Cold Brew vs Cold Drip vs Iced Coffee

Wednesday, 26 May, 2021

People's obsession with coffee is always evolving, and cold brewing is one of the latest trends being rapidly adopted by cafés and restaurants. Learn about the different types of cold brewed coffee, how they're made, and why you should add them to your menu to offer customers more choice and increase profits.

Two glasses of cold brew coffee with coffee beans scattered around them

What is cold brew coffee?

Cold brew coffee is coffee that has been brewed in cold water. Because the typical method of brewing coffee uses hot water to speed up extraction, cold brew coffee takes significantly longer to make but has a very different flavour as a result. The difference in flavour is because cold water extracts far fewer oils and acids than hot water, resulting in a brew that’s less bitter and much smoother than traditional coffee.

 Cold brew coffee served in jar on wooden bench


Making cold brew coffee

The basic way to make cold brew coffee is to mix coffee grounds and water in a vessel that is then left in the refrigerator overnight before being strained and used to prepare a beverage. The ratio of coffee to cold water will affect the final output, and most cold brewers agree that a ratio of 1:7 or 1:8 is ideal for cold brew. Of course, the flavour is also significantly affected by the coffee beans and grind size that you go with.

A typical French press brewing vessel can be used to make cold brew and is a convenient option since it already has a filter built into it.

Due to the extra effort required to make cold brew coffee from scratch, many café and restaurant operators choose to use a cold brew coffee maker with a pre-brewed concentrate to save time and money. These appliances make it easier for operators to tap into the growing demand for innovative coffee formats without having to shift time and resources towards in-house cold brewing.


Coffee brewed cold, served fast. The cold brew process gives the coffee a less bitter, less acidic, sweeter and smoother taste. Delivered from the NESCAFÉ Nitro Cold Brew table top solution

Easily make with 1 part concentrate, 2 parts water for the perfect cold brew!




What's Nitro cold brew?

Nitro cold brew is a variation of cold brew coffee where nitrogen is infused as the beverage is poured, creating a smooth, creamy head of foam. It’s very similar to how draft beer is served, complete with the signature cascading effect that always delights customers. The infusion of nitrogen gives the drink a thicker texture and makes it easier to consume without needing to add milk or sugar. In fact, Nitro cold brew is generally served as a zero-calorie option since it only contains coffee, water, and a final infusion of nitrogen to give it its velvet smooth texture and taste.

Nitro cold brew in tall glass on countertop next to tap


Making Nitro coffee

 NESCAFE Nitro Cold Brew System NESCAFE Nitro Cold Brew System

The compact yet robust NESCAFE Nitro Cold Brew System makes serving Nitro cold brew as easy as pouring a beer and uses an air filtration system to produce nitrogen rather than requiring connection to a large nitrogen tank. This product significantly reduces the cost and complexity of adding Nitro cold brew to your menu, and its compact size makes it easy to set up next to your regular coffee machine. Nitro cold brew can also serve as the foundation for a variety of exciting cocktails, mocktails, and more. Check out these recipes for Nitro Cold Brew Mojito and Cold Brew Piña Colada for some inspiration.

  Nitro Cold Brew Mojito  Cold Brew Piña Colada


What is cold drip coffee?

Unlike regular cold brewed coffee, which is a direct immersion of coffee and water, the cold drip method involves having cold water slowly drip over the coffee grounds where it is gradually absorbed and extracted. Cold drip coffee brewing requires a special apparatus known as a 'drip tower' made up of three vessels. As the cold water drips down, the coffee grounds absorb each drop of water, and the coffee-infused drops then fall into the final vessel at the bottom of the tower. This process is also known as 'slow drip', and the drip tower makes the whole process look like a science experiment.

 Drip tower on café countertop with three glasses nearby

Making cold drip coffee

Making cold drip coffee can take anywhere between 3 to 24 hours, with the shortest brews having the least intense flavour. The drip tower uses gravity to do its work, so you only need to set it up with cold water and ground coffee and leave it for the desired period to end up with a rich and flavourful cold brew.


What is iced coffee?

Iced coffee has been around for a long time and is a favourite on café menus around the world. Despite its name, it does not belong to the cold brewing family, as it is traditionally made coffee poured over ice. Because the grounds are extracted using hot water, it still retains the bitterness and acidity of regular coffee.


Making iced coffee

Compared to making cold brew and cold drip coffee, making iced coffee only takes minutes and is something that most baristas are very familiar with. It is also relatively cheap to produce and does not require any special equipment.


Cold brew vs cold drip: which should you start serving?

While traditional iced coffee is well-known and easy to include on any café menu, the choice between cold brew and cold drip coffee can be a little trickier. Both types of coffee differ in terms of preparation method and final output, so the final choice will depend on your capacity and preferences.



Both cold brew coffee and cold drip coffee will deliver a sweeter, lighter, and less acidic taste than regular hot coffee. No matter which cold brewing method you choose to adopt, you will be able to deliver a new beverage option to your customers that is distinct from anything you've served prior. In terms of overall taste, the main difference between cold brew and cold drip coffee is that the former is a lighter brew with sweet, floral notes. On the other hand, cold drip coffee has a stronger flavour and works better when served straight over ice or mixed with milk.



The level of preparation required will be a key factor in choosing between cold brew and cold drip coffee. Both types of coffee require specialised equipment and a commitment of time to prepare, with cold drip coffee being a more precise process overall (although it can produce a result in as little as three hours). Making cold brew coffee from scratch takes more time than using a cold drip apparatus but dedicated cold brew machines that use a pre-brewed concentrate eliminate the need for overnight brewing while delivering a high-quality output.

Which cold brewing method will you go with?

Overall, both types of cold brewing offer the chance to serve something new and unique to your customers, providing a great alternative to traditional hot coffee (especially during the summer months). The choice between cold brew and cold drip will ultimately come down to what style of brewing your customers prefer and what new preparation methods you're prepared to adopt in your business.

 Three drip towers in a row on café countertop

Gelatissimo, NESCAFE, Vegan, Gelato, Vegan ice cream

Check out this collaboration! Gelatissimo are currently serving a delicious vegan gelato made with our NESCAFÉ Cold Brew as a limited time offer! It's called Cold Brew with Oat Milk.

cold brew, NESCAFE, Gelato, Vegan gelato


To get started, experiment with a limited-time offer to see how your business handles preparing cold brew beverages and how your customers react. If you notice an opportunity to draw in more customers and increase profits with cold brew, don't hesitate to start incorporating it into your menu.

If you’re interested in adding NESCAFE Nitro Cold Brew Coffee to your menu, we’re offering FREE 30-day trials! Simply fill out the form on this page and we’ll be in touch.