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Iced Coffee Vs. Cold Brew Vs. Nitro Brew: What’s The Difference?

Now that the blazing summer heat is upon us, a hot tea or coffee is no longer an appropriate option to fuel our bodies – whether it be to get us out the door in the morning or to give us a pre-workout energy boost.

Taking the place of our steamy, delicious friend for the next few months is its chilly cousin. We’re of course talking about iced and cold-brewed coffee. Anybody who drinks coffee will surely know about iced coffee and its unique role in helping cool us off while caffeinating our soul, all in one single cup.

With the popularity of this iced drink increasing exponentially, other cold alternatives have been released to vary the selection and flavor combinations possible.

How do all the cold coffee variations compare, though? In this article we’ll cover the differences in their brewing process and how it changes the flavour and smoothness, as well as if you need to limit your consumption…

close up of ice coffee with milk


What Is Iced Coffee?

The OG and simplest cold beverage, iced coffee is a classic favourite. It’s made the same way as hot coffee, but has twice the strength (double the amount of coffee grounds), and is poured over ice.

Brewing coffee hot brings out the acid qualities in the bean, meaning iced coffee is light and smooth, but also has a more bitter and acidic taste to it. The flavours usually dictate adding sugar or creamer, but when it is drunk straight, it’s low in calories.

Containing only 5 calories per serving, you probably don’t need to worry about cutting out coffee on a diet, especially when you add a calorie-free sweetener. The caffeine is the only thing you need to be cautious of, as a 500ml serving can deliver upwards of 190mg of the stuff.

This is a moderate amount of caffeine and is usually handled well by most, but when you get the extra-large serving sizes, you can check with your barista how much it contains so you know whether you can tolerate it or not.

cold brew being poured into a glass


What About Cold Brew?

While it might not be at the popularity of iced coffee, cold brew deserves an honorable mention for a close second.

The process of making cold brew is very different than iced coffee, as the coffee grounds are soaked in water for 12-24 hours to let the caffeine and flavours infuse. The grounds are strained out and the liquid that is poured out on the other side is cold brew.

As the coffee beans are never heated, they release much less bitter and acidic flavours, resulting in a smoother, and sweeter coffee than iced. Because of the richer flavour, you’re less likely to need added ingredients like sugar, which keeps the calorie content low.

Like iced coffee, cold brew also contains about 5 calories per serving when drank alone, but does contain a bit more caffeine. This coffee has about 205mg per the same 500ml serving, which isn’t much more than iced coffee, but again, it’s important to mention the bigger sizes increase this number as much as 150mg more, which can be way too much for some individuals.

nitro brew


What The Heck Is Nitro Brew?

Definitely one of the newest cold coffee inventions, nitro brew is very unique and quite expensive, to say the least.

This coffee begins its creation as the same as cold brew, soaking in water for 12-24 hours, but has an added step at the end. The coffee is added to a keg, combined with nitrogen bubbles and comes out of a tap into your clear cup. When poured, the coffee ends up having a foamy head and cascading nitrogen bubbles that fall down the drink and add to the wow effect.

This is nothing new, though, as a certain Irish draught beer has been doing this for generations with their product. This happens because the nitrogen bubbles form slower than CO2 bubbles and become less buoyant, making them sink to the bottom of the glass.

Because of this effect, nitro brew doesn’t usually have added ice or sweetener/creamer. Luckily, the cold brew with nitrogen is a great combination, as it results in a more sweet and smooth consistency that makes it easy to drink straight.

Like its predecessors, the calories have not changed even with the added nitrogen (5 calories per serving). The big difference is the caffeine content, which is noticeably higher than iced or cold brew coffee. Containing around 280mg of caffeine per 500ml, this coffee is easily the most caffeinated by a big stretch, which goes without saying to use your own judgment on whether you can handle that much at one time.


Take Home Message

When it comes to black coffee, you can never make a bad choice. The one difference you should be aware of is the caffeine content found in each variation. The calories are all the same across the board, unless you add milk or sugar, so if you’re watching your waistline, go for either black or a touch of milk with no sugar.

Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.

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Billy Galipeault

Billy Galipeault

Writer and expert

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