What’s the Difference Between Iced Coffee, Cold Brew, and Nitro Brew?

Once upon a time, back before mason jars became cups and latte art started looking like it belonged in the Louvre, summer coffee was simple. But with the rise of the specialty coffee scene, cold coffee has become its own genre with a roster of beverages that seemingly requires a Ph.D. to fully understand. From iced cappuccinos to iced macchiatos (not to be confused with “real” macchiatos), coffee shops now offer a dizzying number of cold caffeinated beverages.

In other words, we’ve got options. But also questions.

Even if you’re not considering an espresso drink or a something-ccino, you’ll have to decide between iced coffee; its pricier cousin, cold brew; and maybe even a nitro brew. Don’t get me wrong: I’m into occasionally splurging on a great café drink as much as the next millennial. But, let’s be honest, most of us don’t really know what’s costing us that extra cash.

When I first started working as a barista, I was equally baffled by the complex iced coffee taxonomy. But after spending three summers pouring an astonishing number of iced brews, I became more familiar than I ever wanted to be with what goes into each glass (or jar). From your classic iced coffee to that $5 nitro brew, here’s what you need to know.

Iced Coffee

Let’s start with our longtime, faithful friend, iced coffee. Classic, reliable, and famously over-iced, this guy is a summertime go-to.

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