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    What is Nitro Cold Brew?

    by Scott Deans | Last Updated: August 27, 2021

    If you’re a fan of coffee then chances are you’re familiar with cold brew coffee. This is a slow, cold, extraction technique that creates a deliciously cool coffee; best enjoyed served over ice. Cold brew is becoming more popular each year and with the rise of this drink has come nitro cold brew.

    You may have noticed this option on the Starbucks menu or maybe at a local artisan coffee shop. Have you ever seen a coffee shop with a beer tap at the counter and wondered if you were going a bit mad?

    Well, the reason for this is nitro cold brew coffee. It’s a brew method that takes your standard cold brew and infuses it with nitrogen gas to create a thick, bubbly, creamy coffee without any other ingredients needed.

    If you’re keen to know a bit more about nitro cold brew then read on. We have a complete guide here to explain what this drink is, where it originated, and how you can make it yourself.

    A Nitro Cold Brew Tap

    What Is Nitro Cold Brew

    Origins

    Nitro cold brew first appeared between 2011 and 2013 in a few artisan coffee shops. The exact origins are not clear with The Queens Kickshaw in New York, Cuvee Coffee in Austin, and Stumptown in Portland, all displaying connections to this drink at this time. Since then, this coffee drink has worked its way into the mainstream.

    Starbucks jumped on the bandwagon in 2016 as around 500 of its coffee shops installed nitrogen taps. By 2020 this number had grown to include around half of Starbucks coffee outlets across the States, making it a menu staple. Tim Hortons and Dunkin Donuts have also started offering nitro cold-brewed coffee, making the drink more popular still.

    Cold Brew Coffee

    The base for Nitro Cold Brew is, unsurprisingly, cold brew coffee. Unlike iced coffee which is brewed hot and then cooled down by serving over ice, cold brew is coffee that’s brewed cold. It’s a very long, slow extraction process that gives a coffee that is full-flavored and sweet with low acidity. Cold brew coffee is brewed to be very concentrated and is topped up with fresh water to taste.

    Nitro Cold Brew

    To turn this delicious cold brew coffee into nitro cold brew the coffee is first brewed for up to 24 hours. It’s then stored in a keg or bottle before it’s passed through a tap charged with nitrogen. The nitrogen gas is infused into the liquid to create thousands of tiny nitrogen bubbles. The coffee pours in a similar manner to Guinness beer where you get a layer of black coffee at the bottom of the glass and a thick bubbly head on top. The drink is not served over ice as this can disrupt the bubbly texture.

    Texture

    One of the main things coffee lovers appreciate with nitro cold brew is the textured mouthfeel. It’s thick and bubbly with an almost creamy texture. Despite having this rich quality, the foamy top is also light and airy making it a delight for coffee drinkers.

    Taste

    Cold brew coffee is already naturally sweet thanks to the cold, slow extraction process. Once you add in the nitrogen gas the coffee tastes develop a sweeter quality still. Any residual coffee bitterness is balanced out and the coffee also takes on a slightly creamy taste. It’s light, refreshing, and simply delicious.

    The real advantage of nitro cold brew is it only has 5 calories per serving and 0g of fat and sugar. It’s the best way to enjoy a sweet, creamy cup of coffee without adding any ingredients that end up negating any of the coffee’s health benefits.

    How do I get my hands on this?

    A Set of Nitro Cold Brew Taps

    You can order nitro cold brew from any coffee shop that has a nitrogen dispenser. These are the taps you see at bars for serving beer so if you notice your local coffee shop has one of these, chances are they serve nitro cold brew. A lot of artisan coffee shops have these now as well as Starbucks stores across the states.

    The barista will typically pour you a slightly smaller cup than you may be used to as nitro cold brew is pretty concentrated in flavor and has high caffeine content. The drink should be served poured straight into a cup, so not over ice. Leave out the straw and lid as a huge part of the drinking experience comes from sipping on the thick foamy top.

    You can also buy nitro cold brew canned at grocery stores and in coffee shops. To serve this, it’s recommended to gently shake the can once (tilt it backward). Don’t shake it repeatedly as this will cause a mess when you open it! If you’re well prepared, place a glass in the freezer for 20 minutes or so and get this out when you’re ready to enjoy your coffee. Pop the can open and gently pour the coffee into the ice-cold glass, making sure you tilt this at an angle for best results.

    Nitro Cold Brew At Home

    You can make your own nitro cold brew at home by infusing regular cold brew in one of a few methods. You can buy nitrogen dispensers that charge the coffee using nitrogen canisters and deliver the drink via a pressurized valve. There are also mini keg options with tap attachments that you can buy to keep in the fridge at home.

    A whipped cream dispenser charged with a nitrous oxide canister is another great way to make nitrogenated coffee at home. All you need to do is add your cold brew, turn the device upside down and serve straight into a cold glass.

    How To Make Cold Brew Coffee

    You can buy cold brew concentrate in a can or bottle ready to make a nitro cold brew or you can go the whole hog and make the coffee yourself. It does take a while to brew cold coffee but it’s not difficult to do. The benefit of brewing your own cold coffee is you can tweak and adjust the recipe to suit your taste preferences.

    Equipment

    To make cold brew you need a brewing vessel that’s either glass or stainless steel and ideally airtight. Plastic can impart unpleasant tastes so is best avoided. You can use a mason jar, a cold brew coffee maker, or even a french press.

    You will need a method to strain the grounds away from the liquid. Cheesecloth works well or you can use a tea strainer or the filter from a french press. Coffee bags or paper filters can also be used here.

    The Coffee

    You can buy coffee beans that are intended for making cold brew, but this isn’t the only option. Regular coffee works just as well. If you’re buying pre-ground make sure it’s a coarse grind, intended for cold brew or French press brewing. Light vs dark roast comes down to personal preference as does the coffee origin.

    Coffee beans fresh from your local roasters will always pack the most flavor and you can often ask them to grind them to the perfect consistency for cold brewing. The most important thing is to make sure the coffee grounds are a very coarse consistency.

    Filtered Water

    Pure, filtered water is the best choice when it comes to brewing any kind of coffee. The better tasting the water the nicer the coffee will be so bear this in mind when you set out to make your coffee.

    Ratio

    Add the coffee to water at a 1:8 ratio. For every 1 oz of coffee used add 8 oz of water. The coffee brewed will be very concentrated compared to regular coffee, but this is why it’s called Cold Brew Concentrate. Water is added to dilute the coffee after brewing to balance it out.

    Steeping Time

    The lower temperature of the water means it takes longer for the coffee flavors to infuse. Cold-brew needs at least 8 hours for the coffee to brew but can be left for up to 24 hours. I’d recommend anywhere between 12-18 hours as the coffee can edge towards bitter when left longer than this.

    You can leave the coffee to steep either in the fridge or at room temperature.

    Strain

    Once the mixture has finished brewing, strain away the coffee grounds. You can use a mesh filter, cheesecloth, or pass it through a paper filter. Coffee grounds can be composted as they break down completely over time.

    Storage

    Store your cold brew concentrate in a sealed glass jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. You can dilute it and enjoy it as is or use it to make nitro cold brew. A good tip can be to add some to an ice cube tray and freeze to make coffee ice cubes. This way you can enjoy your cold brew over ice without diluting the taste at all.

    Final Thoughts

    Nitro cold brew coffee is the perfect way to enjoy a thick, sweet, creamy coffee without adding any calories. It’s refreshing on a warm summer’s day and there are many ways to get your hands on this delicious coffee. Whether it’s homemade, artisan craft coffee, or Starbucks nitro cold brew, they all tick the same box for taste and texture satisfaction.

    Can you guess what keeps me up at night? You guessed it! Copious amounts of coffee beans. What? I brew them first.