There you are, standing in line at your favorite local coffee shop. It’s almost your turn to order. You’re craving something crisp, cool, and refreshing. A quick glance at the menu leaves you torn between two options. And, just like that, it’s your turn.
So, will it be an iced latte or an iced coffee?
Today’s post compares and contrasts these two drinks. Briefly, the differences have to do with the coffee brewing method, the caffeine content, and the amount of milk in each.
Iced Latte vs. Iced Coffee: The Differences
Although both drinks are refreshing on a hot summer day, there are distinct differences.
Let’s take a closer look at an iced latte first. A typical iced latte contains the following:
- Ice cubes
- Flavor syrup (optional)
A medium-sized drink usually has 2 espresso shots. The rest of the space in the cup is filled with milk and ice.
A typical iced coffee contains:
- Brewed coffee
- Ice cubes
- Milk (optional)
- Flavor syrup (optional)
Not only does an iced coffee contain brewed coffee rather than espresso, but it contains only a splash of milk compared to the amount of milk in a latte.
An iced coffee is also less likely to have added flavor syrup, although this option is entirely up to you.
Espresso is more concentrated than regular drip coffee. Although you can drink an espresso shot on its own, most people dilute it with steamed or cold milk.
An iced latte has a more subtle coffee flavor thanks to its higher milk content. It’s also very common for iced lattes to have added flavoring, which further mutes the espresso taste.
If you prefer a more subtle coffee flavor in your drinks or are brand new to coffee, go for the iced latte.
Lattes are a great way to enter the world of coffee drinking because they don’t have that bold, slightly bitter coffee taste many people dislike.
Compared to an iced latte, iced coffee has a bolder coffee flavor because it’s generally made with very little if any, milk.
Iced coffee is a regular cup of coffee chilled to room temperature and served over ice.
If you prefer a strong coffee flavor, opt for iced coffee.
Coffee on its own doesn’t have calories. The number of calories in coffee shop drinks comes from the added milk, flavor syrups, and toppings.
And different types of milk have varying fat and calorie contents. For example, 8 ounces of whole milk has 150 calories and 8 grams of fat, versus skim milk, which has 80 calories and 0 grams of fat (source).
Milk alternatives, including almond and soy milk, have the same or fewer calories than skim with a few more grams of fat.
Remember that the standard size of most coffee drinks is 16 ounces, so when you order a drink from your favorite coffee shop, double the above milk calorie count.
Despite the calories, milk has added health benefits of calcium and other vitamins and minerals, so in moderation, it isn’t all bad.
Although tasty, flavor syrups are a source of excess sugar and calories without any health benefits.
There are differences of opinion on how much sugar one can safely consume in a day; however, the average is 25 grams for women and 37.5 for men (source).
A medium-sized latte can quickly meet one’s daily sugar content. For example, 2 tablespoons of vanilla flavor syrup have 80 calories and 20 grams of sugar.
Throw in whipped cream or a larger-sized drink, and you’re well over your daily sugar content with only one drink.
An iced latte has significantly more calories and sugar than iced coffee drinks.
Unless it’s decaffeinated, coffee contains caffeine.
A standard 8-ounce serving of brewed coffee averages 95 milligrams of caffeine, while one shot of espresso contains around 63 mg of caffeine (source).
Even decaffeinated coffee contains a very small amount of caffeine. But it’s generally not enough to impact your sleep at night.
Most coffee shops offer decaffeinated espresso, perfect for an iced latte or other espresso-based drinks. But not all coffee shops offer decaf iced coffee.
If you want to avoid caffeine, order a decaffeinated iced latte.
And if you’re longing for that iced coffee flavor without as much caffeine, try making one at home!
Tips for Making Iced Coffee at Home
One of the best reasons to make your own iced coffee at home is you have complete control over the ingredients.
You decide whether you want to use regular coffee or decaffeinated. And you can use whatever brewing method is most convenient.
A French press can make outstanding iced coffee, as does a regular drip machine. You can also buy machines specifically designed to brew the perfect cup of iced coffee.
Although you can brew coffee and immediately add ice, it’s best to let the hot coffee cool down before adding ice unless you prefer a diluted flavor.
Tip: Coffee cubes keep your iced coffee chilled without watering it down. Make coffee ice cubes by pouring coffee into an ice cube tray and freezing.
You can even brew extra coffee in the morning and leave the excess in the fridge for a quick afternoon pick-me-up.
And if you want a sweet iced coffee, add homemade simple syrup. You can also add whatever type of milk you have on hand if you want to tone down the coffee flavor.
Iced coffee is the easiest of the two drinks to make. Simply brew coffee, allow it to cool, and pour it into a tall glass filled with ice.
Add a splash of milk, creamer, or flavored coffee syrup if desired, stir, and enjoy!
Tips for Making an Iced Latte at Home
If you’re looking for a milder coffee flavor, an iced latte is the way to go!
And it can seem intimidating to make your own espresso-based drinks at home, but it’s a great way to save money and have total control over your drink.
One of the biggest reasons I started experimenting with drinks at home was to save money. I recently met a friend at a local coffee shop and paid over $6 for a medium latte with oat milk and a shot of vanilla flavoring.
If I made stopping in at that shop a daily habit, I’d be spending over $30 per week, which adds to well over $1,500 a year!
Not to mention the gas spent driving to the shop.
Although making lattes at home requires an espresso machine, you can buy one for less than $100, and it will pay for itself over and over with the money you save.
This is a newer model of the machine I use:
A Moka pot also works and is quite reasonably priced compared to the inflated coffee shop prices for a regular latte and other drinks.
When making an iced latte, start by filling a glass with ice. Fill the glass 3/4 of the way with milk.
Pull a couple of shots of espresso, depending on how caffeinated you want to be.
If you’re adding flavor syrup, mix it with the espresso while it’s hot.
Once the flavor syrup and espresso are mixed, pour it into the iced milk, stir the drink well, and enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the difference between an iced coffee and a cold brew coffee?
Iced coffee is coffee that combines hot water with ground coffee. It can be made with a regular drip machine, pour-over, or a French press. The resulting drink is hot and must ideally be cooled before combining with ice.
Cold brew coffee is made by combining room-temperature water with coffee grounds. Cold brew coffee takes much longer to make than regular coffee and is more concentrated.
Most people dilute cold brew coffee with milk or water due to its greater potency than coffee made with a drip machine.
Cold brew coffee lovers swear this type is less bitter due to the lack of hot water in the brewing process.
Check out The Best Ways to Make Decaf Cold Brew for more information on cold brew coffee.
Can a French press make iced coffee?
Yes, it absolutely can!
You’ll want to use the same amount of ground coffee and water as you would for regular hot coffee.
However, you should allow the hot brewed coffee to cool before adding ice. This will help maintain the drink’s flavor without watering it down too much.
You can also make cold brew coffee with a French press if you prefer that type of drink. Just remember to use room-temperature water and steep the coffee grounds for at least 12 hours before pressing.
For the best cold brew experience, look for coffee beans designed for cold brewing., ,
What is the best way to sweeten iced coffee?
The best way to sweeten your iced coffee depends on your personal preference.
If you prefer a more subtle hint of sweetness in your iced coffee, try adding flavored syrups or vanilla extract before cooling your coffee. This will allow the flavors to infuse with the hot brew before it cools, resulting in a richer flavor.
Certain coffee syrups, such as caramel and mocha syrups, dissolve best in hot liquids, so combine thoroughly with the hot coffee before it cools.
Add sugar while your coffee is still hot and stir to thoroughly combine for a sweeter drink.
Which is healthier: an iced coffee or an iced latte?
Either option can be a healthy choice.
Research has shown that coffee can reduce your risk of certain chronic diseases.
That said, many drinks, including iced lattes, have a TON of added sugar and artificial flavoring.
Too much sugar can lead to insulin resistance, cardiac issues, and weight gain.
Coffee also naturally contains caffeine which is proven to interrupt your sleep at night when consumed later in the day.
Choose decaffeinated if you’re consuming coffee late in the day to ensure your sleep won’t be significantly interrupted.
Iced lattes generally contain significantly more milk than iced coffee, increasing the calorie count for this type of drink.
Remember that all calories aren’t bad, especially when they are a good source of vitamins and nutrients.
As with most things in life, it’s best to inform yourself about the ingredients in coffee drinks, including iced coffee and lattes, before deciding which one is right for you.
Iced coffee and iced lattes are delicious, refreshing drinks that can be easily customized to suit your taste.
When choosing between the two, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer—it all depends on your taste preference and nutritional needs.
Whether you opt for an iced coffee or a latte, remember to check the ingredients list and adjust your drink accordingly.
And when in doubt, try out different brews and recipes until you find the perfect one for you!
If you’re looking for more coffee inspiration, don’t miss these great posts!
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- How to Make a S’Mores Mocha Latte
- How to Make the Perfect Peppermint Mocha Latte
- The Great Latte Debate: Is a Latte Supposed to be Hot or Cold?
- How to Make a Copycat Dunkin’ Donuts Dunkaccino
- How to Make a Copycat Cinnamon Dolce Latte
- How to Make a Strawberry Latte
- The Easy Way to Make Liquid Cane Sugar at Home