Last updated on November 30th, 2023

Iced Latte vs Iced Coffee: What Are The Key Differences?

iced coffee vs iced latte: which one is better for you?

SUMMARY: With so many coffee drinks out there, knowing the exact differences between all of them is tricky and nuanced. Plus some terms, like iced coffee mean multiple things at once. So what is the difference between latte and iced coffee? In short, iced coffee comes from traditional brewing while iced lattes are an espresso-based drink. But the real nuance between iced lattes vs iced coffee drinks is in the details, details that affect flavor, caffeine content, and calories.

Whether you’re just curious about the right definitions or trying to decide on a drink you’ll like, you’ve likely bumped into the iced coffee vs iced latte debate. Which one is better, of course, depends too much on preference. I’ll give my opinion, but I also hope you’ll learn a few more details about different coffee drinks on how they work.

I drink iced coffees and iced lattes regularly, so to me, it’s not really a debate. However, the nuances in the differences between an iced coffee and an iced latte unveil a lot about how the coffee industry works more generally.

So, let’s dive into the details: compositions, flavors, and brewing methods, to see how these drinks compare!

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What Is the Difference Between an Iced Latte and an Iced coffee?

While there is the view that you can call all cold coffee drinks a form of iced coffee, there are relevant differences between an iced latte and an iced coffee with specific drink recipes. The primary contrast between these drinks is the type of base coffee each uses. The base ingredient of an iced latte is espresso, an intense and concentrated form of coffee extracted under high pressure. Iced coffee, however, is simply the cold version of normally-brewed drip coffee.

Iced Latte vs Iced Coffee: Detailed Differences

a graphic showing the differences between iced latte vs iced coffee

So, you now understand that the primary difference comes down to the comparison of a latte vs normal coffee. Especially since you can add cold milk to an iced coffee, this base ingredient makes all the difference.

Yes, you could technically say that an iced latte is a form of iced coffee. However, these more specific drink definitions highlight just how different coffee tastes based on its extraction method.

Lastly, you can add milk to an iced coffee, and some creamy latte texture may even come through. But overall, it will taste significantly different than an iced latte.

To really distinguish these two drinks, you have to understand the how espresso extraction differs from other typical brewing methods.

Latte vs Coffee

So what is the difference between a latte and a coffee? Both drinks come from the coffee bean fundamentally, but because latte coffee uses espresso as the base, the defining element is an intense and concentrated coffee flavor. However, the goal of a latte is to use milk to balance the intensity of espresso with the sweetness and texture of milk. The latte drink originated from the Italian term “caffe latte,” meaning “coffee with milk.”

I love warm lattes even more than iced lattes because the steamed milk blends extra well with the thick espresso.

Remember That All Espresso Is Coffee

People easily get confused about the terms coffee and espresso. The simple way to phrase it is that all espresso is coffee, but not all coffee is espresso. Espresso coffee is a subset of coffee you make with an espresso machine. The machine uses a pump to push pressurized hot water through finely ground coffee beans.

The resulting liquid is intense and has a thick texture. You can drink it alone or use it as the foundation for coffee drinks such as a latte.

Espresso vs Coffee Taste

Compared to regular coffee, the taste of espresso is bold and flavorful. The concentration of coffee to water—a 1:2 ratio—gives espresso a full-bodied and strong taste. This ratio, combined with the fine grind size and high pressure, also extracts oils and tasting notes from the coffee grounds that you do not get from filtered coffee.

This intensity of espresso makes it particularly suited as the base of coffee-milk drinks since the sweetness of the milk balances the espresso. For the most in-depth comparison of flavors and brewing parameters, check out this article about the difference between coffee and espresso.

Does an Iced Latte or Iced Coffee Have More Caffeine?

Since caffeine content depends on a specific brewing recipe, I cannot give a firm answer on which drink has more caffeine. This comparison is also tricky because iced lattes can have any number of espresso shots.

Which drink is stronger? Well, besides espresso shots, the iced coffee’s strength also depends on the original brew ratio and how much the ice melts. When making iced coffee at home, I recommend cooling the hot coffee completely before pouring over ice or using coffee ice cubes to prevent over-dilution.

Starbucks Iced Coffee vs Iced Latte Caffeine Content

Since espresso shots and drink sizes vary between coffee shops, I like to use the popularity of Starbucks as a reference point for caffeine content. You should expect iced coffee to have a similar caffeine level to regular coffee, approximately 120mg for the tall 12-oz size.

For iced lattes, you can measure the caffeine content by how many espresso shots they put in:

SizeShotsCaffeine Content
Tall (12 fl oz)175 mg
Grande (16 fl oz)2150 mg
Venti (24 fl oz)3225 mg
Starbucks Iced Latte Caffeine Content

Is Iced Coffee or Iced Latte Sweeter?

Is an iced latte sweet? The answer is yes, even if you do not add any sugar or syrup. Milk has a natural sweetness, an iced latte will always taste sweeter compared to a black iced coffee. Iced coffee may have a subtle sweetness/acidity, which you can increase by adding milk. I try to make iced coffee with light roasts, allowing coffee’s subtle sweetness to come through.

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Also, some sweetened plant-based alternatives like oat milk can be as sweet as ice cream with all the added sugar, which will make a latte or coffee taste super sweet. Many people also add vanilla syrup, whipped cream, or chocolate syrup to their iced lattes, which adds even more sweetness.

Enjoy it if that’s your thing. But as a coffee lover, I most enjoy letting the natural acidity and sweetness of the coffee shine.

Calorie Differences

Compared to black iced coffee, iced lattes will have a higher calorie content because of the milk. Even if you add a splash of milk to iced coffee, it is not as much as the 5-6 ounces you would put in an iced latte.

Other Cold Coffee Drinks: Definitions and Flavors

Again, the term iced coffee is sometimes used as an umbrella term encompassing all cold coffee drinks. That would include iced lattes, cappuccinos, and even cold brews. However, the different extraction methods of these various drinks result in distinct flavors.

Hot vs Iced Coffee

Most standard coffee brewing methods use hot water since the energetic molecules dissolve compounds faster. Water near boiling allows you to properly dissolve, aka extract, the delicious coffee compounds into the water within 3-4 minutes.

But if you poured this hot liquid over ice cubes immediately, the ice would melt immediately and dilute the beverage. So hot coffee needs to cool down before pouring it over ice. Another solution is to make coffee ice cubes so that the melting does not dilute the flavor intensity.

Cold brewing coffee involves steeping the grounds in cold water for 18-24 hours. The result is a smoother and less acidic taste. It takes preparation but saves you the hassle of cooling hot coffee.

Read More: Iced Coffee vs Cold Brew: Which One Is Better?

Iced Caffe Americano and Iced Coffee

Another popular iced drink that uses espresso as the base is an iced americano. It dilutes hot espresso with cold water and ice to make a refreshing drink that tastes less intense and concentrated than espresso.

Like the differences discussed in this article, iced americanos differ from iced coffees mainly because they use espresso.

Making an Iced Latte at Home

Since there’s no way to pull a cold espresso shot, use an espresso machine as usual but pour the hot espresso over ice cubes immediately. And, instead of using steamed milk, the iced latte coffee uses cold milk.

The bold taste of espresso is still the foundation, but the creamy texture of the milk creates a refreshing balance. Even without an espresso machine, you can use something like AeroPress espresso to get a similar result.

Read more in this guide to homemade iced lattes.

Latte vs Cappuccino Iced

The difference between a cappuccino and a latte can be confusing. But to give a shortened comparison, a cappuccino uses less milk, more foam, and has more espresso flavor. And the iced versions of these two drinks have similar differences.

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Besides the iced latte having a higher proportion of milk, an iced cappuccino uses frothed milk to give a foamy texture. The idea is to use less milk and more foam, making the espresso more dominant. But a cold frother like this Zulay Handheld Milk Frother is necessary to make an iced cappuccino since steaming milk does not mix into a cold drink.

Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffee Reviewed

Dunkin offers both iced coffee and cold brew drinks. They double the ratio of their regular coffee recipe and cool it down before serving it over ice. I don’t drink Dunkin coffee often, but when I have to at an airport or something, iced coffee with milk is workable. It misses the delicate tasting notes of homemade iced coffee but is a bold-tasting recipe.

Dunkin has also served cold brew since 2016. They steep a dark roast for 12 hours for a richer cold brew taste.

Dunkin Donuts Iced Latte

Dunkin Donuts offers a range of iced latte variations that tend to have an extra creamy texture. Their espresso flavor can be quite intense, enough that most people seem to add extra sweetness.

Besides sugar and whipped cream as a sweetener, they offer mocha, french vanilla, butter pecan, and caramel swirl.

Starbucks Iced Latte

The standard Starbucks iced caffé latte contains two espresso shots and 2% milk for a 16-oz drink. But one of the most convenient aspects of a Starbucks iced latte is that you can customize every detail. You can add an extra espresso shot or flavored syrup for sweetness. There are tons of alternate milk choices as well.

Compared to an iced coffee with milk, expect the Starbucks iced latte to be sweeter, along with the taste of their signature espresso roast cutting through.

Iced Coffee vs Iced Latte: Common Questions

Before you confidently head to the coffee shop to place an order (or make a drink at home), let’s finish by answering a few of the most common questions on this topic.

Is an iced latte the same as an iced coffee?

No, an iced latte and iced coffee are not the same. The key distinction lies in the base ingredients, with an iced latte utilizing espresso shots and milk, while iced coffee typically consists of regular brewed coffee over ice.

Which is better iced coffee or latte?

Choosing between an iced coffee or an iced latte depends on personal preference. If you like the bold coffee taste of espresso balanced by sweet milk, go with an iced latte. But if you enjoy a refreshing and low-calorie regular coffee vibe, consider a standard black iced coffee.

Is iced coffee or iced latte healthier?

Both iced coffee and iced lattes can be part of a healthy diet. But lattes have a lot of milk, meaning the calorie count will be slightly higher. Avoid sweeteners if you want to make either drink the most healthy version.

Is an iced latte stronger than iced coffee?

An iced latte can taste stronger than iced coffee because of how bold espresso flavors are. You can always increase the strength of an iced latte by adding more shots.

Final Thoughts

When the summer heat arrives, an iced drink is always more refreshing than trying to force down a hot coffee drink. So whether you enjoy the simplicity of black iced coffee or want the sweeter touch of an iced latte, both can be refreshing and thirst-quenching.

Choose iced coffee for fewer calories and an iced latte if you want bolder flavor and subtle sweetness. Either way, let’s be thankful that we can drink coffee cold!

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