Iced Coffee Vs. Espresso: What's The Difference?

Iced coffee and iced espresso may look like standard chilled black coffee, but they're actually two completely different beverages. The main difference comes down to the way they're prepared, which changes the flavor profile of each drink. When you order an iced coffee at a coffee shop, you're getting something akin to iced hot drip coffee. Iced coffee is made from very strong hot brewed coffee which is diluted with ice to cool it down. This is typically made with a Chemex, French press, or a regular drip coffee machine. 

Iced espresso, on the other hand, is literally what its name states — espresso over ice. Espresso comes in shots, and they're pulled from very finely ground coffee. Espresso machines pressurize very hot water through the fine coffee grind to extract a potent liquified shot. The result is a very robust and rich shot of coffee with much of the coffee bean in it. Poured over a cup of ice, you get a slightly diluted coffee that still has the bitter, earthy body of the espresso.

Iced coffee is fruity and iced espresso is nutty

While iced coffee is delicious with a characteristic caramel flavor, it does lack the depth of espresso. Iced coffee is definitely a smoother drink that is easier to sip on if you're not keen on bitterness or smokiness in your coffee. Due to its high water content, iced coffee has a more mellow and floral flavor. The size of the coffee grinds also contributes to the flavor of iced coffee. Most iced coffees are made with coarse to medium-coarse coffee grounds, which gives you a more acidic and citrusy taste. 

Conversely, iced espresso utilizes finely ground coffee, giving your drink a strong nutty, bitter flavor. Due to its highly pressurized extraction, espresso shots have a lot of coffee solubles in the coffee itself, making it thicker and creamier. Over ice, the espresso is diluted, making it easier to drink, while still giving you a lush crema on top. 

Interestingly enough, iced coffee tends to have a bit more caffeine than iced espresso, but it varies depending on which coffee shop you're at. Ultimately, flavor is the key component to consider when choosing between these two iced drinks.