As someone passionate about coffee, I want to share the differences between 2 drinks many may find confusing.
I’ll cover various areas where cold brew and nitro cold brews are similar and different. Then you’ll know what you’re getting next time you order one of these drinks.
Here’s where the fun begins.
- Both drinks have the same amount of caffeine.
- Nitro cold brew tastes smoother.
- Cold brew costs less to make than nitro cold brew.
- Nitro cold brew requires an additional device to make.
Cold Brew vs. Nitro Cold Brew
|Cold Brew||Nitro Cold Brew|
|Caffeine (16 oz cup) *||205 mg||280 mg|
|Taste||Smooth & mellow||Smooth, mellow, & creamy|
|Way it’s Made||Steeping in cold water |
for 12–24 hours
|Cold brewing infused |
with nitrogen gas
|Avg. Price Per Cup **||$3.95||$4.75|
|Texture||Smooth & slightly syrupy||Creamy & foamy|
- Calories 
In addition to brewing for 12–24 hours, baristas infuse cold brew with nitrogen (N2) gas to give it a more creamy, foamy taste and mouthfeel. Because of this additional step, the gas-infused drink costs more than its counterpart.
The following sections will cover areas where both drinks share similarities and differences.
Read on to learn more.
Both drink types have the same amount of calories. The added nitrogen won’t make your drink any more fattening. However, adding substances (e.g., sweeteners) will add calories.
Though it won’t make a difference in your daily calorie count, will either beverage give you more energy?
2. Caffeine Content
Nitro cold brew and regular cold brew have the same amount of caffeine. The table above tells a different story about what the truth is with the caffeine content in both cold brews.
I pulled these numbers from Starbucks’ menu and thought it was strange. A bit of investigating concluded that regular cold brew usually has ice, which means there’s less coffee in your drink. Hence, you’ll have less caffeine.
Why doesn’t nitro cold brew have ice? Because adding it would ruin the drink’s cascading effect.
A scenario that would give it more caffeine is if you add chocolate. 2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup could add 2.34 mg of caffeine to your drink.
Many folks I’ve talked to, and forum posts suggest that the nitrogen from nitro cold brew causes your body to absorb caffeine quicker. This isn’t true .
Let’s move onto a factor that actually differentiates the 2 beverages.
Both drinks have a smooth and mellow taste. However, the additional foam from injected nitrogen gives it a smoother, creamier taste and mouthfeel.
Did I sell you on nitro cold brew? Find out where you can get them.
4. Availability & Where to Buy It
Starbucks and Dutch Bros Coffee are the only noteworthy coffee shops selling nitro cold brew. However, I’ve seen many canned nitro cold brew drinks from brands like La Colombe and Rise Brewing at grocery stores.
What about regular cold brew?
Here are a bunch of chains where you’ll find regular cold brew:
|Starbucks||Bluestone Lane||Blue Bottle Coffee||Peet’s Coffee|
|La Colombe||Dunkin’||Tim Hortons||Dutch Bros Coffee|
|Caribou Coffee||PJ’s Coffee||Stumptown|
And there are many brands that sell regular cold brew in most grocery stores. For instance, there’s STōK, Califia Farms, Starbucks, and Chobani.
How are the different types of cold brew made? Let’s find out.
5. The Way It’s Made
You’d brew a cold brew in a cold brew system for 12–24 hours. Simple. Nitro cold brew takes the simple brewing setup further.
You pour your cold brew concentrate into the device that infuses the nitrogen into your cold brew. A keg-style or whipper-style device. Add a nitrous oxide cartridge (or charger) to the device, shake your keg or whipper for 30 seconds, then pour.
You’ll need an additional device and chargers for nitro cold brew. How much will that set you back?
I found the prices of a tall nitro cold brew and a tall regular cold brew from Starbucks and that a nitro cold brew will cost 20% more than its nitrogen-free counterpart.
The other noteworthy chain that sells both types of cold brew is Dutch Bros Coffee. Their Medium cold brew costs $2.99, and their nitro cold brew of the same size costs $4.99. Their nitrogen-infused drink costs 66% more than the cheaper variation.
Say you prefer making drinks at home. Smart.
Each cup of regular cold brew made at home will cost $0.10, depending on the beans used. Each nitro cold brew cup will cost $0.73. These costs don’t account for machine costs,
All non-knockoff nitro cold brew makers I’ve checked out start at $159. Nitro cold brew makers don’t double as regular cold brew makers. You’ll also need to pay for a regular cold brew device.
Then, you’ll need replacement nitrogen (N2) canisters. I’ve seen these at $50 for a pack of 40—around $1.27 each.
Each canister will serve up to 16 oz of liquid. Meaning you’re paying $0.63 per 8 oz cup of coffee with the canister alone.
A top-tier cold brew maker like a Toddy will cost $49. The recurring expense here is the filter, which will last around 3 months. And each filter costs $2.25 each. When not buying in bulk.
Does the price increase make a difference?
Regular cold brew has a mellow and creamy texture. Whereas their nitrogen-infused counterpart has a creamier texture that’s also smoother.
You know the differences between these drinks. What happens when you add iced coffee into the fray?
Cold Brew vs. Nitro Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee
|Cold Brew||Nitro Cold Brew||Iced Coffee|
|Caffeine (16 oz cup) *||205 mg||280 mg||165 mg|
|Taste||Smooth & mellow||Smooth, mellow, & creamy||Varies depending on the brewing method & coffee beans used|
|Texture||Smooth & slightly syrupy||Creamy & foamy||Varies depending on the brewing method & coffee beans used|
|Time to Make||12–24 hours||Cold brew part: 12–24 hours|
Nitrogen infusion: 30 seconds
|Acidity||Less acidic||Less acidic||More acidic|
|Avg. Cost Per Cup **||$3.95||$4.75||$2.25|
|Brewing method||Steeping in cold water for 12–24 hours||Cold brewing infused with nitrogen gas||Hot brewing, cold brewing, instant coffee, & French press brewing|
Nitro cold brew has the most caffeine since it doesn’t have ice taking up mass in each cup. And iced coffee has the least amount of caffeine since the heat used to brew it damages some of its caffeine content.
All drinks have the same calorie content. So long as you don’t add sweeteners, creamers, etc.
Iced coffee has too many variables to consider regarding taste. As it will depend on the brewing method chosen. Regardless, nitro cold brew will have the smoothest and creamiest taste. And the lightest texture.
Iced coffee is the quickest among the 3 to brew. Ranging from 3 to 10 minutes. Compare that to the 12–24 hours required for either cold brew beverage.
The taste, texture, and grind required for iced coffee will depend on your chosen brewing method. For instance, drip coffee would require a medium grind and have a heavier body with more acidity.
If you went to Starbucks and wanted a tall nitro cold brew, it would cost 111% more than an iced coffee. And 20% more than a regular cold brew.
Did you go into this post not knowing what cold brew is? Let’s change that.
What Is Cold Brew?
Cold brew coffee is a drink that’s made by steeping ground coffee in cold water for 12–24 hours. Going beyond 24 hours may lead to over-extracting your coffee. Leading to a bitter taste.
This slow brewing process extracts different flavors from the coffee beans than hot brewing, resulting in a smoother, less acidic cup of coffee.
Cold brew is an excellent option for people who like their coffee strong and flavorful, but without the bitterness that can come from hot brewing. It’s also a good choice for people sensitive to acidity, as cold brew is less acidic than hot coffee.
Still don’t get it?
Imagine you’re making a pot of tea. You could pour hot water over the tea bags and have a cup of tea within minutes. Or, you could put the tea bags in a pitcher of cold water and let them steep overnight. The following day, you’ll have a delicious pot of cold brew tea.
Cold brew coffee is the same way. It’s just coffee instead of tea. And instead of steeping for a few minutes, you steep it for 12–24 hours.
Let’s see what happens when you add nitrogen gas to this drink.
What Is Nitro Cold Brew?
Nitro cold brew coffee is a type of coffee made by infusing cold brew coffee with 40 psi (3 bars) of nitrogen gas. This gives the coffee a creamy texture and a foamy head, similar to a draft beer.
Nitro cold brew is typically served cold, and it’s an excellent option for people who want a smooth and rich coffee experience without adding milk or sugar. It’s also a good choice for people who are lactose intolerant or who have other dietary restrictions.
Benefits nitro cold brew has over its non-infused counterpart include:
- Less bitter: Nitro cold brew is also less bitter than regular cold brew.
- This is because the nitrogen gas helps to reduce the bitterness of the coffee.
- Creamier texture: The nitrogen gas in nitro cold brew gives it a creamy texture & a foamy head, similar to a draft beer.
- This makes it a good choice for people who like their coffee with milk or cream, but it’s also delicious on its own.
- Smoother taste: Nitro cold brew tends to have a smoother taste than regular cold brew.
- This is because the nitrogen gas helps to reduce the acidity of the coffee.
Now you should know everything about cold brew and its nitrogen-infused counterpart.
The differences between nitro cold brew and cold brew come from its smoother, creamier taste due to its nitrogen-infused attribute. And because it requires an extra step when brewing, it’ll cost more than a regular cold brew.
Want to learn more about coffee? Check out other guides we wrote.
* Estimated numbers
** Based on Tall size drinks at Starbucks. Prices will vary at different Starbucks locations & coffee shops. Source