Iced Coffee vs Hot Coffee: Similarities and Differences

iced and hot coffee

Coffee is the ultimate elixir of rehabilitation for many people. Iced coffee and hot coffee are both popular varieties, but they have some key differences that set them apart from one another. Especially if you’re new to the coffee scene, it helps to know what kind of brew and temperature is best for your needs.

The difference between iced and hot coffee is the temperature at which it’s prepared. Iced coffee can usually be made in larger quantities, and has ice added after it is brewed. Hot coffee is brewed between 195-205˚F. Any brew of coffee can be prepared to be either hot or iced.

In this article, we’ll be going over the differences between iced and hot coffee. There will also be information debating on which of the two prepared temperatures is the better way to take one’s coffee. We’ll also explore the health benefits of each type and the different machines and beans you’ll need to make these two types of coffee.

What Are the Similarities?

The similarities between iced coffee and hot coffee are that both drinks have the same ingredients when prepared (although the quantities and methods of preparation differ). The dosage of caffeine in each type is also just about the same whether it’s hot or cold.

Caffeine is absorbed in either brew in about 45 minutes and will be able to wake up the drinker within 15 minutes of consumption. Both cold and hot brew coffee are prepared with around 100 mg of caffeine per cup. The dose of caffeine is why your body feels more awake and alert for work after you drink a cup of joe. Both brew types will increase your heart rate and release sugar inside the bloodstream, working together to increase your overall energy. Dopamine is also released, which can explain why you might be in a better mood after drinking some coffee.
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While these beverages do have some similarities, they have far more differences. A lot of this stems from the art of coffee itself: everyone has their own way of going through the day with the flavor and temperature they feel comfortable with.

There are different types of ingredients, preparation, and temperatures that are used to prepare hot and iced coffee, so let’s look into the individual features of both of these drink types.

What Are the Preparation Differences?

Preparing iced coffee follows a similar procedure to hot coffee, but it is generally a bit milder (and obviously colder). Iced coffee is also known to come in larger servings from 8-16 oz while also having a higher caffeine ratio. So, if you really like drinking coffee, iced coffee does satisfy the feeling of enjoying a slow, pleasurable sip.

It also takes a while to make, as prep time ranges from 8-18 hours depending on how long you want to wait and how strong you want the flavor to be. Even if you make iced coffee out of hot coffee, the chilling time takes a few extra minutes just for the drink to cool down at the counter. But, you can save time on preparation with ice coffee by storing it in bigger batches inside a pitcher. Big batches like this can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. This saves money from making a trip to Starbucks.

Although it may take longer to initially make iced coffee, you can save time in the future by making larger quantities and storing them for later.

There are different levels of flavor when brewing hot coffee, and the caffeine strengths vary depending on the type of coffee bean you use. Robusta beans have the strongest amounts of caffeine, whereas Arabica beans have half the amount. Hot coffee (in the case of black coffee) is served in smaller portions, and an espresso shot can be around 5 oz.

If you’re looking to lower your caffeine intake, but still need to wake up ASAP, then hot coffee would be a more suitable choice for you. It’s pretty quick to brew, but you’ll want to drink it when it’s hot, so it doesn’t always store well.

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When preparing hot and iced coffee, most coffee shops brew with similar methods.

For hot coffee:

  1. Cold water is filtered for each brew.
  2. Coffee grounds are measured with tablespoons per 6 ounces of water.
  3. Temperatures are set between 195-205˚F. (Though it is advised to let the coffee sit for 30 seconds).
  4. Quality oxygen can be passed through bleached filters, and filters should be rinsed in hot water before making the next brew.
  5. Baristas will usually pour water over the coffee grounds for 30-45 seconds to get the most flavor out of the coffee.

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For cold immersion coffee:

  1. There needs to be about 100g of coffee from a burr grinder then placed on a french press.
  2. 700g of water is poured over the grounds evenly, then a spoon is used to press down any leftover grounds that have crusted on top.
  3. Cold-brew can be left on a countertop for 12 hours and left in a fridge for 15 hours.
  4. French press filters are then pressed down as this helps extend the concentrate left before being poured into a second filter.
  5. The concentrate can be stored in a fridge for two weeks if needed.

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The thing with cold brew coffee is that it is made in several ways, all of which can have similar resemblances to coffee houses. Because you can use the french press for coffee dripping and filtering, this makes the process more manageable and time dependable. The slow drip method is another similar way to make iced brew coffee and is also used in coffee shops. This is when you see glass towers filled with coffee beans with ice in a top champer as the coffee grounds stay in the middle chamber, producing cold brew concentrate.

Another method is to pour over the coffee maker with an AeroPress. This is where you put ice in the cone, allowing it to drip onto the coffee grounds inside the press. The coffee bed becomes filtered through by the liquid into the mug under the AeroPress machine.

While this does take about 6 hours to finish, the coffee concentrate has thinner results in the body of coffee, while producing a crispy, lighter flavor. This helps when coffee and water can’t be consistently in contact when brewing, as it is less user-friendly than immersion. If you are curious, the immersion method doesn’t require your full attention, as the coffee grounds are placed in water and are allowed to steep for 6-24 hours for the drink to be smooth and set at a cooler temperature (Source).

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Taste Differences Between the Two Brews

You would think that because it’s still regular coffee it would taste the same no matter how it’s prepared, right? Well, actually it does taste different.

When you’re making hot coffee, the heat from the water opens the coffee grounds to extract the caffeine (as well as the nutrients inside) within minutes. Iced coffee takes up a bit more time, as steeping can take hours, but it does result in a less bitter smell. If you cool down a hot brew, the acidic tones won’t be gone and will even taste watered down with a gross aftertaste. There’s more to iced coffee than just adding ice cubes to a pot of hot brew.

However, if you choose to chill a shot of espresso, the flavor changes, and more acids can be extracted from the coffee bean. Most people are often tasting more acidity in hot coffee than iced because hot temperatures in drinks bring out stronger flavors. Iced coffee, having more water from the ice, lowers the acidity levels and makes the flavor smaller in taste. Preparation for iced coffee takes longer, which can also be a reason why the flavor isn’t as strong.

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Different Machinery Needed for Cold & Hot Coffee Brews

Hot and cold coffees are brewed in different ways and they often require different machines. Some coffee machines can be used for both types, but this is another major difference between the preparation of these two types. Hot brew makers are the standard, but below are a few of the best cold brew coffee machines for your reference:

  1. The Coffee Gator

This machine can make 32 oz of coffee at a time with easy attachment settings and clean up. The coffee beans will be preserved enough to come back later in the day or up to 24 hours. Coffee is known to come out full of flavor with little/no bitterness.

2. Oxo Cold Brew Coffee Maker

This coffee maker can make 32 oz of coffee as well, featuring a bucket-style immersion brewing. The feature of the “rainmaker” lid also helps trickle water in for the grounds, so there’s no mess. If you leave the brew on the counter for up to 24 hours, the brew can be cleaned by draining the flask of the decanter with a simple flick of the switch.

3. Bruer Cold Brew Maker

Known for its slow drip method, this grit-free machine allows water to drip through, via gravity. Ice can be added and can hold 20 oz of water. After dampening the grounds, the paper filter is placed on top, and your container will produce a soothing fresh blend.

Other Great Machines to Check Out:

  1. Kitchen Aid Cold Brew Maker
  2. County Line Kitchen Cold Brew Maker
  3. Toddy Cold Brew System
  4. Coffee Gator
  5. Cuisinart Automatic Cold Brew Coffee Maker
  6. Secura 1.5L French Press

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Regarding Health Aspects in Cold & Hot Brew Coffee

Is coffee an overall good choice to add to your diet? Well, having too much caffeine in your system is bad for your digestive system, but having it in small doses can help you to focus and stay awake. The main differences in health benefits are the number of antioxidants in both brew types. Drinking a cup of coffee (temperature doesn’t matter) weekly helps reduce the chance of a heart attack by 7%, according to a study in 2017 by the University of Colorado (Source).

There is the fact on hot coffee being able to extract antioxidants better than cold brews. Yet, this also makes it a double-edged sword, because while the antioxidants are good, there is also higher acidity. With the benefit of hot coffee, it is said that even smelling it can cause less stress in the workday. This is because the coffee aroma triggers an alteration of certain brain genes. A study featured in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that even a whiff of a hot brew reduced sleep deprivation.
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Hot coffee does have the saving grace of having lower acidity levels when you choose a darker roast. It’s not entirely clear, but it’s possible that it could still produce the same health benefits, according to Professor Niny Z. Rao, Ph.D. at Thomas Jefferson University. This study concluded that there were lower levels of antioxidants in lighter roasts. Thus, hot-brewed dark roast-based coffee was pronounced healthier.
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Which Is the Better Brew?

Cold-brew coffee is a better choice in regards to your health.

Cold-brew tends to have three times less acidity compared to hot brew coffee, which helps your digestive system function better. The oils in coffee beans can oxidize more quickly at higher temperatures, which results in a sour taste. Cold-brew coffee causes fewer problems when digesting; it causes less tension on the stomach and can produce a more palatable taste for those who aren’t a fan of too much acidity. It also shares the same health benefits as hot coffee, even if the levels of antioxidants are lower.

Cold-brew coffee is also better for those who suffer from caffeine addictions, as the craving won’t be as powerful due to the 40mg of caffeine per 100g. If you’re watching your caloric intake, having a 16 oz ice coffee is only five calories, has zero carbs, and is fat-free.

It also is great for the prevention of heart attacks, according to Dr. Yogeswaran. By having the source of antioxidants, along with magnesium, phenolic compounds, and trigonelline, these chemicals increase insulin levels while working with lowering your blood pressure.

It is also a more commonly requested beverage, as ice coffee was ordered at an 80% rate based on a study from Dunkin’ Donuts. Even in the winter, customers chose ice coffee over hot by 56% (Source).

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Of course, both hot and cold-brewed coffee have their own dedicated fans. The health differences aren’t extreme in either case, so the type of brew that’s best for you is the one that you prefer.

There is no objective “best” coffee when it comes to taste because everyone has their own preferences. If you like your coffee strong, a hot brew might be best. But if you like it to be milder and sweeter, maybe iced coffee is the way to go.

Tim S.

Tim loves roasting, brewing, and experimenting with coffee. After years of perfecting this craft, working as a barista, and owning a small coffee service in college, he has decided to share his knowledge with the world.

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