If you’ve been in a coffee shop recently, you’ve probably seen nitro cold brew. A new drink only popularized in the 2010s, this new drink has taken the coffee world by storm. From grocery store shelves where you’ll find cans of the caffeinated stuff to signature Starbucks cold brew coffee, it really is everywhere.
Wondering what nitro cold brew is or how it’s made? Here, we’ll show you everything you need to know about the beverage beloved by coffee drinkers.
What is Nitro Cold Brew Coffee?
Nitro cold brew is a cold coffee drink that is infused with pressurized nitrogen gas. The nitrogen bubbles create a full mouth feel and creamy texture that makes each cold cup of coffee more decadent. The brewing process is similar to how beer is brewed. In fact, it’s made using techniques that beer homebrewers have favored for years.
The first step involves brewing black coffee with cold water or room temperature water for 12 to 24 hours. The resulting coffee is a higher-quality version of iced coffee. The flavors are more intense and nuanced thanks to the long steeping process of the espresso or coffee grounds. After steeping, the coffee is added to a keg. Here, baristas add nitrogen gas into the liquid using pressurized valves.
The key to cold brew is the nitrogen. Many soft drink and beer manufacturers infuse their beverages with carbon dioxide. However, nitrogen creates a smoother finish and fuller body. Nitrogen bubbles are smaller than carbon dioxide bubbles, creating a satiny smooth finish and foamy top that’s reminiscent of a good draught beer.
The result is a coffee that looks similar to a Guinness beer and tastes just as creamy. The best part? Nitro cold brew is all coffee. There’s no dairy added for that sweet cream topper. It’s just 100% delicious, smooth coffee with nitrogen gas. Nitro cold brew is less acidic compared to regular cold brew and other coffees. It also has a higher caffeine content. That’s because the process involves steeping the beans.
History of Nitro Cold Brew
As with most drink creations, it can be a little difficult to trace the origins of nitro coffee. Most coffee experts attribute the beginnings of nitro cold brew to one of the best coffee shops in Austin, Texas: Cuvee Coffee. They were the first coffee company to market and commercialize the product in kegs and cans. From there, famed Portland coffee maker, Stumptown, began offering nitro cold brew and the coffee scene began to take notice.
In 2016, Starbucks began selling nitro cold brew at 500 of its flagship stores and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf started offering it in 2015. Today, nitro cold brew is available at more than half of all Starbucks stores as well as in coffee shops, grocery stores, and gas stations.
How To Make Nitro Cold Brew at Home
Nitrogenated coffee is not easy to make and it can be expensive. To brew nitro coffee, baristas need special equipment. This gear can’t be used to make other coffee blends. For coffee businesses, deciding whether or not to offer nitro cold brew can dramatically affect the cost of doing business. That’s why it’s not unusual to see a cup of nitro cold brew sell for $6 or more.
The best way to enjoy nitrogen cold brew is to drink it at a coffee shop. At coffeehouses, they make it using professional equipment. However, there is also a way to make cold coffee at home. You’ll want to use medium to coarse ground coffee beans for the best results. You can check out our guide on the different types of coffee beans to find the right one for your flavor preferences.
You can also choose from various roast levels — like light or dark roast coffee — to get the type of coffee flavor you want. Light roasts tend to have more nuanced flavor profiles while dark roasts feature one prominent tasting note.
Here’s how to make nitro cold brew at home:
- Grind your coffee beans
- Add one part coffee grinds to a container, then pour in 5 parts cold or room temperature filtered water.
- Use a plastic or wooden spoon to mix the grinds and water together, then store for 12 to 24 hours in the refrigerator.
- Pour the coffee mixture into a new container, filtering it through a fine-mesh screen.
- Add nitrogen using a mini-keg or a whipped cream dispenser with a nitrogen canister.
Nitro cold brew is a creamy delight that has a full body feel, is dairy-free, and boasts less acidity compared to other iced coffees. After caffe lattes, it’s the second most ordered drink at Starbucks, showing just how popular this cold coffee is. From Los Angeles to New York, cold brew coffee has taken the beverage world and coffee lovers by storm.
Immerse Yourself in Coffee Bliss
When it comes to coffee, there are so many different ways to enjoy this beverage. In fact, there are at least 22 different types of coffee drinks — not counting all the different blends and fun innovations baristas add to the classics. From simple espressos to frothed milky beverages like cappuccinos, there’s something for everyone. Nitrogen cold brew is among our favorite types of coffee thanks to its rich, creamy consistency and strong flavors.
Knowing the history and production process of nitro cold brew makes drinking each cup more enjoyable. You’ll appreciate the hard work and innovative skills that went into the creation of this crafty beverage. Each sip will be just a little more indulgent.
Looking for other ways to enjoy coffee? Follow along on our Cup & Bean blog for coffee lovers and newbies alike. Here, you’ll discover new ways to enjoy a cup of java. That includes everything from the latest trends to classic drinks that you can’t beat. Plus, you’ll learn all there is to know about coffee. Browse our country-by-country guides to the different nations that grow coffee and how each region puts its own unique spin on it. Our knowledge guides are the perfect option for readers that want to learn more about how to brew coffee and how to select beans, roasts, and flavors.