Iced coffee vs. cold brew vs. nitro brew: Say what?


Struggling to decide whether you want an iced coffee or a cold brew? What about the latest nitro brew? It’s time to break down the three different types of drinks to know what you really want.

Gone are the days where you could just walk into a coffee shop and get a simple tea or coffee. Well, maybe having the option of cappuccino or latte. In the summer, an iced coffee or iced tea was a refreshing option. But now we have cold brews, nitro brews, and lots of flavors.

Just what are the differences between iced coffees, cold brews, and nitro brews? Which is the one for you and when? Here’s a breakdown of the three popular options.

(Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

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The traditional iced coffee

When you want a coffee that is supposed to be cold—not the type that happens because you’ve been too busy running around for your kids on a morning—an iced coffee is the way to go. This really is your normal cup of coffee over ice. It’s brewed hot at double strength and then poured over ice to avoid it becoming too watery.

You can add flavors if you want. But you can also just opt for it straight. This is also one that doesn’t need creamer in it if you like strong black coffee, but it is popular with a little dairy to get rid of some of the acidic taste.

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A growing-in-popularity cold brew

The cold brew is similar to iced coffee in terms of drinking coffee but cold. However, the process of making it is different. Rather than making hot coffee and pouring it over ice, the cold brew is made with cool water and it sits at room temperature for 12-24 hours while it steeps. You can also do this with tea!

Cold brews aren’t as acidic as iced coffees—it’s the hot water that brings out the acidic qualities in coffee beans. The brews will cost a little more at your local coffee shop because of the time it takes to make the drink. This is perfect when you want a drink without sweetener or creamer, since the flavors are a little milder.

Nitro brew is the bubblier cold brew

Nitro brews are extremely similar to the cold brew, but are growing in popularity thanks to the likes of Starbucks. The coffee is made with the cold brew process and then infused with bubbles of nitrogen while in a keg. You end up pouring through a tap, a little like you would with beer or soda.

Because of the nitrogen bubbles, the texture for the brew will change. You get something a little sweeter naturally and it’s much smoother, so you don’t need to add any flavors or creamers. You’ll also get a more frothy drink. The downside is the cost is much higher than others. Not many companies are offering it yet.

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Which type of iced drink do you prefer? What’s your summer coffee? Share in the comments below.