Cold brew coffee and flash chilled iced coffee look identical. If you put each coffee side by side, it would be difficult to differentiate which is which on looks alone.
Although they look similar, they are vastly different beverages because of their brewing method. If you were to taste each side by side, one is refreshing with a light body, and the other is smooth and slightly sweet. Flash chilled iced coffee and cold brew differ (both in brew method and taste), so read on to figure out which one would suit your taste best.
What is Cold Brew?
Cold brew coffee is brewed with cold water and steeped for at least 12 hours. Cold brew coffee takes longer to brew because cold water doesn’t extract the oils and flavor from coffee as rapidly as hot water does.
What is Flash Chilled Coffee?
Iced coffee is such a general term for coffee served with ice. There are various ways you can make iced coffee, but we’ll be talking about the japanese style iced coffee or Aisu Kohi, also known as flash chilled iced coffee.
Flash chilled coffee has been around since the 1900s but only made its way to the United States in the early ’90s. (Source) The coffee is brewed just like any other pour over method, but it's dripped over ice so it is immediately chilled. Because it’s immediately cooled, the coffee does not stale or develop chalkiness that traditional iced coffee is infamously known for. Rather, because the hot water extracts much of the rich, complex flavor from the coffee grounds and skips the cooling process, flash chilled coffee results in a crisp, clean, and fresh cup of iced coffee that is bursting with flavor.
Here's how to make it at home:
Difference in Flavor
When coffee is brewed hot for iced coffee, it undergoes a chemical change called oxidation, which gives it a stale or rancid taste. (Source) While this doesn’t happen immediately, the heat speeds up the process since the moment beans are roasted they begin to oxidize, albeit at a slower rate. Big food chains produce coffee this way, which is why iced coffee from large chains may taste watery and flavorless.
Specialty coffee shops have begun to flash chill their iced coffee, which is brewing hot coffee directly onto ice. This method keeps all the natural aromas released with hot water by cooling it immediately and preserves a lot of the flavor. Iced coffee made this way is brighter, stronger in flavor, and crisper!
In comparison, the cold water used in cold brew alters the flavor significantly. Cold water doesn’t extract the same things from coffee that hot water does. Thus, the flavor of cold brew coffee versus traditionally brewed iced coffee is significantly different. Cold brew coffee is smoother and sweeter than brewed iced coffee because it lacks the acidity and bitterness found in hot brewed coffee.
Differences in Caffeine
Depending on the brewing method used, caffeine content can vary wildly between flash chilled iced coffee and cold brew. Generally, cold brew coffee will have more caffeine than flash chilled coffee because it sits for longer periods. At most coffee shops, cold brew will have roughly 50 mg more caffeine than the average iced coffee (Source). However, caffeine levels can vary wildly among Ready-to-Drink (RTD) coffee brands that sell cold brew, ranging as little as 50mg of caffeine or as much as 400m.
Contrary to popular belief, the type of beans used doesn’t affect the caffeine content.
Differences in Price
An iced coffee typically costs around $2-$3 USD, while cold brew coffee costs around $3-$4 depending on where you go. Flash chilled coffee is not as popular as regular iced coffee, but specialty coffee shops may charge more since it requires a more specialized brewing technique compared to 'regular' iced coffee. More ice is required to brew flash chilled coffee as well, resulting in a slightly higher price (~$3-$4).
Cold brew coffee is more expensive than iced coffee because it takes longer to brew. It also uses more coffee beans, since it produces a concentrated amount of coffee. If you prefer a stronger, smoother brew, then paying the extra dollar for cold brew is worth it!
Which is Right For You: Flash Chilled Coffee or Cold Brew?
Neither cold brew coffee or flash chilled iced coffee is better than the other—it depends on your taste and preference. Flash chilled coffee suits someone who is looking for a light, refreshing drink with a fresh coffee flavor that isn't watered down. Cold brew coffee better suits someone who is looking for a smooth and sweet coffee that is a little more caffeinated and wants to add a small amount of cream or milk.
- Tags: Coffee History