Iced Americano vs Cold Brew: Key Differences Explained

Introduction: What is the Difference Between an Iced Americano and a Cold Brew?

Iced coffee drinks are a great way to cool off on hot summer days. If you are out and about and decide you want to go for one of these cold coffee drinks, you may realize there are several varieties of iced coffee. Many coffee shops now offer different types of cold coffee beverages apart from regular black coffee served over ice. Two of the most popular iced coffee drinks include cold brew and iced americanos. You might wonder what the difference is between these two drinks. How are they different from regular coffee made in a drip coffee maker? We answer these questions and more in this post. 

The main difference between an iced americano and a cold brew coffee lies in their brewing method. An iced americano is nothing more than espresso that contains added water and ice. A cold brew coffee is brewed using ground coffee that is steeped in room temperature or cold water for 6-24 hours. 

While this is a general overview of the key differences between the iced Americano and cold brew, there is much more to know about these two popular drinks. 

There is a glass in the center of the image that contains cold brew coffee that milk is being poured into. There are also ice cubes in the glass that are round. In the background, there is a small succulent in a cream colored vase, as well as a glass jar containing coffee beans. There are coffee beans that are scattered on the ground around the glass.

Iced Americano vs Cold Brew: Overview and History

The popular caffé americano began as a hot espresso-based drink meant to mimic the standard American coffee, also known as drip coffee. It is thought that the americano originated when American soldiers were stationed in Italy during World War II but were not accustomed to the strong espresso drank by the Italians. As a result, they began to dilute the espresso, which is typically no more than 1-2 ounces in size, to the larger volume of less strong coffee that Americans are accustomed to. This drink was thus named “americano,” which literally translates to “American” from Italian. 

Iced Americano vs Cold Brew: Preparation

How to Make an Iced Americano: Espresso + Water

Americanos are very simple to make and only contain three ingredients: 

  • 4-6 Ice Cubes
  • 2 Shots of espresso
  • 6 oz cold water

Most Americanos require a double shot of espresso, although if you want a less strong coffee, you can use a single shot of espresso. 

To make the espresso shots, you need an espresso machine. If you do not have an espresso machine, you can use an alternative method of coffee preparation. A moka pot is a stove top coffee maker that makes a strong coffee that is very similar to espresso. You can also brew a strong coffee using an aeropress or a French Press. Keep in mind that although these methods of brewing can help you make a drink that is similar to an Americano, a true Americano requires real espresso. Otherwise, you are really just making a version of an iced coffee. 

After you prepare the espresso shots, simply add the cold water to your espresso and pour over ice in a tall glass. 

Keep in mind that the ice will melt and dilute your Americano. It is usually better to use less water than you would for a hot Americano to maintain the strength of coffee flavor you desire. 

There is a glass in the center of the image that contains ice coffee and round ice cubes. In the background, there is a small succulent in a cream colored vase, as well as a glass jar containing coffee beans. There are coffee beans that are scattered on the ground around the glass.

Cold Brew: No Heat Required

There are many methods to prepare cold brew. The most important component of a cold brew is that it cannot be made using hot water. 

Cold brew coffee is prepared by steeping coffee grounds in either lukewarm or cold water. Some people leave their cold brew out on the counter to steep at room temperature. Others place their coffee in the fridge. 

Although most recipes fall in the range of 12-24 hours, research shows that oftentimes less time is adequate to make a good cold brew.

Coarse ground coffee is best for preparing cold brew. Finer grinds of coffee result in cold brew that is over-extracted and bitter. If you do choose to use regular ground coffee, remove the coffee grinds earlier. A shorter brewing duration can help make your coffee less bitter if the grind is too small. 

For a basic cold brew recipe, you need: 

  • 800 grams cold or lukewarm water
  • 100 grams of coarse ground coffee
  • 1 Liter French press or a large jar with lid and something to strain the coffee (such as a fine mesh sieve, a nut milk bag or a large tea bag filter)
  • Extra water, milk or ice for serving

Add the water and coffee grounds to the French press. Cover and refrigerate for 10-12 hours, stirring a couple times during the brew to mix and redistribute the coffee grounds in the water. Once the brew time is complete, use the French press strain the coffee grounds from the cold brew and transfer to a separate container. 

To serve, pour the cold brew over ice, if desired, and dilute with up to double the volume of water or cold milk. This creates the perfect ratio of coffee to water at 1:16. 

There is a silver and black French press in the center of the image. In the background, there is a white mug with a blue rim at the top of the mug. There is also a glass jar containing coffee beans. There are several coffee beans scattered over the marble counter surface.

Iced Americano vs Cold Brew: Taste

​When comparing the flavor profiles between an iced americano and a cold brew, there are several subtle differences that distinguish these two beverages. 

Iced Americanos will still taste like espresso, although it will taste more dilute and less strong compared to a regular espresso coffee. They tend to have a more rich and oily flavor compared to a cold brew and often tastes more of warming flavors rather than fruity flavors. 

Cold brews have a very unique flavor due to the cold brew method. Because no heat is used to make a cold brew, there are several components of coffee that are not extracted to the same degree as coffee brewed using heat. This ultimately affects the overall flavor profile which many people describe as smooth, floral, fruity, and less acidic than hot brews. Cold brews tend to lack certain aromas present in hot brewed coffee including the nut and spice aromas. They are often described as having less bitterness and less acidity than other popular types of coffee. They also have a smoother taste than iced coffee or an iced americano.

FAQs:

Is Cold Brew Stronger than an Americano?

Cold brew coffee is generally stronger than an iced americano, although this depends on how each drink is prepared. Both drinks are often diluted to suit the taste preference of the coffee drinker. An americano coffee is nothing more than espresso that is diluted with water. The overall strength of the americano is dependent on how much water is used to dilute the coffee. Likewise, although a cold brew coffee is typically quite strong, this will all depend on the ratio of coffee beans to water as well as the brew time that is used to prepare the beverage. 

Is Americano More Bitter than Cold Brew?

When made well, neither an americano nor a cold brew should be overly bitter, however there are several factors that can influence the bitterness of these drinks. The type of beans you use to make these beverages will have a big impact on the flavor, including bitterness. Coffee tends to taste more bitter when a dark roast coffee is used. Go for a medium or light roast if you prefer your coffee to be less bitter. Also ensure that you are not over-extracting your coffee. This applies to both a cold brew and an americano. Over-extraction (brewing for too long) results in a foul-tasting coffee that can be avoided by shortening the brew time or, in the case of cold brew, increasing the grind size of the coffee beans. You can learn more about why your cold brew is bitter here.

there is a small glass jar in the upper right corner that is tipped on its side, spilling out the coffee beans it contains onto a white marble counter.

Can You Use Regular Ground Coffee for Cold Brew?

You can use regular ground coffee to make cold brew, however, you will need to make some adjustments to your brewing process. Regular ground coffee is typically ground more finely than is often recommended for cold brew. Cold brews, much like a French press, work best with coarse ground coffee. This is because finer ground coffee will be extracted much faster due to the larger surface area that is exposed. If you do choose to use regular ground coffee, test the cold brew for doneness after 2-4 hours of cold brewing. You may also need to filter the coffee through a paper coffee filter or tea bag to ensure you remove any coffee grind residue. 

Is Cold Brew Healthier than Iced Coffee?

Cold brew does not carry all of the same health benefits as coffee that is prepared with hot water. Iced coffee is made from hot coffee that is chilled and poured over ice. Research shows that cold brew actually has less antioxidants compared to coffee that is prepared with hot water. Hot coffee is known to have many health benefits but these findings are typically studied using hot coffee. At this time there is not a lot of available research on the health benefits of cold brew coffee compared to coffee prepared with hot water. 

Does Americano or Cold Brew have More Caffeine?

Iced americanos and cold brew coffees have a similar amount of caffeine, however this depends on how these drinks are prepared. Americanos typically have two shots of espresso which contain 128 mg of caffeine. Cold brews are often more concentrated and therefore have a higher caffeine content than espresso or regular drip coffee. If the cold brew is diluted, it will have less caffeine. 

Why Do People Love Cold Brew?

People love cold brew because it is easy to prepare, requiring no special equipment, and it is often described as less bitter and less sour than coffee that is prepared with heat. 

Why is it Called Cold Brew?

The name “cold brew” describes the process used to make this popular cold coffee beverage. Rather than extracting the ground coffee for a short period of time at high heat, cold brew is steeped in room temperature or cold water over a long period of time, typically 6-24 hours. 

How Do You Drink Cold Brew Coffee?

Cold brew coffee is usually served chilled and can be poured over ice to keep it colder for longer. You can add sweetened syrups if you prefer a sweeter coffee. However, avoid adding regular sugar as it will not dissolve well in the cold coffee. A thin syrup is best for cold coffee drinks because the sugar is already dissolved and will blend into the coffee much easier. 

You can also add milk, cream or your favorite flavored coffee creamer if desired.  Enjoy with a delicious snack.

Conclusion

The next time you head to your favorite local coffee shop, you may consider ordering an iced americano or a cold brew. Both beverages are satisfying on a hot day and the best beverage depends on your personal preference. If you are a coffee lover and enjoy experiencing the complex flavors different brewing methods have to offer, you may enjoy the strong flavors a cold brew has to offer. If you love espresso drinks, but are wanting something lighter than an iced latte, an iced americano could be a great choice. 

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