesecloth or clean kitchen towel on a container and strain through.)
- Ready to serve! Add ice cubes and milk to your taste.
- You can store your cold brew batch for 7-10 days in the fridge with no loss of flavor.
How To Make an Iced Americano
What you’ll need: two shots of espresso, 60 milliliters (2 ounces) of cold water, and ice cubes.
- Pour the hot espresso shots into a glass.
- Add ice cubes and stir.
- After cooled, top up with cold water (preferably filtered).
- Add milk, if desired.
Cold brew coffee and iced Americanos are enjoyable year round, but especially so in late spring and summer if you are looking for an alternative to hot coffee.
Make a batch at home, then pack them into the cooler for a perfect refreshing energy boost at the lake, cottage, or on the hiking trail.
Bonus tip: if you really want to have some hot weather coffee fun, try making your own coffee popsicles. Here’s how:
- Simply whisk together your cold brew coffee (along with milk or sugar to your taste).
- Pour into popsicle molds or paper cups and insert wooden sticks.
- Freeze overnight.
The key is to make sure the coffee and milk are cold because that will help reduce the amount of ice crystals that form on the popsicles during freezing.
Which is Better: Cold Brew or Iced Americano?
Try both of these delicious drinks and decide which is best for you.
I like them both, but have a slight tendency to prefer cold brew.
As with everything, there is a tradeoff. Cold brew is time- and labor-intensive, as opposed to the almost-instant Americano.
You can’t go wrong with either iced coffee drink as you beat the heat with refreshing drinks this summer.