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Tom Talks Coffee: Iced Coffee vs. Cold Brew

Barista and Managing Editor Tom Hermanek explains two warm weather coffee trends

At+left%3A+iced+coffee%2C+served+black.+At+right%3A+cold+brew+cut+with+heavy+cream.
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Tom Talks Coffee: Iced Coffee vs. Cold Brew

At left: iced coffee, served black. At right: cold brew cut with heavy cream.

At left: iced coffee, served black. At right: cold brew cut with heavy cream.

Photo by Tom Hermanek

At left: iced coffee, served black. At right: cold brew cut with heavy cream.

Photo by Tom Hermanek

Photo by Tom Hermanek

At left: iced coffee, served black. At right: cold brew cut with heavy cream.

Tom Hermanek, Managing Editor

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Like many Skutt Catholic students, Managing Editor Tom Hermanek has a part-time job. When he’s not at school or working on The Flightline, he works at a coffee bar in West Omaha. In this series, Tom will cover coffee basics, give a Barista’s perspective, and explain the jargon tossed around at your local coffeehouse.

Cold coffee used to be simple. It wasn’t until recent years that cold brew was introduced as an alternative to traditional iced coffee by national coffee chains.

So what’s the difference between iced coffee and cold brew? Both are coffee that is brewed and served cold. Thus, couldn’t iced coffee be called cold brew and vice versa?

From a very basic standpoint, yes. But there are significant differences between the two, and understanding these can help you find a beverage you truly enjoy next time you decide to venture out and spend $4 on a caffeine fix.

To understand the differences in taste between iced coffee and cold brew, let’s examine how each is produced.

Iced coffee is typically produced from a medium roast bean that is ground with medium courseness (similar to what you’d put in your Mr. Coffee machine at home) and is brewed double strength using hot water. It is then poured over an amount of ice equal to the water used, leaving a single strength cold coffee beverage.

Iced coffee has higher levels of acidity (referring to a certain sensation of tartness, felt on the sides of the tongue, not pH level) than cold brew. This is because the heat involved in brewing iced coffee draws acidic flavor notes out of the grounds. In terms of body, or the weight one feels on center and back of the tongue, iced coffee is a bit on the lighter side.

Cold brew is typically brewed from a dark roast coffee that’s ground very coarse, such that the grounds resemble sea salt. Grounds are then transfered to a filterbag or wrapped in a cheesecloth and soaked in room temperature, filtered water, typically for about 20 hours. In contrast to iced coffee, time replaces heat in cold brew. Instead of extracting flavor from the coffee grounds in a matter of minutes, cold brew grounds are allowed to diffuse their flavor characteristics into the water for a long period of time.

This slow and cool brewing process produces a taste that’s free from acidity; it’s the ultimate coffee for smooth sipping. Cold brew, though, doesn’t fall short on flavor; it has a heavier body and, depending on the roast and processing of the beans used, frequently has notes of cedar or chocolate.

As Nebraska days grow warmer, coffee drinkers will soon be inundated with another round of cold coffee offerings. Truly knowing the beverage you’re ordering is key to enjoying a drink as intricate as coffee, so don’t be afraid to ask your barista about the drinks on their menu.

Tom Hermanek - Managing Editor

Tom became a member of The Flightline in January of 2015. He is a senior who is involved in mock trial and swimming. Off campus, Tom spends his time with friends or working at Starbucks. You can email him at [email protected]

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