With summer in full swing, an iced coffee from Starbucks just hits the spot on a hot day. But when you walk up to the counter, you’re faced with a decision: should you order the Cold Brew or an Iced Coffee?

Both chilled coffee drinks pack a caffeine punch, but they’re made differently and have distinct flavors. If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: Cold Brew coffee is slow-steeped in cool water for 20 hours, which creates a smooth, less acidic taste.

Iced coffee is brewed hot then chilled, which brings out more of the coffee’s natural bitterness. This article will dive deeper into the differences between Starbucks’ Cold Brew and Iced Coffee, from how they’re made to their taste, caffeine content, and price.

We’ll compare and contrast the two chilled coffee beverages on all fronts, so you can decide which one matches your preferences. We’ll also take a look at some ways to customize each drink to make it your own.

How Starbucks Cold Brew and Iced Coffee Are Made

Cold Brew Method

Starbucks Cold Brew is made using a unique brewing method that results in a smooth and rich coffee flavor. The process starts by steeping a special blend of coffee grounds in cold water for an extended period of time, usually around 20 hours.

This slow extraction process allows the coffee to develop a bold and less acidic taste compared to traditional brewing methods. Once the coffee has been steeped to perfection, it is then filtered to remove any sediment or impurities, resulting in a clean and refreshing beverage.

The cold brew method used by Starbucks is known for producing a coffee concentrate, which is then diluted with water or milk before serving. This allows for customization based on personal preference, whether you prefer a stronger or milder flavor.

The result is a smooth and full-bodied cup of coffee that is perfect for those who enjoy a less acidic taste.

Iced Coffee Method

Starbucks Iced Coffee, on the other hand, is made using a different brewing method compared to cold brew. It starts with brewing a double-strength pot of hot coffee using the traditional method. The hot coffee is then cooled down rapidly by pouring it over ice, which results in a refreshing and chilled beverage.

Unlike cold brew, which is steeped in cold water for an extended period of time, iced coffee is brewed using hot water and then quickly cooled down. This method allows for the extraction of flavors from the coffee grounds in a shorter amount of time, resulting in a more vibrant and acidic taste.

The addition of ice also dilutes the coffee slightly, making it less concentrated compared to cold brew.

It’s important to note that the brewing method used for iced coffee can vary depending on personal preference and the specific Starbucks store. Some stores may use a cold brew concentrate as a base for their iced coffee, while others may use a different brewing method.

Flavour Profile

Cold Brew Flavour

One of the main differences between Starbucks’ Cold Brew and Iced Coffee lies in their flavour profiles. Cold Brew is known for its smooth and rich taste, with a lower level of acidity compared to traditional iced coffee.

This is because Cold Brew is made by steeping coffee grounds in cold water for an extended period of time, usually 12-24 hours. The slow extraction process brings out the natural flavors of the coffee beans, resulting in a less bitter and more mellow taste.

Starbucks’ Cold Brew is often described as having notes of chocolate, caramel, and nutty undertones. The longer steeping time allows for a more nuanced and complex flavor profile, making it a favorite among coffee enthusiasts looking for a refreshing and flavorful drink.

Iced Coffee Flavour

On the other hand, Starbucks’ Iced Coffee offers a different flavor experience. Iced Coffee is brewed using hot water, just like regular hot coffee, and then cooled down and served over ice. This brewing method tends to result in a brighter and more acidic flavor compared to Cold Brew.

The higher acidity can bring out the fruity and citrusy notes of the coffee, creating a refreshing and tangy taste.

Starbucks’ Iced Coffee is often described as having a more traditional coffee flavor, with a crisp and slightly acidic profile. It is a popular choice for those who prefer a more straightforward and classic iced coffee taste.

Both Cold Brew and Iced Coffee can be customized with different types of milk, sweeteners, and flavorings to suit individual preferences. Whether you prefer the smooth and mellow Cold Brew or the bright and crisp Iced Coffee, Starbucks offers a range of options to satisfy your taste buds.

Caffeine Content

When it comes to caffeine content, there is a difference between Starbucks Cold Brew and Iced Coffee. While both beverages contain caffeine, the amount can vary.

Starbucks Cold Brew

Starbucks Cold Brew is known for its smooth and rich flavor. It is made by steeping coffee grounds in cold water for an extended period of time, usually around 20 hours. This slow brewing process results in a beverage that is less acidic and has a lower caffeine content compared to traditional hot brewed coffee.

According to Starbucks, a typical 16-ounce serving of their Cold Brew contains about 200 milligrams of caffeine. However, it’s important to note that the caffeine content can vary depending on factors such as the type of coffee beans used and the brewing time.

Iced Coffee

Iced coffee, on the other hand, is made by brewing hot coffee and then cooling it down with ice. This method retains more of the acidity and bitterness of the coffee, but it also results in a higher caffeine content compared to Cold Brew.

A typical 16-ounce serving of Starbucks Iced Coffee contains about 165 milligrams of caffeine. Again, the exact amount can vary depending on factors such as the brewing method and the type of coffee beans used.

It’s worth mentioning that the caffeine content in coffee can have different effects on individuals. Some people may be more sensitive to caffeine and experience stronger effects, while others may be less affected.

It’s always a good idea to be aware of your own caffeine tolerance and consume beverages accordingly.

If you want to learn more about the caffeine content in coffee, you can visit the Caffeine Informer website, which provides detailed information about the caffeine levels in various beverages.


When it comes to price, there are a few factors to consider when comparing Starbucks Cold Brew and Iced Coffee. The cost of these beverages can vary depending on the size, location, and any additional toppings or flavors added.

Generally, both options are priced similarly, with the Cold Brew being slightly more expensive than Iced Coffee.

At Starbucks, a tall (12 oz) Cold Brew costs around $3.25, while a tall Iced Coffee costs around $2.75. The prices may fluctuate slightly depending on the region and any promotions or discounts available.

It’s important to note that prices can also vary at different coffee shops or cafes, so it’s always a good idea to check the prices at your local establishment.

Factors Affecting Price

Several factors contribute to the pricing of Cold Brew and Iced Coffee:

  1. Preparation Process: Cold Brew requires a longer brewing time and a special extraction process, which can increase its production cost compared to Iced Coffee.
  2. Coffee Beans: The type and quality of coffee beans used can also affect the price. Specialty coffee beans or single-origin beans may be used for Cold Brew, making it slightly pricier.
  3. Additional Ingredients: If you choose to add any additional flavors, syrups, or toppings to your Cold Brew or Iced Coffee, it may increase the overall price.
  4. Size: As with any beverage, the size you choose will impact the price. Larger sizes will generally cost more than smaller ones.

It’s also worth mentioning that the prices of Cold Brew and Iced Coffee may differ between Starbucks and other coffee shops or cafes. It’s always a good idea to compare prices and consider factors such as quality, taste, and convenience before making a decision.

Customization Options

Cold Brew Modifications

One of the great things about cold brew is its versatility and customizability. Starbucks offers several modifications for customers to personalize their cold brew experience. Here are some popular options:

  • Sweetness Level: Customers can choose to add sweeteners like classic syrup, vanilla syrup, or caramel syrup to their cold brew. This allows for a customized level of sweetness based on personal preference.
  • Milk or Cream: For those who enjoy a creamier taste, Starbucks offers the option to add milk or cream to cold brew. Choices include whole milk, 2% milk, soy milk, almond milk, or coconut milk.
  • Flavored Syrups: Customers can also enhance their cold brew with flavored syrups such as hazelnut, mocha, or cinnamon dolce. These syrups add a unique twist to the cold brew flavor profile.
  • Toppings: To elevate the cold brew experience, Starbucks offers various toppings like whipped cream, caramel drizzle, or chocolate shavings. These toppings can add an extra layer of indulgence to your cold brew.

Iced Coffee Modifications

Similar to cold brew, Starbucks provides numerous customization options for their iced coffee. Here are some modifications you can make:

  • Sweeteners: Customers can choose from a range of sweeteners to add to their iced coffee, including classic syrup, vanilla syrup, or hazelnut syrup. This allows for a personalized level of sweetness.
  • Milk or Cream: Just like with cold brew, you can add milk or cream to your iced coffee. Starbucks offers a variety of options, including whole milk, 2% milk, soy milk, almond milk, or coconut milk.
  • Flavor Shots: If you want to enhance the taste of your iced coffee, you can opt for flavor shots like mocha, caramel, or white chocolate. These shots can add a delightful twist to your iced coffee experience.
  • Toppings: To take your iced coffee to the next level, Starbucks provides toppings like whipped cream, caramel drizzle, or chocolate powder. These toppings can make your iced coffee visually appealing and even more enjoyable to drink.

Remember, these customization options are meant to enhance your Starbucks cold brew or iced coffee, making them truly your own. So, the next time you visit Starbucks, don’t hesitate to personalize your drink to your heart’s content.


When choosing between Starbucks’ Cold Brew and classic Iced Coffee, consider your taste preferences and caffeine needs. Those who enjoy smooth, less bitter coffee may favor the Cold Brew. But Iced Coffee drinkers will appreciate the familiar acidity and bold coffee flavor.

Both can be customized to your liking with dairy, sweeteners, and toppings. So next time the temperatures rise, beat the heat with an icy Starbucks brew made just for you.

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