If you’ve been down to your local coffee shop recently, you may have noticed a new item on the menu called nitro brew coffee. Nitro coffee started as a third wave coffee shop trend that’s quickly moved into the mainstream. The biggest coffee retail giant introduced the item to their menu in select stores as a seasonal item. It was so popular with their customers, though, they decided to keep it on the menu nationwide year-round.
If you’ve tasted the beverage, you’ll know that it’s a thicker, creamier tasting cold brew. The rich (and better for you) coffee packs a big punch when it comes to both taste and experience. But what is nitro coffee, exactly? What are you drinking when you order it, and is it actually safe to consume? It’s time to unwrap the nitro coffee mystery and discover why so many people love it and how you can bring that big taste home with you.
Nitro coffee is cold brewed coffee infused with nitrogen gas. There are a few ways nitrogen-infused coffee differs from your regular cup of cold brew. First, your barista will serve nitro coffee cold from the tap or infusion kettle. The beverage starts with regular cold brew coffee. That’s made by steeping coffee grounds in cold water for several hours (usually at least overnight and for as long as 24 hours). The mixture is then infused with the nitrogen gas right before it’s poured. That’s done with special equipment that you might be more used to seeing in a bar than in your local coffee shop.
Nitrogen gas has been used in beverages for hundreds of years. It’s the same thing you’ll find in some of your favorite beers. The gas is safe to drink and an alternative to carbon dioxide. Most beverages use carbon dioxide gas, which creates larger bubbles you’ll find in soda and regular beers. Nitrogen gas reacts differently when it’s pumped into a liquid. The bubbles created by nitrogen are smaller and the overall texture of the beverage is creamy and smooth. Nitrogen gas also adds a little bit of sweetness to the drink. That’s why it works so well for coffee. Nitrogen-infused coffee tastes smooth and creamy without the addition of milk, sugar, or their substitutes.
Plus, nitro coffee looks really good in the glass. If you’ve seen a nitro beer poured, nitro coffee looks very similar. Both have a rich color, foamy head, and cascading bubbles going down the sides of the glass. The visual appeal of a nitro brew coffee is part of the overall experience of the beverage. It’s fun to look at and great to taste. It’s an Instagram-worthy beverage that actually tastes even better than it looks.
One of the reasons nitrogen coffee is becoming so popular is because it can be a healthy alternative to your regular caffeine fix. It earns the title of being a healthy coffee beverage in a few different ways:
Nitrogen boosts the flavor of the coffee and makes it creamy and sweet, so there is no need to add calories through milk or sugar. That makes it a calorie-conscious caffeine lover’s dream. It’s also appealing to anyone with milk sensitivity since the creaminess doesn’t require you to use any dairy or dairy alternatives.
The other benefit comes from how you make nitrogen coffee, particularly the cold brew coffee. Because cold brew is slowly steeped in cold water, it pulls less of the acidity out of the coffee bean. This makes a rich, ultra-caffeinated brew that’s lower in acidity than traditionally brewed coffee. The lower acidity in the final nitro brew coffee is easier on your stomach, leading to fewer digestive issues for coffee lovers.
The caffeine content in the cold brew is a lot higher than in a traditionally brewed cup of coffee. While the longer brewing process pulls less acidity out, it actually pulls more caffeine out of the coffee beans. So if you are sensitive to caffeine, you’ll want to be careful about how much of it you consume. If you are trying to cut back, though, nitro brew coffee could be beneficial, though. You’ll be able to get your caffeine fix without drinking as much coffee.
The health benefits and wide range appeal of nitro coffee are why you’ll be seeing is appear on more and more menus. It’s also why many people are looking for ways to make this tasty caffeinated treat at home.
One of the only drawbacks of nitro coffee is the pricetag. Nitro coffee tends to be expensive, and a cup at your local indie coffee shop could cost you as much as $5 or more. Ready-made nitrogen coffees are now hitting the supermarket shelves, but those are still pricey. Unfortunately, the quality of canned nitrogen coffees is often lacking. The best way to drink nitrogen-infused coffee is to have it freshly made right before you drink it.
The good news is it’s easy to make nitrogen-infused coffee at home. You’ll need to make sure you have the right setup first. Coffee shops and restaurants invest in commercial-grade equipment that can infuse cold brew with nitrogen gas on demand. Nitro coffee lovers can do the same thing at home with a kettle system that infuses a cup at a time.
Look for at-home nitro brew systems that don’t require consumable nitrogen cartridges. These will increase the cost per cup over time and require you to keep the supplies on hand. The systems will instead use an air compressor to infuse the coffee since the air we breathe is about 80% nitrogen anyway. Plus, fewer consumables means your at-home coffee routine is more environmentally friendly.
It’s time to head down to your local coffee shop to try it. The sweet, smooth, creamy coffee drink is taking over the menu of coffee shops around the world. It’s becoming the most sold beverage for many establishments. You can make it your new usual or purchase equipment to help you bring the taste home. Either way, nitro brew coffee is here to stay.