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Frappe vs Iced Coffee vs Cold Brew: Which is Best?

Cold coffee is becoming increasingly popular, especially in the summer months. The refreshing, thirst quenching caffeine hit that a frappe, iced coffee or cold brew offers is to die for!

But, which of these cold coffee varieties should you choose? All have their merits and can be made inexpensively from the comfort of your own home, saving you the time, money and hassle of having to go to your local Starbucks

Let’s take a closer look into the main differences between a frappe, iced coffee and cold brew coffee. 

What is the Difference Between a Frappe, an Iced Coffee and a Cold Brew?

Well, the key differences between a frappe, iced coffee and cold brew, are that a frappe has a thick texture and is topped with cream, iced coffee combines hot espresso and ice cubes, and cold brew coffee sees coarsely ground coffee beans steeped in cold water. 

Whilst these three chilled coffee drinks are incredibly popular all around the world, they are actually quite different! The way they are made, their taste and the way they are served all have their own quirks. 

Iced coffee is arguably the most popular and versatile of the three drinks, as it combines hot, freshly brewed espresso with a handful of ice cubes and usually some form of milk. Iced coffee can be customized in any way you like, with flavored syrups, milk alternatives and other additional ingredients. 

Cold brew coffee is relatively similar to iced coffee in the sense that it combines a coffee concentrate with ice cubes to make a refreshing, sippable drink. However, where an iced coffee combines hot espresso with frozen ice cubes, cold brew coffee is made in a completely different way. 

Cold brew coffee is usually produced in a concentrated form, by combining cold, filtered water with coarsely ground coffee beans. These are steeped and left to infuse for at least 12 hours, or overnight. Then, the liquid is strained and filtered, ready to be combined with ice cubes, water, milk and or sugar. 

Frappes on the other hand have a taste and texture of their own! A frappe is a thicker, smoother chilled coffee drink that sees a double shot of espresso, ice cubes, flavored syrup and milk whipped up in a blender. This creates a slushy texture, but is incredibly creamy and sumptuous, almost like a coffee smoothie! 

Now, let’s take a closer look into what each of these cold coffee drinks are, how to make them and some of the key differences when we compare all three side by side! 

What is a Frappe?

A frappe is a sweet treat that not only quenches your thirst on a hot summer’s day, but also offers a thick, creamy drinking experience to savor. 

Frappes originated in Greece in the 1950s and have since been popularised by coffee giant Starbucks. They are often combined with flavored syrups and whipped cream to give them their characteristically sweet flavor. 

Frappes are made by adding strong, hot coffee, syrup, milk, water and ice cubes to a blender and whizzing it all up until you get a thick, sweet smoothie like texture. 

If you want to learn more about frappes and how to make them yourself, check out my article on them here!

What is an Iced Coffee?

Iced coffee is a generic term that covers a wide range of chilled coffee drinks. A classic iced coffee usually comes in the form of an iced americano or an iced latte. Both of these drinks combine a double shot of hot, freshly brewed espresso, with ice. An americano is then topped up with cold, filtered water, whereas an iced latte is topped up with milk. 

An iced coffee is made by pouring a hot shot or two of espresso over a handful of ice cubes and then adding milk and maybe sweetener. This gives an iced coffee a bold, intense flavor but is still refreshing. 

If you want to learn more about iced coffees and how to make them yourself, check out my article on them here!

What is Cold Brew Coffee? 

Cold brew coffee is a very popular form of chilled java, as it has a more mellow taste and is less acidic than iced coffee made from hot espresso.

Cold brew coffee differs from iced coffee in the way it is made. Cold brew takes a lot longer to brew, since only cold water and time are used to extract the coffee flavor rather than hot pressurized water in the case of espresso. 

Cold brew coffee tends to have a bit more caffeine than espresso based iced coffee drinks, since the coarsely ground coffee beans have a longer time to extract whilst sitting in the fridge. 

If you want to learn more about cold brew coffees and how to make them yourself, check out my article on them here!

The Differences Between a Frappe, Iced Coffee and Cold Brew Coffee: Explained

So, here are the main differences between the frappe, iced coffee and cold brew coffee in a nutshell. 

Below is a table highlighting the key differences in prep time, texture, taste, ingredients and equipment needed to make each of these delightful coffee based drinks, 

Drink Prep Time Texture Taste Ingredients Equipment Needed
Frappe 5 minutes Thick and creamy Sweet and creamy Hot espresso, flavored syrup, ice cubes, milk, sugar, whipped cream Espresso machine (or alternative), blender, serving glass
Iced Coffee 2 minutes Smooth and thirst quenching Bold and bitter with a milky finish Hot espresso, ice cubes milk (optional) Espresso machine (or alternative), serving glass
Cold Brew 12 hours + Smooth and thirst quenching Mellow and mild Cold brew coffee concentrate, water, ice cubes, milk (optional) Mason Jar, sieve, coffee filter, serving glass

Frappes are Thicker and Creamier than Iced Coffee or Cold Brew

Due to the fact that a frappe is made by blending all of the ingredients together, it naturally has a much thicker texture than a regular iced coffee or cold brew. This means a frappe also takes longer to drink and is therefore enjoyed in a more leisurely setting like a coffee shop or garden party rather than on the go. 

Cold Brew Doesn’t Use Hot Espresso Like Iced Coffee and Frappes

One of the key differences in brewing methodology between these three popular coffee drinks, is that cold brew coffee only uses cold water and time to extract the coffee flavor from the ground beans. Coarsely ground coffee beans are used in this solution method because they stop the cold brew concentrate from becoming overly extracted and bitter. 

Conversely, the hot espresso used in both frappes and iced coffee is made using very finely ground coffee beans, as these have a much better extraction and yield when placed under the extreme heat and pressure of an espresso machine. 

Frappes are Sweet, Dessert-like Chilled Coffees, Whereas Cold Brew and Iced Coffee are More Refreshing

Given that a frappe is a thick, creamy chilled coffee drink that includes flavored syrups and is often topped with whipped cream, you probably shouldn’t drink them every day! 

Frappes are more of a dessert-like treat that should be enjoyed occasionally as part of a balanced diet. 

Some of the most popular frappe-flavored syrups are caramel, vanilla and toffee. 

Cold Brew is the Easiest to Make in Large Batches

Due to the fact that an iced coffee and a frappe both require a double shot of espresso to make, a batch of cold brew concentrate is a lot easier to produce in large quantities. 

Simply increase the size of the container used to store it overnight, and follow the same 1:3 ratio of coffee to water (for concentrate, or 1:7 for ready to drink cold brew), and you’re away! This makes cold brew coffee the perfect choice for a garden party, but just make sure you start brewing the day before! 

So, Which Should You Choose? 

Choosing between a frappe, iced coffee and cold brew is not necessarily easy, as all three of these popular drinks have their merits. 

If you are looking for a rewarding, thick and creamy coffee based treat that can be enjoyed low and slow, then a frappe will be right up your street. 

However, if you need a short, sharp pick me up that will also be perfectly refreshing and offer a bold flavor, then an iced coffee made from freshly brewed espresso is your best option. 

On the other hand, if you are looking for a mellow, less acidic alternative to a regular iced coffee that will still quench your thirst but not be quite as strong, a cold brew coffee is the way to go. 

Other Chilled Coffee Drinks to Consider

Whilst I have covered three of the most popular chilled coffee drinks out there in this article, there are a number of alternatives that you should consider giving a go! 

Nitro Coffee

One of the most popular up and coming chilled coffee drinks is nitro coffee. This space age sounding iced coffee has a creamy, smooth texture that is reminiscent of a Guinness, but has a dark, nutty coffee flavor. This is definitely worth trying out if you want a unique texture that combines the creaminess of a frappe with the well blanched flavor of cold brew concentrate.  

Iced Espresso

A very simple but mighty iced coffee drink is iced espresso. This refreshing pick me up is perfect for when you need an energy boost but also something that you can swig down easily on a hot summer’s day! 

With an iced espresso, you’ll get the ice cold refreshment of regular iced coffee, but in a small, concentrated package! 

More Iced Coffee Drinks! 

There are actually a wide variety of iced coffee drinks out there to try, especially if you are bored of your standard frappe order. To find out more, check out my article on 39 iced coffee drinks and how to make them


Overall, frappes, iced coffee and cold brew are three of the most popular chilled coffee drinks out there today. They take the dark, earthy, bitter coffee flavor we all know and love, and turn it into a refreshing, chilled delight! 

Iced coffee comes in all different shapes and sizes, and it is well worth trying out a few different varieties to find out which one suits your taste best. Cold brew, iced coffee and frappes all have their merits, and I hope this guide has helped you figure out which of these is best for you! 

Related Questions 

Which is Healthier, Frappe, Iced Coffee or Cold Brew?

Given that iced coffee tends to be served with just water and contains slightly less caffeine than cold brew, it can be argued that it is the most healthy of the three options. A frappe contains the most fat and calories so is therefore the least healthy option, but the ingredients added to either a cold brew or regular iced coffee will very much determine which of the two is the healthier choice. 


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