You’ve heard of cold brew, but what about its nitro counterpart? Nitrogen infused coffee is the ideal cold brew for those looking for something that tastes sweet and creamy, without the need for sugar, dairy, or alternatives.
Cold brew coffee is an iced coffee drink that is extracted in cold water over a 12-24 hour period. Compared to traditional iced coffee, made from hot extracted coffee served over ice, cold brew is less acidic and tastes uniquely smooth. Cold brew is tasty and easy to make, but lacks the magic of nitrogen gas infusion.
Much like a Guinness beer served on tap, nitro cold brew is made by storing cold brewed coffee in a keg pressurized with nitrogen gas. The result? Beautiful looking cold coffee with a velvety mouthfeel and creamy thickness.
While the origin of nitro cold brew is somewhat contested, the general consensus is that it was discovered somewhat accidentally.
Some claim utilizing a nitrogen-infused tap was stumbled upon in an attempt to more efficiently store and serve iced coffee to customers. As coffee sits, oxygen in the air degrades the flavour over time. This can happen even in a heat sealed carafe, which is why coffee is always better fresh. Keeping coffee in a keg pressurized with nitrogen pushes out the oxygen and keeps the cold brew tasting as fresh as possible. In a simple effort to find a better way to store iced coffee and keep it fresh, the delicious drink was created.
Conversely, others claim that it was discovered as the result of several failed attempts to carbonate coffee using C02. People love carbonated beverages– from a glass of sparking water to a can of cola. At some point, clever baristas decided to try their hand at carbonating coffee. Most things taste great carbonated, why not coffee? Unfortunately, the results were generally less than desirable.
Unlike soda, water, and tea, coffee does not respond well to carbonation. When liquids are carbonated, carbon dioxide dissolves in water and becomes carbonic acid. Carbonic acid is no stranger to coffee! In fact, one reason to pre-infuse your brew is to allow excess carbon dioxide to offgas. This process prevents carbon dioxide from becoming trapped in the cup and negatively affecting the flavour. Ever see bubbles form on your coffee grounds after pouring in the first little bit of hot water? That’s carbon dioxide saying goodbye.
When baristas experimented with carbonated coffee, they found it to be detrimental to the flavour– but there had to be another way to use gas to serve textured coffee on tap. Enter nitrogen, the gas typically reserved for tapping your favourite stout.
Unlike carbonic acid, which has a distinctly sour flavour profile, nitrogen tastes sweet! Nitrogen bubbles are also much smaller than their carbonic cousins, making nitro coffee taste and feel thick, creamy, and exceptionally smooth. The sweet, creaminess of nitrogen pairs wonderfully with cold brew coffee– invoking the taste of an iced coffee with milk and sugar.
To many, the best summer drink is a sweet and creamy iced coffee. One of the best features of nitro cold brew is providing that signature summer taste without need for sweetener or creamer of any kind!
In addition, nitro tapped drinks are beautiful. Half of nitro cold brew’s charm is the stable creamy head that forms at the top of the beverage that slowly cascades down the side. It looks more like a stout beer than an iced coffee! If you’re looking for a cold coffee to post on instagram, nitro cold brew is it.
Nitrogen cold brew is a little bit harder to make at home than regular cold brew, but not out of reach with the right equipment! If you happen to have a home keg setup with a stout tap, you’re in luck– just make some cold brew and get to kegging.
Additionally, since nitro brews gained popularity, some mini keg manufacturers have started to offer home kits for nitro cold brew. These can still be pretty pricey, but if you’re looking for a home nitro setup you can’t do any better.
The most accessible way to access the on draft texture of nitrogen cold brew is through inexpensive and readily available whipped cream dispensers. In their traditional use, these dispensers use nitrogen gas chargers to turn whipping cream or alternatives into deliciously thick and airy whipped topping. To the coffee-lover’s benefit, they can also infuse normal cold brew with nitrogen gas– creating that delicious on tap texture and taste without an expensive keg setup.
However you choose to drink your coffee this summer, don’t miss out on a chance to experience the natural sweetness and creamy texture of nitro cold brew. Next time you see a stout being poured on tap, think of cold brew and consider the transformative wonders of nitrogen gas and its soft smooth bubbles.
Have you had nitrogen-infused coffee? Did you try making it at home? We’d love to hear about your experience! You can reach out to us by email at email@example.com, or send us a message on any of our socials @roadcoffee.
Author Matthew Hildebrandt