Last updated on August 29th, 2023

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

In comparing an iced latte vs iced coffee, people wonder which one is right for them. Especially if you add milk to an iced coffee, both drinks appear similar. So exactly what is the difference between iced coffee and iced latte? And what is the comparison between a latte vs coffee more generally?

Both iced coffee drinks give you your caffeine fix in a more refreshing way. And in this article, we explore the key differences between them.

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

So let’s dive into the taste and experience of an iced coffee and latte, including their compositions, flavors, and brewing methods!

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Iced Latte vs Iced Coffee: Basic Differences

Defining a coffee drink can be tricky since, in the broadest sense, they are all derived from the coffee bean. In this view, an iced latte and an iced coffee are both a type of iced coffee drink. But within the coffee world, there are crucial distinctions.

But to understand the difference between iced lattes and iced coffee, we should first more generally differentiate a standard latte from regular coffee.

Latte vs Coffee

So what is the difference between a latte and a coffee? All coffee comes from the coffee bean, and the different forms of coffee depend on the particular brewing method. If you’re familiar with Italian, the first instinct would be that a latte has milk. The latte drink originated from the Italian term “caffe latte,” meaning “coffee with milk.”

But plenty of people add milk to their coffee and iced coffee drinks. So a more accurate distinction would be that latte coffee uses espresso as the base. But the term coffee more generally refers to regular drip coffee.

What Is Coffee Espresso?

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 our article about the difference between coffee and espresso.

Basic Difference Between Iced Latte and Iced Coffee

a graphic showing the differences between iced latte vs iced coffee

The coffee base is the primary distinction between an iced latte and an iced coffee. Espresso is the foundation of an iced latte, which uses cold milk to balance the intense espresso taste. But iced coffee uses regular brewed coffee as the base, simply a chilly version of filter coffee.

If you add milk to an iced coffee, some creamy latte texture will come through. But overall, it will taste significantly different than an iced latte.

What Is Iced Coffee

While you may hear iced coffee as an umbrella term encompassing all cold coffee drinks, there is a more specific definition. Iced coffee refers to regular drip coffee (aka filter coffee) that you cool and serve over ice cubes. Cold brew coffee is one way to make iced coffee, but it is technically different from the iced coffee you make using a standard hot water brewing method.

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. Cold brewing coffee involves steeping the grounds in cold water for 18-24 hours. It takes preparation but saves you the hassle of cooling hot coffee. And these differences between iced coffee and cold brew lead to unique tastes.

Making Iced Coffee

In the standard brewing method of making cold coffee, you brew a concentrated version of hot brewed coffee and pour it over ice cubes. This robust coffee maintains its coffee taste even as the ice melts. Alternatively, you can make ice cubes out of coffee so that the melting does not dilute the intensity.

Cold brew coffee is another popular way to make iced coffee, often tasting smoother and less acidic. Adding a touch of milk can also smooth out the intensity in either method. Our homemade iced coffee recipe has details and variations for making iced coffee.

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. We don’t drink Dunkin coffee often, but when we do, iced coffee with milk is workable. It misses the delicate tasting notes of our 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.

What Is an Iced Latte?

In short, an iced latte is the refreshing and cold version of a traditional latte. You still brew hot coffee with an espresso machine but pour the espresso over ice cubes. 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.

Is an Iced Latte Sweet?

With the natural sweetness of milk, an iced latte will taste slightly sweet even without additions.

Torani Vanilla Syrup for Coffee

vanilla syrup to make an iced latte sweet

But using a sugary plant-based dairy alternative like oat milk or almond milk can make it taste even sweeter (unless you use sugar-free versions.)

And if you add vanilla syrup, whipped cream, or chocolate syrup to your iced latte, you can definitely expect it to taste sweet! As coffee lovers, we prefer to enjoy the natural sweetness of milk balances the acidity and boldness of espresso.

With the natural sweetness of milk, an iced latte will taste slightly sweet even without additions. But using a sugary plant-based dairy alternative like oat milk or almond milk can make it taste even sweeter (unless you use sugar-free versions.)

And if you add vanilla syrup, whipped cream, or chocolate syrup to your iced latte, you can definitely expect it to taste sweet! As coffee lovers, we prefer to enjoy the natural sweetness of milk balances the acidity and boldness of espresso.

Iced Cappuccino vs Iced Latte

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.

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 milk frother is necessary to make an iced cappuccino since steaming milk does not mix into a cold drink.

Zulay Handheld Milk Frother

Zulay Handheld Milk Frother for iced cappuccino

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.

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.

Details: What’s the Difference Between Iced Coffee and Iced Latte?

Now that you understand the basics of these drinks, let’s compare specific elements and how they differ.

Iced Coffee vs Iced Latte: Which Is Stronger?

There are no standardized strengths for either of these drinks, and you can adjust the brewing ratios depending on your preference. When making an iced latte, simply pull additional shots from the espresso machine for a bolder cup.

With iced coffee, the strength depends upon the original brew ratio and how much the ice melts. We recommend cooling the hot coffee completely before pouring over ice or using coffee ice cubes to prevent over-dilution.

Is Iced Coffee or Iced Latte Sweeter?

Because milk has a natural sweetness, an iced latte will always taste sweeter if you do not add syrups or sweeteners. Iced coffee may have a subtle sweetness/acidity, which you can increase by adding milk. We try to make iced coffee with light roasts, allowing coffee’s subtle sweetness to come through.

Enjoy if it is your thing, but remember that some sweetened plant-based alternatives like oat milk can be as sweet as ice cream with all the added sugar.

Iced Latte vs Iced Coffee Calories

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.

Starbucks Iced Coffee vs Iced Latte Caffeine Content

Since espresso shots and drink sizes vary between coffee shops, we 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

Iced Latte vs Iced Coffee: 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.

Are an iced latte and iced coffee the same thing?

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.

Iced Coffee vs Latte: 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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