Every year, the iced coffee drinks selection at coffee shops up and down the country seems to expand. Baristas around the world dream up new concoctions for those who want to drink coffee on a hot day without breaking a sweat.
Two classics of the cool caffeine world are iced coffee vs iced latte. The difference? It’s in the method of brewing the coffee itself. Iced lattes are made with espresso and always served with milk whereas iced coffee is made via any other brewing method and may or may not have milk.
Read on as we take a deep dive into the difference between iced coffee and iced latte to make choosing a little simpler. Iced coffee can cover a multitude of options from the mundane to the truly bizarre, so you’re not alone in your confusion. But if you want to experiment at home, we have some iced latte and iced coffee recipes included here too.
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The critical distinction here is that the coffee used is never espresso. Black iced coffee made with espresso will almost always be called an “iced americano” rather than just “iced coffee”. This is so you know it’s been made with espresso rather than drip or instant coffee and might, therefore, be of a higher quality.
Pouring hot coffee onto cold ice obviously causes the ice cubes to melt, diluting the strength of your cold coffee drink. This is why most coffee stores make the coffee slightly stronger than usual to balance out the inevitable melting of the ice.
Another important distinction is between iced coffee and cold brew coffee – they are totally different animals and taste totally different too. Cold brew mellows out the bitter coffee flavor by steeping over a long period of time and slowly extracting the delicate flavors which is why some coffee beans are better suited to cold brew than others. Iced coffee is simply your regular brewed coffee with the addition of ice cubes.
This differs from a regular latte in both temperature and in the texture of the milk. When milk is steamed, not only does it get hotter but the milk’s structure also changes.
You can use the same coffee beans to make your iced coffee or iced latte although there are beans roasted with espresso coffee brewing in mind. What makes it espresso is brewing under pressure. It needs a minimum of 8 bar of pressure and results in a short, concentrated shot of coffee.
The espresso will obviously be brewed hot, causing some of the ice to melt. But, as you’re diluting it with milk anyway, you won’t really notice. What you will notice is the smooth, slightly sweeter, creamy coffee drink you’re after, but cold.
Iced latte and iced coffee differ in two key ways:
1. Different methods of brewing the coffee. Iced latte can only be made with espresso but iced coffee is made with either drip or instant coffee.
2. It’s in the milk. Iced latte is served with cold milk – latte literally means milk in Italian. Iced coffee, on the other hand, is usually served black although that’s not a hard and fast rule as there may be options to add milk if that’s your preference.
Both drinks tend to have added sugar or flavors and toppings. This helps to take the edge off the slightly bitter coffee flavor created by brewing the coffee a little stronger than usual. By adding a touch of sweetness, the result will be a rich coffee flavor.
In tropical parts of the world like S.E. Asia, sipping on a cold iced coffee drink is very popular. Here you’ll find they are almost always served sweet unless you specifically as for them not to be. They also frequently use condensed milk, like in Vietnamese or Thai iced coffee or latte, which adds an extra richness (and sweetness) to your caffeine.
So, if you’re having an iced latte with a single shot then you’re getting less caffeine. But a double espresso shot iced latte will contain around 30% more caffeine than iced coffee.
These numbers obviously assume you are using caffeinated coffee and not decaf coffee beans. They are also averages as the caffeine quantity in your drip coffee will vary depending on your grounds to water ratio.
But as a general rule:
Single shot iced latte has the least caffeine. Iced coffee in the middle. And double shot iced latte has the most.
If, during the summer months, you find yourself spending a fortune on cooling caffeinated drinks at your local coffee shop, try making it at home and save some money. Just follow these steps:
1. Brew your coffee
You can use whatever method you prefer for this: drip, French press, pour-over, siphon, AeroPress, chemex, Moka pot, or even instant. Whatever your home brewing method of choice is, go with that. If you want to sweeten your coffee, now is the time – sugar dissolves more easily in hot coffee.
2. Add ice to your glass/flask
Or, for even better iced coffee, use whiskey rocks or pre-made coffee ice cubes. Trust us, it will take your drink to an instant 10/10.
Whiskey rocks are basically reusable ice cubes. Whereas coffee cubes are where you freeze some brewed coffee in an ice cube tray to use later.
Some people will tell you to brew your coffee stronger to compensate for the melting ice. But that’s just adding extra work. Use frozen coffee or re-usable whiskey rocks and never worry about overly diluted iced coffee again.
3. Pour in the coffee
Now simply pour the coffee over your cooling objects of choice. If you’re using ice or coffee ice cubes they will obviously melt as you do this. No problem for your frozen coffee, but regular ice will dilute the flavor. It’s why we prefer whiskey rocks – cool your coffee without diluting it.
4. Add milk/toppings
If you want a touch of milk, cream, condensed milk, or plant-based alternative, add it now. Iced coffee doesn’t need to be served black, though many prefer it that way. Basically, do whatever you want for a drink that puts a smile on your face.
As you need to make espresso – either one or two shots – you will need an espresso machine. But, other than that, it’s an incredibly simple process:
1. Brew espresso
You only have one decision here: 1 shot or 2?
This can be dictated by how strong you want your iced latte to be, or by how big your cup is. Usually, a latte is 1/3 espresso and 2/3 milk, so make sure you have enough space for your liquid and the ice.
You will need to add fine espresso coffee grind to your machine and set it to work.
2. Add sugar
If you want to sweeten your espresso, it’s best to do this while it’s hot. Stir in your sugar before pouring the espresso over your ice. If you’re using syrups to sweeten for a simple or flavored latte, then it doesn’t matter when you add it is the sugar is already dissolved.
3. Put ice or whiskey rocks in your glass/cup
Just like the ice coffee recipe, we highly recommend using whiskey rocks so you don’t have to worry about diluting your latte. Even coffee ice cubes are a better solution. If there’s only one thing you take away from this article, please let it be this iced coffee hack.
4. Pour espresso over ice/whiskey rocks
Add your espresso over the ice or whiskey rocks to cool it down. If you’re using ice, some will melt, creating a weaker, watery drink. One massive ice cube is better than lots of small ones, on the off chance you have such a thing for making negronis or something.
5. Shake up and add milk
If you want a bit of foam to your iced latte, shake up your milk in either a cocktail shaker or even just a mason jar. To get the optimum latte ratio, use 1oz espresso to 2oz milk or 2oz espresso to 4oz milk if you’re making a longer, stronger coffee drink.
6. Add toppings
If you’ve seen iced lattes at your favorite coffee shop, you will most likely have seen a plethora of delicious toppings like whipped cream, chocolate sauce, sprinkles, etc. And there’s no reason you can’t enjoy your drink like this at home too. Treat it like an ice cream sundae and chuck the sweet things on the top, if that’s your thing.
Psst… If you want to make iced latte but don’t have an espresso machine, check out some of our top picks for all occasions and budgets:
In fact, I hate talking about calories in anything. It’s overly reductive and can demonize food groups which can lead to eating disorders. However, I understand that some people like to know so they can make better choices regarding their food and drinks, so here we are.
It’s impossible for us to know the calories in your homemade iced coffee or iced latte as it will be dependent on lots of variables. But we can look at the offerings from some big chains to get a general idea of what you’re drinking.
Annoyingly, McDonald’s only offer flavored iced lattes. To keep this relatively fair, we’ve looked at the calorie counts in an iced caramel latte from our 3 big chains so the comparison makes some sense
McDonald’s basic iced coffee is the most calorific of the 3 big names we looked at. This is because it comes with cream, whole milk, and a choice of flavored syrup as standard. At 180 calories on its own, it’s hardly enormous, but compared to the other iced coffee drinks, it’s a lot.
For a 16oz iced caramel latte, McDonald’s (astonishingly) comes out as the least calorific at 270. This is slightly let down by the fact they don’t offer just a regular iced latte on the menu. Although, since their regular iced coffee comes with milk as standard, maybe they consider that as their iced latte?
The difference between the iced coffee and iced caramel latte is quite large although this isn’t really surprising.
Starbucks iced coffee calories count is based on you adding some syrup to your drink. However, it is very easy to ask for it without and will greatly reduce the calorie count here.
But for your “Grande” (16oz) with the syrup, 80 calories puts it way below the McDonald’s offering but this is also without the milk or cream.
You can expect 4 pumps of caramel syrup in a Starbucks iced caramel latte, which puts the total calorie count at 290 – just a squeak above McDonald’s. 80 of those 290 calories come from the 4 pumps of caramel syrup, however. So if you’re just looking for a regular iced latte, 210 is the number.
The only chain that provides a calorie count for just an iced black coffee with no sweetener and no creamer added is Dunkin Donuts. They list it at 5 calories – so small it may as well not exist. It’s worth pointing out that a Starbucks iced coffee without syrup is almost certainly around the same amount.
Overall, it’s more about how much milk, cream, sugar, and syrup you add to your iced coffee. Black coffee over ice contains next to no calories at all, unsurprisingly.
Dunkin Donuts iced latte without the caramel swirl is a mere 170 calories, but adding the caramel doubles the number. This is a mildly terrifying thought, but if it tastes good, who cares? Certainly 170 calories for a regular iced latte is pretty much the same as the main competitors.
An iced latte obviously has more calories than iced coffee without sugar or milk. It just makes sense that adding milk will add calories.
I would always implore people not to worry too much about these things, you need joy in your life. However, if you’re looking to cut something out, maybe the flavored syrup is something you can gradually phase out from your coffee order, especially at Dunkin Donuts.
If you want no milk or just a small amount, then grab an iced coffee. If you like a lot of milk/creamer then the iced latte is the one for you. Or, to throw a curveball into the mix, you can get an iced americano if you want a longer iced black coffee that’s still made from espresso.
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