Iced Coffee Or Iced Latte: Is One Better?

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I love a hot cup of coffee first thing in the morning. It’s roasty, steamy, and, in the warmer months, sweaty.

And I’m just not ok with sweating within the first 20 minutes of any day.

But, lucky for my fellow heat-intolerant friends and me, there are a few fantastic cold coffee options out there for us.

But is an iced coffee or iced latte better? What’s the difference?

Much like their hot counterparts, the main difference between an iced coffee and an iced latte is that iced coffee is made with coffee (um, duh), and an iced latte is made with espresso.

So what’s the best iced coffee for you? 

Let’s take a closer look at the nuances of each, how to make them, and other key differences to the bottom of the iced coffee or iced latte debate.

Iced Coffee Or Iced Latte?

What’s Iced Coffee?

Iced coffee is exactly what it sounds like.

It’s coffee brewed hot then poured over ice. Voila!

Iced coffee is straightforward to prepare, which is one reason it’s so popular. It’s delicious on its own or served with your milk of choice and a little sweetener.

The flavor of Iced coffee is less robust than, say, cold brew, and it’s also higher in acidity

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But wait, what’s Cold Brew?

What makes cold brew different from regular iced coffee lies mainly in the brewing process.

As the name suggests, cold brew coffee is brewed with cold or room temperature water, which is one significant difference between iced coffee and cold brew.

Another big difference is the brewing time.

Cold brew is steeped slowly (like 12+ hours slow), allowing all of the fruity, bright notes to be extracted from the coffee grounds without any bitterness.

So the term “cold brew” actually refers to the brewing method and not to the serving temperature.

Cold brew coffee is also smoother and less acidic than traditional iced coffee.

While cold brew is technically a type of iced coffee, we’ll be talking about traditional iced coffee for the purpose of this iced coffee or iced latte comparison.

What’s an Iced Latte?

Iced lattes are made with espresso vs. coffee. The word “latte” in Italian means milk, which is what lattes are known for. 

At some point, Americans casually dropped the “cafe” from “cafe latte,” which, in America, works just fine.

Order a “latte” in Italy, and you’ll be handed a large glass of milk.

Lattes are creamy and delicious, with a bit of rich foam on top.

So aren’t iced lattes just hot lattes poured over ice?

Not exactly. 

Brewing Methods

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Iced Coffee

Iced coffee can be ready in mere minutes, making it an easy option to make at home.

Simply brew your coffee using your preferred method (drip, pour-over, french press, etc.) and pour it over ice. Done.

But remember, iced coffee is susceptible to dilution from the ice, obviously, so keep that in mind when preparing it.

You’ll want to brew a stronger batch of coffee to offset the dilution. We like about 1 ½ – 2 times our typical coffee to water ratio in most cases.

Another trick to avoid a watered-down mess is to pour your hot coffee into a container and let it cool on the counter or refrigerate for no longer than 30 minutes before pouring over ice.

The trade-off here is that the nuances of the coffee will fade the longer it sits in the fridge, so chill it only briefly before enjoying it over ice.

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Iced Latte

Iced lattes require a bit more effort to prepare, but just barely so.

Simply brew your espresso (using an espresso machine or Moka Pot) and set it aside.

Fill a tall glass with ice and add your preferred milk to about ¾ full. Pour your espresso over the top and give it a stir. 

Add sweetener as you like.

Caffeine Content

Another difference between iced coffee and iced lattes is the caffeine content.

Even when brewed with the same beans, espresso and regular coffee do not have the same amount of caffeine. 

Espresso has a much higher caffeine content per ounce than coffee. According to the Mayo Clinic, espresso has 64 mg of caffeine per ounce. An 8-ounce cup of coffee, by comparison, has 96 mg of caffeine.

But, despite espresso being the more potent of the two, iced lattes have significantly less caffeine than iced coffee. This has to do with the coffee to milk ratio in an iced coffee or iced latte.

Iced lattes are ¾ milk, typically prepared with 2 shots of espresso. On the other hand, Iced coffee is primarily coffee with a splash of milk or cream (or not).

To put this into perspective, a medium (24 oz) iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts has a whopping 297 mg of caffeine. The same size iced latte from Dunkin Donuts has 166 mg of caffeine.

If you have caffeine sensitivity and are deciding between an iced coffee or iced latte, the iced latte may be the better choice.

Flavor Profiles

Iced lattes are known for being incredibly smooth and milky. They have a robust espresso flavor that’s perfectly balanced by the milk for a refreshing iced beverage that goes down oh-so-easy. 

The flavor of iced coffee, on the other hand, is less pronounced due in part to the hot extraction process as well as the dilution of the coffee from the ice.

Iced coffee is a bit blander overall and lacks the richness of the espresso flavor.

Iced Coffee Vs. Iced Latte

Whether you prefer an iced coffee or iced latte, I think we can all agree that both are superbly refreshing on a hot summer day.

If you’re trying to determine which is better, iced coffee or iced latte, I’m afraid there is no correct answer.

It comes down to personal preference here. If you ask us, neither of these two options is actually the best iced coffee out there. We’ll take a cold brew over an iced coffee or iced latte any day.

Simply put, cold brew is the best iced coffee you can drink.

FAQ’s

What is healthier iced coffee or iced latte?

The nutritional content of each beverage will vary depending on what’s added to it. An unsweetened, unaltered iced latte will automatically have more calories than an iced coffee because of the high milk content. That said, any added sweeteners and syrups will significantly impact the overall healthiness of either beverage, so sweeten with caution if you’re watching your calorie or sugar intake.

What is the strongest iced coffee?

When comparing iced coffee and iced lattes, we’ve learned that iced coffee is stronger when it comes to caffeine content. That said, cold brew has the highest caffeine content of any iced coffee due to the brewing process. Cold brew is a highly concentrated beverage, so it is naturally high in caffeine. Cold brew is meant to be diluted with water or milk before consumption.

What is the best iced coffee at Starbucks?

Again, this may be a matter of personal preference. But, to help you out on your journey, we’ve rounded up our favorite iced coffee orders at Starbucks. Spoiler alert: our top choice is not what you’d expect!

What is the best Dunkin Donuts iced coffee?

Yep, we’ve got you covered on this too. We have a few top picks that we like to think are the best iced coffee at Dunkin Donuts, but it’ll come down to your preference in the end. Check out our favorite iced coffee orders Dunkin.

Happy caffeinating!