Iced Americano vs Cold Brew: Know the Differences

The world of coffee is vast and diverse, with numerous brewing methods, flavor profiles, and serving styles. Two popular drinks that coffee shops all around the world stock are cold brew and Americano, iced Americano, to be specific. While both are served chilled and offer a refreshing coffee experience, they are distinct in many areas. As a coffee lover, you might have wondered exactly what are those differences.

There might be a lot of differences between them, but the key differences are the brewing temperature and time. An Americano is made with hot water and only takes about two minutes to make. This is a lot less time than what it takes cold brew to brew, which, is about 12-24 hours. The reason for this long brewing time is that, as the name suggests, cold brew is brewed using cold water.

You can skip to the comparison between cold brew and iced Americano. There is also a section with the similarities between iced Americano and cold brew.

Or you can read the explanations of each coffee:
What is an Americano?
What is Cold Brew Coffee?

Iced Americano in class outside.

What is an Americano?

An Americano is a popular espresso-based drink that is made by adding hot water to a single or double shot of espresso. The result is a black coffee that has a similar strength and intensity as a regular coffee but with the boldness, richness, and aroma characteristic of espresso coffee. However, the addition of hot water to espresso in an Americano serves to dilute the coffee and lower its strength, resulting in a milder flavor profile with a smoother texture compared to a straight espresso.

An Americano can be served both hot and iced, depending on personal preference and the season. Some variations of Americano also include a splash of milk or sweeteners. You can use things such as sugar or syrup, to customize the taste according to individual preference.

Origin of the Americano

The Americano is believed to have originated during World War II in Italy. It has a popular legend associated to it. This legend attributes its creation to American soldiers stationed in Italy during the war.

The story goes that the soldiers found the Italian espresso too strong for their liking. So they started diluting it with hot water. This helped it to taste more like the coffee they were accustomed to back home in the United States.

This coffee came to be known as an “Americano” to reflect its American origins.

Colosseum in Italy.

How to Make an Americano

Equipment for Americano

An espresso machine is the primary piece of equipment needed for making Americano, which is made with espresso. Espresso machines come in various types and sizes, ranging from manual lever machines to semi-automatic and fully automatic machines.

They use pressure and hot water to extract flavor from ground coffee beans and produce a concentrated shot of espresso.

Steps to Make an Americano

To make an Americano, one or two shots of espresso are brewed using an espresso machine. The machine makes espresso by forcing hot water through ground coffee beans to extract the flavor. The espresso shots are then poured over hot water in a cup or glass.

Typically a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio (espresso to water) is used. However, the ratio can be adjusted according to personal preference some people even use a 1:4 ratio.

Customization of Americano

You can customize an Americano to your taste. Here are a few things that you can do:

  1. Espresso Shots: The number of espresso shots used in an Americano can be adjusted to customize the strength and flavor profile of the beverage. More espresso shots will result in a stronger and more robust flavor. On the other hand, fewer shots will result in a milder taste.
  2. Water Ratio: The ratio of hot water used to dilute the espresso shots can also be adjusted to customize the strength of the Americano. More hot water will result in a milder taste, while less hot water will create a stronger flavor.
  3. Dilution Method: The method of dilution can also be customized to adjust the flavor profile of the Americano. Some prefer to add hot water directly to the espresso shots. However, others may prefer to pull a longer shot of espresso (also known as a lungo) to achieve a milder taste. The dilution method can be adjusted to achieve the desired strength and taste of the Americano.
  4. Type of Coffee Beans: The type of coffee beans that you use for your Americano can also be customized to achieve different flavor profiles. You get different kinds of coffee beans and roast levels all of which will influence the flavor of your coffee. Experimenting with different types of coffee beans can help get you the perfect cup of coffee based on your taste.
  5. Additives: Additives such as sugar, sweeteners, milk, cream, or flavored syrups can also be added to customize the taste of the Americano. These additions can alter the sweetness, creaminess, and overall flavor profile of the beverage to suit individual preferences.

Iced Americano

If you want to change your Americano to an iced Americano, just add ice. However, Ginnie, from Hello Little Home suggests that you should use coffee ice cubes in your iced coffee. The reason for this is that normal ice will water down your coffee.

What is Cold Brew?

Cold brew is a popular coffee brewing method that involves steeping coarse coffee grounds in cold or room temperature water for quite a long time time, typically 12-24 hours. The result is a coffee concentrate that tastes less acidic and smoother in flavor compared to traditional hot-brewed coffee.

However, cold brew concentrate can also be used to craft hot drinks. This gives them a different flavor profile as compared to normal coffee drinks or espresso drinks.

Origin of Cold Brew

The origins of cold brew are less clear and debated among coffee enthusiasts than that of Americano. However, cold brewing methods have been used in various cultures for centuries. For example, in Japan, there is a traditional method called “Kyoto-style” cold brew. For this coffee, the grounds are steeped in cold water for an extended period and then filtered. In the Netherlands, there is a method called “Dutch coffee” or “Toddy”. Making this brew involves steeping coffee grounds in cold water for several hours.

Although the origin is not clear, we do know that cold brew gained popularity in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s.

How to Make Cold Brew

Equipment for Cold Brew

 You get cold brew makers or specific brewing equipment designed for cold brewing that are commonly used for making cold brew. These can include cold brew coffee makers, cold brew immersion brewers, or cold brew drip towers. These devices are designed to steep coarsely ground coffee in cold water for an extended period to extract the flavors slowly. However, you do not need such a coffee maker. You can simply use a pitcher or French press to steep the coffee in.

Furthermore, a strainer or filter is needed to separate the coffee grounds from the liquid after steeping. This can be a fine-mesh sieve, a cheesecloth, or a coffee filter.

Steps to Make Cold Brew

To make cold brew coffee, medium to coarse coffee grounds are used. The coarser grind is important because it allows the coffee to steep slowly and evenly. This prevents the over-extracting of flavors and oils from the beans. Overextracting can result in espresso with a bitter taste. The coffee grounds are then placed in a large container and covered with room temperature or cold water. You can use a container such as a French press or a mason jar,

The coffee is left to steep for several hours, typically overnight, to extract the flavors and oils from the beans. The length of steeping time can vary depending on personal preference and the desired strength of the coffee. After steeping, the coffee is strained to remove the grounds and any sediment. You can use a fine-mesh sieve or a coffee filter for this process. This causes a smooth and concentrated coffee extract.

Cold brew can be served in a variety of ways, such as over ice, or mixed with water, or milk. It can also be used as a base for other coffee beverages. You can even use it for hot beverages. This will give you a completely different drink as compared to using hot espresso to make it.

Customization of Cold Brew

You can customize cold brew coffee to your liking. Here are a few things that you can do:

  1. Brewing Time: The brewing time of cold brew can be customized to achieve the desired strength and flavor profile. Longer brewing times will result in a stronger and more concentrated coffee extract. On the other hand, shorter brewing times will create a milder taste. The brewing time can be adjusted to suit personal preferences for a stronger or milder cold brew.
  2. Coffee-to-Water Ratio: The ratio of coffee to water can be adjusted to customize the strength and concentration of the cold brew. A higher coffee-to-water ratio will result in a stronger coffee extract, while a lower ratio will create a milder taste. The coffee-to-water ratio can be varied to achieve the desired strength of the cold brew.
  3. Type of Coffee Beans: Like with Americano, the type of coffee beans used in the cold brew can also be customized to achieve different flavor profiles. Different coffee varieties and roast levels can result in varying taste notes, such as fruity, chocolaty, nutty, or floral flavors. Experimenting with different types of coffee beans can help customize the flavor profile of the cold brew to suit individual taste preferences.
  4. Additives: Cold brew can also be customized with additives. These additives include sugar, sweeteners, milk, cream, or flavored syrups to alter the taste profile of the beverage. These additions can adjust the sweetness, creaminess, and overall flavor profile of the cold brew to suit personal preferences.

Acidity Levels in Cold Brew

Because of its smooth and less acidic flavor profile, cold brew is often favored by those who prefer a less bitter and harsh coffee taste. Many people believe that cold brew is less acidic than espresso-based drinks. This is why people who have sensitive stomachs that are easily irritated by acidity tend to stick to coffee made with a cold brew method. However, new research suggests that brewing temperature might not influence acidity as much as we’d like to think. Using a darker roast for your coffee would actually make a bigger difference in the ph level of your coffee.

Cold Brew Shelf Life

One of the benefits of cold brew is its long shelf life. The concentrated coffee extract can be stored in the refrigerator for several days. It can then be diluted with water or milk as needed to create a fresh cup of coffee. This makes cold brew a convenient and practical option for those who want to enjoy a great cup of coffee without the hassle of daily brewing. However, because cold brew is highly concentrated, it is important to dilute it properly to avoid overconsumption of caffeine.

Iced Americano vs Cold Brew: The Differences

Brewing Process

The brewing process is the fundamental difference between an iced Americano and cold brew. An iced Americano is made by adding hot water to a shot or two of espresso. This mixture is then poured over ice. The hot water helps to extract the flavors and aromas from the espresso, creating a bold and concentrated coffee. The result is a drink that has a similar strength and intensity to a regular hot Americano but is served over ice for a cool and refreshing experience.

On the other hand, cold brew is made by steeping medium or coarsely ground coffee beans in cold or room temperature water for an extended period of time, typically 12-24 hours. The slow steeping process allows for gentle extraction of flavors, resulting in a smoother, less acidic-tasting coffee concentrate. After steeping, the cold brew is typically filtered to remove the grounds. This results in a concentrated coffee that can is usually diluted with water or milk before serving.

Equipment Needed

The equipment needed for making Americano and cold brew can vary depending on the specific method and recipe used. However, for an Americano an espresso machine is vital. With regard to cold brew, all you really need is something to steep the coffee in and something to filter it with.

Flavor Profile

The flavor profiles of an iced Americano and cold brew are distinct due to their brewing methods. An iced Americano tends to have a bold and intense flavor profile. The reason for this is that it is made by adding hot water to espresso. The hot water extracts the flavors and oils from the espresso. This causes a strong and robust coffee with a rich aroma. Adding ice helps to chill the drink and mellow out the intensity. However, it still retains the characteristic taste of espresso.

On the other hand, cold brew is known for its smooth and mellow flavor profile. The slow steeping process of cold brew produces a coffee concentrate that is less acidic and bitter tasting compared to traditional hot brewed coffee. The result is a drink that is often described as smooth, sweet, and less intense in flavor. Cold brew also tends to have a subtle and delicate aroma. However, this can vary depending on the type of coffee beans used and the steeping time.

Serving Size

There can be a difference in serving size between an Americano and cold brew. Yet, it may vary depending on the establishment and personal preferences.

An Americano is typically served in a cup or mug. These mugs typically have a volume of 8 to 12 ounces (240 to 355 ml). However, the serving size can vary based on personal preferences, and some coffee shops may offer different sizes.

Cold brew is typically served in a larger container due to its brewing process and the fact that it is usually served over ice or diluted with water. The serving size of cold brew can range from 12 ounces to 16 ounces (355 to 473 ml). It can also be even larger, depending on the establishment and the specific recipe. Some coffee shops may also offer smaller or larger sizes based on customer preferences.

Iced Americano with milk in glass with metal straw.

Caffeine Content

It’s important to note that serving sizes may vary. It’s always best to check with the specific coffee shop or establishment to know the exact serving size of their Americano or cold brew. Some coffee shops may also offer customizable options where customers can choose their desired serving size or strength of the coffee. This allows for greater flexibility and customization.

The caffeine content of cold brew and iced Americano can vary depending on various factors. These factors include the coffee beans used, the brewing methods, the brewing ratio, and the serving size. However, as a general guideline, per ounce, espresso has a higher caffeine content than cold brew. A shot of espresso (1oz/30ml) contains 64 mg of caffeine. But 1oz of cold brew contains significantly less caffeine, about 12,5 mg.

Yet, no one ever drinks just one ounce of cold brew, do they?  A grande cup of coffee at Starbucks is 16 ounces (473 ml). This means that a grande cold brew contains about 200 mg of caffeine. Most espresso-based drinks that come in a grande cup have two shots of espresso in them. Meaning a grande Americano will have about 128 mg of caffeine in it.

General cup sizes at coffee shops.

So, in terms of the amount of caffeine per cup, cold brew wins. Yet, it’s important to note that the caffeine content can vary depending on the factors mentioned above, as well as the specific brand or type of coffee used.

Acidity

The acidity of cold brew and Americano can vary depending on various factors. These factors include the type of coffee beans used, the brewing methods, the water quality, and the brewing time. Generally, cold brew coffee is typically known for its lower acidity compared to other brewing methods. However as I mentioned earlier, new research suggests that brewing temperature might not influence the ph of coffee.

Also, the acidity of cold brew and Americano can also be influenced by the type of coffee beans used. This is because different coffee varieties and roast levels can have varying levels of acidity. So, always keep this in mind when you compare the acidity levels of coffee.

Shelf Life

The shelf life of cold brew and iced Americano can vary depending on how they are stored and whether any additional ingredients have been added.

Cold brew coffee typically has a longer shelf life compared to regular hot brewed coffee. The reason for this is that it is brewed with cold water, which slows down the oxidation process. When stored properly in the refrigerator, cold brew coffee can last for up to two weeks. However, the taste may gradually become less fresh over time. So, consuming it within the first week of brewing is best.

Iced Americano, on the other hand, has a shorter shelf life since it is made with hot water and espresso shots, which are more prone to spoilage. When stored in the refrigerator, iced Americano can last for up to 24 hours. However, its flavor may start to deteriorate after a few hours, and the ice can also dilute the drink. For best results, it is recommended to consume iced Americano immediately or within a few hours of preparation.

It’s worth noting that the shelf life of both cold brew and iced Americano can be affected by any additional ingredients added to the drinks, such as milk or syrups. Milk can spoil and cause the drinks to go bad more quickly. On the other hand, syrups may have preservatives that can extend the shelf life. It’s always a good idea to store coffee drinks in a sealed container in the refrigerator. This will help to maintain their quality and freshness.

Health Benefits

Cold brew can help improve your mood and boost your metabolism. Some people claim that because of the lower acidity levels in cold brew, it can be a bit lighter on your stomach than espresso. However, as I previously, acidity might not be influenced by the temperature of the water. If you want a less acidic brew, go for a darker roast.

Espresso, on the other hand, contains antioxidants that are not extracted when the coffee is brewed cold.

This means that both drinks in themselves are healthy. Adding ingredients such as cream and sugar, however, changes things.

Similarities Between Cold Brew and Iced Americano

While cold brew and Americano are distinct coffee beverages with unique brewing methods and flavor profiles, there are a few similarities between the two:

  1. Both are served cold: Both cold brew and iced Americano are served chilled or over ice. This makes them refreshing options for warm weather or for those who prefer cold beverages.
  2. Both are lower in acidity: Cold brew and Americano are known for their lower acidity compared to other coffee brewing methods. Cold brew, in particular, is often praised for its smooth and less acidic flavor profile. Americano, made with diluted espresso, also tends to have a milder acidity compared to straight espresso.
  3. Both have a less intense coffee flavor: Compared to other coffee brewing methods, such as espresso or regular hot brewed coffee, both cold brew and Americano have a less intense coffee flavor. Cold brew tends to be smoother and less bitter. Americano, on the other hand, although made with espresso, is diluted with hot water, resulting in a milder taste compared to straight espresso.
  4. Both can be made at home: Both cold brew and Americano can be easily made at home with basic coffee brewing equipment. Cold brew requires coarse coffee grounds, cold or room temperature water, and a container for steeping. Americano can be made with an espresso machine or by brewing espresso with a moka pot or AeroPress and diluting it with hot water.
  5. Both are popular choices for those who prefer black coffee: Cold brew and Americano are often preferred by those who enjoy black coffee without the addition of milk or other flavors. They both offer a pure and straightforward coffee taste that can be appreciated by coffee purists or those who prefer a simpler coffee experience.
  6. Both can be customized: Both cold brew and Americano can be customized according to individual preferences. Cold brew can be diluted with water or milk to adjust the strength and taste. Americano can be made with varying ratios of espresso to hot water to achieve the desired strength. Additionally, both can be sweetened with sugar or flavored with syrups to add a touch of sweetness or other flavors.
  7. Both can be used as a base for other coffee beverages: Cold brew can be mixed with milk, sweeteners, or other ingredients to make iced lattes, iced mochas, or other iced coffee beverages. Americano can be used as a base for other espresso-based drinks, such as lattes, cappuccinos, or cortados. This is achieved by adding steamed milk or frothed milk on top of the diluted espresso.

Image of iced latte

Concluding Thoughts: Americano vs Cold Brew

In summary, the main difference between an iced Americano and cold brew lies in their brewing processes. This leads to differences in taste, caffeine content, shelf life, the equipment needed, serving size, and health benefits.

Next time, that you want your caffeine fix on one of those hot summer days you might prefer an iced coffee drink. Try taking the one of these two cold coffee drinks that you are not familiar with, you might be surprised by what you encounter.

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